Unfinalized Fantasy XV

 

waifus

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.

emo_money_noctis

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”.

aranea

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.

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But where do those names in JRPGs come from? (D)

dante-a

Daeva

deava

Final Fantasy X-2 : Deva is a demonic-looking monster.

Origin : Zoroastrianism

In Avestan language, generic term for demon.

Daigoro

yojimbo-b

Final Fantasy X : Yojimbo’s dog

Origin : Manga

子連れ狼 (Kotsure Ôkami, Lone Wolf and Cub in English) is a manga by Kazuo Koike published in the 70’s. It tells the vengeance of Ôgami Ittô, a high-rank shogunate officer, against the Yagyû clan. One day he comes home, he finds his wife assassinated next to their 1-year old son Daigoro. The father then gives him the choice between a ball and a sword. If the boy catches the ball, Ittô would kill him. But Daigoro gets close to the sword, and his father considers he’s chosen the path of the warrior. Hence he takes his son along in its crusade.

Dante

dante-pxz2

Project X Zone : Dante is one of the numerous guest characters

Origin : History of Italy

Dante Alighieri is an Italian author of the 13th century. He’s often regarded as the greatest poet in Italian language, notably for its masterpiece, the Divine Comedy. He also had an important political role for he was appointed high magistrate of Florence in 1300. However, because of internal strife at that time, he was banished of the city in 1302. Banishment that was lift in… 2008!

Divine Comedy

ifrit-b

Final Fantasy : the name of Ifrit’s attack (French version)

Origin : Italian literature

Very famous and long poem by Dante Alighieri that tells the road from Hell to Paradise. Dante puts himself in hard trials by which he will atone for his sins, helped by the poet Virgil. Dante starts in a dark wood symbolizing its worst sins, where Virgil tells him to take a long a tiring side path, presumably through Gool and Evil, so as to avoid the sins. Then he and Virgil go down deep in Hell, witnessing the suffering of sinners and traitors (notice that the traitors, considered as the most evil humans on Earth, are tortured at the deepest level), and then exit to Purgatory and Paradise.

Djinn

djinns

Golden Sun : summon beasts in this series

Origin : the Koran

Djinns are invisible creatures said to be born from fire. They can be of various forms (animal, plant, antropomorphic…). Like humans, they have free will and can be inclined for good, evil or neutrality. 

Dullahan

dullahan

Final Fantasy VI : boss depicted as an undead chariot driver

Origin : Irish legends

Dullahans are said to be spirits that can take off their head, which they generally bear under their arm. Travelling in a chariot which is in fact a coffin, they drive a black horse with a whip is is no other than a human backbone. When the Dullahan stops, it means that someone will die. It calls that person, who dies on the spot.

Durandal

tidus-durandal

Final Fantasy X : a blade for Tidus

Origin : French literature

In Roland’s Song, epic of the 11th century telling the glory of knight Roland, Durandal is the sword that he wields during the battle of Ronceveaux moutain pass. Injured to death by the Vascones, Roland tries to smash the blade into pieces on a huge rock to avoid that the enemy seizes it, but the rock was destroyed instead.

JRPG, for a change of power

FFXV P5

Despite having a limited importance on the market, JRPGs still maintain themselves in the spotlight. It is still the king of Japanese gaming : every manufacturer, publisher or developer wants its own JRPG to express their talent and influence. It’s a genre that has been captivating players for 25 years, there’s a lot at stake for Japanese companies.

In this long-running struggle, Final Fantasy had long been a unquestioned leader : its extreme refinements at each episode, its overwhelming content, its emotional power had crushed the competition for a long time. But lately, its leadership has been contested by outsiders like Tales of or Xenoblade. Final Fantasy XV’s motto “reclaim your throne” echoes the necessity to take back the crown. But the returning king could very well be robbed of its throne by a malicious thief.

March 30th, May 5th 2016, two dates that might change the balance of power for JRPGs worldwide. Two events aiming at striking the heart of the people, but of opposed style. More than that, a clash of ideologies : Final Fantasy XV and Persona 5 don’t offer their JRPG experience in the same way. Absolutely not.

Final Fantasy XV went for a lavish show : fashionable soiree, large audience, funny MCs, CG movie, commercial partnerships… SquareEnix actually held that in Los Angeles, sign that they’re dropping the original spirit. Uncovered Final Fantasy XV feels terrible by its locked communication and flowery articles in the mainstream press. The publisher seeks to widen its marketing target, but distances itself from players in the same process.

King

The case of Kingslaive, animated movie that tells the events that occurred before FFXV, is interesting : the short film sure has a energetic pace, but it show a western way of making entertainment, we still aren’t in the JRPG sphere. It’s just like SquareEnix was going back to an approach similar to Final Fantasy The Spirits Within, and we know how that finished… And there is that Audi R8, which almost jumps out at your face, which ultimately suggests that pretty everything went awry in rotten business plan and a movie shot with a bugdet it doesn’t even have. And fuck, why is the gameplay trailer ending on Stand by Me!? This is truly the end, the RPG Final Fantasy XV is not Japanese anymore.

P5 tt

On the other side of the planet, Persona 5 (which tells the adventures of a Arsene Lupin-like master thieves) declares that it will “steal Tokyo Tower”. Original and clever way to make the buzz : the lights of the famous red structure indeed went off on 5/5 at 10pm. The commentary is given by some old Japanese lady no one knows where she comes from, and by the characters who run the prison in the game. An anime will air in September for the launch of the game, and it can only be better than Brotherhood, the tasteless attempt of Final Fantasy XV to go media mix. In short, Atlus shows a better symbiosis with its fans than SquareEnix, less business, more fun and passion. Cooler, closer to the people… Doesn’t that ring a bell? Yes, that is Sony’s strategy with the PS4, and it works.

PLATINUM DEMO – FINAL FANTASY XV_20160514170440

But that was just the appearance of things. On the content presented, the gap is even wider between the two. Final Fantasy XV hardly shows anything new, since the trailer is just a patchwork of super short sequences that refrain to show precise gameplay or any bit of consistent narrative. True, there was the Platinum demo. But this trial version in reality doesn’t represent the FFXV experience and in fact, dodges the question of gameplay by conjuring up spin-off content. And that’s fortunate, because gameplay in the Platinum demo is atrocious : there is one button for attack and one to maintain for both defense and counter. Confusing, rough, even Duscae was more exciting than this. Evasion has magically vanished and the poor QTEs don’t give much hope for deep gameplay. Surely that was some secret experiment from the publisher that was recently saying in a Famitsu interview that half of the Duscae poll respondents wanted it less complex… Unavoidable consequence : between Duscae and Platinum, gameplay got nothing but worse and the hype for the story deflated.

Persona 5 does show lots of gameplay, serious gameplay. Stealth, joint assaults, dungeons, magic, interface, time management… you have to watch the trailer several times to pick up everything. You know more about Persona 5 after 4 minutes in video than you know about Final Fantasy XV after 2 demos. It also communicate an excitement on the storyline that Final Fantasy XV has barely shown. The master thieves are up to some unbelievable stunts and have the entire world against them.

But Atlus will strike its competitor when it hurts, on characters. No need to remind you how unappealing Noctis’s group is : JRPG players in the world are split between anger ad hilarity, SquareEnox failing to notice. Final Fantasy betrays and 25-year long heritage by refusing the very idea of a permanent playable female character. The series constructed itself by respecting parity to deliver the best in terms of story, emotion, art and visuals : the sloppy setting of Final Fantasy XV cannot work, and Atlus is fully aware of that.

P5 girls

While Persona 5’s team was already flattening the other in charisma even before May 5th , the dev team doesn’t just add one, but THREE heroines. Parity is totally rebalanced in Persona 5, loud and clear message send to its opponents and to the players worldwide. The role of the girls is heavily underlined in the trailer, way of showing that no, Persona 5 doesn’t have double standards.

All those elements show that Persona 5 wants to restate its commitment to the JRPG genre, and to its audience. It can be considered part of “the Final Fantasy spirit” which Bravely Default failed to inherit. With Final Fantasy itself being so far from its roots, Atlus’s series has a historical chance to reign over JRPG.

But where do those names in JRPGs come from? (C)

Cid dans la baston

Let’s have a pause during this Easter week-end before resuming the busy release calendar. The third letter, strangely enough, revolves around a small region of Ireland.

Caduceus

Yuna arme 2

Final Fantasy X : A staff for Yuna with the Pharmacology ability, which boosts the effect of healing items

Origin : Greek mythology

The caduceus is Hermes’s staff in the legends. Apollo is said to have given it to him in exchange for a lyre or/and panpipes. The scepter is represented with two snakes curled around it, facing each other, and a pair of small wings on its top. The wings illustrate the role of messenger : Iris, Hera’s messenger, holds the caduceus in some works. The snakes symbolize either peace or desire depending on the stories. The caduceus is said to be able to bring a gentle death to living, and revive the dead.

Caith sith

CaitSith

Final Fantasy VII : Strange cat mounted on a big stuffed animal

Origin : Celtic legends

In Scotland, it is said that ghostly black cats haunt the Highlands. Caith Sith are said to steal souls.

Caladbolg

Edward

Fire Emblem Radiant Dawn : Caladbolg is a sword for Edward.

Origin : Ulster cycle

The sword of Fergus mac Roich. Fergus uses it to wreak havoc on the Ulstermen during the attack of Ulster.

Carbuncle

Carbuncle

Final Fantasy : a cute summon beast with a red gem on his head

Origin : Book of Imaginary Beings

In his work, Spanish author Jorge Luis Borges mention a strange creature with jewel on its head. The Carbuncle is said to live somewhere in South America. Besides, the word appears to qualify a red gem in some translations of the Bible.

Caligula

Caligula ca

Caligula : title of a new RPG for PSVita by Furyu

Origin : Roman history

Roman emperor who reigned from 37 to 41 AD. After a benevolent start of reign, he progressively turns himself into a merciless tyrant, sentencing several members of the senate to death. He is murdered by the praetorian guard in January 41.

Chimera

Chimaira

Final Fantasy X : monster with three heads of various animals, and a snake as a tail

Origine : Greek mythology

The Chimera first appear in Homer’s Iliad as “a thing of immortal make, not human, lion-fronted and snake behind, a goat in the middle, and snorting out the breath of the terrible flame of bright fire”. Later, the poet Hesiod counts in Theogony how the hero Bellerophon slays the Chimera with the help of the flying horse Pegasus.

Cid

Cid

Final Fantasy : God or bad, scientist or soldier, there’s always a character called Cid in Final Fantasy.

Origine : History of Spain

Rodrigo Diaz is a great figure of the Spanish Reconquista. Opportunist, he sides with the Moors (Muslim tribes that controlled the south of the peninsula then) when the King stops supporting him. His contribution to countless victories earns him the title of El Cid (“the master” in Arabic). By forming various alliance but still against King Alfonso VI, he fights in the siege of Valencia from 1092 to 1094, city which he will rule until his death in 1099.

Conall Curach

Conall

Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles : Conall Curach is a very dangerous marsh.

Origin : Ulster cycle

The troublemaker Bricriu invites Cuchulainn, Conall Cernach and Loegaire Buadach to a feast, promising to each of them the champion’s portion. Despite Cuchulainn clearly being on top, everyone of them claims the champion’s part. To settle the conflict, the three have to take a last challenge. A giant churl appears and asks that someone cuts its head, and to come to get his head cut the following day. Conall and Loegaire cut the head of the churl but disappear the following morning. Cuchulainn does go back the following day, but the churl spares him, making him worthy of the champion’s portion.

Despite being rivals, Conall and Cuchulainn swear that they shall avenge one another should one of them be killed. Conall therefore kills Lugaid after Cuchulainn’s death.

Cuchulainn

Cuchulainn

Final Fantasy XII : Cuchulainn is a ugly creature living in Rabanastre’s sewers

Origin : Ulster cycle

Young Cuchulainn is so beautiful that Ulstermen fear he will steal their wives and ruin their daugthers. Thus they go find the most beautiful girl in Ireland, Emer, to marry him. Her father, Forgall, refuses tough until Cuchulain is fully trained by the swordmaster Scathach (secretly hoping the young man would die in the process). Cuchulainn indeed finds his match in Aife (a wowan rumored to be his half-sister in some versions). He narrowly defeats Aife but lets her live provided they have a child, which they do. Cuchulainn claims Emer’s hand once returned, but Forgall still won’t listen, so Cuchulainn kills everyone in his castle and abducts Emer.

A the age of seventeen, Cuchulainn plays a great role in defending Ulster from the army of Connacht, led by queen Medb. Although allowing the enemy to enter the city at first because he was with a woman, Cuchulainn prevents them from advancing further by calling the right of single combats and fords. He defeats several opponents but ends up severely wounded. The god Lugh puts him to sleep during three days so that his wounds heal. When we wakes up and realizing that Ulstermen were slaughtered, he transforms into an hideous and shapeless monster unable to distingiush friends from foes, and kills hundreds.

But where do those names in JRPGs come from? (B)

Equipe FFXIII f

Sorry for the long wait! Let’s walk again the path of etymology and mythology the find the hidden truth in our games. A long quest which, believe me, is worth the effort. Be careful though, there’s a light spoiler about Valkyria Chronicles 3.

Bahamut

Bahamut FFIX c

Final Fantasy : Bahamut is the King of wyverns and dragons, but also a summon and a peerless opponent.

Origin : The Arabic Mythology

Bahamut is originally said to be a giant fish supporting a giant bull called Kujata. Kujata is also said to bear angels, hells and heavens. In the first edition of Dungeons & Dragons (1977), Bahamut is the King of good dragons, facing Tiamat, the Queen of evil dragons.

Bandersnatch

Bandersnatch

Final Fantasy X : a species of wolf

Origin : From the Other Side of the Mirror, a novel by Lewis Carroll being the unofficial sequel to Alice in Wonderland.

The Bandersnatch is never really identified but its characters are the following : a long neck, a powerful jaw and ferocious behavior.

Basilisk

Basilisk

Final Fantasy X : a monster that can petrify your characters

Origin : Antiquity

In Naturalis Historia, Pline the Elder, Roman author of the 1st century AC, mentions a poisonous snake oozing venom behind it, that can kill by just staring. The basilisk is mentioned again later in European legends. In greek, basilisk means “king of snakes”. It is often associated with the Cockatrice, which can mean they’re actually the same monster.

Baten Kaitos

Baten Kaitos - pub

Baten Kaitos is a remarkable RPG of the GameCube

Origin : Astronomy

It’s a star in the constellation of the Whale. It’s also called Ceta Zeti, Baten Kaitos being its arabic name, which means “belly of the sea monster”.

Behemoth

Light i

Final Fantasy : Recurrent and powerful monster.

Origin : The Old Testament

Behemoth is a Biblical monster that appears in the Old Testament (Job. 40). Behemoth is the counterpart of Leviathan on Earth. Unconquerable to humans, Behemoth is said to battle Leviathan in the end. They would kill each other and their meat should feed the Just for eternity.

Belial

Belias

Final Fantasy XII : Belial is the Fire Esper

Origin : Masoteric texts (fragments of the Hebrew bible)

In the first Hebrew texts BC, Belial is an adjective describing mediocre people, pagan worshipers. In the Scrolls of the Dead Sea (other Hebraic text of the same period), Belial seems to be a king of darkness.

Bismarck

Bismarck

Final Fantasy XIV : a legendary white whale dominating the Sea of Clouds

Origin : History of Germany

Otto Von Bismarck was the first Chancellor of the German Empire, from 1871 and 1890. He played a great role in the rise of Germany as a superpower and pioneered the Welfare State.

Borgia

Gennaro_Borgia

Valkyria Chronicles 3 : Borgia is the pope of the Yggist Curch, which worship the Valkyries. He secretly acts behind the scenes to prolong the war and extend his influence.

Origin : History of Italy

Rodrigo Borgia, known as Alexander VI, was the most controversial Pope of the Christian Church. From his election in 1492 to his mysterious death in 1503, his life had been surrounded by flirt and rape accusations and political assassinations. He himself died after a lavish banquet, presumably from poisoning.

Brynhildr

Bhrunyldr

Valkyria Azure Revolution : Brynhildr is a Valkyrie allied with the Empire

Origin : Scandinavian mythology

In the Volsunga Saga, a Nordic legend written around the 13th century, Brynhildr is a valkyrie who sides with King Agnar against Odin. Victorious, Odin erases her powers and locks her in a tower, but she will be freed by the courageous Siguror.

Gamescom 2015, the show that missed the boat

Mafia-III

Gamescom was kind of the show that was destined to greatness. With 335’000 visitors in 2014 (including the mainstream public, not just the press like E3), it’s the most visited gaming event, and it made the headlines in 2014 with announcements like the (false) exclusivity of Rise of the Tomb Raider for XboxOne. In 2015, the German show just had to score again to establish itself as a major hub for European gaming, different enough from E3 to rival it. That did not happen as Cologne’s assets faded.

Microsoft was the only manufacturer to hold a conference and thus had to set the pace and give added value to Gamescom’s offering. But the reveal of Crackdown 3 or Halo Wars 2 is of little interest to the European consumers at large : far too classic to surprise or impress. Platinum Games’s Scalebound stands out but to me it is kind of a contradiction in itself. You definitely can’t pick a Heroic-Fantasy world with a cool dragon and stuff and mix it with a youngish dudebro to much like DmC’s Dante impostor.

And there is the Mafia III case. Biggest reveal of this Gamescom 2015, there had been at least one tweet per day before the show to inform us that, wow, Mafia III would be an exclusive reveal at Gamescom, of course don’t tell anyone… No seriously, Bethesda leaks during E3 were already ridiculous but 2K’s handling of this is beyond shameful.

Final Fantasy XV was supposed to be the big thing of this Gamescom, but the content shown was so little that it was barely noticeable. I won’t bother you again with the dismal Dawn trailer that tells us even less than the ones of 5 or 10 years ago. The only (and damn short) gameplay above actually informs us that 1/ the frame rate suffers hell (new thing, since it was fine in Duscae) 2/ Xylomids are back! Fantastic, it’s like saying GT7 will have tyres. We’re seriously far of the tremendous expectations FFXV triggers and the numerous questions raised by Duscae. Tabata has missed the boat despite promising a great ride, and that doesn’t bode well for FFXV development in general…

But not everything was terrible and this gameplay of Mirror’s Edge Catalyst makes no mistakes in enhancing the original experience to new generation heights : the inside of the buildings and the outside world, lightning effects are among to best ever shown on a console. The gameplay seems intact and the story darker, with more depth put into charcaters. As many reasons to save the date for it release on February 25th.

Let’s stay at DICE, the best developer on the planet from a technical point of view, with Star Wars Battlefront that presents its aerial gameplay with the usual grandeur and breathtaking style. This is very impressive and I do hope that making a dedicated mode means shifting to more accessible controls because BF4’s aerial vehicles are a real pain.

Kinda discreet showing for Metal Gear Solid V here. The trailer does have a good rhythm, lots of appealing sniper rifles, but reveals little in terms of story… That said, I had the impression I saw Psycho Mantis.

Well, that’s about it… no fresh sniper stuff for Black Ops III, everything was shown at E3, including multiplayer matches that traditionally are premiered at Gamescom. Cologne clearly lost something big here. The European event didn’t do much to promote the Japanese games on the showfloor (or is it the stupid journalists bent on their AAA games all day long?). KoeiTecmo had somewhat a big showing, with games like Samurai Warriors 4-II or Arslan Warriors (which is quite a big manga IP at the moment), and having the most striking reveal in announcing a brand-new Attack on Titan game for all Playstation platforms. Something that should matter for a show neighboring Japan-friendly countries, but nobody in the stupid European game establishment cares. Such a pity.

This Gamescom 2015 downright wasted its trump cards and potential, and went back to a status of “mini-E3”, raising concerns on Europe’s capability to set its own gaming pace without lazily receiving US trends.