Final Fantasy XV's Strangest Plot Twist Yet: An 8-Bit Revival

Final Fantasy XV's Strangest Plot Twist Yet: An 8-Bit Revival

It's been a weird and turbulent decade for Final Fantasy XV, but this new mobile tie-in may well take the cake.

I don't know where you were when they announced Final Fantasy XV, but me, I was right there at the Nokia Theater in Los Angeles, watching the future unfold before my eyes at Square Enix's E3 announcement event.

The far future, as it turned out. That was back in 2006, and here we are a decade later and the game is finally about to ship. (Barring any further delays, of course.) Of course, back then we didn't call it "Final Fantasy XV," because Final Fantasy XIII was still four years away. No, back in the olden times we called it "Final Fantasy Versus XIII."

Square Enix was wild back then. Unpredictable. Prone to announcing a new game that was actually three games, two of which would be totally renamed after years of delays and become standalone titles. Despite somehow sharing a cosmology in common with each other, even if that's never really explained.

Listen, it's complicated, OK? Much like our relationship with Final Fantasy XV.

Still, none of the game's ups and downs over the past 10 years — which include getting a new name, a new director, a new look, new play mechanics, multiple demos, a new leading lady, seemingly a new storyline, its own fashion line (now rendered irrelevant by the various other changes that have happened along the way), and a ton of tangential media products — could have prepared me for the total oddity that is its newly announced tie-in, a mobile title called King's Knight: Wrath of the Dark Dragon. Here, soak in it for a moment:

Yeah, that's right. They've dredged up an old NES game (King's Knight, one of the two game Squaresoft published for NES in America), turned it into a modern-style mobile game, and branded it as a spin-off of XV. Based on the trailer, it looks as though King's Knight is a game that exists within the world of FFXV, like Triple Triad was with Final Fantasy VIII. This does raise the question of why they couldn't have given us a full-fledged Triple Triad mobile release instead, but it also introduces the real stumper: Why King's Knight?

The answer, I suppose, is that it was Square's first action-RPG to star four characters... making it, in its own weird way, a predecessor to FFXV. The announcement trailer plays up the greatness of King's Knight a bit much, saying it invented the "formation RPG" when frankly it was just a shooter featuring multiple characters you controlled simultaneously. All it "invented" was mixing the formation strategy of Bokosuka Wars with the captive-ship mechanic of Galaga. And it's not like King's Knight inspired a burgeoning genre. What was there afterwards? Mercenary Force, I guess? A cool game, but not exactly the big time...

But whatever. The point is, this seems like a really strange choice for a marketing spin-off of FFXV... and that's why I love it. Square Enix has a lot riding on FFXV, and they're really pushing it hard. But instead of taking the safe, predictable route of other triple-A games, they've taken the strange route. They're making all those oddball FFXV VR apps we saw at E3, and now they're doing things like, say, taking an obscure NES shooter and turning it into a mobile app (complete with a gatcha-style lottery character element, it appears). And trying to burnish history to make said NES shooter look like some sort of forgotten masterpiece.

Well, rock on, Square Enix. Stay weird.

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