I remember my childhood quite fondly, and playing video games with my dad teaching me the in’s and out’s of Super Mario Bros, Castlevania, Sonic The Hedgehog, Vectorman and other 8 to 16-bit classic games was such a formative point in my life. I wouldn’t have been a nerd or a geek if it wasn’t for this time spent with my dad. In the years since, while I moved on to play way more immersive modern games like Uncharted, Resident Evil, Destiny, Metal Gear Solid and even the Final Fantasy series — which I’ll get to in a bit for the article’s namesake — my dad has stopped console gaming entirely and mostly just plays solitaire on his laptop due to growing old and his retirement. Yet he’ll still swing by to check me out as I play a heavy, cinematic game and sit there, watching it like a big budget movie; being only disgruntled, if I have to stop playing it. He’ll then continuously ask about the plot afterwards, wondering if I beat it or head to Youtube to watch a Let’s Play of it.
This brings me to below.
Two weeks ago, I started binge watching the new Netflix summer show, “Final Fantasy XIV: Dad Of Light” after having both knowledge of the show coming out this past summer and also having put a ton of hours into Final Fantasy XIV itself over the years. Immediately the feels hit me and the nostalgia kicked in for me. I was hooked!
Final Fantasy XIV: Dad Of Light revolves around the true Japanese story of Aiko [Yudai Chiba] and his no-nonsense workaholic dad, Hirotaro [Ren Osugi] who mysteriously quits his job and enters an early retirement. Due to Akio’s dad’s given nature, Hirotaro will not discuss why he retired to anyone and instead lives a hermit life at home. Eventually Akio [as his female Final Fantasy XIV avatar, “Maidy”] and his Guild devise a plan to get Hirotaro to play the game, befriend him, find out why he quit and eventually reveal to him that Maidy is really Akio the whole time after battling the toughest raid boss in the game, Twintania.
Along the way, Hirotaro gets so consumed by the MMO that it’s all he can think about much to the dismay of his wife and friends — not Aiko though, who’s just as easily, if not more, addicted to Final Fantasy XIV then his dad. Like father, like son. Hirotaro eventually becomes much more of a lovable character through the game, showing immense character growth out of everyone.
The entire series itself however, isn’t just based in the fictional world of Final Fantasy XIV’s Eorzea for Aiko and Hirotaro. The show also follows their every day life at home in Tokyo and even Aiko’s exploits at his office job as a printer salesmen, which brings much of the typical j-drama comedy you’ve come to expect with coworkers. There is also plenty of flashbacks too of a kid Aiko and a younger Hirotaro that intertwine with the present day stories to teach that episode’s lesson.
While the premise is rather out there for more western-influenced audiences, there is a strange fun charm to it all and you instantly become hypnotized, especially if you grew up within a situation like this; like I have… Where you had an older parent or even sibling — who no longer play themselves — introduced you to a certain game/genre of games and it’s the reason why you became a gamer, a nerd, a geek etc.
The reason why it became your life. There’s an innocence in that, which the show captures perfectly.
The draw back to the show is the actual Final Fantasy XIV in-game segments, which are presented as machinima using the game’s actual engine that millions still play and going strong in — which for playing the game is great, but to be presented as it is in the show, isn’t. I’m surprised Netflix and Square-Enix didn’t go out of there way to create unique cutscenes which is what Square-Enix is know for doing with three previous, big budget films based on the Final Fantasy series [Advent Children, Spirits Within & Kingsglave]. This is really the low point of the show, but strangely over time, you sorta get use to and go with it.
However, there is still plenty of good to be had in this show be it the way the character interact with each other, especially the two leads to even the side characters both real and digital, with their own ambitions are covered. The music of the series is exactly the same one used for Final Fantasy XIV, created by the series long time composer Nobuo Uematsu and can hit the right feels at the right moments. Also if you watched any previous j-drama/comedy, then you know what to expect of the humor and couldn’t ask for much more, it just fits.
So while the scope of the plot isn’t as grand as a typical Final Fantasy story, there is an innocence, weight and charm to the show and that keeps you hooked until the end. Each episode runs for a half-hour and it’s only 8 episodes long — with the 8th episode acting as a recap/epilogue for the Final Fantasy XIV Guild that Akio and Hirotaro are a part of. No stone is left unturned in Final Fantasy XIV: Dad Of Light, even though it skips over most of the games actual story and gives us the real world story instead.
Now, don’t be surprised if after watching this, you’ll want to either play Final Fantasy XIV or try to get older parent or sibling of yours to play a game or two with you like you once did years ago.