It’s no secret Final Fantasy XV is very different from previous games in the franchise. It’s the first action RPG, and party makeup is more limited than other games. This may seem like a drastic departure from its roots, however, it still very much feels like a Final Fantasy game. Here, we will explore how Final Fantasy XV alludes to — and at times, pulls directly from — earlier games in the franchise.
Every game in the series reuses monster designs. Cactuars, Behemoths, Tonberries, Ahrimans (Ahrimen?), Goblins, all make recurring appearances. Signature monster designs like these reappearing are nothing new. These species, along with summons and races like moogles and chocobos, are what define Final Fantasy worlds.
However, Final Fantasy XV takes this a step further. Some of the monsters that appear are ones that aren’t typically recurring monsters. Sure, Bombs reappear plenty, but how often has Garula reappeared? It hasn’t since it was a boss in Final Fantasy V. While we’ve fought millions of Flans, how many Diamond Weapons have we fought? That’s not a monster we expected to cameo in the film, and it’d be a welcome addition to the game.
Throughout the series, settings have been all over the place. We’ve seen a basic medieval fantasy setting in the first five, a steampunk setting in Final Fantasy VI, a really unique setting of Ivalice, and a clear science fiction setting in Final Fantasy XIII. However, we haven’t really seen a pseudo-modern day setting since Final Fantasy VII and VIII. And that’s exactly what XV has.
The theme we’ve heard throughout its development has been “This is a fantasy based on reality”. And what we’ve seen really shows that. Insomnia feels like a mix of Tokyo and the Vatican, while Altissia feels very similar to Venice. Hammerhead feels like a garage you could probably visit in real life. The game is not without its extremely exotic locations (Tenebrae being most obvious), but many are based on modern day locations, often specifically modern day Italy, which makes sense given how often the game uses Latin words.
Final Fantasy VI featured the Gestahlian Empire as the bad guys. The Empire, and their adversaries the Returners, were a clear reference to Star Wars, which the franchise has referenced many times. Later, Final Fantasy XII featured the Archadian Empire, and along with it, plenty more Star Wars references of its own.
The Niflheim Empire are the antagonists of XV. However, the comparisons don’t just end with a name. Niflheim’s use of a Magitek Infantry and monsters as its army are very similar to VI. Furthermore, many Niflheim Generals wear armor that is eerily similar to the Judges from XII. Finally, Imperial leader Chancellor Ardyn‘s demeanor and role is very similar to the Gestahlian Empire’s Kefka from VI (and also to Kuja from IX).
Legendary Weapon Gathering
At the latter half of Final Fantasy V, the party was tasked with collecting the 12 Sealed Weapons. This non-linear quest basically involved going into dungeons to retrieve tablets that could unlock powerful weapons. They weren’t the most powerful weapons in the game, but they would prepare the party for the final dungeon.
Final Fantasy XV offers a very similar quest, but near the start of the game. It’s a similarly non-linear quest to open the world up to the party more. This may be less of a reference to previous games and more XV‘s way of reassuring the players it won’t be as linear as XIII was, but the goal is still clearly the same as the quest in V was.
In the first five entries, all of the games featured four elemental crystals as the main plot device. It ended with VI because there are only so many stories you can tell about heroes trying to defend four crystals from being stolen or destroyed by a bad guy that will inevitably steal them all anyway before it gets old. Final Fantasy IX made a brief reference to them, but that’s only because IX contained thousands of references.
In the main series, the four crystals plot device hasn’t really been used since. Enter Final Fantasy XV, which once again, makes them a key element. Crystals, locked away in crystal rooms that contain great power, make a comeback as a major plot device. How big of a role they play in the story is as of yet unclear, but it’s definitely a nice throwback to when the games’ stories were a lot simpler.