This week, Zero Punctuation reviews Final Fantasy XV.
Historically, I've approached new Final Fantasy games the way a schoolboy approaches being pushed into the girl's toilets: take enough of a look around to tell your mates about afterwards and then get the fuck out before I begin to physically transform into a girl, all caring about my appearance and employing the adjective 'dreamy'. But you'll be pleased to hear that I managed to play Final Fantasy 15 for quite a bit longer than usual - till just before the estimated onset of my first period. Of course I'm joking around in my usual, cheekily abrasive sort of way. Saying Final Fantasy is for girls would be a terribly regressive statement but I can't help noticing that in Final Fantasy 15 our typically androgynously handsome young prince's quest is to marry his sweetie-pie in a fairytale wedding. And in order to do this, he must join a boy band and get through several months of cohabitation without sucking a single one of their dicks.
'A Final Fantasy game for fans and first-timers' boasts the slightly perplexing splash screen every time you turn the game on. I'd thank to let me be the judge of that, Square Enix. I know publishers like to dictate the game reviewers a lot these days but this is cutting out one middleman too many for me. It must be said though: Anal Mantasy: 15 or Older is indeed distinct from its predecessors in that I mostly understood what the fuck was going on. It's a nice, straightforward plot for once. We are Noctis, a prince who wears Wellington boots and took his name from the instructional sign on the front door of the school for the mentally slow, off to get married to secure peace between kingdoms before a giant fruit cake-sized dump is dropped unto events where the empire invade our homeland. I wonder if these evil, constantly evolving superpower nations have ever considered a PR boost they'd get from not calling themselves the empire. I mean, the Federation from Star Trek does basically the same thing, but everyone likes them 'coz they're called the Federation and brush their teeth once in a while.
Anyway, the happy town snuggle club invade our homeland and Noctis must journey around the world, building his powers until he can take the fight to them alongside his three constant companions: Gladiolus, a beefy mullethead who was doing crunches when everyone else was learning how to do up shirt buttons; Ignis, the smart one who looks like Travis Touchdown's more successful cousin who'll always sarcastically ask him if he's gotten a real job yet at family get-togethers; and Prompto, a 14-year-old girl in a miniskirt who's probably only here because the other three needed something warm to park their todgers in on wintery nights.
So, as I understand it, the obligation at this point is to decide which of the four absurd hairdos on display we'd like to have brushing along our inner thighs and take to our bed with some appropriately sized scented candles. But I can't say I can place a favor because none of them have much depth or clear motivation besides Noctis and Noctis can eat shit. I can't sympathize with his struggle because he doesn't seem to have one. Everything's handed to him 'coz he's a prince: his magic powers, his superweapons, his fancy car, and 3 paid friends - one to chauffeur, one to tuck him in at night and one to practice kissing on. People literally give him free boats and he still got the cast-iron balls to be generically broody all the time. Even his sexy bride was assigned at birth. Some of us are gonna only get results like that after a long back-breaking evening digging up fresh graves.
As is often the case with digi-downloaded AAA games, Final Fantasy 15 has strange ideas of what constitutes 'enough installed' to be playable, but at least I had the chance to really drink in the title screen for the several hours necessary for the installation to fully finish, towards the end of which I said aloud "Look. We all know you're going to cutscene-it-up for half an hour before we get going, Final Fantasy. How about you just show me that while I'm waiting?" But in yet another stark contrast to established Final Fantasy, 15 does not pace like an incredibly poorly dressed slug; it's straight on the road to start seeing the world - the open world that is, closer to the typically Japanese model of open world games than the Western one: less focused on freedom of movement and more on finding and unlocking many wonderful flavors of inane busywork.
So don't expect to be ramping your car off baby's heads and landing upside down on the distraught mother's sandwich platter. They won't even let you drive in the wrong lane as you make your way through long stretches of very picturesque bugger-all. So if you happen to like exploring Northern California in Google Street View, then here's the game for you. I was somewhat reminded of Deadly Premonition of all things, as that too had a lot of driving through mostly empty scenery, a weird fixation on the main character's diet and rather tedious sidequests mainly based around fetching stuff because the only core gameplay mechanic besides driving about is the combat, and the combat, as Wellington once said on the eve of the Battle of Vitoria, is a bit of a pisser.
Not that I want to discourage Final Fantasy. For years I've been saying to JRPGs 'Look. Make the combat either turn-based or real-time. Every time you go somewhere in between it's like watching the mutant offspring of a clam and a racehorse attempting to drag itself into a furnace to end its misery.' And Final Fantasy 15 said 'Fine! It's real-time combat. Now, kiss my arse,' which is good. And the switching between holding attack and attack and holding dodge to dodge is straightforward enough. But it all hinges on being able to tell which section of the unfolding carnage is actually you and not, say, a brooding, androgynously handsome bramble patch. And having your 3 helpers around doesn't help the confusion any. "Why did we all dress in black today? And couldn't at least one of us have combed their hair with an actual comb and not an electrified swordfish?"
This is probably why the game gives you the ability to teleport out of the fight and survey the thrashing cloud of limbs and teeth from afar. But I'm confused as to why magic attacks do friendly fire and have a huge blast radius, and consequently why the game suggests I equip my NPC pals with this arm when I feel safer to entrust my kids to a chainsaw juggler as they picnic in the shade of Godzilla's swaying bollocks.
I definitely played 15 for longer than most modern Final Fantasys but in the end just decisively drew a line under playing any further, because the combat has shifted from fun-sized annoyance to medium, and was showing no sign of reversing that trend. But what really clinched it was a sidequest introduced some ways into the game when the girl, who had muscled her way into a vague love interest position with no input or encouragement from me whatsoever, suggested that I use a nearby plot to grow carrots, and all at once the spell broke. I realized that the game was throwing inane bullshit like carrot farming at me twenty hours in that it was probably going to be inane bullshit all the way down.
This is, of course, assuming she was being literal, and wasn't making some subtle come-on along the lines of "plant your big root vegetable all up in my window box."
- Someday his prince will come: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
- Have people been seriously saying this game's sexist? That's like saying the Chippendales are sexist for only hiring men
- Back in Australia 'root vegetable' was often taken as an instruction