In my epic quest to finish Final Fantasy XV by Friday, I am literally and figuratively on a train that is barrelling toward the final stop. I am in FF15’s endgame—a section of short, brutal chapters that no longer allow you to freely roam the open roads of Eos. Even if I somehow could return to travel country roads, I’d have to do it on foot, for the Regalia—the car that bore me and my friends, as stalwart and beloved as any of the human companions—has driven its last mile, its engine silent forevermore.
The Regalia was Noctis’ fourth companion. It had as much a personality as any car, augmented by however you choose to customize it. You could plaster it with stickers, making the car a travelling scrapbook of the chocobros’ many adventures. You could overhaul her exterior and interior with all kinds of colors and full-body decals, one of which makes the Regalia look like cover art for a metal band. For my part, I left her alone. The Regalia by default was a sexy car, and I don’t need to fix what ain’t been broke, as Cid would say. The Regalia, like each of Noctis’ companions, even got its own “I gotta go away for a while” subplot that forced me to wing it riding chocobos everywhere.
I loved that car, but didn’t realize how much I appreciated its strong, silent presence until it was no more, “dying” in an epic way through a combination of luck, programming, and plot.
The defining characteristic of the Regalia is its ability to play old Final Fantasy music as you drive around. In this playthrough and my previous one, I would often manually drive from one quest to the next, instead of just teleporting via quick travel, all so I could hear the Final Fantasy songs of my youth. Before getting locked into the endgame, the last “CD” I was listening to in the Regalia was Memories of FFIX. When you reach the linear endgame, you take the Regalia with you, but you cannot use it until the final moments of Chapter 12.
As Chapter 12 ends you’re on a train that’s been overrun by monsters, and your only chance to escape is to get to the Regalia in the cargo hold and drive the car through some rapidly closing gates while missiles rain destruction all around you. The moment feels like the climatic action scene in a Bond movie or, better yet, the final Warthog chase in Halo 3. As the driving sequence starts, I hear the familiar, ominous chords of an organ playing. It’s late, I’m getting tired, but my body jerks up as I recognize FF9’s “Dark Messenger”—a ridiculously evil-sounding song used in the boss fight against Trance Kuja—and I’m thinking “Holy shit this is epic!”...not realizing it’s just the Regalia’s radio.
I want you to imagine driving maniacally to escape a horde of monsters and explosions while hearing the foreboding wail of a pipe organ. Pretty badass right? Well, don’t get used to it.
I have many criticisms of Final Fantasy XV and one of them is its soundtrack. It’s simply boring and unremarkable. From Final Fantasy VII to XIII I could name multiple songs that excited me, like “Those Who Fight Further,” “Liberi Fatali,” and “Rose of May.” Songs that wrung tears outta me, like “Suteki Da Ne,” FF12’s “Main Theme,” and “The Promise,” or songs that just got me to laugh (“Brass De Chocobo”). FF15 makes no such impression. I physically deflated when the music the developers intended for this moment drowned out the sounds of “Dark Messenger” on the Regalia’s radio. What started as a bitchin’ action sequence became ho-hum.
Until the end.
As the Regalia is speeding toward the exit gates, one of the boys worries aloud that the car won’t be able to withstand all the bombardment. Ignis responds with something like “It’ll take more than this to defeat his majesty’s trusty steed” and with seconds left on the timer, the Regalia crashes through the gates completely totaled. The Chocobros exit the vehicle and Noctis takes a second to glance back at the ruined car they have to leave behind, recalling a memory he had of rushing to his father as he exits the car. I promptly lose all of my shit.
I know that feeling. The one of when you’re a kid at the babysitters or wherever, pressing your face to the glass, looking for your mom’s car to come pick you up after a long day. It’s the way you memorized the specific sound her keys make, listening for it with your whole body and lighting up when you finally pick it out from all the noise like, “Yay! Mommy’s here.” There’s a story my father likes to tell about how I would bounce up and down in my walker whenever I heard him pull into the garage. The memory Noctis reached for, of being a kid excited to see a car because it meant your parents came back to you from wherever they were, I know that feeling in my bones.
That final lingering glance and the memory that came from it, felt like Noctis saying to his car “Well done thy good and faithful servant,” and it is the only proper goodbye anybody got in this game. The Regalia carried those characters (and me) through so much, the long hours made better by all the nostalgic tunes playing through its radio. It wasn’t a magical car that spoke or cracked jokes like some Final Fantasy version of KITT. The Regalia didn’t have one line of dialogue, and yet that car’s “death” meant more to me and felt more emotional and real than any living characters’ death. A car y’all!
I will miss the Regalia. I’m mad I didn’t know about all the things you could do with it until it was too late. When I can get back to the open world (and I feel very close to that moment), I plan on upgrading it into its off-road and flight versions. The ability to see the beauty of Eos from the air while “Highwind Takes to the Skies” plays? Epic shit.