Noctis drains his fifth elixir in as many minutes, rising to his feet as Prompto, Gladio, and Ignis groan on the ground. The aramusha lurks silently, waiting. When Noctis stands, the monster makes ready, body crouched, bony hand on the hilt of its egregiously long sword.
“Can’t take much more of this.” Noctis thinks to himself, looking beyond the aramusha to the tomb it is guarding. He wonders if the Royal Arm, the weapons of his forebears, is worth the beating he’s taking to reach it.
He weighs his thoughts a second too long. The aramusha unsheathes its sword like a lighting strike. As it pierces Noctis’ shoulder his arm falls limp and useless.
“Yeah, definitely not worth it.”
I have just one day left to complete Final Fantasy XV before it leaves Xbox Game Pass, and completing the Royal Arms collection is now off the table. I got my arse beat so badly it drained my stock of curatives, and replenishing them wiped out all my money because monsters don’t award gil and I’ve completed every quest the high-rolling picture guy had to give.
So I’m broke again. Yay!
I could’ve gone on some hunts, but hunts take time, and time is a luxury I lack if I’m going to complete the game and the remaining two character DLCs (Ignis and Ardyn) before 11:59 p.m. tonight. Though I am pressed for time, I feel confident I can complete my epic quest before the buzzer. Now my thoughts swirl around whether or not it’s worth it to purchase the game outright to maybe take another crack at the aramusha and whatever horrors await me in Costlemark Tower and the optional Pitioss Ruins dungeon. Still haven’t decided, but signs point to yes.
Humbled by my failure, I decided to pop out of Final Fantasy XV proper and into one of the character episodes. Gladiolus was boring and Ignis and Ardyn spoil the ending, leaving Episode Prompto . Since Episode Gladiolus was so disappointing, I had no expectations for Episode Prompto. But since I at least liked Prompto as a character more than Gladio, I thought I’d soldier through whatever potential suckage for his sake.
I needn’t have worried.
There’s a Prompto in everyone’s friend group. They’re the happy-go-lucky, just-happy-to-be-here, boundless optimism kind of person. (And if you don’t have one in your friend group, you’re either the Prompto yourself or you need to get you one ASAP — they’re great.) He’s the Chocobros’ picture taker, capturing beautiful shots and taking frequent selfies.
So of course he’s the most emotionally fragile member of the bunch, the happiest looking ones almost always invariably are. Very late in the game (and seemingly out of nowhere) the game drops the bombshell that Prompto is not a normal Lucian and is the result of the evil Nifelheim empire’s experimentation with cloning super soldiers. (Literally the plot of the Star Wars: The Clone Wars cartoon.) Prompto was stolen from the laboratory that created him and raised by foster parents in Lucis, where he met and became fast friends with Noctis. (You can watch the prequel anime for more on that.)
Prompto’s unsavoury origin is the source of all his insecurities. “Do these people want me around? Or do they secretly hate me because they know what I am?” Those insecurities boil over into full-on self-loathing when, because of a dirty trick by Ardyn, Noctis attacks Prompto, resulting in him getting separated from the group. Thus begins his side-story.
From the start, Episode Prompto is leagues ahead of Episode Gladiolus because Prompto brings guns to the knife fight. While everyone is swinging swords and slinging knives, Prompto decides he’s not with the bullshit and just rolls up to the function with a gat. He is the smartest motherfucker of the four.
There isn’t really anything revolutionary to Prompto’s shooting ability. It doesn’t feel particularly great; it’s actually kinda clunky, but because it’s a Final Fantasy game — a series known more for it’s sword-and-board high fantasy — shooting shit up is a refreshing change of pace. Prompto can pick up different kinds of guns in addition to the standard revolver he uses in FF15 proper, as well as grenades and a sword he can get up close and personal with. He’s like if Solid Snake found himself in Eos and Final Fantasy suddenly pivoted into Metal Gear Solid — with just as much emotion as a Metal Gear Solid game can manifest.
That’s to say, I was not prepared for how deep into the feels Episode Prompto was going to get. I certainly didn’t expect to powerfully identify with this waifish, blonde, white boy. But I often feel exactly like he does. When I am my enthusiastic, sarcastic, random self, there’s a darker thought in the back of my head asking “Am I being annoying? Am I being too much?” I wonder if my friends genuinely do like having me in their orbit or if I’m just tolerated. “Am I really wanted here, or am I just here moving next to them, but not with them?” When Noctis knocked him off that train, for Prompto it was confirmation that “oh, they really do hate me,” and my heart broke for him.
Though I understand why, I’m miffed this side-story wasn’t enmeshed in the full game. When you’ve seen the utter self-loathing Prompto was struggling with before, the moment when he reveals his secret to the rest and they just brush it off like “whatever bro, we love you anyway let’s go,” enjoys a much stronger payoff. It’s a powerful moment undercut by the weirdness with which these episodes were deployed.
Tonight is officially my final day of play. I’m going to finish the main game, then Episodes Ignis and Ardyn, and then I’ll be done. I will have done it. The monster will be slain and the victory fanfare will play.
The aramusha lets loose a death wail as Noctis’ blade slides free of its back. The monster falls and crumbles into slowly disintegrating red dust. Everyone collapses, crushed under the weight of their exhaustion and their relief the monster’s finally gone. Prompto is tired too, but as he looks at his friends, he understands what his purpose is. He cannot succumb to exhaustion, not yet.
Somehow, someway, Prompto reaches deep and extracts the last bit of energy he has to leap into the air, singing with glee.
“Dah da da da, duh duh, da da da!”
Everyone laughs, burdens lifted.