How FFXV Crafted The Perfect Friend Group

Why I still play Final Fantasy 15 despite being really bad at it.

After playing Final Fantasy 15 two year after its initial release, and still going back to it every now and then to scrounge up any hunts I’ve missed or side missions I’ve felt brave enough to try despite my low level, one thing remains constant to how I feel about the game; my love for the ‘chocobros’. Noctis, Prompto, Ignis, and Gladio.

The inner workings of friendships may rely on distance and social upbringing, which begets to similarities in thoughts and opinions. Watching the Final Fantasy Brotherhood movie, it shows how Prompto, Ignis, and Gladio were instead orchestrated into Noctis’ life.

Prompto Argentum was sought out by Princess Lunafreya Nox Fleuret, an Oracle betrothed to aid Noctis, and asked him to befriend Noctis after Prompto rescued one of her puppies. In contrast, Ignis Scientia was raised by his family, House Scientia, who have been appointed as the retainers of the Royal House of Lucis. Ignis was bought up to be the adviser to the heir of the royal house, all the while watching over Noctis. Lastly, Gladio Amiticia followed his father Clarus and began training to become a member of the Crownsguard, the military force in the city of Insomnia. Their duties fall under the protection of the royal family of Lucis and the city.These boys are raised to help Noctis, assisting the royal family and building trust between them. The monarchy set up in Lucis helped cement them as friends.

Starting the game and pushing the Regalia across a barren Hammerhead road, the group begins to bicker and whine about the busted car, while Florence and The Machine’s “Stand By Me” plays as background music. This is probably the serenest moment the group shares before tragedy hits them later in game.

On the Final Fantasy 15 Steam page reviews, user ‘Corruptz’ writes, “The AI is so good that it makes me feel like I actually have friends. So basically a whole new experience for me.” The AI they’ve created for Noctis & Co. & their interactions with one another, from training, cooking, driving, taking photos, and just riding chocobos; the friendship this group possesses goes beyond Noctis just being the heir to the throne. The dialogue and traits they convey is prominent and it translates well off screen. I now know more about these four boys than I do with some of my own friends.

In an interview with Tabata Hajime on Polygon, Retronaut’s Jeremy Parish has Tabata Hajime explain how he’d like to take FFXV out of the TV screen and into real life. This alluded to the social activity of Live Action Role Playing. But in the feature, when A.I. was discussed he reminisced on how building these characters to be believable and emotionally gripping was, “a very important part of the game process and the game experience that we want to provide for the users.”

That was all I felt while playing the game. This emotional connection through these sprites on my screen that had feelings, movement, and raw emotion unhindered by translation and localization, or the eeriness of uncanny valley that some video game characters slightly fall into. The Links in battle and the special move sets shown by each separate character with Noctis, and their reactions to that is played organically and subtly enough to feel real. Some of my favorite interactions are; when I make Noctis run towards and enemy, and have Gladio or Ignis pull him back to devise an attack plan. When you read one of the posters about grooming birds on the chocobo ranch, Noctis turns to Prompto and says, “What do you say Prompto?”, and he responds with, “My hair does NOT look like a chocobo butt!!”.

One of the more emotional outbreaks of their friendships is tested from chapters 9 through 14. In chapter 10, the group grieves the death of Lunafreya on the train to Niflheim where the crystal is said to be, and Noctis is reluctant to put on the Ring of the Lucii. This makes Gladio believe that Noctis is unfit to take on the task they have ahead of them and he lashes out at Noctis. This is also happening after Ignis loses his sight in chapter 9 after the Leviathan battle in Altissia. In chapter 13 Ardyn disguises himself as Prompto in a bid to trick Noctis into pushing the Real Prompto off the train. Prompto is then held hostage by Ardyn in Zegnatus Keep, forcing the group to make up and search for him.

Once the group finds Prompto and undo him from the shackles he was attached to, he asks, “Tell me, where you worried about me?” which then gives the player two options to respond. “Yeah” or “Not Really”. This struck me as something indicative of what their friendship meant to them. You could say “yeah” and have Noctis reply, “Of course I was. What kind of question is that?” or be blasé and choose, “Not really”, which has Prompto reply, “Don’t tell me you still think that I’m Ardyn?” to which Noctis replies, “It’s not like that. I knew the real you wouldn’t kick the bucket so easily.” Prompto goes, “I couldn’t — at least not until I got to lay a guilt trip on you in person. The thought of that alone gave me the will to survive.” Noctis then ends with a solemn, “I’’m sorry.” and Prompto retaliates with, “Don’t be. Everything’s alright now.”

The banter in the group is recurring and can seem taxing even before playing the game. The thought of 4 boys on a road trip didn’t strike me as a story of love and understanding at first, but the writing in the game helped elevate and remind me of my own relationships with my three brothers whom I love dearly.

A lot of people are divided about Final Fantasy 15’s story. For a game that was 10 years in the making, making promises that didn’t hold up and showcasing trailers that showcase scenes and actions never used in the final game, the feelings of long time fans are justified, but that doesn’t mean thrashing on the game developers for not delivering. These things have their reasons. When Tabata Hajime took over the role of Director from Tetsuya Nomura, the development suffered and had to be re-branded into its own game free of the terminology and politics of Final Fantasy 13, it’s successor and base-off point. With the last slew of DLCs set to release in 2019, the game is still ‘in development’ and the changes these may bring is still unknown. After playing the first three DLCs I can definitely say that I’m looking forward to what the FFXV development team has in the works.

my shoelaces are probably untied.