Possible Spoilers for Final Fantasy XIV
Imagine if you have 25-30 years worth of history and fanfare of a video game franchise, with an immense huge influential effect on the gaming world such that it becomes a household name of a video game series. With entries in the franchise so popular that the very mention of its name causes a lot of hype, excitement, and nostalgia.
Now also imagine, you have an MMORPG (Massive Multi-player Online Roleplaying Game) to release, the 14th entry in your franchise and you are given 13 entries’ past content and endless amount of future content to draw upon for your MMORPG. Do you ham it up, sell out and just go “HEY HEY REMEMBER THIS? EVERYBODY LIKED THIS LAST TIME, ITS OBVIOUSLY THIS CHARACTER YOU LOVE FROM THE 7TH ENTRY IN THIS ONLINE GAME NOW COME PLAY IT” or do you subtly include elements of the previous games in a famous video game franchise entry that is totally its own deal with its own plot and troubles and events?
Final Fantasy XIV (14) play their fanservice cards close to the vest, hearkening back to the good ol’ days of the previous entries by slipping in the nostalgia and fanservice at the proper places, enemy designs (some enemies are straight up 3D versions of old enemies from the older entries of the series), themes of certain factions (The Empire has magitek armour from FF6 for example but doesn’t make a show of teasing that its from there with a “HEY THIS IS FROM FF6” If you know its from FF6 then you know.)
They do not try to immediately go “HEY LOOK THE NEXT BOSS YOU HAVE TO FIGHT IS FROM FF7 THE MOST POPULAR ENTRY IN THE FRANCHISE”, even the latest boss as of this writing is a callback to the very first entry in the game that I would say only 1-5% of the MMORPG’s players have actually played. They don’t try to sell out immediately and go for the easy cringe route of just hype and nostalgia which don’t make sense for the 14th entry’s story.
The fanservice is subtle yet obvious enough for even casual fans of the other series to go “oh that magitek armour is from final fantasy 6”, “oh these dungeons enemies are from final fantasy 13” etc. Mounts and minions (little cute things that follow your character around) also not just have callbacks to the previous entries but also to the current one. Giving due effort, tribute and dedication to the game’s story and characters.
They did not let the previous 13 entries override what the 14th entry is about, a unique world of intrique, politics, hope, social issues and conflict. Its probably the only Final Fantasy that calls the one social situation in it what it really is, a “refugee situation”. Square Enix let Final Fantasy 14 be its own deal and tells its own story, deliver on its buildups and payoffs.
Why bring this up? With many easy cooperate cash in ways to make money from consumers like tasteless, shallow fanservice call backs, this is one good example of one that does overlabour into too much fanservice territory. One thing of note is that Square Enix does have Final Fantasy games that do the opposite of what I described, for the nostalgia, (Dissidia, Record Keeper, etc.) So they are not purely off the hook of banking on nostalgic fanservice for sure.
Final Fantasy XIV however avoids that for the most part, storytelling wise, and it’s something to commend and study how they avoid “cringestalgia” for video game franchise with so much history.