Road trips are what you make of them, and in Final Fantasy XV I’ve been making the most of mine. After waiting through a decade of highs and lows for this game, I’m not rushing through the experience. Instead, I’m taking my time, soaking up the scenery, going wherever the road takes me. Sometimes that’s a string of side quests, other times it’s just standing in awe of the beautiful sights and massive creatures. What this game gets right is that it’s all about the journey and being in the moment. Therefore, I haven’t minded making detours even when it’s for the silliest, most inconsequential stuff, such as tracking down wild chocobos for a photo. The message of friendship and making memories out of the most mundane moments is really resonating with me, especially when the darkest times seem just around the corner. I won’t soon forget some of the random car chatter I’ve had with the gang, nor will I forget the more poignant moments when the guys open up about their hardships (poor Prompto!).
Needless to say, I haven’t come close to finishing my Final Fantasy XV adventure. Every time I load up the game, I get distracted by side activities and learning more about the world. The strange part is I don’t even think the side quests are that great. I wish the majority had more narrative appeal, but something keeps drawing me in. I think it’s because I’ve bought into the importance of this road trip and how it will change these characters throughout, and I don’t want to miss out on a colorful NPC or one of guys saying something ridiculous or cheesy. Even these little moments are building up the experience.
I also feel the weight of Noctis and company’s task with keeping the world safe. I sense the sacrifices and dark moments ahead, and maybe I just want to keep things as lighthearted as I can for a while. I like how I can’t forget the impending doom ahead though – how characters call out when they see enemy soldiers and ships above. In the distance is everything I’ll eventually confront, but for now I’ll camp out, eat delicious food, and let Prompto take all the photos he wants. I’m about to enter the final stretch of the game, but I’m holding off. In many ways, I don’t want it to end, and that’s one of the best feelings to have about a game.
(Above: a Prompto selfie from my journey)
A new Final Fantasy is always something special for the RPG fan in me. I’ve been with this series since before I could read, when I’d sit and watch my grandpa play and he’d explain what’s going on to me (I wish he was here for this one; he’d love it). Just being back in a world that embraces all the iconic elements, such as summons, specific monsters (Cactuar!), and chocobo riding is exciting in its own right. I love all the callbacks to previous entries (such as cruising to all the soundtracks), but Final Fantasy XV also marks a great shift in the series that makes me feel confident and excited about its future in a way I haven’t in some time. Admittedly, the game has its share of imperfections (especially with magic, some long car rides, and occasionally rough combat), but this solid foundation can be iterated on and improved in the years to come. It’s proven to me that the series can still compete and appeal to a new generation of gamers, who hopefully develop the same warm and fuzzy feelings I’ll always have for the franchise. I seriously hope there’s a RPG-playing grandpa somewhere introducing his grandchild to Final Fantasy.
I had my worries about Final Fantasy XV, especially going into launch week. What if this game just doesn’t deliver what it needs to? I didn’t want to see this special franchise lose its place in the RPG landscape. Final Fantasy XV took risks and made the most changes to the formula we’ve seen to date, and I’m glad it is what it is: a new beginning. I feel connected to Noctis and his friends in a way I haven’t felt about Final Fantasy characters since X. I’m enjoying the ride and taking it for all it is. I hope you are, too.