Final Fantasy XV
PlayStation 4/Xbox One

Ten long years. That’s how long folks have been waiting for the latest installment in the Final Fantasy series. First announced as a spinoff of Final Fantasy XIII in 2006, the 15th installment has gone through many iterations, resulting in a feat of epic proportions — depending on where you decide to jump into the mix.

Final Fantasy XV is a Japanese role-playing game. Many JRPGs are slow-burn storytelling. FFXV is no different in this regard, but adopts a much more western-friendly battle system rather than the traditional turn-based fights of the series’ yesteryear.

Our hero, Noctis Lucis Caelum, is the crown prince of Lucis, the last remaining country utilizing magic in a world growing increasingly industrial.

As Noctis, you’ll take command of a group that includes three of your best pals: Prompto, the selfie-snapping comic relief; Gladiolus, the tough-but-lovable tank; and Ignis, the butler/cook/driver. Battles take place in real time and you, as Noctis, can cycle through four weapons of various strength as your buddies link up with each other to unleash powerful attacks against everything from goblins to mechanical soldiers.

FFXV is, however, much more than its many systems, which also include “elemancy” (magic crafting), the “ascension grid” (for unlocking skills), fishing, driving and more. FFXV has been a journey crafted carefully around a particular story that requires a personal, intimate commitment in order for the game to be successful.

In that decade-long production time came two required-viewing titles: an anime known as Brotherhood: Final Fantasy XV and a film, Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV. Both Brotherhood (available for free on YouTube) and Kingsglaive (available to rent or own) are required viewing prior to picking up the game. Without them, it would be like opening a novel and starting on page 100. There is a 50-page script, available online, which should also be read.

In order, they should be consumed as follows: BrotherhoodKingsglaive — script — Final Fantasy XV.

Brotherhood introduces the viewer to each of the four main characters via 15-minute episodes. The capsule-stories offer backstory, which you do not get in the game. Case in point: Prompto is photo-snapping comic relief, but why is he there? The anime answers this question by revealing his friendship with Noctis through high school as a commoner. It’s touching, as are the other entries featuring Gladiolus, Ignis and a young Noctis.

The film Kingsglaive features the voice talents of Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad), Sean Bean and Lena Headey (both of Game of Thrones). This is the real meat of the story: the fall of Lucis, the death of Noctis’ father, the king, and who’s who in this proverbial game of chess. The script details the goings-on with Noctis’ crew during Kingsglaive.

You need the whole rather than a part, and for that reason, FFXV on its own is incomplete. It can be argued that all of this should have been included in the game, for which I have no rebuttal; but these other entries offer weight and substance. Regardless of how they were delivered, they must be consumed.

Final Fantasy XV’s introduction, featuring the gang pushing their vehicle down the highway to the tune of Florence and the Machine’s “Stand by Me,” sent chills down my spine. I’m not sure if it would have if I hadn’t done the research beforehand, and the “research” is simply learning to love the characters before taking control of their story. 

Chris O’Neal is an FFXV selfie fiend. Follow him on Instagram @atchrisoneal.