There's one big plot point left ambiguous at the end of Final Fantasy XV, so I thought I'd ask director Hajime Tabata about it. In an interview earlier this month, he offered some helpful clarification, also acknowledging that the game's story was a bit... messy.
Final Fantasy XV concludes in tragedy, as the protagonist, Noctis, sacrifices his life to prevent the antagonist, Ardyn, from completely destroying the world.
The last thing we see is an image of Noctis and his bride-to-be, Luna, kissing in the afterlife. What we don't see is what happened to Noctis's friends: Gladiolus, Prompto, and Ignis.
When Noctis goes after Ardyn, they stay behind, fighting off a wave of powerful monsters in what appears to be a sacrificial last stand.
Well, Tabata says they're alive. And although he said we probably won't see any future downloadable content that shows what happens to Gladiolus, Prompto, and Ignis after the credits roll, he did assure me that their ending is not going to be happy.
"Obviously it's very hard to pinpoint what exactly makes a certain person or character happy," Tabata said, speaking through a translator. "The fact that they were a party of four and one of the party is no longer there, it will probably be hard to say that they're fully happy.
That said, they needed to do what they needed to do, so they had that sense of purpose. And I'm sure they're very proud of what they have achieved and what they have overcome. So in that sense maybe that overlaps with how we feel towards the game itself."
As for the game's other loose threads? Well, Tabata wouldn't tell me who Noctis's mother is, hinting that that might be a plot point in the future. ("I can't say right now.")
He also didn't have much to say about why the gang cared so much about our dearly departed friend Jared, pointing out that the focus of that bizarre scene should have really been on Jared's grandson, Talcott, in whom Noctis sees some of his own pain.
Even Final Fantasy XV's staunchest defenders — of which I am one — would agree that the game's story felt messy and incomplete.
Tabata agrees. "Understandably within the main game there were certain aspects that lacked explanation, and that's been some of the feedback we received from fans," he said.
So I asked a question that many fans have been asking: Were those narrative deficiencies because of Versus XIII, the original incarnation of FFXV that was then rebooted and handed to Tabata in 2013? Was Final Fantasy XV's story so scattered because Tabata had to salvage a plot that wasn't his?
"It has nothing really to do with Versus," Tabata said. "Of course creating this kind of grand adventure on PS4 and Xbox One, it's a hard task to accomplish.
In that sense, we probably lacked the strength, or abilities and skills, in order to really finish that in a complete sense. That isn't to say that this is a low achievement. We do consider what we've done to be a high achievement."
Tabata added that one of his goals through Final Fantasy XV's downloadable content — which will continue for an indeterminate time to come — was to patch plot holes and give players a better understanding of the game's story.
"We're continuously growing as developers as well," he said. "And so we're finally at a point where we're also able to try to challenge ourselves to tackle some of those missing pieces."
Episodes Gladiolus and Prompto came out earlier this year, with Episode Ignis to follow in December. Tabata hinted that there are more downloadable episodes to come soon — likely based on characters like Ardyn and Luna — and although he said he has an endpoint in mind for Final Fantasy XV, he wouldn't say when.
After that, he and his team will move on to a new IP, although we shouldn't expect to see that until the PlayStation 5 comes around. "We're not really thinking of this project for the current generation," he said, speaking of his next game.
"We're looking more toward the future. So there might be a little more time before anything comes out."