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Opinion: Final Fantasy 15 TGS trailer hints at history

Square Enix released a new trailer for Final Fantasy 15 at the Tokyo Game Show, and it rightly created buzz around the long-delayed game by referencing the best parts of the modern Final Fantasy era.

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Final Fantasy 15 has had a long development cycle, but only now does it seem that Square is ready for its coming out party. A new trailer that debuted at Tokyo Game Show this week gave us a fresh look at the long-in-limbo RPG, and has renewed faith that the historically revered but more recently bruised studio is on the right track. How did it pull off this feat? By paying constant homage to the most memorable parts in the franchise's recent history.

Coming in at just over two-and-a-half minutes, the Final Fantasy 15 trailer is rife with references, some more subtle than others. By showing fans that it recognizes which parts stand out to them, it's providing a hopeful sign that it knows the direction to take to please them.

First and foremost, the trailer is set almost entirely in and around a car. This isn't some fantasy contraption or mounted beast. In fact, it looks like a fairly normal, real automobile. It has echoes of classic convertibles, but nothing about it seems impossible in our own world. In that way, the car isn't just a car, but a sign of grounding. This is a Final Fantasy game, but it also has touches of realism and familiarity with our own world. 

Final Fantasy 7, similarly, was the first of the series to root itself firmly in our world. Its energy crisis with Mako Energy was an embellished version of our own natural concerns, and it certainly took leeway with the fantasy elements, but it was certainly more grounded than previous installments. One sequence even involved a chase with a motorcycle and a pickup truck. Later Final Fantasy games have also featured vehicles, but they tend to be fantastical in some way. This approach gives us the notion that whatever fantasy tropes it may use, parts of it will be recognizable and rooted in the real world.

The four occupants of that car make up our core cast, or perhaps even our only cast, of playable characters. The trailer makes several allusions to this being a long journey. It's a roadtrip, of sorts, but with some level of stakes. The characters remark about reaching a destination, and given Final Fantasy's general tone it will probably be important for the sake of the world. Still, it's the journey and not the destination that counts, as the saying goes. While Final Fantasy games have gotten over-obsessed with their own lore, a long journey with several small obstacles before the major goal is reached gives us an opportunity to learn more about the characters and see them grow.

It's impossible to judge just how much of the game we're being shown. For all we know the roadtrip will make up only a small fraction of the overall adventure. But the idea of a journey with several personalities harkens back to Final Fantasy 10. That was an unusual entry, since we met the core cast almost immediately and stuck with them for the entire journey. The path was too linear, but that also allowed it to breathe and gave characters time to change and grow as people. This was character development, not staid arch-types that bounced off each other. We can hope that another long journey with a tight cast will repeat that trend.

If those similar story hooks show a promising note for the plot, the combat system appears to owe just as much to the Final Fantasy 13 trilogy. The brief glimpses of gameplay look almost identical to Lightning's fast, reflexive combat system. By the end of the trilogy it was more action game than RPG, but with subtle under-the-hood mechanics that kept its history intact. It took three games for Square to perfect that combat system, and it looks like the attitude now is not to try fixing what isn't broken.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the trailer did what Final Fantasy games used to do: inspire awe. Square Enix has been known for taking its time with Final Fantasy games and making them visual showpieces. As the rest of the industry has caught up, they've lost their luster. Final Fantasy 13 and 14 looked fine, sure, but they weren't the go-to for examples of visual prowess in their respective years. Final Fantasy 15 very well could be, based on sheer scale alone. It's likely that the game in its current state can't actually render a giant Adamantoise in real time with that level of fidelity, but the trailer hints at the studio's ambition to make it happen. If it can both learn from its past and be a watermark of the new generation, Square Enix could make something special.

Editor-In-Chief
From The Chatty
  • reply
    September 19, 2014 1:00 PM

    Steve Watts posted a new article, Opinion: Final Fantasy 15 TGS trailer hints at history.

    Square Enix released a new trailer for Final Fantasy 15 at the Tokyo Game Show, and it rightly created buzz around the long-delayed game by referencing the best parts of the modern Final Fantasy era.

    • reply
      September 19, 2014 10:40 PM

      This article was as good as the trailer. Nice!

    • reply
      September 20, 2014 2:30 PM

      But it's not turn based... WHAAAAGHHHHH! (fuck turnbased)

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