Final Fantasy XV – The Journey So Far

ff15I’m 12 hours in – of those 12 hours my oldest son has shared the experience with me for around 6 of those hours. We are both enjoying the whimsical moments brought on by the “bros,” as well as the graphics, fight sequences and story so far.

The experience, at least for me, goes far beyond the quests and side missions, goes past the new fighting, even goes beyond the graphics, story and the incredible homage the game does to it’s past. For me, it is the wonderful experience of having a Final Fantasy game to share with my children, much like my own father did with me and my siblings. Like my son in the picture above, I would sit and follow along in the strategy guide. Much like me, my son asks me questions that seem totally out of the blue – seemingly having nothing to do what is going on with the game at the moment, then suddenly making sense as I move along a little more. I wrote a post about how the experience of Final Fantasy with my own father was to me, and I hope that one day my sons will do the same.

So, 12 hours in, and so far the experience with my son wins the top prize. However, not everyone will be playing the game the same way as me, or have the cheerleaders that I have. There have been a ton of reviews so far, and they all pretty much say the same thing – don’t need to watch Kingsglaive, but if you do, the game makes more sense. The story is typical Final Fantasy, in that, it doesn’t make sense (even with the movie?). Graphically amazing for its time (again, typical of Final Fantasy). Game play, fighting, etc is amazing (typical). In other words, everything we truly expect a Final Fantasy game to be, this on embodies in some sense, yet because it is on the “next-gen,” soon to be the “old-gen” systems, the game is leaps and bounds beyond anything we have seen before.

I just got into chapter 3 – yep, taking my (our) time, setting a turtles pace to play the game. This is in part because my son likes to see what is “over there,” and also in part because I am a completionist. I’m only 12 hours in because my son commands me “not to get to far ahead” when he has to go to bed or take a nap, and as hard as it is to listen to him, I am trying to. For review purposes, I find that I have in reality finished the prologue to the game – which at 12 hours is a very nice prologue indeed for a Square Enix RPG, and very fitting to the Final Fantasy universe. I am not in “phase 2” of the game, where it truly becomes open world. Saying that, If there was some sort of ending in “phase 1” of the game – with around 11 hours in that phase, I would not have been disappointment. What I mean is – add several more main quests and double the side quests – make “phase 1” another 5-10 hours longer, and compared to a lot of games over the past couple of years, you would feel like you got your monies worth. There is enough to do in “phase 1” to keep you occupied – probably more then 12 hours if you are so inclined to grind level and what not. I also know there are places I have not seen in the area, as well as quests that are not completed yet – hunts, mystery maps, dungeons, etc.

Maybe it is because I have taken my time I feel a completeness in this part of the game, but I do feel that as a prologue type area, it goes above and beyond what is necessary… and I love this game for it. I spent another hour in Duscae just doing hunts, and everywhere I turn a new question mark pops up on my map – and the map itself stretches far and wide. Knowing how long it took me to get through the first phase, I can only imagine how long it will take me to get to “phase 3” – which is the more linear portion of the game.

I can’t say enough about the visuals of the game – they are simply amazing. How the world itself interacts, and of course your companions, is phenomenal. The only game I have played that reaches this type of greatness is The Witcher 3 – and that game had a lot of visual flaws and glitches. So far, for me, this game has been pretty seamless. Granted, I’m not a graphics expert – don’t expect me to tel lyou that it is 30 fps until point A then goes to 15, etc – I don’t care as long as it looks amazing to me, and it does.

Questing so far hasn’t been dull – though I get a sense of the fetch quests becoming so, it hasn’t happened yet. Maybe it is my own play style – switching it up with a hunt, then fetch quest, another hunt and so on. Maybe its because my son never seems to get bored and his amazement is contagious. I don’t know, but so far nothing has felt bland or blah. Again, for me, that’s an amazing thing to say for an RPG – again, comparing to The Witcher 3, though I wanted to do those quests, they eventually grew dry and dull. These so far have not (maybe its because I fill most of my time playing MMO games too).

Music – I can ride in a car and listen to the Final Fantasy VII soundtrack… enough said (or any other sound track from a Final Fantasy game). World music is amazing too, my kids get a kick out of the “country” music in the games early rest areas.

Combat – the big one!! I was unsure how I would like the new fighting mechanics – I’m old school. I put up with FFXIII because i thought the game was decent – but beyond that, I like the iterations before that. I like turn based in my Final Fantasy. It’s what I grew up on. Yet, from the very beginning, I find that I really like how combat flows in this game – I also think my dad, if he was still around, would have liked it as well – and from the look on my son’s face, I know he likes how it looks (if he could ever figure out how to use two joysticks at the same time, he’d be playing it). It flows very well – and it isn’t as complicated as I thought it would be. It can be simple, yet explosive, and so far, even with easy enemies, hasn’t gotten mundane. Also, the fact that you can use the Wait system (I haven’t yet), and put the game into Easy mode (I have for a night time hunt to get past the Daemons) on the fly, is a really good system for this game.

Overall, so far, I still would rate this game below The Witcher 3 – it’s hard to beat that game, especially with it’s two amazing DLC packs. However, it’s not far behind it at all, and if the DLC packs over the next, who knows, are really good, it can become it’s equal in my mind. However, unlike TW3, I can play this game with my son (as well as the rest of my children), and that, in itself, is awesome.

I’m pretty sure my oldest son would give this game a 10, and so far being able to share this game with him like my own dad did so many times with me is an A+.

Photo Credit – My Beautiful Wife

Final Fantasy – A Family Tradition

First off, this post is not as much about the game as it is my own personal experience with the franchise. It’s not even just about Final Fantasy, but about a deep and meaningful sense of purpose that was given to me at a young age.

Twenty-six years ago my dad brought home Final Fantasy for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). I was ten years old, and had already watched my dad play through the Legend of Zelda, Dragon Warrior and the like. I had joined him on the journey in those games, as well as others, and I remember well joining him on what would become a life long affair with a game series that the producers of the game saw as their last gasp. Final Fantasy, the original, was everything a lover of role playing games could ask for at the time on a home console, and eventually would become one of the largest names in the genre.

My dad loved it – and subsequently, loved every Final Fantasy, or Final Fantasyesqe game that came out – think Chrono Trigger, etc. Dutifully,  would watch my dad play for hours and hours, into the wee hours of the morning, especially on the weekends. When we moved and my brother and I had our own floor (a former attic), the gaming TV and the game systems followed with us, and so did my dad – at least on Friday nights. We would sit there on the floor, as he sat on a dusty and lumpy old love seat, mesmerized as he defeated enemies and leveled up. We followed along in the strategy guide, telling him where treasure was. He patiently would move back and forth, in what we now call grinding, in the same spot for hours, leveling up.

It’s one of the most pleasant memories of my childhood, and even into my adulthood, I would follow him along as he journeyed in the lands created by Square Soft, and later, Square Enix. My dad wasn’t the greatest JRPG (Japanese Role Playing Game) player, but his attention to detail insured he left no stone unturned. His desire for perfection is what ultimately led to him never completing Final Fantasy XII – he missed the Zephyr Spear because he unfortunately opened a chest in the beginning hours of the game. He, of course, as a “completionist”, restarted. I don’t remember how far he got in his second play through before he had his stroke that left him physically incapable of playing, but I know he was probably close to the end again. I also don’t remember if he actually got the spear – I would like to think he did, but again, that was nine years ago, and unfortunately we had more important things on our minds. I, of course, was playing as well – but likewise, I never finished the game due to the upheaval. This led to one of my biggest regrets – we, as a family, left a Final Fantasy game unfinished – a first.

Eventually over the next couple of years, I became a family man myself. Marrying my beautiful wife, and at the time of this writing, having five beautiful and wondrous children to call my own. I played Final Fantasy XIII and XIII-2 – not enjoying them as much as previous titles, but playing and beating them nonetheless. Lightning Returns, not so much. I begane playing Final Fantasy XIV and my three oldest children loved it. With exclamations like, “its a chocobo!” the would sit and watch me play for hours – like a lot of games. However, beyond their random comments, the interaction was minimal.

With Final Fantasy XV, this has begun to change. My oldest son, who is six years old, has dutifully watched me play a couple of hours over the past couple of nights.  He has anxiously waited on me to complete my other “gaming duties” – I run a successful Star Trek Online fleet (think guild) on Playstation 4, and the moment I click on the FF15 icon, he grabs his blanket, runs to the couch, sits down and smiles. The interactions are priceless – “daddy, those guys look like robots,” (Imperial magitek soldiers), “Daddy, your car is awesome and gold,” (it has the chocobo skin from the pre-order), to, “daddy, its getting dark, you don’t want the real bad guys to get you.” I have been trying to connect with video games with my children – at least one of them – like my dad did with me, and it seems, just like it did with me, Final Fantasy has brought that to pass. Last night he asked me if he could stay up and watch me play tonight, I told him I didn’t know if I would be able to – again, gaming obligations with Star Trek Online, but since it is Friday (I get off early), we can play tomorrow afternoon. There, I said it, “we.”

Final Fantasy XV is a single player game – but for my family, Final Fantasy has always been more then that. An experience shared between father and son, and now that tradition, it seems, is going to continue. Part of me thinks it was a way for my dad to get us to calm down and sit in one place, yet I also understand that my dad felt joy when we did sit next to him, reading him the maps and telling him where to go. I can remember him explaining what he was doing and why he was doing it the way he was – sharing his strategy, sharing his wisdom of trial and error. Much like the way he did with everything in his life – as a clergyman, as a father, as a husband – he learned from his mistakes and triumphs, and passed that knowledge on to his sons and daughter. I’m not banking on my oldest son, or any of my sons and my daughter in fully appreciating Final Fantasy – and in this case, Final Fantasy 15, as much as I ultimately did right away. For one, they are still a lot younger then I was when I began the journey twenty-six years ago. I am, however, thrilled at the prospect of at least one of my children wantonly desiring to share in this game’s journey.

As I was going to bed last night, my wife rolled over and told me that as she was putting my oldest son to bed, he could barely contain his excitement. “Daddy said we are going to play Final Fantasy all afternoon, and he is going to teach me how to use the strategy guide (or something to that effect)!” It hit me, my son is excited – not just for a video game, but because it is something that we have been doing together. I rolled over in bed and realized that so was I.

I still have my dad’s copy of Final Fantasy XII, he, of course, got the collectors edition. I still have his strategy guide, again, the collectors edition. I still have all of his notes, and his marks and checks are still visible in the guide. I don’t have a Playstation 2 – otherwise I would have completed it. I do hold out hope that one day they will “remaster” it for PS4, if only so I can lay that one beast to rest, for both myself and my dad. If that day comes, I know I will have at least one son of my on by my side, and I have a feeling I will have at least four others being just as dutiful to me as I was with my dad.

*Note: My dad passed away in 2014 – I know a lot of people wont get it, my wife sometimes included, but Final Fantasy, at least to me, was and is a very important part of my life and time with him. There are obviously a myriad of other things, many things far more important, but FF has always been the one thing that has stuck out in my mind. I am honored that I have the chance to share that same type of experience with my children that he did with his. I am sure he would have loved this game as well.