I’m a sucker for romance in stories, but I’ve found that over the years, I have pretty high expectations for what a good couple should look like. I’ve talked a lot about anime couples that I think fit the mold very well, but not for video games. There aren’t a lot of canon couples in the games that I have played, let alone couples that I found likable. But despite that, I’ve found that the rules I’ve set up for judging good anime couples also applies to video game couples as well:
1. The couple needs to be canonically together, established through the story and their interactions. Because of this, I have to exclude couples from the Fire Emblem series because of the many options the games feature, as any one of them could be “canon” from a fan perspective rather than a story perspective.
2. The couple should have good chemistry together through their interactions and dialogue with each other. Through this, lots of character development can be explored while showing how the two characters influence each other.
With all of this in mind, Noctis and Luna technically don’t meet those requirements. They’re “canonically” together in the sense of their arranged marriage, but the player unfortunately doesn’t get to see them interact outside of flashbacks as adults, and so the chemistry and character development is almost nonexistent. Based on these circumstances and the guidelines I set for myself, I shouldn’t like them as a couple. But I do, and I was really surprised at how invested I was in their relationship because of how unusual yet genuine it is.
Spoilers ahead! If you haven’t beaten Final Fantasy XV yet, read at your own risk!
Noctis and Luna have a sweet childhood friendship but are torn apart from each other by war as adults shortly before their arranged marriage. Though the marriage is largely for political reasons, it’s easy to see through their flashbacks as children how an eventual romance could bloom someday because of how well they get along with each other. But because of the present circumstances, the audience is unable to see these emotions transfer to adulthood outside of the (adorable) journal exchange.
Normally, this lack of adult interaction would be a red flag for me because couples that are forced together with little to no interaction (cough cough nearly every couple in the Marvel Cinematic Universe cough cough) aren’t likable and feel pointlessly thrown in. In the beginning, I was admittedly concerned about how this couple would be portrayed because of how the story was developing. Final Fantasy XV however, does a good job of showing them talk and think about each other a lot, and by extension, influencing the way the players think about them as well.
In addition, despite being apart, Noctis and Luna choose to communicate through a more traditional means of journal writing – rather than calling or texting, which they could do with the modern technology in the world. Through the journal exchange, the players are able to see the sweet, vulnerable moments after Noctis and Luna receive it and read what each other wrote. It’s a small touch that adds a lot to the relationship and shows their closeness without having them interact in person.
The entire game builds their mutual desire to see each other again after the wedding is canceled because of the war, and their duties force them down their own paths, eventually leading to one of the best moments in the game – the trial with Leviathan. Noctis and Luna do see each other from afar with the hope that when the trial is over, they can finally be reunited.
But things go terribly wrong and in the chaos of Noctis fighting Leviathan, Luna is mortally wounded. She wills the powers of his ancestors to him, and it leads to incredible boss fight against the sea beast. Luna lives long enough to heal him after the fight and entrust the ring to him in a very touching, heartbreaking scene. I barely knew anything about Luna because of how little she’s in the game and yet I found myself genuinely upset over her death because I wanted to see them reunited and happy together just as much as they did.
Following this heartbreaking scene, there are flashbacks of Luna speaking highly of Noctis after her death, further reaffirming their mutual feelings for each other in addition to lending her some much needed character development. But what I found so great about this tragic romance is that it feels realistic. The war ravages their lives to the point that they are forced into the roles assigned to them as King and Oracle, and they’re always just out of each other’s reach. The war forces their priorities to shift, and the romance becomes a fantasy with her passing.
The ending delivers on the romance finally becoming a reality with a sweet scene of Noctis and Luna married in the afterlife, content to be together again as they were meant to be while they were alive. I was overjoyed with this ending and loved how they were developed. Based on how I usually judge couples, I shouldn’t have cared for these two to reunite again, but Final Fantasy XV’s strengths come from how it develops its characters. Great care is taken to show these characters thoughts and feelings about each other, and it allows the players to become invested in their relationship as well. I wanted to know what they would talk about, what they would fight about. The fact that the game made me want to know even after it became an impossibility is indicative of how strong the writing is.
Before Final Fantasy XV was released, the creators mentioned that Noctis and Luna’s love story wouldn’t be developed in the traditional way that we’ve come to see in previous Final Fantasy games, and it makes them stand out. Previous entries in the series often portrayed the love of the main characters conquering all despite the chaos around them. In the face of adversity, their love would be the source of strength and a means to defeat their foes.
Final Fantasy XV chooses to deviate from this by showing that their love, while strong, wasn’t enough to overcome the corruption of their world, and there was something about that message that was tragically beautiful and depressing as well. I appreciated the creator’s willingness to do something different and portray love in this different yet refreshing way.
Final Fantasy XV is an imperfect game, but its characters and their relationships are some of the best in the series. I look forward to seeing new cutscenes and content added to the game through DLC to further explore the backstories and dynamics between the cast of characters, and I hope that Noctis and Luna’s relationship gets similar treatment. This couple surprised me with the realism of their separation but mutual love that continued to grow because of it, and I want to see even more of it.