Final Fantasy XV: My Return to Video Games

This post contains spoilers for older Final Fantasy games, but I won’t spoil Final Fantasy XV for you if you haven’t played it. Cool? Cool.

Hi there. My name is Josh, and I grew up as a bit of a video game addict.

Ever since that summer after third grade where I broke my arm and was stuck in front of the TV playing Super Mario Bros. 3 for hours, it’s been something that I just couldn’t shake.

As a kid, we were always a little bit behind the curve. From NES to Game Boy to SNES, we never got the latest and greatest system until it had been out for a couple years. It wasn’t ever really a problem until I saw Final Fantasy VII on the original PlayStation for the first time at a friend’s place.

We spent some time exploring The Gold Saucer amusement park in the game, and I got hooked on all the silly little things from snowboarding to Chocobo racing. It’s not that those mini games were particularly great, but I quickly caught on to the fact that they were part of a much bigger story – an escape within a game with a heavy storyline that I wanted to know more about. I had to play this game.

And then it happened. Christmas morning of 1997. I don’t know what else we got, but I know my brother and I were gifted a PlayStation and Final Fantasy VII. Goodbye, social life… is what I would say if I had a social life as an awkward teenager hooked on video games and pro wrestling.

That game consumed me. I was nearly moved to tears when Aeris died at the end of the first disc, I spent HOURS getting all of the monster summons + weapon upgrades, and you bet your ass I was a master Chocobo racer.

The next couple of games were fine enough, but never quite caught my imagination in the same way. Final Fantasy VIII seemed to lack the heart of the series, and Final Fantasy IX was a bit off putting as it worked its way deeper into the fantasy world – characters that were part human + part animal, and the like…

But Final Fantasy X (and its sequel, X-2) hooked me at a similar level to VII. I developed attachments to the characters, loved the Blitz Ball minigame, and spent way too much time in between beer bongs and jungle juice (and oh yeah, my studies) at college playing those games.

What happened to XI through XIV, though? I have no freaking clue. To my understanding, at least one of those games was an MMO, right? Yeah… so, actual life took over and my relationship with video games became less of a thing. I’d pick one up here and there – GTA IV and Borderlands, for example – but for the most part, it became harder to squeeze into my free time. How could I even consider an RPG again when I’m busy riding motorcycles, starting a podcast, doing entrepreneurial things, and chasing girls?

Well, last November, I quit my full-time day job. I started doing contract work here and there to make ends meet. These gigs paid well enough and didn’t take up a ton of time. I started running more during the day. I focused more time on The Steel Cage. And even as my girlfriend started to move into my place, I still had some free time!

I heard rumblings of Final Fantasy XV coming out. People had said it was a decade in the making. I watched a trailer. WHOA. I knew I needed to play that game, and for the first time in forever – I felt like I could dedicate the time necessary for it.

Final Fantasy XV is a SO well put together game. They hook you early on the concept of brotherhood amongst friends, and they reinforce it often – as you get to know the three supporting members of your party throughout the plot’s development.

This game has some similarities to Final Fantasy VII – there’s a girl, there’s an oppressive political force at hand, and there’s a big bad evil looming… but when it comes down to it, it’s about the relationships between the main character, Noctis, and his closest friends.

Like other FF games, you get out of it what you put into it (as is the case with many things in life). I have a desire to go back and dedicate more time to exploring side quests and the like, as I finished the main storyline in just a little over 40 hours. I’ve seen folks out there who’ve posted their ‘Certificate of Completion’ with 120+ hours dedicated to the game, and it doesn’t surprise me in the least. A large portion of the game takes place in a big open world environment, with plenty to explore, and I know there’s a lot I didn’t explore unless it was part of the main plot.

What’s even better is that there is add-on content, at least some of which is free, that has come out – focusing on things like Moogles and Chocobos – creatures near and dear to any Final Fantasy fan’s heart. I’ll no doubt find myself playing again to explore the add-on content, and probably also find myself starting to delve into those side quests that I skipped before, as well…

Before I stop writing, let me say at least one thing about the ending. No spoilers, I promise! But the way it came together, I finally understood the meaning of ‘Final Fantasy’ – those two words – what they mean, and why they were chosen for this franchise. The game concluded in a beautiful fashion, and I couldn’t ask for more. As I did at the end of FF VII disc one, I managed to hold back the tears, but it wasn’t easy. The story was heavy and dark and beautiful all at once.

I’m going to finish this post by including what has become an iconic addition to this game – a cover of ‘Stand by Me’ from Florence + The Machine. It was such a clever choice for the game, and nicely bookended the story.