Brotherhood: Final Fantasy XV – Episode 2

Episodic reviews for this show is a little silly given the gap between episodes, so we’ll chill for now and just talk about thoughts on this one.

To be honest, I’m a little confused on what image this game is trying to portray. For instance, I visit a local video game shop and run into something like this:

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The first thing that comes to mind is a boy band concert. Heck, I almost dismissed it as something along those lines the first time I saw it. The other thing that comes to mind is that this is starting to look familiar. Something along the lines of Hideo Kojima making a snide comment about “realizing that girls didn’t want to play a video game as an old fogey, so we decided to create the character Raiden”.

But I’m not saying that this is a bad thing; and I’m not saying it’s a good thing, either. I’m just saying this is something quite different for the series. Not so different in that they’re taking elements of pop-culture and infusing it into their games — that’s the formula that coursed through the Nomura era of emo-esque character designs — a move that fueled a generation of Playstation neophytes who were all to eager to consume the franchise en masse (I have personal issues with that, because the result was a strange departure in character for one of my favorite heroes, Cloud Strife). Instead, Squeenix is capitalizing more on elements that ground itself in a realm of familiarity: the modern. Is it in the hopes of ensnaring a larger audience apart from the Final Fantasy veterans who are looking for more than just another remake? Is this the way to rekindle the spark in the series?

“Fantasized Reality” is Squeenix’s proposition. It’s hip; it’s chic — an updated sort of modernism that resonates with a generation of millennials. It’s like Midgar minus the smoke, and instead of a mocked up, cyberpunk-esque car, you get an Audi R8 running down a metro that sorta looks like some place in Tokyo. What’s more, the driver sports a pistol that also serves as a sword, and he probably also knows a thing or two about magic. This is the new augmented reality — this is Fantasized Reality.

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So what does this have to do with Episode 2 of Brotherhood? Well, as a teaser for a video game, you’d think they’d try to focus a bit more on the lock-and-load shenanigans of your typical marketing schemes. Instead, they decide to go with good ‘ole character development. Character in focus: Prompto.

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Well, a fat Prompto. Back when he was a quiet little runt with a soft spot for puppies. It takes place in an unapologetically Japanese urban setting (with a strange mix of Parisian flair for Luna’s crib). Honestly, it’s a bit weird — and I wouldn’t have said that if it weren’t for the fact that this is FINAL FANTASY XV we’re talking about. Just three months ago, we were mentioning how these four dudes were duking it out with androids and a big ass serpent-thing. Now we’re seeing a flash back in downtown Tokyo with a boy who wants to lose weight in order to be friends with a classmate/crown Prince (an idea which isn’t all too estranged from adolescent themes, but seems awfully insensitive to anyone with self-esteem issues).

The elements of Fantasy and Reality clash pretty hard in this one, and it brings to the table a couple questions as to where Squeenix is going with this. As far as the animation goes, it’s pretty much unremarkable — not too overdone, but still lacking polish as a genre piece. This episode had no action in it whatsoever, making it a funny little proposition to invest oneself in the franchise.

But as a work on character development, it proves its point. Even without background stories like this, the dialogue between the four leads draws the bear minimum necessary to get a feel for what these guys are like. Heck, the additional footage at the E3 gave an even deeper sense of their idiosyncrasies thanks to their character voice acting and accents. But getting familiar with the characters is one thing — what’s not familiar at this point onwards is just how well Fantasy and Reality can jive without making this seem a little weird.

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But when I think about it, I guess we aren’t too different than this show when it comes to dreaming up a little fantasy in our own lives. This is essentially the middle ground between pure escapist fantasy and grounded reality. How it delivers as a story, however, is the answer yet to be seen.

But the real question is this — do I still feel like I want to play this game to the point of buying a PS4? Unfortunately, the answer is YES. Either that’s my fanboy response or I’m very eager to see just what Fantasized Reality has in store for all of us.

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