“You have got to be kidding me,” I said. “I am going to put my controller through this screen—AMY STOP!” My best friend cackled as her character, Ike, slammed my character, Cloud, off the stage. “How am I supposed to learn if all you do is just whale on me and not tell me what to do?”
“It’s called tough love, Nova!” Amy cried out, making Ike do a taunt on the screen.
“How are you this good at Ike when you main Roy?” I complained. “And Marth?”
Amy laughed. “Natural talent.”
“Shut up,” I muttered.
“You’re so full of it,” Bree said.
“Hey Bree,” I said, “Amy’s at three lives as we’re both at one. Temporary truce to take her down a peg?”
“Oh my heck. Yes!” Bree exclaimed, Greninja on the screen already heading into the fray.
“What?! No!” Amy shrieked as Bree and I ganged up on her.
By the time we took her down twice, she’d racked up enough damage on both of us to nearly secure her win. It was only after a really daring Final Smash from Greninja that Bree ended up taking both of us out and winning herself.
Amy sighed. “I think I'm done,” she said. “Who wants to play something else?”
“Breath of the Wild?” I asked. “I love backseat driving.”
“Nah… I wanna finish Skyrim before I open up another open-world game,” Amy said.
I sighed dramatically. “You’re no fun.”
“We could boot up the PS-Four and play Final Fantasy Fifteen so Nova can backseat drive and I can finish writing our DnD campaign,” Bree suggested.
“I have a better idea,” Amy said. “How about we just make Nova play Final Fantasy Fifteen?”
“Uhm… I don’t know how?” I said.
“Play the tutorial, ya dingus,” Bree said distractedly, already fishing her copy of the Dungeon Master’s Guide out of her bag.
“It does its job,” Amy agreed thoughtfully, turning off her Switch to find the cords for her PS4. Amy, Bree, and I had all moved into an apartment together when I graduated college. They were both still working on their degrees but needed to get out of their parents’ houses. Just from living there too long and needing to spread their wings a little. Amy had brought all of her consoles. And I was pretty sure she had every single one.
Though, I was very much a “noob” gamer and had no idea how many consoles there were. I was great with Nintendo party games and Pokémon games, but other than that I was completely lost.
Amy made me a save file for Final Fantasy XV and handed me the controller. I took a deep breath. I’d watched her play the whole main story—it wasn’t that long—so I knew what was coming, but I didn’t know how to do any of it. I read through the little lore guide at the beginning as a refresher course and went through the tutorial while Amy offered advice and Bree, sarcastic, distracted comments while barely looking up from her DMG.
We were quiet through the first cutscene, but when the next one was getting started, Bree glanced up. “Hey Nova, is Ignis still your video game husband?” she teased.
“Heck yeah!” I replied.
Bree laughed, and Amy snickered. I was just grateful we understood each other when we used fandom-speak. “Prefer Gladio, myself,” Amy said. She was so deadpan in her delivery that I couldn’t tell if she was being serious or sarcastic.
I caught Bree’s eyes scanning Gladiolus in the reflection of the TV screen. “I can see why,” she said.
I snorted. The cutscenes continued.
A smile pulled on my face as the music began. “Ugh, I love the music of this game,” I said.
“Listen,” Amy said when the title card appeared. “This game has quite a few issues, and the soundtrack is not one of them.”
I laughed. “I agree. Remember the track from the fight with Lev—”
“SSSHHH!” Bree hissed. “Spoilers! I haven’t played this yet!”
“Oh. Didn’t realize you wanted to,” I said.
“Meh. Eventually.” She shrugged. Amy and I glanced at each other and made Okaaay faces at each other.
After another cutscene, I was playing the game. “Okay. Now where the heck do I go?”
“See the circle thingy with the distance marker on it? Head toward it. That’s your target. You’re gonna be seeing it a lot.”
“I remember that,” I said. “But, like, do I have to go around anything to get to it?”
“Not really. Just some standard terrain stuff. Rocks. Couple animals maybe. Bushes. Prompto. Simple stuff.”
I laughed. “Prompto get in the way a lot?”
“Not really,” Amy admitted. “It just seemed funny.”
“It was,” I said. “Okay Noctis… let’s go.”
Amy smiled. “Have fun. If you need help just tell me.”
“Oh I will,” I said as I tilted the joystick and Noctis went running away from Hammerhead with Gladiolus, Ignis, and Prompto following behind. “I'm going to be so clueless that even with the distance markers telling me where to go, I'm gonna get so lost. You’re definitely gonna have to help m—what’s that?” I pointed at a void on the screen, up in the sky. “Is that part of the game?”
“Uh… no?” Amy said. “Probably just a glitch. It’s a huge open world so maybe the graphics are having problems loading.”
“It doesn’t look like it’s that far from me,” I said. “I'm gonna go see if the sky finishes loading when I get there.”
“Go for it.”
Noctis went running for the void in the sky, responding to my joystick. As I got him closer, the hole in the graphics didn’t close. In fact, the outside edges seemed to turn a slightly different shade of blue—darker with a tint of green. “What is going on…?” I muttered as Noctis got even nearer.
I stopped him as close under it as I could and panned the camera up to it.
Bree looked up from her book. “Yeah what is that?”
“I don’t know,” Amy and I said at the same moment.
The characters on screen didn’t comment on it, so I guessed it wasn’t supposed to be in the game—no lines recorded.
“Seems like a really blatant glitch,” I said. “Can I warp up to it? Maybe go through it?”
“Don’t think so,” Amy said. “No Triangle Point-Warp option.”
“Where do you think you’d end up if you could go through it?” Bree asked.
“I dunno. A sneak preview demo of the Final Fantasy Seven remake?” I suggested sarcastically.
Amy snorted. “If that were the case I’d take the controller.”
“I’d let you.” I made Noctis jump to see if he could get any closer. At first, nothing happened. Not that I expected anything to. Noctis didn’t jump very high and the portal was too far above the ground.
“Hey, what’s that in the middle of it?” Bree asked.
“It’s shaped like… a red shoe sole,” I said.
“Huh. Wonder what’s going on,” Bree said.
“Yeah same,” Amy said.
“Hey there’s the other shoe!” Bree exclaimed as something else appeared in the void in the sky.
“Yeah…” I said. “This is really weird, guys.”
“Tell me about it. This never happened when I played.”
“Hmm. Maybe I can try climbing on something and jumping up to—AAAHHH!”
The scream was ripped from my throat before I could stop it. Something yanked on my ankles, pulling me through the apartment floor where I’d been sitting. I threw the controller into the air. I fell through solid flooring and into thin air. The last thing I heard was Amy and Bree shouting, “NOVA!”
I tumbled through empty space for several long seconds before slamming into something hard with an, “Oof!”
“Good heavens!” a familiar voice exclaimed. “Where did you come from, miss?”
I sat up and looked around. Four familiar bodies surrounded me with varying levels of suspicion.
I scrambled to my feet. “Oh this is trippy,” I said, blinking hard and shaking my head as if that would make everything go away. “This is beyond trippy.”