With the release of Final Fantasy XV “Kingsglaive”, the animated mini-series and the platinum demo prior to the release of the latest instalment to the Final Fantasy Franchise we have witnessed something new and unique for many media franchises. A distinct attempt to both provide entertainment and to advertise across three different types of media. Whether these efforts are beneficial to the overall product is up for debate, as the movie has not been well received by critics yet fans are seemingly getting more and more hyped every day whilst the animated series told me far more about the upcoming game in roughly 50 minutes than Kingsglaive did in what seemed like 3 hours. While it is hard to judge this definitively, it seems that the movie is getting far more attention than the series from both fans and critics despite being in my opinion the better way to expand on the games story. This could possible be due to the amount of money that was tied up in the making of the movie and advertising deals, while the series is simple a short story meant to give a little context to the game without giving to much away. Putting all of this aside, what Square Enix is attempting to do is get people as hyped as possible without revealing too much of the game itself, so here are my thoughts on both the movie and series and whether or not the gamble has paid off, be warned there are major spoilers for Kingsglaive ahead.
In an interview with Jason Schreler from Kotaku, Final Fantasy XV director Hajime Tabata explained that the story in Final Fantasy XV Kingsglaive is from a section of the game that was cut due to concerns over the volume of content that the game already contained and that the developers of the game didn’t want to lose such an important event from the story. I believe to be hard to believe, especially if the game takes after more current JRPG’s with the addition of pointless item management and time consuming side quests e.g. Chocobo farming. The events in the movie are fairly significant within the world …Insomnia the last city standing against Nifelheim falling, the king and all his advisers killed, the elite group of soldiers given powers by the king now helpless and the crystal at the heart of the city is stolen… but where this leaves the main plot will only be revealed in the main game itself as it will hopefully provide more context to the events in the movie.
If we forget about the upcoming AAA game that Kingsglaive was created to advertise and instead try to look at the movie as a standalone piece of work, it is largely disappointing. The plot spends a lot of time talking about what will be happening in the future rather than trying to give context to the events that are happening in the moment and they seemingly go out of the way to make sure that any characters that are not going to be relevant to the game’s story are taken “care of”, with the main protagonists of the film, King Regis and Nyx Ulric as well as the almost the entire Kingsglaive Squad being killed in the film. While we can assume King Regis will be present in the upcoming game, it will most likely be through dream sequences that look to be the main way the writers plan on giving us the history of the world in game. Nyx Ulric however was apparently written solely for the movie meaning his contributions were seen as insignificant in the main game, yet important enough that in the movie given he is allowed to use something called the power of the wall to almost single-handedly tear apart what was left of the city and defeat a feared Nifelheim general. The whole movie seemed to be badly lacking in context for any of the characters that I can only assume will play a role in the game. People whom have been fortunate enough to play the game early have said that the film really adds to the experience, however that doesn’t change the fact that the movie fails to stand up on its own as it needs the game for it to make sense, whereas the game can stand up on its own making the whole movie seem redundant.
There was a scene in the movie that seemed to stick out near the beginning, the scene was a fairly innocuous one where Nyx was off to meet with his friends from the Kingsglaive squad, he paused, coincidentally in front of a Beats by Dre logo. In today’s films it is not out of place to see that kind of product placement, however that turned out to be just one example as every single car also happened to be an AUDI, and there was an especially long and needless scene were Nyx was inside the newest AUDI R8, where instead of placing the shots closer to the people talking they instead chose more distanced shots, all the while driving past Japan Airlines billboards. As well as the movie, the game is rumoured to also have a few big brands being plugged at one point or another including Coleman, a Canadian outdoor and camping equipment brand who was kind enough to supply the tents and other camping essentials and American Express, who were kind enough to supply the credit cards and presumably a lesson in hidden fee’s when Noctis and crew run into trouble with debt collectors. While many people have been quick to point out that these are very minor things; like the type of car or a passing logo in a shop. It does however make me wonder if Square Enix expect the game to sell so poorly they are preemptively attempting to recoup their losses or they want to make as much money possible from this new franchise. I am leaning closer to the latter, as we have seen that Square Enix are planning on releasing the game for full retail and they have charged people for the movie either in cinemas or if it was purchased digitally. Thankfully the animated series is available on YouTube for free.
The animated mini-series however is a different story, with only 5 episodes it feels like a perfect way to show some of the history and relationships of the four major protagonists in the upcoming game. It showed us the history and how they all feel about their companions, it showed us how they were traveling, told us where they were heading and why and even how they spent most of their nights but at no point did it feel like they were spoon feeding us information about why we have to love them. The second episode illustrates this best when we see the story of Prompt and how he came to befriend Noctis, but it was far from conventional given it also shows us in a superb way the particular flaw that Prompt has… not that he was an overweight child but that he was so self-conscious about his own faults that he refused to believe the prince would accept him the way he was and worked for years to become an ideal person to be Noctis’s friend. Three of the episodes so far have shown us the prince’s companions and each has shown how they all not only came to befriend Noctis, but also why they all have an extreme devotion to keeping him safe despite many of his character trait’s getting on the nerves of them, particularly Ignis when in their younger years he grew increasingly frustrated with the prince’s laziness. The final episode of the series concluded with the characters working together to defeat a monster responsible for a tragic event in Noctis’s past and then launched exactly to the beginning of the new game. The animated mini-series definitely succeeded where Kingsglaive failed because while the series may not have been relevant to the story, I still feel it will add a lot to the game while simultaneously standing alone as a good, albeit short series.
In the end, with all the hype and extra content that has been made to get people as excited as possible for what could potentially be the biggest Final Fantasy release to date, and even despite the criticisms that I have of Kingsglaive, I have found myself looking forward to the new release. There has been enough content to make me believe that this could be a terrific game. The design and graphics in the demo were amazing and despite recent grumblings about the 2nd half of the game becoming more linear, I still don’t believe that to necessarily be a bad thing depending on how it is presented. The animated series has me genuinely interested in the characters and how they fair on their journey, and the movie has left me wondering, with so many questions about the world (but likely far too many I doubt will not be answered in a single play through). Despite the movie failing to stand on its own, it has made me far more invested in the world as a whole than I would have been otherwise and the effort made in the creating and linking the different types media has certainly been well worthwhile. So while I still feel the product placement might be a little much, it raises a much broader question of whether this kind of advertising is appropriate to include in video games. Square Enix has shown us how different approaches to advertising can sometimes pay off as the hype train for the new game does not look like its gonna stop anytime soon.