Hey guys! It’s been a little over 2 days since I got my hands on my FFXV PS4 bundle, and in that time I have around 42 hours played. Visiting my girlfriend today, I left my system at home with the specific intent of getting myself away from the game. While I can remove myself from the game, I can’t seem to remove the game from me, and while I’m eager to gush about it and nitpick every errant chocobo feather, I decided a while ago I’d wait until I reached level 50 before I gave my first impressions. So, in order to stave off the Jones’es during the brief period I’m spending NOT in the game, I’m going to give an overview/review of FFXV’s extended universe, which include 3 games, a movie and an anime short film collection. I’ll be going through them in the order that I experienced them.
Brotherhood: Final Fantasy XV
Brotherhood was something that excited me to no end when it was announced. Long time fans may remember Last Order: Final Fantasy VII, the animated short that came out with Advent Children. Last Order gave us an extremely short, though exciting look at Cloud Strife’s Nibelheim crisis, as well as linked together the concurrent cell phone game, Before Crisis, by showing that game’s characters in a few panels here and there throughout. Brotherhood is slightly more substantial than that, treading ground that takes place before XV and, at least as far as I’ve gotten in my playthrough, is only hinted at in the context of the plot. This does make for a juicy bit of backstory, and does a good job of setting up the world as a whole. XV’s world is built around the 4 main characters, and an in-depth look at who they were before the story does wonders for getting the player used to the characters before the game starts.
Each episode is just shy of 12 minutes, and there’s only 5 total, which comes to only about an hour of storytelling, short by any standard. It doesn’t help that each episode starts off a bit slowly, and there’s a lot of “watch this image while people talk” scenes, which are beautiful, but for such a gorgeously done series, you wonder why they do it so often. Then, you’re treated to one of the warpy, animation and CG-heavy battle portions and it becomes apparent; there were certain scenes that were deemed important, and these were the scenes that got proper attention and the lion’s share of the budget.
Brotherhood forgoes the opportunity to give us backstory of the countries, their war, and politics (in the way Kingsglaive does) and instead treats us to episodic backstory content. It’s not your usual RPG backstory faire, either; instead of showing us insane training montages that take ordinary boys and make them in to the insanely overpowered and impossibly-skilled heroes we’re used to, Brotherhood works to humanize the characters by showing us what their drives are instead. We get to see young Noctis, haunted by the nightmares of constant attacks on his family, young Prompto, whose low self-esteem stops him from approaching Noctis at first, take his life into his own hands by dieting and exercising, Ignis’s unending quest for culinary perfection, and Gladiolus finally coming around to the idea of protecting Noctis. Each arc is short and less fantasy-based than you’d expect, but also more fulfilling as a result. Sure, the short action sequences were more of what I (and I’m sure we all) wanted, but the character-building is surprising and welcome.
Complaints: Anyone who knows me knows I absolutely enjoy picking apart things I love, and while I do enjoy Brotherhood, it does have its faults.
1. It’s too short- Seems like a good problem to have, but not in the way Brotherhood has it. Each episode is only 12 minutes long, and suffers from a bad case of silence, followed by quickly-spat-out-because-we-have-2-minutes-left dialogue, as well as telling us instead of showing us important points.
2. It doesn’t explain the struggle- This is going to be a common problem, because 40 hours into XV, I still can’t really tell you why the evil empire is evil, except that they oppose the protagonist’s country. We see Magitek troops drop, we hear about the empire’s marching, but there’s no rhyme or reason to it.
3. There’s NO escalation of skill- I said earlier that instead of explaining how the characters became godlike, the story focuses on their characters. This is good and all, but other than a couple of tiny training scenes between Noct and Gladiolus (which Noct does NOT take seriously), we can assume everyone can jump 30 feet naturally.
4. (As far as I can tell) Nearly none of the arcs solidly tie in to the game proper- Herein lies my biggest problem. So far, outside of a campfire reference to Prompto’s previous self-worth problems, I’ve not seen a shred of evidence that any of these stories really happened in-game. I started my quest eager to hunt down Ignis’s lost recipe, or encounter the ferocious Karly-like monster shown at the beginning and end of the series, but neither (so far) are present in my time with the game.
Final Verdict - Watch It (Why Not?)
You can’t let things like these affect you, though, if you’re a true Final Fantasy fan. I mean, those 3 problems are about as “Final Fantasy” of a set of problems as anything can have. The mini-miniseries is a worthwhile sidestory collection that does a great job of building the character motivations that drive the game forward. It’s also available to everyone, for the low low price of FREE via the official Final Fantasy XV YouTube Channel, so there’s zero reasons not to watch if you have even a passing interest in the series. Rewatching when you’re done with the game gives you a glimpse at side characters you may not have recognized your first time through, too, so it’s worthy of a re-watch or two.