Show, don’t tell.
Let us experience the story through action, words, thoughts, senses, and feelings. Not exposition, summation, and description. The general consensus of the story: it’s all over the place, but extra subtle in main parts.
You’d think we’d have a Japanese company that would understand the theatrical history in order to make a competent story. And they do. Just not very well. Some interesting things to consider:
…kabuki focuses more on the actors.
…kabuki is known to sacrifice drama and even the plot to highlight an actor’s talents.
The concept of jo-ha-kyū (序破急)…states that dramatic pacing should start slow, speed up, and end quickly.
The first corresponds to jo, an auspicious and slow opening which introduces the audience to the characters and the plot. The next three acts correspond to ha, speeding events up, culminating almost always in a great moment of drama or tragedy in the third act and possibly a battle in the second and/or fourth acts. The final act, corresponding to kyu, is almost always short, providing a quick and satisfying conclusion.
This might help us explain Final Fantasy XV’s structure and “odd” storytelling. To them, us Westerners just “wouldn’t understand” the story’s kabuki structure. But even so, kabuki theatre’s all about SHOWING you what’s happening, more than telling you. How does a kabuki show to its audience? Through the actors. This means a stronger interaction between main characters and NPCs to flesh out the story.
Why not give Cor, Cindy, Jared, and Iris more of an in-game backstory?
Why not show more of Luna in order to feel what she means to Noctis?
Why doesn’t Noctis talk about her more, to remind us she’s his love?
Why don’t NPCs emote their plight with the Empire?
Why don’t we see more of the inner workings of Empire, the Emperor Aldercapt, Ravus, Ardyn etc through their actions?
Why not have a sidequest where Prompto tries to impress Cindy?
Why not alone time with Gladio and Iris to express how they care for each other?
Why don’t we see Talcott and Jared’s relationship
Why don’t we see Jared’s death to feel the impact?
Why don’t we see what the bros are doing in the World of Ruin?
Why does Final Fantasy XV rely on Talcott giving Noctis a summary of his decade-long absence?
Make sure NPC are more than just set pieces. Make us care for, not just about, them. Give them interactions that would be consistent within the story and let us know more about them as “people”. This would further force the developers to interrogate the story. Show us why things happen at certain moments in the plot. Show that character interaction/motivations stay coherent and believable throughout the game.
I hear Final Fantasy XV didn’t do this, which made for a terrible, flat and underwhelming storytelling. Square Enix can learn something from Final Fantasy XV moving forward with Final Fantasy XVI.