Before getting into this, I want to issue a spoiler alert for the Final Fantasy series in its entirety. I’ll be making references to end-game plot points as well as the finer details through the bulk this article relating mostly to Final Fantasy XV, but I will also be presenting details from other games to help provide context. If you haven’t played these games and wish to do so, I do advise coming back once you have completed them. If spoilers don’t bother you or if you have already soldiered through the games, then by all means continue.
I love Final Fantasy…for the most part. My family was largely nomadic due to my parents both serving in the military so we rarely laid down roots and we rarely went out of our way to buy anything that would distract us from our education. When you move state-to-state every one to three years, it’s just not practical to put kids into a public school just to yank them out again some several months later. For the majority of my young life I was privately educated or homeschooled, so video games were a definite no-no for our household. The majority of my exposure came from going to friends’ homes and watching them play. The first time I encountered Final Fantasy was in the 8th grade.
He booted up Final Fantasy IX and was in the middle of the Black Mage Village. To this day, the theme of that area is among my favorites. I was instantly curious. The character designs were fascinating, the music was beautiful, and the narrative was powerful. I loved the character growth of each of the cast members and the world itself had me thirsty for my own experience in the universe of Final Fantasy. A few years later, I finally got a PlayStation 2 for my birthday and the first thing that I did was run out and hunt down as many RPGs as possible. Among the top games on my list was Final Fantasy IX. It took some time to track down a usable quartet of disks, but when I finally had a working copy I was hooked. From there I hunted down what older games I could find and was often first in line to preorder the next one. Granted, I feel as though XII, IV, and XV are the only games that come close to IX’s level of quality, but it’s because I believe those games hold the strongest narrative for me as a Christian player.
Final Fantasy has a spotty history in regards to the topic of religion. In earlier games, there was very little narrative relating directly to the church or God himself. There have always been vague references, but nothing that could be easily reflected into our world as even whispers of references to established faiths. The original games were frankly very basic in their story structure. There’s a bad force, there’s a bunch of good guys, there’s elemental crystals that restore balance—go do the thing. IV‘s narrative touched on a lot of spiritual elements such as redemption, repentance, and sacrifice but again, a direct relation to religion was barely hinted at.
The franchise’s none-too-flattering depiction of religion most directly comes out of the woodwork of Final Fantasy VI, though it’s reserved for the final confrontation with Kefka. At the time of the final confrontation, Kefka has successfully turned the world into a wasteland and has essentially become a god, as he is the source of all power and magic. When your party enters the final battle, Kefka takes on several forms, each of them heavily inspired by religious themes, until he takes on the form of an angelic figure. Mind, his final form can be easily likened to Satan himself, as Satan was a fallen angel who was fair in appearance, but it’s one of his previous forms that raises the most eyebrows with Christians. In the English version of the game, this stage is called “Lady” and “Rest,” whereas the Japanese versions are “Lady” “Maria.” The sprite very closely resembles Michelangelo’s Pieta. For those not versed in Renaissance artwork, this is a famous sculpture of the Virgin Mary holding her crucified son shortly after his body was removed from the cross. The reference isn’t subtle in the slightest. Prior to the “Lady” and “Rest” form, Kefka takes on a form that reflects more renaissance art depictions of souls in purgatory. Essentially, your final boss in Final Fantasy VI is a twisted implication of defeating God himself and returning power to humanity.
Once Final Fantasy entered the double-digits, however, the church suddenly became the central focus of many of their mainstream games. The entire plot of Final Fantasy X revolves around corruption within the church with the main antagonist being a pope-like figure at the head of a church that discourages science and progress. The end-game is to overthrow this religion to “liberate” the people of the world from it and an entity known as “Sin.” (Mind, that’s over-simplifying it a bit, but this article isn’t about X.) Yes, Square wasn’t exactly subtle in the slightest. XII had some none too flattering implications against religion as well, but they were toned down and reserved for a very brief moment towards the end. Much of XII focused on political corruption. Then we come to the abomination that is FFXIII where you have to bear down and suffer through three full sized games to see the story in its entirety.
I’ll not go into detail, but the long and short of it is that in FFXIII the over-arching theme is killing a god-like figure—once again—and having a new world order established. XIII is almost too blasphemous in content to stomach through for most believers. Ironically, even those on the other side of the religious fence found it overly preachy, far too patronizing, and most fans consider both XIII and X to be poor excuses for Final Fantasy games. There’s a reason why these games frequently haunt the discount bins.
Whether or not the shift from negative religious under and over-tones was intentional is up to anyone’s guess, but Final Fantasy XV seems to have shrugged off the past hostility towards Christian themes and has moved forward in a very positive direction. The references aren’t at all subtle, at least not to a believer, and for once I felt like Square may have been reaching out to a chunk of their community that they’d put into a corner for so long.
One of the largest plot points of Final Fantasy XV is the marriage of Prince Noctis to Lady Lunafreya. The two were close in childhood and while they were betrothed from a young age, neither seemed at all unhappy by their destined union. They share a tender relationship that matures and deepens as the two grow older. When they are separated, both Noctis and Luna continue to communicate by entrusting their small dog, Umbra, with a notebook that it carries from one individual to the other. Noctis is generally reserved when it comes to his emotions, but in regards to Luna, his deep and loving side peeks out.
Luna’s role in the game is to commune with the gods in order to assist Noctis in his journey and to serve as the oracle- or a figurehead of faith. In essence, she represents the church of her world. She’s the youngest Oracle in history and destined to help clear the way for Noctis’ ascension to his throne. To complicate matters, her older brother, Ravus, felt deeply wronged by Noctis’ father and seeks to block the prince’s return to his throne and instead impose the rule of Tenebrae over the land, replacing that of Lucis.
In many ways, Lunafreya can be likened to the image of the Bride of Christ. Many Biblical scholars and theologians will argue to the teeth who the true identify of the bride is, but the general school of thought is that she can represent Israel, the Church, or Israel AND the Church. As Israel, the Bride bears the seed that will eventually bring forth the Savior—it’s her job to pave the way for the return of the true king. Similarly, the church’s purpose on Earth is to make ready for the return of the King. She communes directly with God through much of the Old Testament through Moses, Abraham, and onward.
Like Israel, Luna is cut away from her future groom. In Luna’s case, their separation is a result of her death though through no fault of her; ironically she is killed at the hands (…or…fins?) of Levithan, a great serpent. In Israel’s case, the nation found itself turning away from God time and time again, believing the serpent’s lies, until God could no longer exist among them as he had in the past within the holy of holies or within the ark of the covenant. Sin separated God from his bride, but he was unwilling to let her go. He sent his son to die for us, bridging the gap of separation (death) and promising a day when he and his bride would be reunited again beyond death’s grasp to rule over a bright, new kingdom.
In the conclusion of Final Fantasy XV Noctis gives up his own life to put an end to the evil and darkness plaguing the land, restoring the light to the world. The very last scene shows prince Noctis on his throne with his bride laying happily at his side—both now well beyond death’s grasp. As bittersweet as the ending is, it has heavy reflections of Christ and his church. We were separated from God because of our sin, and as a result the world was plagued by death and darkness. Only through his love and his sacrifice will the world become a bright place once more, and only through his death on the cross are we able to wipe away our sins to be united with him again.
Like Noctis, Jesus had an “inner three” within his apostles that he seemed to draw closest to. He singles them out several times in scripture. Most notably, he singles them out in the Garden of Gethsemane the night he is to be arrested to take comfort in them (Matt 26:38). Mind, this inner three was James, John, and Peter, but I feel as though one of the bros was more of a composite of James and Luke.
Instead, I couldn’t help but relate Ignis to the Apostle Luke first and foremost. Luke was a doctor, an intellect, and had a very keen eye for detail. Luke served as a physician not only to the people that they encountered, but to the apostles themselves. He was a very close to Paul who spoke vaguely of a “thorn in his flesh” and an unspecified illness that he suffered from. It’s likely that Luke spent a lot of his time looking after the physical well-being of his companions both spiritually and physically. He was a man of science and offered insight that the others overlooked. Even his Gospel includes details that only the trained eye of a physician would take note of. For example, he’s the only one to record that Jesus was circumcised on the eighth day. He spent time speaking with people who were eyewitnesses to events he wasn’t present for, and he carefully recorded his findings. In short, Luke was a bit of a nerd, the caretaker of the group, and served as a keen observer.
However, there are reflections of James within Ignis’ role within the group. James was the voice of reason within the inner circle where Peter and John were both a little too eager to open their mouths. James was passionate, but he wasn’t easily aroused to anger. He seemed to take time to observe, more than speak. Sadly, there’s not a lot known about James. Luke, however, seems to fill in the gaps in Iggy’s role within the group.
In many ways, Ignis is the group’s Luke. He’s a cook but he’s also a caretaker, a well-educated man, and he’s often the first to make observations about the group’s situation, enemy, or even the physical state of one of his companions. Most of his skills revolve around healing, his special ability is cooking and providing meals, and he serves as the voice of reason among the group. Even when he loses his eyesight, Ignis finds a way to be of use using his knowledge of science and the world around him.
Then there’s Gladio, the short-tempered bear of a man who serves as Noctis’ primary protector. He frequently takes lumps for the young king, but he’s just as quick to reprimand or question his actions. When Ignis is struck blind from his wounds, Gladio becomes outright hostile towards Noctis out of his frustration. Even in his anger, he’s faithful to his king and will be the first to step between him and danger. In many ways, Gladio was the Peter of the group.
Peter was…not very bright. He was a bit of an oaf, often being the first to ask Jesus to explain himself or his stories. He was a fishermen which likely meant that he was somewhat rough around the edges, common, and imposing. He, and his brother James, was nicknamed one of the “Sons of Thunder” (Mark 3:17) which could reference his temper. That would certainly make sense given that he was also the one to pull out a sword when his Lord was put in danger. At one point he even lops a man’s ear off in his anger. He even gets frustrated with Jesus, questioning him at times, and often let his mouth run ahead of his mind. All things considered, Peter was faithful—even if he had his faults. He was perhaps the most bold of the apostles, rejoicing even as he was beaten and tortured.
And finally there’s “the disciple whom Jesus loved,” referring to the apostle John. John was the only apostle to actually witness Jesus’ crucifixion and following the sacrifice of the Lord, he accompanied his mother, Mary, back home to care for her. (John 19:25-27) It was said that John was a bit of a hot-head with a hair’s trigger on his temper, but he was also something of a bumpkin. He, too, was a fishermen, which is about as common as one could get in trade. John was originally a follower of John the Baptist, already eagerly seeking out God. He seemed to be on fire for the Lord, often blowing things out of proportion and taking grave insult at anyone who refused hospitality or didn’t pay the proper respect to the Jesus. He clearly had a lot of energy and was fiercely devoted to Christ, sharing a special relationship with him that went beyond their bond of being cousins.
Likewise, Prompto is Noctis’ best friend. He’s less formal than the other two, but it’s because he is first and foremost a friend to Noctis. He has no official reason to be there, he’s just devoted to his friend. Prompto doesn’t exactly have a temper, but he is an emotional young man that wears his heart on his sleeve. His mouth often gets away from him and he ends up tripping over himself. Regardless, he’s something of a peace keeper among the group. He indulges in taking photos of his friends because, above all, he values the relationship they share.
The King of Kings
“In a time unknown, only a prophecy keeps hope alive in people’s hearts. ‘When darkness veils the world, the King of Light shall come.’
―Prophecy in the land of Eos, Final Fantasy XV
Having a Christ-like figure in media has become increasingly common, especially in games like Tales of Zestiria and even in the more recent Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. However, the references in Final Fantasy XV eluding to Noctis as this figure are hardly subtle. More than once he is referred to as the “King of Kings” and “The Sun.” He is aware of his great destiny; though he may not know the ultimate conclusion of it, but he carries on without hesitation.
Noctis is sent into the world right as his own kingdom falls under attack. Just as Jesus’ parents were sent to flee from certain death, Noctis’ father ensures his son’s survival by sending him out onto the road just days before he meets his own end. It’s Noctis’ destiny to return to his fallen kingdom, restore the light, and save mankind from the darkness ever growing in their world, both in a literal and a figurative sense. Even with this great destiny looming over him, Noctis remains an exceedingly compassionate individual. He frequently stops to help the common people broken down on the side of the road, suffering from injury, and at one point he even goes out of his way to find a meal for a hungry stray cat. He never boasts his status, and in fact he presents himself as “one of the guys.” He sleeps on the ground in tents, slummy hotels, and dines at common places along the road without so much as batting an eye. He’s a king, but he’s also there relating to the most common individual. He’s not above helping others, even as his own destiny is bearing down on his shoulders.
Another interesting detail of note is the royal arms. There are thirteen in total—twelve that once belonged to former kings and one that was handed down from Noctis’ father himself. Each of the weapons has a title such as “Sword of the Wise,” “Axe of the Conqueror,” etc. Each of the weapons can be likened to one of the twelve apostles in their simple explanation and the “summery” traits of the apostles. Judas, for example, could easily be reflected by the Star of the Rogue as it was Judas who turned away and, not to put too fine a point on it, went rogue. The final weapon received is the Sword of the Father—a weapon passed from Father to son. While most weapons are obtained through the main story line, others are off the beaten path and must be sought out.
Another clear moment in the game that defines Noctis’ role as the Christ-figure in the game is the final supper that he shares with his friends. Again, the imagery is hardly subtle. At this point in the game, the world is swallowed up in darkness. Noctis knows that he is to lay his life down for the sake of the world. He’s terrified and tearful, even saying that it’s almost too much for him to bear. However, he won’t be swayed from what must be done. At this point in the game he has submitted himself and will show obedience to what has been asked of him. He sits down with his friends one last time to enjoy a meal with them. He expresses his love for them, opening himself up emotionally and pouring his heart out. It’s a very powerful moment that screams the last supper where Jesus discusses his fate with his friends and enjoys one last meal with them.
Finally, Noctis’ final sacrifice is rich with symbolism. Noctis has done nothing wrong up to this point to deserve his fate. He’s largely innocent, having dedicated his life to helping others and learning to become not only a good king, but a good person as well. In the end, he’s confronted with his fate and knows that in order to redeem the world he must lay his life down. He does so in his final confrontation and the throne that was meant to seat a king becomes the altar of his sacrifice. As Noctis fades, his father’s spirit is shown with his back turned on him, unable to watch his own son’s final moments. He goes to his fate alone, just as Christ did, with his men standing outside and his father’s face turned away. When evil was overcome, we see two final scenes: The first shows Noctis now enthroned with his bride at his side, and the second shows the sun rising after years of darkness.
Final Fantasy XV isn’t shy in focusing on Noctis’ character either. He is brave, compassionate, and kindly but it’s his passion that shines through in the final chapters of the game. He’s shown to be suffering mentally, physically, and spiritually. His body is badly battered and broken, his eyes are full of tears, and it’s clear that he’s afraid of what’s to come. However, even in his final fight, he doesn’t show any hostility or resentment towards the one that put him on the road to his own death. Even his last words, “It’s finally over” are a reflection of Christ’s last words, “It is finished.”
Final Fantasy XV is perhaps one of the only, if not the only, game in which the heroes who are destined to die or suffer for the sake of their worlds do not question or fight it. Many games have the overlaying theme of challenging fate, fighting the will of the gods, or trying to alter the course of their destiny. Even my favorite RPG series, Suikoden, has as its main tagline, “Can fate be changed?” In Final Fantasy both Noctis and Luna are called to sacrifice. Both are grieved and burdened, perhaps even fearful, but neither one questions their calling. Their show of faith, passion, and love radiates the values of God himself. Like Luna, the church is called to stand as a pillar of faith, proclaiming the good news of the true king to come and making ready his bride. Like Noctis, Christ’s focus is to be united with his bride once again, never to be separated. He was willing to take the role of a servant, to suffer, and to die in order to wipe the darkness away and make a future with his bride possible in a place far beyond the reach of evil, sin, and even death itself.
I’ll admit that at first I wasn’t a fan of the ending. I have a hard time stomaching anything where the characters I’ve grown to love die after watching them suffer. I want to see a happy ending; I want to see them restore their world and be rewarded for everything they lost. In taking a second look and doing my research for this article I realize that I was falling into the trap that FFX and XIII had painted. The heroes could never achieve that happy ending on their own because they, like the rest of the world, are flawed. FFXV’s ending is a happy ending reflecting the future that Christ died to offer to us. The bride and the groom will be reunited as Christ takes his rightful place on the throne and the sun will rise over a world that will never again know the shadow of death.
I would like to thank Adele Lorienne for allowing us use of her fantastic artwork as our featured image!
You might also like
Saturday, December 17, 2016 is a date I will remember fondly for the rest of my life. Rogue One had been out for a week, so the midnight release crowd would be thinning out, which would make the theatrical experience more relaxed (those last few minutes, [...]
Batman wouldn’t be half the worldwide phenomenon he is without his rogues gallery of carefully crafted supervillains. In fact, sometimes the colorful criminal element of Gotham gets just as much attention as the Dark Knight. The Joker, who is Batman’s [...]
(This is a piece I wrote after a sermon I heard on the freedom of Christ; how he is able to break our bondage from even the fiercest sins. We often forget we’ve been made saints through Jesus’ sacrifice; he is able to release us even while we [...]