Final Fantasy XV: Brotherhood is exactly what the game so badly needed.
Being the sceptic that I am, I’ve been incredibly reserved over the years concerning the Final Fantasy series as a whole, particularly the upcoming entry in the franchise, Final Fantasy XV.
My first proper encounter with the series began with Final Fantasy XIII. Yes, if you were wondering, I do now realise how insane this decision was, but at the time teenage me, unfortunately, knew no better, wasting hours upon hours on a game with barely any character, that doesn’t get going until well after the 30-hour mark.
Add to this the incredibly mixed messages from Square Enix about the remake of Final Fantasy VII (which no one is playing before 2018, I can guarantee you), and you can colour me a sceptic of the franchise as a whole.
But recently, something pretty wonderful grabbed my interest. No, it wasn’t the gorgeous gameplay videos, or the genuine kindness that Hajime Tabata expresses while trying not to collapse from exhaustion. It was a small, unassuming anime prequel to the game, called Final Fantasy XV: Brotherhood.
The opening episode of the anime series, of which there will be six parts in total by the time Final Fantasy XV eventually launched in late November, has been embedded below for your viewing pleasure, and truly makes lengthy strides in setting up the main characters for the main game.
If one were to glance at the group of young male characters accompanying Prince Noctis on his journey to reclaim the throne, they’d be forgiven for thinking that Busted had finally succeeded on their prolific journey to reach the year 3000.
The creative minds at Square Enix have seemingly realised this and have devoted the entirety of Final Fantasy XV: Brotherhood‘s run so far to establishing character backstories and motivations, simultaneously. In just the opening episode we see each cast member interacting with each other more than they have in any promotional material so far for the game, which breathes a fantastic amount of life into characters that seemed nothing more than walking stereotypes, prior to the release of Brotherhood.
For example, in the second episode of Brotherhood, we see how Prompto came to be the comic relief character of the group, as the episode fleshes him out into something more meaningful over the course of just 15 minutes. We begin by seeing Prompto as an outcast in high school, as he steadily builds up the courage to approach and make friends with Noctis, culminating in the two forming a sort of brotherly – if you’ll pardon the pun – bond.
This character building extends to almost every member of the group, save for Noctis. I have a suspicion that Square Enix are deliberately focussing on the rest of the group with Final Fantasy XV: Brotherhood, and it’s a gambit that’s so far paying dividends for the rest of the cast, as we learn how Ignis (the posh one) is a secret, master baker, and how Gladiolus (the big one) came to harbour an admiration for Noctis, when the latter stood up for his younger sister when it counted.
The anime also isn’t afraid of poking fun at the cast, as Gladiolus remarks in the opening episode that Noctis has an overly mopey personality, and Prompto is still relied upon as the joker of the group, despite having a fairly lengthy, meaningful backstory.
I’ve got to commend Square Enix for putting together Final Fantasy XV: Brotherhood in the way they have. The series will be roughly an hour and a half long by the time it reaches the climactic episode later this year, and it feels like we’re learning something new about the characters presented to us every five minutes.
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Final Fantasy XV needed this. It needed a big win in the character department, particularly after being put through development hell for roughly a decade now, and particularly when considering how devoid recent iterations have been of meaningful characters (yes, Final Fantasy XIII, I’m looking firmly at you).
If I’m going to be spending over a hundred hours with Noctis and the futuristic boyband come November, I’m going to want to enjoy being in the presence of characters that actually feel like they’re friends, and truly are all in this together. And if the four episodes thus far of Final Fantasy XV: Brotherhood have taught me anything, it’s exactly that.
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