Road trips are what you make of them, and in Final Fantasy XV Iíve been making the most of mine. After waiting through a decade of highs and lows for this game, Iím not rushing through the experience. Instead, Iím taking my time, soaking up the scenery, going wherever the road takes me. Sometimes thatís a string of side quests, other times itís just standing in awe of the beautiful sights and massive creatures. What this game gets right is that itís all about the journey and being in the moment. Therefore, I havenít minded making detours even when itís for the silliest, most inconsequential stuff, such as tracking down wild chocobos for a photo. The message of friendship and making memories out of the most mundane moments is really resonating with me, especially when the darkest times seem just around the corner. I wonít soon forget some of the random car chatter Iíve had with the gang, nor will I forget the more poignant moments when the guys open up about their hardships (poor Prompto!).
Needless to say, I havenít come close to finishing my Final Fantasy XV adventure. Every time I load up the game, I get distracted by side activities and learning more about the world. The strange part is I donít even think the side quests are that great. I wish the majority had more narrative appeal, but something keeps drawing me in. I think itís because Iíve bought into the importance of this road trip and how it will change these characters throughout, and I donít want to miss out on a colorful NPC or one of guys saying something ridiculous or cheesy. Even these little moments are building up the experience.
I also feel the weight of Noctis and companyís task with keeping the world safe. I sense the sacrifices and dark moments ahead, and maybe I just want to keep things as lighthearted as I can for a while. I like how I canít forget the impending doom ahead though Ė how characters call out when they see enemy soldiers and ships above. In the distance is everything Iíll eventually confront, but for now Iíll camp out, eat delicious food, and let Prompto take all the photos he wants. Iím about to enter the final stretch of the game, but Iím holding off. In many ways, I donít want it to end, and thatís one of the best feelings to have about a game.
(Above: a Prompto selfie from my journey)
A new Final Fantasy is always something special for the RPG fan in me. Iíve been with this series since before I could read, when Iíd sit and watch my grandpa play and heíd explain whatís going on to me (I wish he was here for this one; heíd love it). Just being back in a world that embraces all the iconic elements, such as summons, specific monsters (Cactuar!), and chocobo riding is exciting in its own right. I love all the callbacks to previous entries (such as cruising to all the soundtracks), but Final Fantasy XV also marks a great shift in the series that makes me feel confident and excited about its future in a way I havenít in some time. Admittedly, the game has its share of imperfections (especially with magic, some long car rides, and occasionally rough combat), but this solid foundation can be iterated on and improved in the years to come. Itís proven to me that the series can still compete and appeal to a new generation of gamers, who hopefully develop the same warm and fuzzy feelings Iíll always have for the franchise. I seriously hope thereís a RPG-playing grandpa somewhere introducing his grandchild to Final Fantasy.
I had my worries about Final Fantasy XV, especially going into launch week. What if this game just doesnít deliver what it needs to? I didnít want to see this special franchise lose its place in the RPG landscape. Final Fantasy XV took risks and made the most changes to the formula weíve seen to date, and Iím glad it is what it is: a new beginning. I feel connected to Noctis and his friends in a way I havenít felt about Final Fantasy characters since X. Iím enjoying the ride and taking it for all it is. I hope you are, too.