Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV Review

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Originally formatted & published on Pixel Pulse Radio.

Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV is a digitally animated film tasked with giving audiences an impressive introduction to the world of the highly anticipated game, Final Fantasy XV; but ultimately fails to fulfill its goals.

Similarly to the worst stories in gaming, Kingsglaive is cliche, takes itself way too seriously, and implements tired tropes to develop its characters. It also does a poor job of hiding the sole reason for its existence, which is to pitch a $60 video game to the viewer.

Crystal Clear

final_fantasy_kingsglaiveKingsglaive tells the story of King Regis, ruler of the kingdom of Lucis, and his royal guard, the Kingsglaive. The Kingsglaive, whose members all have
absolutely convoluted names, is made up of immigrants from territories under the hostile control of the kingdom of Niflheim, who’s at war with the kingdom of Lucis. With magical powers bestowed upon them by King Regis, the Kingsglaive serve as Lucis’ best line of defense against the evil forces of Niflheim.  Kingsglaive takes place at a crucial moment in the ongoing conflict between these two kingdoms, where Lucis is weak and Niflheim is going to take what little they have left. To make peace, Niflheim agrees to a peace treaty under two conditions: Lucis gives up all remaining territory to Niflheim; and Lunafreya Nox Fleuret, a young oracle held as a prisoner of Niflheim, must marry Noctis Lucis Caelum, the player-controlled character in Final Fantasy XV and son of King Regis.

It’s then revealed that it was all an elaborate ruse by Niflheim in order to capture King Regis and gain entrance to the capital city of Lucis, which is known as Insomnia. I know, I know. It sounds a bit ridiculous. Insomnia is protected by a crystal dome that covers the entire city and is powered by a crystal hidden inside of King Regis’ castle. Nifelheim wants the crystal. It’s then revealed that there are traitors among members of the Kingsglaive. After it all hits the fan, it’s up to Nyx Ulric, member of the Kingsglaive and protagonist of the film, to save King Regis and have Lunafreya escape so that she can meet up with Noctis. There’s a lot to parse through and take in, and I was left with unanswered questions – even after re-watching key scenes.

KingsglaiveDamsels and Hunks

Kingsglaive suffers from bloated exposition, which is made worse when paired with the dry dialogue its characters deliver.With names such as Ledolas Aldercapt, Titus Drautos, and Libertus Ostium, one would think that these characters might be memorable, yet none of them truly live up to their colorful names. Aaron Paul does a commendable job as Nyx, and his delivery makes the character decently entertaining. The character is driven by his need to do what’s heroic and right, but lacks any motivation apart from the fact that he lost his sister at some previous point. I guess that makes him a tragic character? All of this leads to Nyx looking like a stock-action hero, albeit with the occasional charming quip.

The supporting cast members have even less interesting personalities and performances. Their motivations are vague and their dialogue does little to reveal anything interesting. To use a video game analogy, they feel like the non-player characters in a virtual world that hand out dull side quests. They might have a colorful haircut, a weird voice, or an odd look to them, but you eventually forget about them and go about your merry way. Then, if and when they do show up again, you remark with a surprised and confused, “Oh hey, it’s you again.”

There’s something troubling about them, specifically how the worth of every female character in the film is determined by some relation to a male character. Lunafreya is an oracle who can summon a sea creature with a trident, but is completely helpless and supposedly needs constant supervision. Throughout the film we are reminded that Lunafreya’s destiny is to be married to Noctis – who isn’t really even in the film – and she will incessantly risk her life to get to him. Another female character, Crowe Altius, is killed off screen, just as her character shows signs of being interesting and heroic, thus acting as a tragic catalyst for a male member of the Kingsglaive who is romantically interested in her. This is tired and poor storytelling.

But Don’t Let ’em Say You Ain’t Beautiful

la-et-mn-capsule-kingsglaive-review-20160816-snapThe film’s narrative is well trodden territory within the fantasy genre. Unfortunately, the world of Kingsglaive is an uninteresting backdrop for a Final Fantasy story. The fantastical city of Insomnia, where most of the film takes place, is one with advertisements for Beats headphones and Nissin Cup Noodles, it’s also a place where folks drive suspiciously resilient Audi luxury convertibles. Even so, the work put into realizing the film’s creatures, locations, and European inspired architecture is impressive. There is an almost obsessive attention to detail here and it’s clear that talented artists worked hard to make the film visually shine. However, the film’s European aesthetic lacks the charm that Final Fantasy is known for. Combined with a mediocre story, Kingsglaive ultimately feels uninspired and lacks any sense of adventure.

This lack of definitive identity is only made more apparent with some of its action set pieces, which feel like poor attempts to inspire some sense of awe. While the moments leading up to the betrayal of Niflheim are tense and exciting, the grand battles, populated by mythical creatures and fiery rock golems,  tend to be too bombastic. Make no mistake, these sequences are quite pretty to watch, but their hectic and over-the-top nature make the film seemingly desperate. Specifically, desperate to trigger Final Fantasy fans’ nostalgia.

What the film does manage to deliver nicely might come as a surprise to some people, but perhaps it shouldn’t. It’s the musical compositions of one Yoko Shimomura that bring a sense of grandness to the film – a grandness that the film’s characters, story, and world fail to convey. These songs add punch to action scenes, convey hopelessness in moments of desperation, and – most importantly – actually make the movie stand out. A soundtrack can typically go unnoticed, but everything else here is so muted that this music actually elevates Kingsglaive and ultimately steals the show.

kingsglaive-final-fantasy-xvPlease Buy Our Game

Out of all of the gripes I have with Kingsglaive, one of the most annoying aspects of it is how the movie blatantly feels like a piece of promotional material for Final Fantasy XV. While Noctis isn’t in this film in any significant way, his name is constantly mentioned and he’s painted as Lucis’ last hope. The film’s conclusion leaves its narrative threads untied, and ultimately provides little satisfaction for the viewer. Strange isn’t it? It’s almost as if the film’s conflicts are to be resolved by Noctis, whose story will be told in a separate video game, who you, the viewer, will have to purchase in order to experience any real narrative closure. You can meet and perhaps romance Lunafreya. You can end this war. You can reclaim your throne!

“FINAL FANTASY XV. IN STORES THIS HOLIDAY!”

The Verdict

Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV is an uninteresting and loud thing that completely falls apart if you think about it for too long. It’s a technically impressive film to look at, but it tries way too hard with its spectacle. Characters are uninteresting, it’s world is hard to buy into, and in the end, it feels like a device to entice consumers to invest in Final Fantasy XV.  As someone who was interested in Final Fantasy XV, this was a discouraging experience. The game might still deliver on a fun adventure, but this piece of supplemental material feels like homework.[rwp-review-recap id=”0″]Editor’s note: Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV was reviewed by Jurge Cruz on behalf of Pixel Pulse Radio. Jurge is a freelance writer and co-host of the podcasts, Jurge and Ryan and Movies Are Reel. Want to talk to Jurge? Follow him on Twitter! Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV is available for purchase on Amazon. For more information, visit the movie’s website.

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