Final Fantasy XV News: The Bad
Speaking frankly with Game Informer, Hajime Tabata readily admits that prior to beginning active development on Final Fantasy XV back in 2012, the team conducted an analysis of the franchise’s position within the domestic market and found that over a decade of milking the Final Fantasy brand in order to sell mediocre cash-in titles had rendered Final Fantasy a dying series that had already peaked and was now in the midst of decline. There is the sense that if Final Fantasy XV does not succeed in reversing the franchise’s fortunes then the entire ship could be sunk.
“The gravest situation of all was that, at the time we were starting Final Fantasy XV, we didn’t see an increase in new fans of the franchise. The brand image of Final Fantasy wasn’t really clear.
The reality is not that the situation is okay or in favour of us. Rather, it is more grave and serious than we had initially thought… The way we understood Final Fantasy after our analysis is that it was a dying IP that had peaked.”
This is what Tabata readily admits, and that being the case one can only conclude that the man is intent on being the one who delivers the killing blow to the Final Fantasy series, as he seems to be pathologically incapable of rejecting a single bad decision to cross his desk.
Final Fantasy XV‘s recent Platinum Demo featured a solitary party of one, as players were tasked with guiding Noct alone through its dreamscape. As such it neatly obscured the fact that using magic incurs friendly fire damage for party members:
“This makes it difficult to use multiple spells in rapid succession, since they require you to be careful and deliberate.
The effort pays off with impressive visual effects, setting the ground ablaze or creating a deep freeze in a wide area. Be careful not to hit your party members, though, since they can be damaged by friendly fire.
This is a ‘fantasy based on reality’ after all, and there is nothing more ‘reality’ than party members incurring friendly fire damage from your own spellcasting! This is actually a thing: friendly fire for spellcasting! How bold and progressive! All heil the current year!
When Tabata was discussing the possibility of bringing air travel to the wold of Final Fantasy XV last year, he specifically mentioned that the team was working with Avalanche Studios to re-purpose Just Cause 3‘s flying mechanics for the game. That being the case, one kind of suspects that they went on to do exactly the same thing with Just Cause 3‘s grenade mechanics, and then just animated magical spells over that explosive projectile damage model. It would certainly explain the janky aiming mechanics and friendly fire.
Things do not get much better when it comes to enemy design. The creatures of Final Fantasy used to be vividly coloured fantastical creatures, yet at Tabata’s request both enemy aesthetics and gameplay design have been subordinated to realism, as everything had to look like National Geographic. Tomohiro Hasegawa reveals:
“The first monster we designed for XV was the Behemoth. What Tabata-san said was that our goal was National Geographic. Think of a Behemoth that we could have a documentary program about.
In other action-driven games, a monster might telegraph its next move – like keeping a paw raised before striking or sweeping in an easily dodged arc. The Behemoth juts its claws out quickly like a predator, making its attacks hard to avoid.
Some people said, ‘If we do it that way, then it won’t really be much of a game,’ but then Tabata-san said, ‘Disregard that. Create a living creature.’ So we’ve spent evenings watching videos and studying them.”
Apparently this realistically fickle AI is also true of the game’s summons [referred to in-game as Astals and/or Archaeans], as CG graphics director Akira Iwata goes on to explain:
“When called upon, Titan will think and react depending on where he is in relation to Noctis. For example, perhaps it’s closer to run, or perhaps it’s easier to throw a boulder. Or he may give up and go home! So there are these different action triggers that determine his events.”
Great, so rather than making the effort to work out alternate summon depictions for difficult areas of the map, the summons themselves can just decide to bugger off back home.
Finally [and obviously] the Final Fantasy XV team has confirmed that the title’s fantastical elements have been scaled way back, and even where they are present they have been implemented in such away as to tether them to the drab reality of the game world. Tomohiro Hasegawa states:
“When you’re looking at previous Final Fantasies, something that stands out is the unique, fantasy-oriented designs. That was the nature of how those titles were designed, but we narrowed down the points in which we reached that fantasy level. We were very particular about choosing the moments to showcase in that fashion. There are aspects geared towards that fantasy, but narrowed down. Everything is grounded and designed academically.”
Everything has been designed academically with calculators and shit – because that is the optimal way to mathematically create diet fantasy. When this ‘fantasy based on reality’ was initially announced back in 2006, one initially thought that it was brilliant in concept, as it does not necessarily follow that the presence of design elements that are drawn from our mundane reality should result in a corresponding diminishing of fantasy elements. This juxtaposition of the mundane and the fantastical has been well executed in enough animes to amply demonstrate that point. Hell, the Shadow Hearts series was set in our real world, yet the resulting games all seemed much more fantastical than Final Fantasy XV. Unfortunately, in typical Square Enix fashion they have chosen to implement the concept of ‘a fantasy based on reality’ in the worst possible way.
Final Fantasy XV News: The Good
That is not to say that all recent news about Final Fantasy XV has been bad however. Because of the way that Episode Duscae was structured, one’s biggest fear was that Final Fantasy XV would be structured like the typical sandbox RPG. That is to say that there would be a central notice board in every town to collect reams of sidequests, and then each region would have three or four main story missions which would be inevitably lost between all the busy work. After reading Game Informer’s impressions of the first chapter of the game however, one is much relieved [but still slightly wary] about Final Fantasy XV‘s use of an open world environment:
“The term ‘open-world’ has grown to mean more than a description of an environment; it carries expectations for exploration, quests and structure. With that in mind, describing Final Fantasy XV as an open-world experience is not entirely appropriate. It isn’t about creating your own emergent story, finding a new sidequest around every corner, or getting wrapped up in a district-conquering metagame. This means the technical backbone is focused on creating an expansive and interesting environment, but it doesn’t sacrifice the narrative-driven experience fans expect.
Final Fantasy XV definitely isn’t The Witcher 3 or Dragon Age Inquisition in terms of your to-do list. That isn’t necessarily bad, because your quest log also isn’t bloated by insignificant or uninteresting tasks. You still have things to do, but the map isn’t packed with quest-givers or activities, which may surprise someone looking for a typical open-world experience.
Hajime Tabata then describes the team’s approach to open world creation:
“From the start of development, we set out to make something that wasn’t completely free-roaming, open-world. The technology is definitely built on an open world, but the way we approach this freedom aspect is to not have freedom come first, and then us implement the quests. Rather, we have the story first then create as much freedom as we can within the story.”
It is not just the structure of the story which serves as a step in the right direction, as its content appears to be on the right track too. Final Fantasy XV may be a ‘fantasy based on reality’ that eschews much of the series’ traditional fantastical element, but at least the story deals with matters that are beyond the realm of the mundane. Human conflict may serve as the catalyst for the journey to get underway, yet the story also deals with the supernatural element, as nights are growing increasingly longer, threatening to plunge the world into perpetual darkness. In fact the phrasing of this looming threat almost makes it sound like Final Fantasy XV is borrowing from Game of Thrones’ ‘winter is coming’ shtick.
Final Fantasy XV may tell a dark story, but the team has sought to mix things up by injecting a lot of humour into character conversations, which is something that Final Fantasy XIII often forgot to do [intentionally] amid all of its melodrama. Better entries in the series have shown themselves to be quite capable of treading a balanced path between serious drama and comedic interludes, so it is heartening that Final Fantasy XV will at least be attempting to replicate this:
“The overarching story of the game is definitely hefty and serious. Of course, Noctis will face his destiny and grow emotionally, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that their road trip will be grave and serious. It’s more natural to have that fun element to it. So, it’s really combining the naturalness and the seriousness to create the human drama of Final Fantasy XV
Finally, another piece of very welcome news is that the team is attempting to provide the game with one clearly defined main villain, replete with relatable human motivations [as opposed to the inscrutable shitpile that was Final Fantasy XIII‘s Orphan].
“It’s not an ensemble cast of villains, there’s clearly one evil entity in the game.
I think a good villain is a character that you could potentially create a project or a game around as the main character – one with a clear background and drama.”
One does not want to dislike Final Fantasy XV upon its release. The title seems like it is doing many things very right, which only serves to make it all the more perplexing that Hajime Tabata has chosen to incorporate so many bad ideas to balance out the good. Because of some of the completely bonkers decisions made one has significant reservations about the eventual quality of the game, but one would also very much like to eat crow in September.
Nintendo Attempts to Use Atlus as a Buffer Against Censorship Controversy
This week Bandai Namco made the big announcement that the scantily clad heroine of Tales of Berseria would not be censored when the game releases in the West in 2017. Nintendo holds a huge portion of blame for the fact that non-censorship is even regarded as newsworthy in the current year. Nintendo Treehouse directly fucked the localisations of Fire Emblem Fates, Fatal Frame V, Xenoblade Chronicles X, and The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes to name a few. Meanwhile Nintendo regional publishing regulations required that Square Enix butcher their Western release of Bravely Second: End Layer, and now the same thing is happening to Atlus with the release of Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE, the crossover between Shin Megami Tensei and Fire Emblem. Having Nintendo as publisher means obliterating even the slightest hint of cleavage, while transforming panties into spats. Presumably, something will also be done in order to make characters wearing swimsuits less attractive, though this has yet to be confirmed. Because of the way in which game content is being butchered, many people had initially assumed that Nintendo Treehouse was handling the localisation, yet Nintendo representatives seem very intent on shifting blame for the localisation fuckery onto the shoulders of Atlus through their use of vague and suggestive language.
Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE was localized by Atlus in a way that is consistent with the localization work they do on games they publish.It was a priority to ensure the game feels familiar and appeals to longtime Atlus fans. Any changes made to the in-game content were due to varying requirements and regulations in the many different territories Nintendo distributes its products.
If ever there was a sentence which required the use of a motherfucking asterisk, it is this one. The localisation of Tokyo Mirrage Sessions #FE is not consistent with the localisations of games that Atlus publishes themselves, as they are not wont to gut perfectly harmless content for Western markets. The changes present in the product are not there due to territorial requirements and regulation, as depictions of women in bikinis have not yet been banned in the West. Rather, they are there because of the arse-backwards regressive content policies of Nintendo of America and Nintendo of Europe. Nintendo are a pack of disingenuous shitheads, and if they think that unconvincing weasel words will prevent Lusipurr.com from nailing their patronising arses to the fucking wall then they have another thing coming. Why would anybody support a company like this? Why would anybody want to buy into the NX? Nintendo richly deserves every iota of failure that they have heaped upon themselves and their brand. Fucking piss poor!
Anime Spotlight: My Hero Academia
When overnight eighty percent of the world’s population mysteriously develops special abilities [referred to as quirks], it gives rise to the emergence of both super heroes and super villains in society. Izuku wants more than anything to become a super hero, and even carries around a book filled with his observations about the prominent heroes and villains that he studies. Unfortunately for Izuku he is part of the twenty percent of society born without a quirk, which leads to him being bullied by his super powered classmates. Undeterred, Izuku plans to sit the entrance exam for U.A. High School, which is Japan’s premier institution for the training of super heroes – this initially looks like a hopeless endeavour until he manages to catch the eye of All Might, Japans greatest super hero, by saving the class bully from a villain.
My Hero Academia is a brightly coloured super hero comedy that is very much in the same vein as last year’s superb One Punch Man. Granted, My Hero Academia is not as funny, weird, or attractive to watch as One Punch Man, but it is nonetheless quite adequate at filling the void left in the wake of One Punch Man. It creates a vibrant and interesting world, and a few of the jokes are quite amusing. The art style is fairly unattractive, but My Hero Academia looks very good in motion, as the fight sequences are well choreographed and quite smoothly animated. My Hero Academia is simulcast on Funimation Sundays at 5:00 am Eastern. The first episode was very enjoyable, and the series looks to be quite promising. Recommended.