The most noticeable thing about the game, right off the bat, is its setting. The contemporary city of Lucis, based on modern Tokyo, looks set to take the series in a direction it hasn’t seen before. While FFXIII may have seen the franchise take a more sci-fi approach to its world-building, the domestic reality of XV is something altogether new – something grounded. The game’s director, Tetsuya Nomura, is keen to promote the game as a ‘fantasy based on reality’ – a statement that, on its own, sounds fairly innocuous, but when considered alongside everything else we know about the game, could be quite telling about what we can expect from the narrative.
According to a post on Kokatu, some Japanese players aren’t thrilled with the idea of an FF game set in a world that so closely resembles their own. The domestic aesthetic could be used to great effect, however – the Final Fantasy games aren’t scared of making allusions to the real world, tackling themes such as nature vs. industry (VII), the idea of empire (VIII), religion (X) and, of course, war (pretty much every FF ever).
By setting XV‘s main city in a world that so closely resembles Japan, perhaps Square are gearing up to tackle more domestic issues, too. The main story looks set to tackle a conflict between a regal state and a republic (with the country of Niflheim looking like it’s based on Italian architectural tropes), with the conflict being instigated by – of course – a crystal. The grandiose scope of the narrative (based in reality) could well just be a frame for the more intimate tale told by Noctis and his crew (creating the fantasy). Final Fantasy is perhaps most well known for its protagonists, and their progression through the game tends to chart emotional and involving arcs of development. FFXV promises to be a darker instalment of the franchise, and that could even mean making the player’s agent – Noctis – the most tragic hero we’ve seen in the series yet.
In one of the three trailers released for the game back when it was still Final Fantasy Versus XIII, there is a quote from Shakespeare’s Hamlet – ‘there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so’. Within the context of Hamlet, this quote comes down to how we justify our decisions - and how different people can extrapolate their own truths from the same stimuli. The inclusion of this specific quote could be incredibly significant.
In the opening acts of Hamlet, the eponymous protagonist clothes himself wholly in black in an angst-ridden attempt to get his cohorts to notice his foul mood. The connection may be vague, but notice how Noctis has been designed in purely black garbs; something that flies in the face of typical Final Fantasy convention. Held up against central characters like Tidus, Cloud, Squall, Zidane or Lightning, Noctis’ design is incredibly understated and brooding. This could just be a coincidental aesthetic design made by Square, but considering the showmanship they put into their trailers, and the delicate hand with which they reveal information, we highly doubt that.
If XV follows Hamlet’s tragic trajectory, we could see Noctis on a spiral descent into madness. It’s already been teased that he has a power that sets him apart from his peers – the ability to ‘see the light of expiring life’ (FFVersusXIII, trailer 2) – and that he acts in a calm and collected way to disguise his true, rash nature. In terms of a tragic hero, this could send Noctis into an ill-fated quest for revenge, or into an inescapable madness; where Hamlet saw ghosts that drove him to insanity, seeing ‘expiring lights of life’ could mean Noctis knows when all around him will die, and the isolation and detachment this creates could create a character that has absolutely nothing to lose.
Of course, all this is speculation – right now, we know very, very little about FFXV and it’s world or story. Back at E3, however, Square promised we’d see ‘more of the game’ in the coming months, specifically citing Gamescom and the Tokyo Games Show. We’ll share any information as soon as we get it, so be sure to keep an eye on games™ online or in print.