Final Fantasy XV: What am I expecting?

The year was 2006. YouTube only had been around for a year, and Twitter had barely come into existence. Everyone was still making Sparta memes. I was still in high school, and I thought that buying Final Fantasy XII for full price a week after its release was a good idea.

And the JRPG company Square Enix had just released a little trailer for a game they were calling Final Fantasy Versus XIII.

Versus XIII was part of a huge project called “Fabula Nova Crystallis” (otherwise known as “the director really really really likes Latin).” It basically involved Square Enix making three Final Fantasy XIII games and releasing them as “companion games” to each other. Your guess is as good as mine as to what exactly that meant, but either way, the trailer made quite an impact. It showed off all the graphical capabilities of the Playstation 3, and the game was planned to launch along with the system, catapulting Final Fantasy back into stardom.


Fast forward to last year. Final Fantasy XIII had been out since 2009; Final Fantasy XIV was coming out later that year. The third game in the Fabula Nova Crystallis project got a name change and had a quiet, Japan-only release in 2011. Versus XIII, meanwhile, had been an unknown for years, and the lack of news for its development was starting to become a running joke. Until June, when Square Enix suddenly announced that no, they were working on it now, for really reals! They’d just decided to make it Final Fantasy XV instead. Easier to revamp an old half-finished game than come up with an entirely new concept, I guess.

And now, just a couple weeks ago, they came out with some more information on the newly dubbed FFXV. A trailer and a gameplay demo, to be more specific. And it’s those I’d like to talk about this week, as they contain some interesting revaluations about the direction the game is taking. (Hint: there is controversy.)

First things first, the new trailer:

That sullen-looking, black-haired main character dude is Noctis. He’s the prince of the mafia-like kingdom Lucis, and he can see when people are about to die due to a mysterious childhood mishap (a death goddess was apparently involved). With a world war looming on the horizon, Noctis sets out on a cross-country road trip to a neighboring kingdom for currently unknown reasons, accompanied by his friends and bodyguards Prompto, Gladiolus, Ignis, and Cor.

From left: Prompto, Gladiolus, Noctis, Ignis, and Cor. (FF Wikia)

No, really. I told you the director likes Latin.

Right away, you can see that the game looks different — not only from most Final Fantasies, but from JRPGs in general. Everything looks sleek and modern; there’s cars and radio and highways with billboards and a whole lot of black designer clothing. A lot. I mean, I’m not asking for Lulu’s belt skirt or Nooj’s onesie, but more distinctions in the characters’ outfits would be nice.

The battle system is all real-time, and looks more like Kingdom Hearts than anything else. I love turn-based RPGs, but … this is the way the genre is going, and I would rather accept the battle system for what it is than waste time complaining. Besides, it looks pretty fun! There are a lot of enjoyable little details, like party members teaming up to take an enemy out, and monsters being able to trip Noctis up.

Also, the soundtrack is by Yoko Shinomura, who is some kind of video game music deity, so there’s at least one thing about this game that’s going to be perfect.

And now … the controversy. The reason I decided to write about this game now, when there isn’t even an estimated release date yet.

The news broke on Japanese gaming website 4Gamer, and was translated into English by Siliconera. Here’s the paragraph in question:

“4Gamer then mentions that the trailer and demonstration footage both focused on male characters, and that they get a feeling that it will be like a trip with guys. Meanwhile, they point out, we’ve only seen female characters in cutscenes.

‘The party will only have male characters,” replies [director Hajime] Tabata, “and that hasn’t changed since its previous form of [Final Fantasy Versus XIII].'”

“My job is to wait for the men while looking pretty and sad.” (FF Wikia)

Yep. Male-only party.

Why? Because it’s a road trip, of course! According to Tabata, the “strong road movie vibe” is a part of the game “in which we’re placing great importance.” (Because we all know women never go on road trips, am I right?)

Tabata explains this further here, saying, “The party members being all men was something that [former director] Tetsuya Nomura had kept as a very important element of this journey. He wanted to depict a story in which a group of men, a group of friends, journey throughout the world. So that’s something that I kept in Final Fantasy XV.”

Male bonding stories! How nice. No, really, I have no problem with male friendship being a strong and important theme in a story. It’s just that male friendship in video games (and every other form of media, incidentally) is dirt common, and I can count the games that have female friendships as an important theme on the fingers of one hand. Also, out of 15 Final Fantasy games, only two have had female protagonists … who weren’t even protagonists through the whole game. They were part of an ensemble cast. How interesting.

What’s even more bizarre, JRPGs are rather well-known for having equal gender representation. Final Fantasy in particular generally has an equal male-to-female party member ratio. Guys, I’m not even asking to make Noctis and his friends all women or whatever. They should stay as they are. But is it really that awful that I’m asking for an equal gender ratio to continue? That’s one of the reasons I love JRPGs in the first place!

Your story doesn’t exist in its own world, Mr. Nomura. Society influences media, and media influences society. And the picture we’re getting from your media has not been very flattering towards me and the many other women who play video games.

This isn’t going to stop me from playing Final Fantasy XV eventually (I need to become good friends very quickly with someone who owns a Playstation 4 first). But I must say, I’m disappointed.

18 thoughts on “Final Fantasy XV: What am I expecting?

  • October 10, 2014 at 5:39 AM

    You’re right in mentioning the history of equal gender representation in JRPGs, however this even better accounts for Nomura’s decision in maintaining an all-male playable cast. Tetsuya Nomura, like any film, video game or theatre director, is an artist. The story which he looks to explore in Final Fantasy XV far precedes the roster of playable characters he and his team subsequently invent. Should Nomura have designed a different story to allow for female characters? Not unless the consumers are happy with an inorganic story, likely featuring poor character development due to, of all things, gender stigma. Female representation is firmly entrenched within JRPG culture, as you stated, and Nomura’s decision to exclude playable female characters in his game is one made with the interests of the consumers and integrity of the art he’s creating in mind.

    At the very least, Nomura certainly shouldn’t be feeling the heat of a fire lit by gender equalists simply because his narrative functions best with male characters. Should he include an equal gender representation for the sake of it? Fans of the series would argue not. Lynn, your point is tenable, however easily accounted for by Nomura’s artistic direction which is unoccupied by misogyny or a propensity to value male characters over female characters. He is doing what is best for the series and his narrative.

    • Lynn Bachman
      October 10, 2014 at 9:37 PM

      I agree that an artist’s vision and integrity is important, but I’m not so sure that Nomura is entirely unbiased. He doesn’t have the best track record for female characters in his games. Just look at Kingdom Hearts and you’ll see what I mean.

      I don’t know if this is in the interest of his consumers, either. Why does his narrative function best with only male characters? Is he going to create something new and innovative with this story, making the all-male party somehow necessary? We don’t have enough information yet to tell, but his decisions thus far have worried me a bit.

  • October 10, 2014 at 4:51 AM

    I just don’t see why gender or race has to be an issue with this at all. As a fellow female gamer, I would like to see some more games that cater to women more. But I’m not going to destroy really good games just to get what I want. I’m going to support more female oriented games as they come out. I support your passion for female gaming but I think you are misdirected.

  • October 9, 2014 at 10:42 PM

    So this is what we have to look forward to in games now? This, post-GamerGate/Sarkeesian paradigm where we have to force creators to match every game they create purely to entertain us to preconceived standards? Also, this…

    “out of 15 Final Fantasy games, only two have had female
    protagonists… who weren’t even protagonists through the whole game. They
    were part of an ensemble cast.”

    Did you forget the three XIII games, and X-2 (which, like XV, featured a homogeneous main cast)? Way to just couch them as being “part of an ensemble cast.” What does that even mean? Isn’t every cast an ensemble cast? Moving on…

    “I’m not even asking to make Noctis and his friends all women or
    whatever. They should stay as they are. But is it really that awful that
    I’m asking for an equal gender ratio to continue?”

    You didn’t just spend half your article complaining about an all-male cast to simply say you want JRPG diversity to continue, you just wanted to press a hot-button non-issue. One can’t seriously think that just because FFXV will feature an all-male cast, that means all forthcoming JRPG’s will follow suit. That is ludicrous.

    At the end of the day, you’ll still give Gamestop your $60 for the game, the only downside you’ll ever have about it is the all male cast, and you’re how old? And the reason you wanted to write about this game now, even when there’s no release date? Because this gender nonsense is “so hot right now.” Production of this game (as well as the entire female-lead XIII series) began well before Anita Sarkeesian started playing video games, or victimhood became a career option in general; when we just played them because they were fun.

    • October 10, 2014 at 2:07 AM

      Thank you!

    • Lynn Bachman
      October 11, 2014 at 1:14 AM

      Look, I don’t know what to tell you. Maybe it’s true right now that this “gender nonsense” (really?) is a “hot-button issue”. I didn’t write this post because of that. This post is purely my personal opinion. I saw the news and wrote what I felt about it.

      I’ve been playing video games for a long time– long, long before this Gamergate nonsense– and I’ve been concerned about representation for women in video games before I knew what that even meant, or that it was a thing people agreed with me on. This is a long-standing issue for me. This is not a cheap attempt to stir up controversy, and honestly, the amount of people disagreeing with me here is worrying.

      I haven’t even seen Sarkeesian’s videos, but I do know that her and others like her are constantly harassed for objecting games to even the slightest bit of feminist criticism. You say that games were more fun before all that. I disagree. This criticism is making developers come up with even better games, with more varied and interesting characters and plots. They’re beginning to listen to their audience, and I’m sorry to tell you this, but their audience isn’t all made up of people like you anymore.

  • October 9, 2014 at 8:30 PM

    I am a longtime female Square Enix enthusiast and am excited to see how the story places out in an all male team. I thought it was nice to see that in XIII the main protagonist was female and not overtly in love with anyone. That was very different from VII, VIII, and X that revolved around conquering for love. They even continued the unconventional approach with XIII-2 having only 2 playable characters representing both sexes and NOT making out with each other. It was almost weird to watch. Although strange, it was nice to see them fighting together led by more than the contents of their underwear. In XV I am excited to feel their rendering of an all-male road trip type of adventure. In reality, I could never experience that. Equality is not reality. I think their must be clear biases present to draw nearer to the actual world of today.

    • Lynn Bachman
      October 10, 2014 at 1:45 AM

      Why do we want fantasy games to be exactly like the world of today, though? I like fantasy settings that don’t have our cultural gender norms and specifics. That’s why I like JRPGs in the first place.

      I don’t mind the concept of an all-male road trip. It’s just that FFXV is the current face of JRPGs, and it has a lot more to do than tell its own story. I don’t feel that it’s fairly representing its current audience.

      Definitely agree about less romance between party members, though. XIII did a good job with that.

  • October 9, 2014 at 7:50 PM

    oh good so im not the only one who is dissappointed…total bias in nomuras part in my opinion. but this is what he was aiming toward for a long time. we female gamers arent goin to be as thrilled but me? i’m stil going to play but not as excited for xv anymore it should be equal genders not just aimed toward men.. 🙁

  • October 9, 2014 at 7:42 PM

    So you go and create a company that sells billions worth of games and make the story however you see fit. I’m so sick of these “I’m insecure about my gender” posts. I probably speak for men everywhere when I say I couldn’t care less if it was all women or all men. In fact, unless it were all ugly fat womennin the game, then some women (insecure women) would still complain that the game depicts unrealistic beauty.

  • October 9, 2014 at 7:32 PM

    Wasn’t 13 a lot about female friendships like lightning cloud and Baz vanille. Shouldn’t the gender spread be there to complement and work for the given sorry not the other way around? Like if there is a char you think could be replaced with a woman to improve the sorry shouldn’t that be a point of complaint before raw sum?

  • October 9, 2014 at 2:37 PM

    And this passionate argument between final fantasy fans for which game defines final fantasy is square’s fault. They made each one different. Which has divided their fanbase 15 times over. And each section is hoping for a game that reflects the game that brought them in this in the first place lol but that’s not what anyone is gonna get. So here’s my worry: I worry that when 15 gets a sequel, that they’re gonna tweak it. Like they do with all their games. I hope they don’t.

  • October 9, 2014 at 2:29 PM

    Well I guess as compared to the other games, I can understand why an all male cast of playable characters is disconcerting, but why are you counting? Even when it comes to movies it seems there is always someone complaining about the cast ratio out of some misguided sense of compensating equal opportunity. In real life, is there an equal amount of men and women? An equal amount of ethnic diversity? Its a big fat NO. So why is a problem when every actor in a movie is white? Or black? Or all male? It stems from the stereotypes. About this game though, and why I make my point, this particular story revolves around a prince of a highly sought after rule, and his bodyguards. Whom by the way were raised with the sole purpose of protecting the royal bloodline. It just so happens that because of this, they’re really close friends. Thats why they’re all male though. When do u ever see a female bodyguard in real life? One can argue that this is final Fantasy with a capital F, but it is a fantasy based on reality. So yes, it is straying wide away from the “norm,” ironically, and that’s a good thing. Alot of ppl misplace their real wants for a game with the nostalgic feeling they got entering a fantasy world when they were kids. Nobody really wants a throwback, even tho they think they do. THIS game has never been done before. EVER. its the first of its kind.

    • Lynn Bachman
      October 10, 2014 at 1:39 AM

      Let me get this straight. You’re saying that monsters the size of houses, magic glowing crystals jutting out of the side of the road, and a prince having death goddess powers are a-okay, but a female bodyguard is the thing that’s too “fantasy” to be included?

      “This is a fantasy based on reality” is not about women being or not being in the party. It’s about getting sore shoulders from a long car ride; it’s about making dinner while monsters graze a few feet away; it’s about using flashlights to see in dark caves. This is a fantastical setting grounded in human realism. That’s what sets it apart from the other FF games.

      So I stand by my complaint.

      • October 10, 2014 at 1:57 AM

        Thats fine, you’re entitled to your complaint just as much as I am to mine in waiting so long for this game lol but like you said, “grounded in human realism.” thats all I was trying to convey. Look its just conditioned by the story. Not for the sake of just being all male. We just have to accept what we get or not, especially with final fantasy. and IF not then there’s a plethora more art forms to be entertained by.

        • October 10, 2014 at 2:00 AM

          And by the way yea that’s what im saying about the female bodyguard. She would stick out. Wouldn’t fit with the story.

          • Lynn Bachman
            October 10, 2014 at 3:04 AM

            I’m sorry that’s the way you feel about it. I don’t believe that would be a problem. Female bodyguards do exist, which I found out by doing some basic googling. The history of women in the Secret Service is pretty fascinating.

            Possible female party members don’t necessarily have to be Noctis’s bodyguards, anyway. The usual JRPG team is pretty diverse in terms of background.

          • October 10, 2014 at 4:21 AM

            No way really? Thats honestly pretty cool. There are no navy seal women though. So yea I mean like this particular story, it’s just different. There ARE women in the story, i dont wanna come off like there aren’t, but they aren’t playable because it’s a group of guy friends. There’s still characters like Stella, Luna, i saw some high ranking woman sitting at the table with king Regis, etc. And who knows, maybe its noctis’ pride that wont allow himself to be protected by a female lol the point im always coming down to is story. Storywise, it wouldn’t make sense to have one of the party members be a grl. 3 dudes and 1 grl, ok that doesn’t look weird. Or 2 guys 2 grls. Or how bout noctis surrounded by 3 women. Yea, that wouldn’t stir emotions about sexism. Lol

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