Recently I bought Final Fantasy Type-0 HD. I did this not because I wanted to play it, but because buying it gave me access to the demo for Final Fantasy XV.
I love the Final Fantasy series, and Final Fantasy had a major impact on my life when I was having a tough time. I had no qualms about paying $90 for a game I didn't want so I could play the demo.
But once I finished the demo I was very, very worried about how Final Fantasy XV was going to represent women.
Let me back up a bit. Final Fantasy XV's story centres on four men who are on the run after their city is invaded by a rival empire. I had no issue with the fact that there were no female main characters, because the Final Fantasy series has released games with an all-female cast before.
So I played through this demo which was several hours long. During this entire time, I met only one female character deemed important enough to have a name. She was a mechanic named Cindy, or 'Cid' - those of you familiar with the series will understand that hat-tip.
Cindy was also dressed in denim cut-offs - with her g-string pulled up over the top - and a cropped jacket undone at the front to show off her string bikini and ample cleavage. Essentially she was dressed like Rikku from Final Fantasy X, but with a trucker hat on. I don't know about you, but I've never met a mechanic who works on cars dressed like that.
During the only cut-scene with a woman in it in an hours-long demo, that woman posed provocatively while one of the male characters attempted to flirt. Not only did she look like a sex object, but the characters treated her like little more than a sex object. Great.
It's not that the Final Fantasy series has never had sexualised female characters before - Tifa Lockhart's physics-defying breasts come to mind - but they tended to be fully-formed, playable characters as well. In a game that doesn't seem to have any fully-formed, playable female characters, I'm worried.
I felt, at the end of the demo, like I wasn't meant to be playing it - like it wasn't for me. I'm used to feeling that from video games. I feel representation of women in games is generally getting better. But not in this series.
Since Final Fantasy VII, the women have been as many and varied as men, if not more. There was the troubled and cold Quistis, who never felt like she was good enough, and the cheeky thief Yuffie. There was the tough-as-nails Paine and, of course, the stoic protagonist of more recent games, Lightning. All of those women were beautiful, and some of them didn't wear a whole lot of clothing, but they were all whole characters in their own right.
It's a real shame, because I had a blast playing it. The demo took a lot from the online Final Fantasy games, with open-world environments and action-based combat similar to Kingdom Hearts. There were loads of side missions, and collectibles, and some terrifying enemies to fight. But it still felt enough like the old games, with beautiful music, stunning artwork and the pressure, as always, to save the world.
Final Fantasy XV isn't due out until next year - and even then it hasn't got a firm release date - but when it comes out I'll be approaching it with trepidation. I loved every minute I played of it bar the last few, and it's totally possible to enjoy something and be critical of it too. But if every one of the few female characters in this game is going to be just like Cindy, then I'm done.
What: Final Fantasy XV
Release date: 2016
Platforms: Playstation 4, Xbox One