While it’s still got a month to go before release in the West, Final Fantasy XV tie-in film Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV hit Japanese theaters this past weekend.
Kingsglaive is set before and during the start of Final Fantasy XV. After years of war with the Niflheim Empire, the small Kingdom of Lucis is now confined to a massive city-state protected by a magical barrier formed from the power of the world’s final giant crystal. While the king’s elite soldiers, the Kingsglaive, have been granted a small portion of the crystal’s magic, Niflheim’s advanced technology (and weaponization of the world’s wildlife) have proven more than a match for the magical warriors.
However, while the war looks to be at a stalemate, even King Regis himself knows that the power of the crystal is not infinite and will one day fail. So when a peace envoy comes from Niflheim with terms for a truce–an official annexation of all conquered Lucis territory and the marriage of Prince Noctis (the main character of Final Fantasy XV) to Lunafreya, his childhood friend and the princess of one of Niflheim’s previously conquered kingdoms–the King accepts.
This is the setting of Final Fantasy XV: a small yet powerful kingdom on the edge of collapse. It is not a simple battle of good versus evil. While Niflheim is obviously expansionist and warlike, they aren’t monsters. In fact, the general population of Lucis seems to long for peace more than anything else, with many finding King Regis’ wartime rule too oppressive to bear. It’s not just his citizens that have become traitorous but members of the Kingsglaive as well. And by sending his son away on “a road trip” in the days before the peace treaty signing, the King makes the soldiers feel like their lives are unimportant–that the King’s real priority is the safety of his son and not the prosperity of his people.
Enter Nyx, a member of the Kingsglaive who, after disobeying an order to retreat in order to save a member of his unit, finds himself in disfavor despite his fighting skills. Nyx isn’t really interested in the political drama surrounding the war and treaty signing. He cares first and foremost about the members of his unit, the only family he really has. He’ll fight to protect them, and that means fighting for King Regis, whatever political decisions he makes.
Yet with the impending treaty, Nyx finds his unit split up and sent on various missions. His own is to protect Prince Noctis’ bride-to-be Lunafreya. It soon becomes apparent that the treaty and wedding may be part of a Niflheim-penned plot for conquest rather than negotiated peace, leaving Nyx and Lunafreya as the only ones in a position to prevent total disaster.
When it comes down to it, Kingsglaive is action movie meets political thriller. What’s great about this setup is that the characters are smart but not too smart, giving you the feeling that while the villains may always be one step ahead, our heroes are always on the edge of catching up.
Nyx and Lunafreya are both likeable characters. Nyx is your standard action hero: a good heart with a tragic past. Lunafreya is a strong woman. While not a fighter in any shape or form, she is brave under pressure and always takes action if possible, never content to simply wait if there is anything she can do. Nyx quickly comes to respect her and so does the audience. They make a good platonic pair and show that not every male/female pairing has to be a romantic one.
The other major aspect of the film is the visuals. It is amazing looking CG with a depth of detail rarely seen anywhere else. Most of the magic seen in the film comes from the Kingsglaive’s soldiers’ magical ability to throw a special knife and then teleport to its location. This visual effect looks great, and a ton of thought has been put into how to fight using such a power. The fights are pure eye candy.
However, the visual presentation isn’t perfect. If the film has one flaw, it’s that it can be hard to follow what’s going on action-wise during some of the big fight scenes. Both heroes and villains tend to wear black, with the main heroes all wearing the same uniform and sporting the same hair color (outside of Lunafreya). This means that, in many scenes, you can’t tell who is who without a close-up. Add to that constant teleportation, shaky-cam, and the fact that two of the major battles are set at night, and you can understand how it’s more than a little possible to get lost in the midst of the explosions and flashy particle effects.
In the end, Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV does its job well. It sets up the situation of the greater world as well as the Kingdom of Lucis specifically. It likewise shows the viewer important events that would be hard to show in the game as Noctis is already away on his road trip when they happen. Lastly, it gives a great introduction to Lunafreya, showing us why she’s not only important to the story, but a character we should get behind.
However, the film does have one interesting side effect: I care way more about Nyx now than I suspect I ever will about Noctis. But I guess that means the film simply did that part of its job a little too well.
Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV was released in Japanese theaters on July 9, 2016, in Japan. It will be released in the US on August 19, 2016.