It looks like Final Fantasy XV will have lots of fellas. For some folks online, this is a problem.
In an interview with 4Gamer, Final Fantasy XV director Hajime Tabata said, "The party is men only. That hasn't changed since Final Fantasy Versus XIII."
That's why, for years now, we have been seeing images like this from the game.
Men, men, men, men.
Online, there are those who seemed disappointed that there are no playable female characters.
Though, not everyone is displeased.
Note: just because the game's party is a sausage party doesn't mean everyone you meet is a dude. There are of course female characters.
There seems to be a selection of gamers who want playable female characters in Final Fantasy XV — or, it seems, a female character in the party. There is definitely reasoning behind this: Besides the issues the gaming industry has had regarding its depiction of women, Final Fantasy has a long history of strong female characters. There are concerns that this game won't have that — perhaps, there are even worries that the female characters won't be that deep. There are also gamers who either want to play as a woman or have a woman in their party.
This isn't only Western gamers saying this, but as evident on Japanese blogs like Barukanlog or Twitter, there are Japanese gamers saying this as well.
"Besides Final Fantasy III for the Famicom, is this the only numbered FF entry with a male-only party?" asked one commenter on Barukanlog. Other comments seemed let down by all the men.
Online, there has also been some confusion over who will be playable in Final Fantasy XV. To be clear, Tabata also mentioned to 4Gamer that the only playable character in Final Fantasy XV is Noctis. According to Tabata, the party-play aspect, however, is based on tactical commands you give other characters, and then they act independently. In a separate interview, Tabata told Kotaku that the gameplay feels "very natural."
To review: The party is "only men," and the one character you control directly is Noctis.
Another Barukanlog commenter wondered if all the men were the result of female Final Fantasy players now outnumbering the male ones. Meaning? That a large cast of men were designed to appeal to Japanese women.
OK, there's a bit to unpack here. First, note that online in the West, there are people online saying that the male characters are feminine or look like a boy band. Perhaps! This isn't surprising within a Japanese context. Look at the country's boy bands and its legions of female fans.
(The above tweet reads: But the cast of FFXV looks somewhat like an otome game.)
Then, there is a history of handsome male-driven games being extremely popular with female gamers in Japan. Take Sengoku Basara, for example.
Then, there is also a history of fluidity with gender roles. Take kabuki theatre, for example. Men continue to play both the male and female roles, whether that's a tough samurai or an elegant geisha. Then, there is the all-women Japanese theatrical company the Takarazuka Revue, which for a hundred years has had its female actors play both the male roles and the female roles. Many of Takarzuka's fans are, well, women.
For decades now, all-male manga have been targeted at women. A classic example of this is the boys' love genre (yaoi), with male characters falling in love with each other.
(Above, a woman gamer writes: "It seemed like FFXV will send fujoshi into a frenzy.)
I don't know if Square Enix will go full yaoi. I somehow doubt it. However, part of the appeal of yaoi isn't just seeing two men kiss, but the freedom it gives its female readers. Japanese women can identify with whichever character they want, whether that's a dominant one or a passive one. Whatever. Because they are separated by gender, they are given more freedom to identify with the character, because they don't have to directly compare themselves or their appearance, like they might feel compelled to with female characters. In Japan, yaoi traditionally has not been about gay rights or gay issues, but uses the relationship between male characters to push the story even further into the realm of fantasy.
It goes without saying that fantasy is a big part of the FF appeal. Final Fantasy fans have long been aware of the dual masculine and feminine qualities of the characters. They're sometimes both male and female, and other times they are neither. Women cosplaying as male FF characters is a big part of Final Fantasy fandom in Japan and has been for some time now.
But this time around is different. There isn't a woman in the party — the complete opposite of Final Fantasy X-2, where there were only women in the party. It's a boys' club, which was how the game, it seems, was conceived. That doesn't make it right. It doesn't make it wrong. It just makes it part of the story. Now, whether or not that story works or can feel inclusive and draw an array of players in is an other matter entirely. The issue shouldn't be what gender makes up the party, but whether or not players give a damn about those characters or anyone else who appears in the game. Easier said than done.
スクエニ田畑端氏インタビュー『FF15』の完成度は50～55％ パーティは男性キャラのみ、など等 [Barukanlog]