Final Fantasy is, to be polite, a tough franchise to get into if you’re a newcomer. To hit everything in the whole franchise, you’re talking something like 60 games depending on how thorough you want to be. If you’re new to it, it’s almost absurdly dense. Why the obsession with crystals? Why is everybody named after weather patterns? And what the heck is a Chocobo? So, we’re going to diverge from our usual review format to talk about the most important aspect of Final Fantasy XV: That people who don’t know the answers to those questions can just play it.
To start with, the story is interesting and easy to follow, something of a small miracle in of itself. Final Fantasy tends to be self-serious and demanding, as a franchise. Video games can quickly develop a narcissistic obsession with “lore” that makes them impenetrable unless you want to spend a few hours on Wikipedia, or a few hundred hours playing the highlights of the franchise, and Final Fantasy is the poster child for this. Final Fantasy XV doesn’t dump the last 14 games in a fire, exactly; if you know where to look, and know the franchise’s past, you can spot plenty of nods to it.
But it’s just a nod to fans, not a demand that you go back and watch the whole game unfold on YouTube. In part that’s because this game was originally a spin-off, one suspects, but it makes it accessible to newbies. Granted, the franchise is strange and has no interest in explaining its strangeness; that our heroes own cars and cell phones but fight with swords and magic spells while running around the desert in leather pants is basically unexplained. Still, that’s not a big leap if you play video games: It’s no weirder than an Italian plumber leaping in the air to crush sentient mushrooms, or walking around your neighborhood stuffing mythical creatures into tiny habitats and selling them to a professor for candy.