We’ve come used to day one patches. Developers fix the problems in their games after release, benefit of the internet age. Although it leaves the door open to some lack of polish, it’s clearly a progress compared to the time you were stuck with a freezing disc. But when Hajime Tabate patches Final Fantasy XV, it’s a whole different story.
Final Fantasy XV started strong in Japan with more than 700’000 copies sold first week (digital taken into account), and 5 millions shipped worldwide. The always tired-looking producer could have boasted about those figures, if he hadn’t said a little too much. In the short term, he wants to re-balance the gameplay in the 13th chapter, said to be something horrendous according to GAF. The mid term objective is to enrich the narrative with new cutscenes, in order to explain the destiny of some characters better. Last but not least, in the long term, key-characters of the narrative will become playable, and character creation is thought about. Yes, you read that right : SquareEnix is going to re-develop Final Fantasy XV in 2017. The game wasn’t finished at all when it hit shelves on November 28th 2016.
All this is disastrous of course. Lots of outraged players consider having been mocked. They’re right on this : they could live only part of the experience planned by the developers. They might start it again when the changes are in place, but nothing will replace the delight of experiencing a game for the first time. Some said they would stop playing at once, others congratulated themselves for cancelling their preorder, and some simply said they would “wait”. The latter, and that’s my case, are the big winners in this whole FFXV mess : next year, they’ll have the full Final Fantasy XV experience for half price, whereas day one buyers paid full price for half the content. In other words, they paid 60€ to be beta testers. No wonder many are screaming in anger today. It’s a huge blow dealt to SquareEnix’s brand image, and to Japanese gaming in general. A true national shame. After that, people will still be surprised that the Japanese gaming market digs year after year. How can it be otherwise when it creates its own deflation? Indeed, because of apparatchiks like Mr. Tabata (or Mr. Futami for Sword Art Online) who rush unfinished games on the market, the best thing to do is always to “wait”.
But all this is also, at the same time, absolutely wonderful. To be the true heir of the series, Final Fantasy XV lacked more playable characters, and gender equality. You’ve never heard of a main Final Fantasy that would have only one playable character. You’ve never heard of a main Final Fantasy where women would have a walk-on part. Can you imagine even one second Final Fantasy IX without Dagga or Final Fantasy X without Yuna? The setting of Final Fantasy XV is obviously freakin’ dumb as it is now, an abnormality usurping its name. The very good news is that now, we know that this was not the objective : Final Fantasy XV wasn’t doomed to be simply bromance stuff, SquareEnix just wanted to get the money earlier. I’d rather imagine that the key-characters include Cidney, Iris and Aranea. The developers were saying last October that they would “tackle the question of [playing as a female character]”. Character creation might also allow us to revive Stella or make Luna something else than a fleeting narrative object. That still leaves the problem of Gladio, Ignis and Prompto, only playable via paid DLC… … … hum, actually not a problem. How cares about those three? The deal is now fair and square, Final Fantasy will be Final Fantasy again, even though we’ll have to wait the “long term”. This pain in my chest, I feel it vanishing.
This day is the worst day, and yet the best day for Final Fantasy in recent memory. Tabata and SquareEnix have been deceiving people to get the bucks earlier. They discredited themselves in front of the world, public thunderstruck that they could sell them a game that wouldn’t be complete before months. Still, while the publisher didn’t lose its marketing tricks, it also hasn’t lost sight of what is a JRPG, and what makes a Final Fantasy. The looming clouds in the series’ horizon have cleared.