Spoilers for FF15.
The best part of FF15 is in the second playthrough or a spoiled first playthrough – it’s a part that you can only experience once given the knowledge of the game’s final arc and what happens to the world (before you save it, of course…!)
FF 15’s main plot consists of 14 chapters.
The first time you play FF15, you spend Ch. 1-8 driving around the open world of Lucis, playing as Prince Noctis, advancing the plot, fighting monsters, character-developing the main cast.
Your time in Lucis, is colored and contextualized by mystery of what will happen to the world and the characters.
Eventually you progress onto Chapter 9. The game becomes linear – taking place not in Lucis, but on a long train trip through the Evil Empire’s country. By the end of the train ride, daytime has vanished, and the Darkness has taken over the world (oh no!).
NPCs and characters worry about this in an unproductive way, not taking action, because of course, it’s a Final Fantasy world and there’s no way a normal person has any ability to affect change – only you, Prince Noctis, do!
What this all leads up to is a huge ‘whoa’ in Chapter 14 – where you end up, 10 years later after separating from your 3 friends, at an early area in the game, alone as Noctis. This area was a pleasant beach resort but is now overrun by a ton of demons. You’ll probably decide to run past them. You end up in a car driven by a character who you encountered as a kid in the first arc. You head back to the first area of the game, surveying the countryside and watching demons run around everywhere, as you talk to this driver about what’s changed, and what hasn’t. Your friends are still alive. The gas station, Hammerhead, where you started the game, is now more or less an outpost for demon hunters.
For all its flaws, I think this progression is pretty brilliant – a logical conclusion to the slow insertion of hopelessness and (on average) reduced sense of power in the player throughout the game’s 2nd arc.
Anyways, you sacrifice yourself and save the world. Hooray.
OKAY SEAN WHAT’S THE BEST PART OF FINAL FANTASY 15??
Now we’re ready to talk about that!
The best part of FF15 is the emotion of inhabiting Lucis’s landscape in your second playthrough, knowing what tragedy will befall it. Viewing its visual spectacles, going on fun hunts with your band of buddies, and still having that colored by knowledge of the world’s future.
It’s the feeling of know that every anxious NPC and person you are talking to, is doing too little, too late. Whether anyone likes it, eventually once you’re on that train, daylight will wane away, demons will grow, people will die. You know things will end up linearly, on a slow train ride through deserts, as the world turns to dark.
As an NPC in the Train Arc says on the radio – the shifts happened so slowly that no one noticed it until the effects were extreme.
Hmm… that sounds familiar…
And I say emotion, because once you drill into it, you realize this is a pretty dumb game overall and the reason that emotion exists is because of a silly fantasy narrative where almost every non-hero is literally Pointless.
The social system the game creates is one in which NPCs have zero power to do anything collectively, except maybe give you money which helps you save the world (oh wait, did I just make an argument for the existence of collective action by NPCs in JRPGs? Hm).
But still, it’s a powerful feeling. You grow to hate the night while playing FF15 – you can’t fast travel, overpowered enemies spawn. And this feeling is accentuated because the entire world and everything positive about it will be lost to that night.
Maybe this parallels our world now – talks of organization against fascism. Of course, our world is different. If people band together, they can do something! We don’t have to wait for a Prince Noctis. Still, those emotions of oh, shit about the future, that perpetually color our air, are worth noting.
It’s worth bringing up a game, Even the Ocean, which has a similar feeling on its second playthrough.
Spoilers for Even the Ocean
Even the Ocean is carefully colored by a silent tone of growing dread, culminating in the ending, where everyone dies. You can completely miss this by playing through quickly or skimming dialogue.
On a second playthrough, things are toned similarly to FF15 – you know the world will end, except in ETO, the world ending is permanent. So you get this sense of dread thinking about how people are idly sitting by or misinterpreting the situation, rather than, it’s a crazy fantasy plot and Prince Noctis and the Gods will swoop in and save it all!
It’s a hopeful, maybe realistic ending, once you drill down – one in which it’s acknowledged that there could have been change, a way to avoid the events of ETO’s ending – had people known to act together earlier.
Thanks to this piece by @eatthepen on jrpgsaredead whose observation about a weird feeling hearing a song play while driving, spurred me on to write this short piece.
If you liked this piece, consider buying Even the Ocean and telling friends about it!
A note on this blog coming back
Decided to re-consolidate things here… Medium was kind of annoying and weird to manage. Website works, but it’s nice to have this stuff working here and it looks like wordpress has decent backup exporting. Plus there’s old stuff here already.
On the blog name, not sure. It’s a term I use to describe my music, and I kind of like the juxtaposition it makes in your head. Blogs need a name, I guess.
Some essays from the time in between: http://seancom.nfshost.com/writing.html
It’s been 3 years since posting on here! Other than that writing, well, Joni and I finished Even the Ocean. Funny that the last post here was “goals of Even the Ocean”. I think we did a good job overall, the best we could. It’s not selling great. Oh well. Bad time to release and everyone wants to write about Hot Dogs 2 and Dishonorable the Second, and soon, This Game Again 15 and etc. (oops i just wrote about it too). We might get more coverage in coming months?
I kind of wish the press or Youtube or Twitch people, would do less talking about spreading diversity and then, uh, stamping it entirely out by never reporting or talking about minority work. I understand the economic issues behind why this isn’t always possible… but still!
A lot of other things happened, but are of less concern to this blog. I guess one main thing is that I now teach at SAIC for the Experimental Game Lab class, in which I taught a bunch of minority work and had students make their own games. I hope to write about that in a few weeks once it wraps up, as well as release course materials (I’ll be teaching it in the spring, too.)