WELL, NOBODY CAN SAY THEY RUSHED THE GAME
To call Final Fantasy XV’s development troubled is like calling the dead sea faintly salty. Introduced back in 2006 as Final Fantasy Versus XIII, the game has now been in development in one form or another for 10 bloody years.
Now another trailer has come out. This is the 4th trailer in the World of Wonder promotion series and this one focusses mainly on aquatic regions and creatures. The game still looks absolutely gorgeous, but you have to wonder if it’s not put itself in an unmanageable position by this point. After 10 years, people will expect a lot from this game.
It has now been confirmed that the game will be delayed. Instead of September 30th, it will not be released until November 29th. Square Enix is supposedly considering releasing a PC version, so if we’re lucky we should get that somewhere between 2020 and the heat death of the universe.
With the new date in mind, if you’re still on the fence about getting the game, let’s talk about a few things about its development that stood out to us.
Really, we want to start off by gushing about the trailer some more. If you haven’t really bothered with them yet, we highly encourage you to look up the ‘World of Wonder’ series of trailers. The gameplay trailers do a good job of making the combat seems smooth and fun, but the environmental trailers make the world off Final Fantasy XV seem absolutely breathtaking.
Early in its development the game coined the phrase “A fantasy based on reality.” and these trailers show that they intend to make good on that promise. Sure there’s still impossible structures, flying cars and the occasional weird glowing crystal. It’s Final Fantasy, what were you expecting? But when you looked beyond the weird creatures and the glowing crystals at the cities, you see a world that resembles ours more than ever before in the series. Plus Florence and the Machine are involved and we’re fans, so you won’t hear us complain about that.
One look at gameplay trailers, and combat trailers in particular, should also tell you that XV is not quite like most Final Fantasy games. In fact it’s so different fans have had to be repeatedly assured that the game was still an RPG and that they didn’t have to be great at action games to play it.
This change, and many others, can be traced back to Hajime Tabata, the game’s director who took over in 2012. While we’re certain the man is great at his job, he has the unfortunate talent of becoming less and less likeable every time he opens his mouth.
One of the first issues he weighed in on during XV’s long development was the party members. Specifically, the complete lack of female party members, which is something of a first for the series and not exactly a good first. Representation and equality are, arguably, bigger topics than they’ve ever been for the industry so the response to this wasn’t all positive and it wasn’t long before the gay jokes started popping up.
And then Tabata-san started talking.
While his statement wasn’t outright misogynistic, holy crap, did it ever come across condescending.
“Speaking honestly, an all-male party feels almost more approachable for players. Even the presence of one female in the group will change their behaviour, so that they’ll act differently. So to give the most natural feeling, to make them feel sincere and honest, having them all the same gender made sense in that way,”
There is a lot wrong in just this one paragraph.
On the most basic level it implies that it doesn’t matter if female gamers want a character to relate to in the party. Apparently that would somehow less enjoyable for male gamers, who apparently lose the ability to relate to a party and their internal relationships the moment one of them doesn’t have a penis.
We really, really don’t want to go all SJW on this (or any other matter, really)…but what? How does that make any sense?
The closest thing we could find to logic in that statement is that, according to Tabata-san, men just instantly and completely change the moment a woman is involved in any way. Regardless of context, relationships or anything else, guys will apparently change themselves completely to appeal to or appease the woman of the group.
…That is not how human beings interact.
Tabata-san wasn’t done and the rest of his answer spawned some quotes that, all things considered, probably only increased the number of gay jokes. For example:
“It will be a boys will be boys story”
“The world might be ready to see the curtain lifted on what boys do when girls aren’t around, when they come out of the tent all prim and proper.”
Anyone who has been camping will tell you that, regardless of gender, nobody comes out of a tent looking prim and proper. It’s generally closer to bleary-eyed and hungover.
Of course this last statement also implies that women are, or at least should always be, perfect little prim and proper princesses. That’s an antiquated way of thinking, to put it mildly.
Granted, Tabata-san has also tried to justify this decision by stating “It was the story we wanted to tell and what we wanted to show players.” Had he started with this statement and restricted himself to it, that would have been perfectly fine. We would have respected him for essentially stating that this was just the creative choice they made for the story. It’s not really the creative choice we have a problem with, but the presented rationale for that choice.
If you want a boys-only story, that is perfectly fine. However, don’t pretend you chose an all-male party as some sort of gift to gamers because you think male characters are always more approachable or relatable. This might be true for some people, but women who want a female character in the party they can relate to are just shit out of luck.
While it caused no major fallout, the statement was a little divisive among fans. Many fans of both genders took issue with Tabata-san’s statement for the reasons mentioned above. Of course there were also people trying to defend him. Some with rational statements like cultural differences or poor translation, though the main argument was the massively childish “Nobody complained about X-2’s all-female party.”
See…Here’s the thing. We honestly can’t remember if she was introduced before or after this statement, but all of those arguments fall kind of flat when faced with Cindy. Why?
Well, according to Tabata-san himself, Cindy will be a fairly prominent character. She’s the mechanic who will keep the car going and thereby make the journey possible. Okay, good news, right? She’s not strictly speaking a party member, but at least there’s a prominent female character and she could be rela-Oh, nevermind, did you see her character design?
Let’s just say Cindy’s outfit has a long-distance relationship with practicality. Or let’s speak plainly for a moment and say she dresses like an off-duty hooker at a rest stop. Maybe we’re in the wrong there for shaming a (fictional) woman for her body, but come on! This is the design they went with? Really?!
When you’ve already been accused of sexism and excluding women, this is probably not the first female character you should introduce.
Of course, while Tabata-san eventually kind of ignored this issue and the fans mostly let it drop, he wasn’t done. In a later interview he accused many of the employees who had been put on the Final Fantasy XV development team, as well as most fans of the series, of suffering from ‘Final Fantasy Disease.’ As with his previous statement, this comes across as more than a little condescending, though with a nice touch of arrogance for flavour, this time.
“It refers to people within the company who can’t imagine anything other than their own view of Final Fantasy.”
“Since the root is a strong self-affirmation, one’s own view of Final Fantasy takes more priority than the team’s success. If that view of Final Fantasy isn’t fulfilled, then they’re convinced that it’s bad for Final Fantasy. They think, ‘Since Final Fantasy is a special team, then we are also special because we are making it. When the new Final Fantasy comes out, everybody is going to be so into it.’ But that’s not the reality of the situation, is it?”
“I realized that when Final Fantasy XV news was made public–this wasn’t only inside the company. Everyone has FF disease.”
“At this point, if the series didn’t modernize, I think it could’ve been done for,”
To sum up the rambling, Tabata-san feels that anyone who feels Final Fantasy is or should be only one thing is an hurting the franchise. Oooh, boy.
To be perfectly honest, we do see where he’s coming from. Final Fantasy has been going through a rough patch to put it mildly and a lot of fans have lost faith. You have to respect the guy who, working on such a massive franchise, will stand up and say “Okay, clearly we’re doing something wrong. Let’s think outside of the box.”
So we respect him for that. However, this might not be something you want to loudly broadcast to the fans. The message “Hey, you’re completely unwilling to accept anything new and that makes you the reason the franchise is dying” is rarely well-received. To be perfectly clear, this is not why the franchise is dying. The franchise is dying because it hasn’t seen a game that the vast majority of fans consider good since Final Fantasy IX.
There are people who like X and some will defend XII, but those have issues of their own like X’s generally poor writing and XII focussing on entirely the wrong character. Of course, XIII, XIII-2 and Lightning Returns kind of lacked…anything that could honestly be described as good without bursting into mocking laughter.
Tabata-san wants to modernize the series and a fair number of fans are with him, but an equal if not larger number feels the series should return to its roots. Clearly, Tabata-san takes issue with this. He’s entitled to his opinion, but don’t immediately jump to calling it a disease.
Not only is that kind of petty, it’s also pretty arrogant.
By calling it a disease, you’re immediately implying that you are the only one not suffering from it and that, therefore, you are the only one who knows what’s best for Final Fantasy.
On some level, we do agree with Tabata-san. A fan of something is, by their very nature, someone who wants more of what they are a fan of. They want more of the same thing that made them become a fan in the first place. Can this make them seem entitled? Sure. Can it make them unwilling to accept change, even if that change is for the better? Initially, yes.
However, calling it a disease implies so much disdain for the fans and even the people working on the project who are worried for a struggling franchise. Some might feel that’s deserved, but we disagree.
We must keep in mind that the people insisting that the series should return to its roots might not be entirely wrong. Modernization was the name of the game for Final Fantasy XIII and the games that span off from it, after all, and that didn’t exactly work out. Maybe it would be good to go back, look at the things everyone loved and then see how these can be implemented in a modern way instead of including things from recent games for the sake of appearing modern.
In the end, Final Fantasy XV looks to be pretty different from what most people expect from a Final Fantasy game. Honestly, you can’t really blame them for that. The combat looks more suited to one of the spin-off games than the typically turn-based main series, female party members are not an option and apparently it will have a relatively low number of cinematic cutscences.
That last one in particular strikes us as very odd. Final Fantasy games have always been pretty story-heavy and story-driven games. As with most JRPGs, you often play them more for the adventure and the plot than the actual gameplay. So why reduce the number of cutscenes, when those are generally the medium through which the story is presented?
When fans see this and raise their hand to question it, talking down to them and pretending like you hold all the answers and they’re idiots for not seeing it is not the way to go.
It’s safe to say that there’s a fair bit of pressure of Final Fantasy XV to be good and, to be fair, it does look like it will be. However, it has been a long time coming and it ran headfirst into a few walls to get here.
We may not follow Tabata-san’s logic or agree with his tone, but we honestly hope he and his team did a good job. The series is due a great game. Let’s hope this is it.