Is The Fantasy Lost in Final Fantasy XV?

Can a modern game still be considered fantasy?
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Final Fantasy XV was revealed at E3 last week, but criticism has already raised some questions for the newest edition of the famous franchise. The problem?

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Is this Final Fantasy game becoming a little too modern to be deemed a fantasy?

From the trailers and gameplay, we see the setting in the game is fairly modern. The video shows Japan-inspired elements such as the standard Japanese police automobiles and apartment buildings, and part of the trailer even shows a place that is similar in appearance to Shinjuku, a location in downtown Tokyo. Unfortunately, a handful of Japanese gamers didn’t react to these familiar elements in a favorable way. They felt that the realistic “Japan inspired world” makes the game look cheap. Alright, I won’t blame them for their criticism; after all, if you think about it, this argument is not necessarily out of place.

Final Fantasy’s settings have always taken place in environments that do not resemble actual real-world locations. The fact that Final Fantasy XV changes this, by placing players in a setting that may very well look like their own backyard, may have startled fans used to the more unrealistic settings. But the problem is that most of this argument is overlooking the idea that “fantasy” does not always have to mean the inclusion of extravagant physical environments or overdone outfits.

Just because the world looks realistic doesn’t mean the game lacks fantasy.

Final Fantasy titles have been well known for being story-driven and it is within these stories that the fantasy elements exist. Each one of the games seems to revolve around the idea of discovering magic in the world and understanding the greater power around us. But just because there are magical elements involved in the game, doesn’t mean the setting has to reflect that. Pure fantasy worlds, places built to be completely unrealistic, provide imaginative locations, but are not always relatable and appealing to the player so they may not leave a strong lasting impression once the game is over. 

I think Final Fantasy XV is shaking things up by trying to get closer to realism in order to make the game feel more relatable to players. It’s taking place in a completely normal-looking setting where things that are not normal will occur.

So how does this make the game relatable? Placing supernatural elements in a normal world makes it easier for players to compare their in-game experiences to those they’ve experienced in real life. And if a well-written game is taken seriously enough, it will allow players to think from a different perspective and ask “what if” questions. What if these things I’m experiencing in this game were to actually happen? 

If you’re not convinced, the blend of reality with fantasy has been successful for other popular series. Persona 4 followed this structure by having supernatural events take place amongst students in a plain Japanese countryside setting. Popular anime titles, such as Death Note, put their spin on fantasy in the real world by giving an ordinary student the ability to kill anyone whose name and face they know with a supernatural notebook.

“This is a fantasy based on reality.”

Final Fantasy XV is a fantasy game. The modern looking location and modern outfits may not blatantly scream fantasy, but these physical features alone are not required to define the genre. The story contains supernatural elements and themes, as well as the unforgettable high-tech weaponry and giant behemoths, and deserves to keep its Final Fantasy title just like its predecessors.

So my question to you is, where do you draw the line between fantasy and reality? What are the kinds of elements you have to see in order to consider a game a fantasy?

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Kristin Silver
Prior intern at Gameskinny, recent college grad from the DC metro area, my favorite games are Legend of Zelda, FFXIV, and Metal Gear Solid!