So let me start with an opinion that is going to inform the rest of this particular opinion piece by its very nature: I generally think that crossover events aren’t a very good idea.
The thing about any kind of crossover is that it has an impact on the fictional consistency of your universe, inevitably. Every trans-dimensional portal that you open up letting characters from one property interact with another creates a relevant hole in the universe for later, and every crossover must either be a bespoke event that is not directly in continuity with anything else or the impetus for figuring out how your characters deal with the fact that there are suddenly infinite parallel universe that they not only know about but have on at least one occasion traversed.
So I am not a fan. This means that I am also not a fan of the fact that Final Fantasy XIV is, at this point, kind of lousy with crossover events. Two separate Final Fantasy XI crossovers, a Dragon Quest crossover, a Final Fantasy XV crossover, the GARO crossover, NieR: Automata… the list goes on. And I think all of this stuff is worth looking into at this point.
You may argue that GARO and NieR: Automata aren’t really crossovers, and to be fair, I’ll admit there’s a case to be made in the former case. Nothing specifically makes what happens with GARO a direct crossover; you just happen to get gear that resembles stuff from that show. But there’s specific reference to the prior events of NieR: Automata, and it definitely has the feel of a crossover – and a half-finished story, at that. So that one seems pretty much to be a given.
This goes beyond the usual idea cross-pollination that has always been a part of this franchise and is definitely a part of FFXIV’s lifeblood. Omega, the Crystal Tower, the Warring Triad, and the Weapons are all imported from other parts of the series, but they also have specific resonance and meaning within the game world as well. Heck, I don’t wholly consider the Ivalice crossover to be a crossover, even though it’s possible to read the staging of it to imply that the story of Final Fantasy Tactics is literally told within the world of Etheirys.
But the point is that there is a distinction between “these concepts from other games and stories also have a meaning and resonance here” and “these characters from a different setting are just imported directly to this game world.” Amon from Final Fantasy III shares a name with Amon from FFXIV, but the latter has a wholly different character and nature; by contrast, Noctis is literally just Noctis from FFXV showing up in FFXIV without a hint of difference.
And I’m not altogether a fan of it, in part because the simple reality is that it doesn’t have much relevance to the story in any way.
Since no one really wants to hear me talk about how bad FFXV is, let’s pick on someone else here: Iroha, during one of the FFXI crossovers. A big part of her story in Rhapsodies of Vana’diel is learning not just self-confidence but understanding that the Adventurer from that game was actually just like her at one point, making decisions without knowing how things would turn out and often fumbling around. This is a major foundation of her development and how she grows.
How does her trip to Eorzea influence that? It doesn’t. It can’t. It has no bearing on it whatsoever. It borrows her aesthetics and the name and some character traits, but it ultimately throws her into an event that has no relevance to her overall development simply because her story arc in FFXI wasn’t written with it in mind and literally couldn’t be. Frankly, it’d be awful storytelling if it were.
But the result is that she can’t go to any new places in her appearance in Eorzea, and she can’t carry any lessons back with her. The story is, by its very nature, a segmented moment in which the game asks if you remember Iroha and the game she comes from. None of it serves a purpose beyond, at best, making you feel like Steve Rogers claiming that you understood that reference.
And frankly, early in the game’s life cycle? That was probably exactly what we needed.
When FFXIV relaunched, one of the things that the game really needed was a sense of legitimacy. It had launched in a truly dire state, and it needed people to see it as not just a proper Final Fantasy title but as an MMO that actually had a future ahead of it. And for all the downsides of crossover events, they have the benefit of lending some credibility to the newer and less-proven project. There was good reason to get those crossover events in: to make people want to check out the new kid.
But FFXIV launched in 2013. It’s 2022. Nine years later, four award-winning expansions later, countless subscriptions and “award-winning MMORPG FFXIV” memes later, it no longer has much of anything to prove. If anything, crossover events with the game have more chance to offer someone else legitimacy, rather than give anything of note to the game itself.
Now, let me make something clear: For all my critiques of crossover events on a narrative standpoint, they can be really fun from a sheer “smash the toys together and watch them work together” standpoint. Like, there’s a part of me that’s still sad we never got any kind of crossover with Phantasy Star Online 2 in FFXIV because, well, I like that franchise, and I want costumes and weapons from it no matter how little sense they might make in context.
(Although given the look of the Ironworks and Scaevan gear, it may not actually be that much of a stretch to have Phantasy Star-style tech floating around Etheirys. We’re not living in an age that lacks glowing mechanical weaponry, after all.)
But the problem, as always, is that FFXIV takes place in a contiguous world that has defined itself with certain narrative tropes and stakes. It kind of stretches credibility when you keep in mind that protagonists from three other games in the franchise have all literally shown up in the game world, but none of them are from reflections of the Source, they’re from some totally different dimensional weirdness. (And yes, I know, the franchise has whatever half-baked lore makes Dissidia into a thing, but that was always dumb.)
It’s hard to really believe that it’s so hard to cross between reflections of the source when you can easily go from Gran Pulse to Etheirys, two worlds that have less to do with one another. Having Tidus and Yuna outfits just floating around in the game is easier to believe than having them actually show up in the flesh to talk with people.
And if we’re going to keep getting crossover events anyway, could we at least start getting more of them with stuff I actually like? Seriously, how do we keep getting reruns of the Yo-Kai Watch crossover?
Feedback, as always, is welcome in the comments down below or via mail to email@example.com. Next week, we are of course going to be talking about the live letter.