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16127173809_4b7757bd7f_cI have a terrible confession to make. Settle down because it’s a biggie. I used to be a Final Fantasy fan. I know, I know, it’s not crime of the century but throughout my teenage years I loved that damned franchise. The games of the Playstation era were, indeed still are, some of my favourites of all time. Hell, Final Fantasy was the reason I bought a PS2. Sadly I thought Final Fantasy X was a dribbling mess and it only got worse from there. Imagine my surprise when it turned out Final Fantasy XV wasn’t just an improvement, it was actually good.

Historically, the reason Final Fantasy resonated with me was the characters. VII, VIII and IX especially all had a rich cast that you could empathise and fall in love with. Sure, there was your typical angst-ridden protagonist but there was depth beyond them. I maintain that Vivi is one of the best written characters in all of gaming and I’ll fight anyone who says otherwise.

Somewhere along the way, Final Fantasy lost the ability to have that depth and instead forgettable main characters took up more of the game’s focus. Is anyone that surprised that Vaan wasn’t meant to be the lead in XII, but rather the far more interesting Balthier?

Where XV succeeds is that it not only has a less tedious main character in Noctis, but it limits you to only having three additional party members. Aside from the occasional guest, you only ever travel with Ignis, Gladio and Prompto. Unlike in previous instalments which have a much broader cast, limiting it to such a small number allows you to get to know these characters quicker and to a far deeper degree. They all feel like main characters.

Take Prompto for instance. Superficially, he’s an annoying character with a passion for photography and an unhealthy obsession with Chocobos. He’s also irritatingly peppy and doesn’t seem to take the situations the lads find themselves in with the seriousness it deserves. Yet his utter ignorance as to what’s going on with the political machinations and lore makes me empathise with him. For all it gets right, XV doesn’t do a great job of explaining a lot of things and you couldn’t pay me to watch the tie-in movie, Kingsglaive. In many of these situations I am Prompto.

Before I got my hands on the game, I’d heard a lot about these “beautiful boys” and written it off as a load of nonsense. Well now don’t I look like a prat because they are bloody beautiful. I’m surprisingly relieved that I get to spend dozens more hours with Noctis’ brooding, Ignis’ cooking, Prompto’s photography and Gladio looking amazing in a tank top. The memories of the beige cast of the likes of XII and XIII are finally consigned to the dustheap.

Though, that being said, if I hear Prompto singing “I want to ride my Chocobo all day…” one more time I shan’t be responsible for my actions.


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