DualShockers’ Game of the Year Awards: The Case for Final Fantasy XV

In the final installment of our Game of the Year series, Azario, Kenneth, and Giuseppe dive deep into their pick, the long-awaited Final Fantasy XV.

on January 21, 2017 10:00 AM

2016 has come to a close and while the new year ahead has plenty of games for us to look forward to, the beginning of the year is also the perfect time to reflect on the games that made the previous year so exceptional, with 2016 being no exceptional.

Earlier this year, DualShockers revealed our 2016 Game of the Year Awards from both our readers and staff, including the overall GOTY, Biggest Shocker!, and many more.

However, now that the awards have been given out and games have been chosen, this week we’re diving into the staff’s selections for their top Game of the Year pick and favorite game of 2016. In this installment, staff writers Azario Lopez and Kenneth Richardson and Editor-in-Chief Giuseppe Nelva look back on their top pick (and our overall Game of the Year winner for readers and staff) Final Fantasy XV. You can also catch up on the previous features in our series on Darkest DungeonFirewatch, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, and Overwatch for our Game of the Year titles.

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Azario Lopez, Staff Writer

Game of the Year 2016 was not an easy choice for me. There were definitely some great games released this year across all platforms, including one of my other personal favorites for the year, The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II.

However, Final Fantasy XV stood out by taking me to a world that I wanted to be in as well as introduce me to a cast that I cared about. For GOTY, I focused my judgment on multiple points including story, gameplay, visual, sound, and my personal enjoyment while playing. I felt Final Fantasy XV achieved high marks on each of these points and surpassed my expectations of what a game can be in this new generation of hardware.

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Giuseppe Nelva, Editor-in-Chief

When I first launched Final Fantasy XV, I was genuinely worried. After such a long wait, what if it was bad? Sure, the demo was great, but good demos that turn out to be mediocre games aren’t exactly rare in this industry.

Luckily, that will remain forever just a “what if” scenario. Final Fantasy XV isn’t only “good,” it’s fantastic. It’s not a perfect game, and no game really is, but it has what many games nowadays lack: a soul.

Every pixel in Final Fantasy XV is a display of the love, care and dedication that its developers quite obviously poured into it in spades. The world of the game is full of hundreds of little things that make me think: “this doesn’t really need to be here, but someone within the development team must have really insisted to put it in.” There are so many things that can be easily identified as little personal touches that, even just exploring for hours, the nooks and crannies of the map makes me smile. Another element I loved to explore is the cast. As I wrote in my review, Noctis, Gladio, Ignis and Prompto are truly the best virtual friends I’ve ever had.

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There is also another factor that I consider very relevant. Square Enix has historically been a rather monolithic company, overwhelmingly Japanese in its development culture: yet, this changed with Final Fantasy XV. The team embraced developers from all corners of the world, and especially many from other Asian countries (that normally don’t get to shine in AAA productions), and they didn’t just bring in their skills, but also their culture.

Cultural diversity is an extremely important value in game development, and nowadays we often see it suffocated and flattened. Final Fantasy XV opened the doors to all of those development cultures, amplified them, and cherished them — and the game definitely benefited from it.

In a time in which four years of work from tens or hundreds of developers get wiped off the table with wasteful cancellations, it’s a pleasure to see and recognize a development team and publisher willing to stick to their guns even after ten long years. Ultimately, Final Fantasy XV is a love song dedicated to the series and to its fans, and this melody sounds absolutely sweet to my ears even over 100 hours in.

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Kenneth Richardson, Staff Writer

While it isn’t without its flaws, Final Fantasy XV was definitely the standout gaming experience of 2016 for me. The most impressive thing was the visuals. This is the first game I’ve played since getting a PS4 and a new TV, and it didn’t disappoint.

Specifically, Final Fantasy XV has so many visual flourishes, from the spell effects to the weapon details to the way light spilled through the trees as the sun set: the game never stopped being gorgeous. The story scenes towards the end of the game were especially impressive. One of the things I noticed is how the effects of the summoned companions linger once their attack ends; it make them feel so grand. As a sidenote – being able to listen to songs from earlier games while riding in the Regalia was an appreciated touch, as a longtime fan of the series.

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Of the many JRPGs I played last year, FFXV had the best combat. I liked how I could hold or mash the attack button and how the snappy warping actually worked the way it appeared it would back when the game was still Final Fantasy XIII Versus. Of course it’s pleasing to see elements from older games in the series as well.

All things considered, Square Enix succeeded in making Final Fantasy XV feel large and grand. It’s exciting to think about how the game will change as Square keeps polishing certain aspects and introducing more to it over the next year. On a separate note, I’m also just happy that after 10 years of making fans wait, this game is finally in players’ hands.

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