When Tokyo Game Show opened its doors to the public this year, one can be forgiven if their first instinct is to head straight to the Square Enix booth, given the developer’s longstanding history in the video gaming scene. I personally wasted no time in doing so, but I can’t help to feel slightly disappointed with their offerings, featuring Dissidia Final Fantasy NT, Itadaki Street, Final Fantasy XV’s Comrades expansion, and their household MMO title, Final Fantasy XIV. With that said, what caught my eye was a large dedicated area for the mobile releases from FF XV, and instead of feeling awed or excited, there’s a sense of dread and fear for the future of the franchise. This ultimately begs the question, is Final Fantasy XV finally losing its relevance?
When the 15th main entry to the iconic JRPG series was released November last year, fans were skeptical in getting a worthy title to spend hundreds of hours on, as the game went through a development turmoil spanning over a decade. The reviews turned out to be great, general feedback was mostly positive, and most importantly, FF XV hit the sales target set by game director Hajime Tabata, which was one of the main criteria to ensure the survival of the franchise. I personally enjoyed my time exploring Eos as Noctis and his brothers in arms, and there were zero complaints about what the development team has to offer for my purchase of the Season Pass. And then the mobile games were announced alongside a VR fishing game, which spawned a “what the f**k is going on?!” cry.
The skeptics were actually running wild before that, as they questioned some of FF XV’s free DLC, featuring some uninspired costumes and lackluster content that will shorten the game’s longevity instead of prolonging it. And if that’s not enough to draw massive criticisms, the generic kingdom-builder, Final Fantasy XV: A New Empire and the Pocket Edition of the main game seems to be the final straw for fans. And the less we talk about the standalone VR fishing game, Monster of the Deep, the better. To be fair to Square Enix, I applaud their decision in trying to build a universe around FF XV, something which hasn't really been done before in previous main numbered entries. Unfortunately, it felt like a waste for them to delve in trivial aspects of the game, instead of focusing on something that’ll definitely add more weight to the grand narrative such as story expansions; something that fits the premise of a Final Fantasy game.
With that said, the reception for the FF XV booth at TGS seemed fine, which might be due to the fact that they were just curious on what Square Enix has to offer before casting their judgment. Looking at the matter retrospectively, I remember local lead designer for Final Fantasy XV, Wan Hazmer once said his team’s main focus was to strengthen the franchise’s name as a modern powerhouse, yet it feels like they are trying too hard at this point. Some might beg to differ, though I personally feel FF XV is losing its relevance, so one can only hope it won’t be long until Square Enix redirect their resources to another venture, like planning for a new main numbered title? Now that would be great.