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Some thoughts on FFXV - Tale vs Story (SPOILERS)

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Hey everyone,

I know that we have a thread about Final Fantasy XV in general already, but I'd like to discuss something very specific about it and address the most recent Premiere Run.

So, those of you who were watching the stream yesterday as the game wrapped up know that The Lorerunner gave the game a minus to story for resembling what he considers a tale, rather than a story. This is no big deal, obviously; this thread is not about agreeing or disagreeing with that minus. I might be mistaken, but I think The Lorerunner got the impression that some of the disagreements with that were a bit ... heated or confrontational. Now the reason why I bring this up is that I initially couldn't quite put my finger on what exactly The Lorerunner meant by Tale vs Story and how it relates to FFXV in particular, like perhaps some other viewers. But I just watched a movie called "Kubo and the Two Strings" which led me to give the topic some more thought, and I think I understand the Lich King better now.

First of all, I don't know how broadly the juxtaposition of tale and story as well as this specific usage of the terminology is, but I'll adopt it for the sake of this write-up. Keep in mind that the following is completely my personal take and opinion on the matter and has no academic merit whatsoever.

A good example for tales are ancient legends, like the ones combined in Journey to the West, or some well-known fairy tales (which is ironic maybe, because it includes the word "tale", yet many of them wouldn't actually fit this description). What's maybe significant about tales is that their plot is just a means but not an end in and of themselves. The plot serves to convey a message, much more so than in other stories. In the case of Kubo and the Two Strings, which is probably a textbook example of a tale, I'll quote The Atlantic's Lenika Cruz:

Kubo offers visceral thrills and visual splendor, but it also champions the importance of kindness, forgiveness, and embracing humanity's many imperfections.

These messages are conveyed through powerful story-telling in the movie. Everything about the plot serves to make sure their meaning comes across. What's less important to the writers in this case, however, is to make sure the world feels believable. Obviously you don't want a setting and events that feel completely outlandish. The viewer needs to be able to relate with it to some extent. But to explore the setting and to justify and explain the magical powers that bring the plot into motion is secondary at best. It's not viewed as nearly as important as the message(s).

This obviously doesn't mean that other stories don't have messages, but I would argue that they're usually not as overt. If you look at Final Fantasy XV, it would be easy to say the message is: friendship is awesome! But that is really more of a theme than it is a message. If it is a message, it is rather vague, simple and perhaps superficial compared to Kubo and the Two Strings. If you want to find proper meaning, and perhaps it has to do with friendship, you have to dig a little deeper than that and look beyond the surface and what's immediately apparent. This is not the case with Kubo, for example. You finish watching the movie and instantly know what it intended to get across. In fact, you even find out about most of it during the second act of it and are able to predict later plot points as a result. But that is not a big deal. Again, it is about the message and how the message is conveyed first and foremost.

Now, let's bring this back to Final Fantasy XV. I personally wouldn't go so far as to say that the game is a tale rather than a (different kind of) story. But what is true, and this is where I agree with The Lorerunner, is that it shares characteristics of a tale. It is probably nonsensical to attempt to categorize every fictional story ever made into either tale or non-tale. Perhaps it is more of a continuum than it is a clear distinction. But it does seem to me that Lore is right when he argues that FFXV shares more similarities with a tale than most other Final Fantasy games. It has to do with how the setting is explored, or more specifically, how it is not explored.

This isn't to say that the plot is nonsensical, not at all, but when you try to follow the plot of Final Fantasy XV, some questions have to be raised - questions like the one we tried to answer yesterday: Why does Noctis have to sacrifice himself? We can somewhat answer that. Combining the might of his ancestors results in magic that is too dense and too powerful for his body to withstand. Okay, fine. But why does Noctis have to do it in the first place? Can't one of the Astrals absorb that power in his place? Wouldn't an Astral be able to withstand that magic? Maybe Astrals aren't compatible with the power of the kings. But doesn't that power originate from the Six? In fact, if it does, wouldn't they be able to take away the power they originally gifted Ardyn to make Noctis' life easier? Or maybe the power of kings originated from the crystal, rather than the Six. But aren't the crystal and the Six connected? Who forged that ring that made a unity between humanity and the crystals possible? Can it be replaced? What does the crystal's power have to do with the setting and rising of the sun? And isn't it day at least somewhere on the planet at all times? Unless the setting is so completely different that it doesn't even involve a planet orbiting a giant gas star.

These are a lot of questions, and there are more. They don't represent plot holes, because they're not necessarily evident of an internal contradiction of logic. As such they don't diminish the quality of the work. But these questions resemble a lack of knowledge. Perhaps they can be answered, but the answers are not immediately apparent, at least not in the game itself. The player has to connect the dots themselves, and there are quite a few dots to the point where the best explanation is perhaps: That is just how magic works in this setting; that's just how things are. And this is where the connection to tales comes into place. The writers don't consider it a priority to make sure certain elements of the story are believable, just like it is commonplace in tales, most importantly everything magical about it. That is not in and of itself a negative, but it is at odds with the rather mundane and otherwise very authentic world of the game. It feels out of place, and that I see now.

Anyway, that's my two cents on the topic. I loved the Premiere Run (still am, technically). And I loved this game, too!

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A bit late to this but I don't check in on these forums too frequently, so I hope you'll pardon my delayed intrusion.

For me a tale is more about echoing familiar beats than, well, telling its own story. In a tale, the actual details don't matter--what matters is the gist. This allows tales to be more liberal with how they depict events, it allows them to be surreal or even contradictory.

What makes Final Fantasy XV a bit of an odd duck is that it contains elements of both tales and stories. It wasn't to be surreal and fantastical like a tale... but also wants to really dig into the nitty-gritty details. This is in part a natural extension of the fundamental premise of the game: to render the fantastical magical elements of the classic Final Fantasy games in a realistic universe. Of course the two don't really mesh well together... because they were never meant to mesh well together, and are in fact two completely antithetical concepts.

You can't by mysterious *and* surreal *and* intricately detailed *and* logically coherent all at once. It just ain't doable.

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