This is day two for the anitwitter campaign for 12 days of anime posts from bloggers within the community. There will be full spoilers for Final Fantasy XV, Brotherhood & Kingsglaive
So I just got done playing Final Fantasy XV. I’m not a big ‘gamer’ myself. Functionally the majority of them are designed to take you dozens of hours to beat. Then when you play one there’s that niggling in the back of your head saying “I spent an hour awkwardly climbing this mountain in a game that’s not a platformer, how much of X or Y could I have done instead?”. That feeling of wasting my time is the big reason I distance myself from things.
Then there’s the label of ‘gamer’. It takes a short glance at the gaming scene to see why I would be touchy about it. After all it was an -ex’s revenge and articles saying the gamer title had become shrouded in toxicity that was enough to spark a outrage machine that is still alive today. Simply put, for all it’s gratuitous fanservice, waifu wars and rampant elitism, still feels like a more hospitable place.
So what happens when you combine anime and video games? You get…
*QUEUE TITLE MUSIC*
Now to be clear. This isn’t the first time an anime has been adapted from or attached to a game. Hell, Tales of Zesteria was only a few months ago and hasn’t even finished yet. I’m certainly not here to advocate for more of it. Clearly with my reservations, why would I want crucial world building or endings offset to an entirely different medium? The truth is, I only like what has been done with Final Fantasy XV because I played the game. It makes the transition between one to the other much easier and natural. So forgive me while I gush about the three entirely selfishly.
FFXV: Kingsglaive --> FFXV: Brotherhood --> FFXV
Rather than walk you through the events chronologically, listing off what happens and when, where the anime interjects with the game etc. I just want to share two moments that really got to me. Frankly it might be the simplest path that best explains the relationship so why not?
If there’s one challenge games face these days it’s that they rarely shock. I’m not talking jump scares or villainous plot twists. I’m talking the character we play reeling in the unexpected fluctuations of the world around them. It’s worth noting that from now on when I ‘you’ it’s interchangeable with the character being played. This disconnect is typically because you are always in the position of power. It’s you that beats the bad guys, sets off the explosions, turns the tide with merely your voice at political summits. You’re responsible for every step you take and every country you save. By mechanical design it teaches you from the very beginning that the world revolves around you and that while the consequences might all be guesswork, you at least know that things are going to change.
Not so with Final Fantasy XV. Noctis walks up the edge of the cliff to see his home, the great city of Insomnia, burning. There’s no sentimental flashbacks of him running around playground with the other kids. No before and after slideshow of his favourite places. No omnipresent voiceover from a loved one. At that moment in the game you (the player) are just as in the dark as you (Noctis). By offsetting the childhood
With just the game for a reference point, we have a lot of missing context. Noctis was born there. He lived there. Yet all that remains is a concept. A vague memory. One and it must mean something to him but all that we see is a concept. Insomnia is not where we beat the first level or where we did an escort mission. It’s only a place that might have once meant something. Pushing the content of the city out of the gameplay and into the anime helps so much in recapturing that shock factor. For better or worse, starting the journey with Insomnia already long behind you effects the memories you keep of it. If you didn’t watch the companion anime, Insomnia is a place that you’ll never see as it was to the people, reflecting just how much the empires actions have changed the world. If you did watch the anime, then like Noctis, your mental picture will be of meeting Iris for the first time as a child or the land of the infamous Kingsglaive force.
I don’t say this to argue that the execution of this moment was perfect. Only that it is far too easy for our experience to be of game mechanics and not of the emotional value that should be what gets carried over. Personally speaking, taking the player interaction out of it and not delivering it at the same time you should be progressing worked wonders.
Noctis says goodbye
Ardyn is dead. Over 10 years have past since the story of Noctis & Co. was woven. They sit around a campfire struggling to make more than small talk. You understand of course. The conversations in the regalia as you explored Lucis. The pictures you took with each new milestone reached. Even the risk of death you all gambled on after you decided the path you’d take. The sentiment is there and it’s absolutely real for everyone involved.
But if there was one thing I was thinking of during that moment. It was the bond of Brotherhood. More importantly it was when that Brotherhood began. Growing up alongside Prompto, experimenting deserts with Ignis and the understanding built with Gladiolus over shared burdens. All of that? Completely impossible without the 5 episode series to explore the mundane amidst Titan slaying and time travel.
There’s something to respect about the roots. Sure, we memorialize those character moments in our lives, but they are never truly separate from the reasons we became friends in the first place. So when Gladiolus pulls us to one side and reminds us of the duty we have to those we love, is that not only a reflection? Noctis may be older and more world weary yet the parallels between his position as King during the game and the blame he takes on board for the sake of Iris in the anime are clear as day. What about the mothering Ignis does for the prince at Insomnia pairing with the later determination he displays after the loss of his eyesight? There’s an ebb & flow to things that you can feel between point A and B.
For complete transparency I’ll reiterate what I said before; “I don’t say this to argue that the execution of this moment was perfect”. Yet I hope that by going into detail here I’ve done enough to explore the influence the design of the animated film and series had on the game that was to be central focus.
And if I haven’t accomplished that allow me to make a broad sweeping statement that; Art is everywhere and it’s beautiful. You just need to keep digging around. Or look in the mirror!
So there you have. I’m honestly shocked I found the time to write more than a thousand words for a series of posts that I won’t get anything material from. Not a complaint, only a retrospective. I’m thinking of topics as I go, so I welcome any suggestions from readers. At the moment I’m thinking I might do a stat breakdown on my completed anime for one of the posts, although if it turns out to be boring I’ll scrap it. My goal for the rest of today is to catch up on what everyone is doing for their projects. I expect I’ll be ‘following’ quite a few people by the end of it.
Thanks for reading!
PS. As I read this again I realize it may come across as me condemning anyone who calls themselves a gamer. It’s not intended to be that way at all, so you don’t need to feel like I’m casting judgement on you if relevant. Apologies.