According to Japanese media site Cinema Today, Square Enix is celebrating Final Fantasy's 30th anniversary by creating a brand new live-action drama series based on a true story that involved Final Fantasy XIV. The show will broadcast on MBS/TBS in Japan this April and is titled Final Fantasy XIV Father of Light.
The true story that inspired this TV series, though this detail might be lost in translation a bit, is of a father and son’s gradually changing relationship through their encounters with the actual game, Final Fantasy XIV. As such, Father of the Light will feature the game and what it’s like to participate in an online game world. In this, the main drama revolves around the communication problems between father and son. It all starts when the father receives a PS4 from his wife as a birthday present. The son, wanting to take advantage of some friend referral bonuses, coaxes his father into joining the game. After successfully creating a character, the son eventually anonymously joins and aids his father on his adventures throughout the game.
Lately, as we've seen in the past with Assassin's Creed and Warcraft, video games turned into movies or TV have improved but haven't quite wandered into the realm of “good” yet. But this new Father of the Light series approaches such cinema in an entirely new way. Instead of depicting a story that's fully within the game world, Square Enix is using FF XIV to frame a simple, but no less relatable, drama. As a frame, instead of the focus, it allows the audience to breathe and the creators to refine each episode into a much less scattered plot than trying to include too many details from the game itself. Especially since many have criticized FF XIV for being a little unfocused, with too many sub-plots that don't have enough connection to the main one. The drama between father and son helps keep the focus, allowing both creator and audience to come back to the familiar modern world without forgetting the game world entirely.
These are perhaps high hopes, as video games turned movies have not necessarily been received well in Japan any more than they have here in North America. For example, the recent Warcraft movie may have grossed extremely high in China (at $220,841,090), but was sub-par in Japan (at $658,557). However, not only are video games viewed in a positive light and not as a waste of time in this TV show, such a familiar setting can reach out to an even broader audience. A show like this can teach non-gamers about the benefits of games and that not all video game to film adaptations have to be terrible. Indeed, I think the key element here is that Square Enix is not trying to adapt FF XIV to a TV show so much as the company is trying to fuse the two genres. Just as Kojima wishes to “converge” the two on the game side, perhaps Square Enix wishes to do the same on the film side.
I believe with the difference in framing (the game as an element in addition to the main plot of father and son), and keeping the otherwise scattered plot of the game focused by including the relatable drama, is a one way ticket to shaking off the trend of video games being turned into terrible films. Maybe we'll be luckily and Square Enix will promote the show outside of Japan too.