Final Fantasy XV Royal Edition and Meta Narrative

Posted March 22, 2018 by Haley Schojbert in Video Games

Final Fantasy XV, originally entitled Final Fantasy Versus XIII, wrestled through development hell for nearly a decade before its initial release. The game was accompanied by a movie, Kingsglaive, and an anime, Brotherhood: Final Fantasy XV, along with additional downloadable content detailing characters’ backstories and a multiplayer mode. By piecing together all of these separate media entities, the game has become an experience that spans multiple platforms, and the narrative is meta, piecing itself together through several different avenues of storytelling, rewriting and altering itself to become more cohesive.

I rebought and replayed Final Fantasy XV when Square Enix released Royal Edition, the newest installment with all additional content and quests included; and despite enjoying Episode Gladiolus and Episode Prompto, the part that impressed me the most was Episode Ignis. Taking place during chapter nine of the game, we see what Ignis was doing while Noctis was fighting Leviathan, and ultimately, how he lost his eyesight. This portion of the game fleshes out the characters of both Ignis Scientia and Ravus Nox Fleuret, showing Ignis’ noble sacrifice, and explaining how Ravus’ deep hatred of Noctis stems from feeling abandoned by the Kings of Lucis and wishing to protect his sister, Luna. The episode also filled in some major gaps in the story, by showing Ravus’ reaction to his sister’s death, and crafted a meta-narrative, by giving us an alternative ending from the “cannonical” one.

When faced with Ardyn on the first playthrough, Ignis makes the “cannonical” choice:  He protects Noctis by putting on the Ring of the Lucii and in order to harness the power of the Lucian kings, he must make a sacrifice—his vision. However, after completing the episode, we can go back and choose to “play along” with Ardyn’s schemes instead of being immediately hostile and fighting him in Altissia. In this version of events, Ignis gets taken directly to the crystal, slips on the ring, and decides that he will save everyone by killing Ardyn right there and then, willing to give up his life in the process. Ardyn then explains his evil plot, and is defeated. Noctis, Prompto and Gladio appear as Ignis’ body is deteriorating, and Noctis calls upon the crystal to heal his friend. Ignis relays what Ardyn told him, and the four friends prepare for the ten years of darkness together, entering the Crown City and fighting as a unit to bring back the light—Ravus included. The conclusion is Noctis sitting on the throne alive, and Ignis by his side, without sacrificing his vision or life in the process.

The rewrite of the ending seems much more Final Fantasy to me. At its core, XV is a story of four friends whose bonds are tested by a world of war and politics. The themes of the story hinge on how all of the characters have roles to play within the circumstances, but nothing can tear apart their kinship. The original ending was bittersweet, Noctis and Luna sitting together on the throne in death, but it seemed too akin to a Shakespearean tragic romance to me, and clashed with the experience of togetherness the game made me feel up until that point.

Every aspect of Final Fantasy XV‘s narrative surrounds the bond of the protagonists, from Prompto’s photographs, to the casual banter between the characters in and out of combat, and the way side-quests become excursions in their broader adventure to travel and see the world. The pressure of royalty, destiny, and the Gods weigh on Noctis’ mind throughout the game, but he never reconciles to go it alone—until the very end.

Before departing for Altissa, Cid tells Noctis to always consult with his friends that are by his side because they are his brothers, not his bodyguards. Regis’ friends like Cid and Cor, mirror the pain and turmoil that comes from  sacrificing friendships in order to fulfill kingly duties—something that Noctis grapples with the entirety of the game. We are given choices to make in his place when dealing with non-playable characters where Noct can either make the decision on his own or he can ask his friends for advice. The rewrite says, “Well, why not both? You can have your friends by your side to defeat the darkness, and that is better than facing it alone as a solitary burden.”

I brought up the complicated developmental history of the game to give some context, and to explain why I find the new ending to be more fitting for the story. The process of playing Final Fantasy XV and watching its film and anime is an interesting experience in how the narrative is meta and always evolving. The story continued to build upon itself and shed light on  the questions that plagued it. The possibilities explored in Episode Ignis acknowledge Final Fantasy XV to be a work of fiction that is malleable and has changed form throughout its initial conception, release, and post-release. Each instillation improves upon the original—it really is a Final Fantasy game for fans and first-timers.

About the Author

Haley Schojbert

Haley is an editor, writer, and avid reader that enjoys role-playing games and having a lot of opinions about fictional characters.