Five years later, Final Fantasy XV still feels like family

Final Fantasy XV originally released on November 29, 2016, as the 15th main installment in the historic RPG series from Square Enix. It was initially released to favorable critical reviews and has had a few different additions to the universe in the years following its release, including DLC and media tie-ins like a short anime series. It even had a recent, rereleased crossover event with Final Fantasy XIV, where players were able to obtain the car from Final Fantasy XV that the main group of characters drive throughout the game.

To me, Final Fantasy XV has become a game that really showcases the staying power that a video game can have, even when it’s been said to have a bit of a messy story overall. Staying power can mean different things to players, depending on the game and their own unique experience with it. It might come in the form of replayability, game mechanics, new content being added, or just the story itself.

For the game’s five-year anniversary, I wanted to take a closer look at the lasting impact the game has had fon players. Final Fantasy XV’s staying power comes from its standout characters, found family themes, and even an active player community that is still going to this day. These elements all create a lovely sense of family, both in-game and in the community, that I and others have experienced through playing, talking, and just sharing our love of Final Fantasy XV together.

A Final Fantasy for the fans

The opening screen of Final Fantasy XV tells you so much about the game right off the bat. It makes me happy to see it each time I load up the game. “A Final Fantasy for fans and first-timers” serves as a pretty simple lead-in for a game that really does feel like it was created for both longtime fans of the series and new players.

The story, at its most basic, tells the story of Noctis and his three close friends as they deal with invasion, all-powerful beings, and a centuries-old prophecy that sets Noctis as the Chosen King within the game. And while the story can be a little messy at times, Final Fantasy XV has ultimately done what any game should: Give players something to connect with.

Final Fantasy XV's cast walks down a road.
Square Enix/Microsoft

For fan Jordynne Hatton, that connection came very strongly in the main cast of characters upon completing the game for the first time and in the years since.

“After laying on the couch and crying for a few hours, I was hit with a very overwhelming feeling of losing a close friend,” Hatton tells Digital Trends. “Of grief. I grew alongside the main cast, watching them develop and overcome things in their lives that were honestly quite similar to my own personal life at the time. I saw myself in each of the boys — and it felt as if I was saying goodbye to them all. Like they had taught me all they needed to, and were ready to move on.”

That connection to the main characters of Final Fantasy XV is something I certainly relate to. You spend the majority of the game with Noctis, Ignis, Gladiolus, and Prompto as they go on a road trip that feels all too familiar to taking long drives with my own friends (minus situations that put them all in increasing danger). And there’s something about the familiar road trip situation and the very likeable personalities of all four characters that makes Final Fantasy XV such a joyful game to play, even five years on.

Final Fantasy XV's heroes stand on a grassy field.

Little things like Prompto humming the Final Fantasy Victory fanfare after combat to bigger moments like a particular fight that happens later in the game between Gladiolus and Noctis, stand out to me because they show us as players all these nuances of the characters. How the characters interact with each other throughout the game has made my experience with Final Fantasy XV all that more special due to the fact that I connect with each of them through these little moments that show how different they all are.

Drea, a longtime fan and player of Final Fantasy XV, also noted that alongside the characters serving as an important part of her experience with the game, the gameplay in XV is just plain enjoyable, too.

“Aside from the lore of the game, the gameplay itself is just really fun,” Drea tells Digital Trends. “There’s a few quirks that can prove troublesome, but for the most part, exploring the open world, triggering the random events, or exploring the different dungeons can be a fun challenge (or … a long and daunting one in the case of Pitioss Ruins, but the bragging rights for completing it is something many fans like to share!).”

Keeping the love alive

Like any game that’s part of a long-running franchise, Final Fantasy XV has seen a community spring up around the game. And that community is passionate. While it’s not as active as it was in the years directly following the game’s release, the fan community has done its fair share of keeping love for XV alive.

“I’ve been part of the fandom on various different platforms since launch, and it’s been awesome seeing the different ways the fandom has shifted over the years!” Drea says. “It is probably one of the most welcoming communities I’ve been part of (having been in many over the last decade), and everyone I’ve met has been incredibly nice and passionate about the game!”

Final Fantasy XV heroes fight a giant monster.

That sense of kinship has resulted in a healthy modding community for the PC version of Final Fantasy XV and even XV-specific events put on by Kupocon, a traveling fan event that was wholly created by Final Fantasy fans in 2016. My own interactions with the community mirror that of both Drea and Hatton, as I’ve been active in following artists, attending conventions where the voice actors are guests, and meeting some great people within the XV community itself.

With the five-year anniversary for Final Fantasy XV here, the idea of players being presented  with a found family through Noctis, Prompto, Gladiolus, and Ignis is reflected throughout the game. There is always a sense of the characters relying on each other and growing together throughout the story, and that found family has very clearly translated into the community of players as well.

A big part of what has kept Hatton coming back to Final Fantasy XV was that sense of community. “For me, a huge part of the game staying relevant to me is how much the fans have taken the characters and ran with them. We didn’t get all the DLC we wanted from them? Who cares? People can draw and write whole new worlds and scenarios for everyone. The community built from the games is much like the characters, too — a family.”

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