A tri­umphant come­back

Fi­nal Fan­tasy XV

GAX (Malaysia) - - REVIEW - by Michael Low

Rise from slum­ber

Ten years is a long time to wait for a video game, es­pe­cially one that started as a spin-off ti­tle, only to be rein­tro­duced as the fif­teenth main­line en­try in the long-run­ning Fi­nal Fan­tasy fran­chise. To put things into per­spec­tive, Face­book and Twit­ter were opened to the world in mid-2006, fol­lowed by the launch of the PlayS­ta­tion 3 and Wii later in the same year.

Ha­jime Ta­bata, the man who was tasked to sal­vage Fi­nal Fan­tasy XV from years of de­vel­op­ment hell, took over as direc­tor, re­struc­tur­ing the en­tire de­vel­op­ment team to re­shape the game for the PlayS­ta­tion 4 and Xbox One. While it re­tains the ‘fan­tasy based on re­al­ity’ theme, cer­tain el­e­ments hinted in ear­lier Ver­sus XIII trail­ers ei­ther un­der­went sig­nif­i­cant changes or dropped en­tirely.

Take the open­ing se­quence, for ex­am­ple. Af­ter a brief ash-for­ward of lit­tle sig­nif­i­cance to rst-time play­ers, Prince Noc­tis and his three com­pan­ions: Gla­di­o­lus, Ig­nis and Prompto, sets out on a jour­ney to Altissia at the be­hest of his father, King Regis, to wed Lady Lu­nafreya as de­ter­mined by the peace treaty be­tween the king­dom of Lu­cis and the Ni­fl­heim em­pire. Those who watched the Kings­glaive tie-in movie will have wit­nessed the in­va­sion of In­som­nia – the cap­i­tal city of Lu­cis – in full de­tail. The game, how­ever, rel­e­gated this cru­cial plot point to brief flash­backs and off­screen oc­cur­rence, which made for a tepid open­ing.

De­spite its slight nar­ra­tive mis­step, Noc­tis’ jour­ney – in which he is un­ex­pect­edly thrust into king­hood – is fu­eled by a sin­cere por­trayal of male ca­ma­raderie, one that takes its time to de­velop the kin­ship be­tween the four friends out­side of ma­jor story beats through in-car ban­ters, bat­tle quips, and of course, per­sonal side quests. Each com­pan­ion is also given a unique skill that can be lev­eled up over time, lead­ing to post-bat­tle item scour­ing (Gla­di­o­lus), stat-al­ter­ing dishes (Ig­nis) and photo op­por­tu­ni­ties (Prompto).

The peo­ple’s prince

In the hands of the wrong peo­ple, the move to open-world game­play might have been a recipe for dis­as­ter. Hav­ing spent just shy of 24 hours comb­ing the sprawl­ing en­vi­ron­ments to gather in­gre­di­ents, ma­te­ri­als and other knick-knacks be­fore reach­ing the city of Lestal­lum, this con­cern proved un­founded, although some of the more MMO-like fetch quests could have been less repet­i­tive.

Where com­bat is con­cerned, Fi­nal Fan­tasy XV is de­cid­edly more ac­tion ori­ented than past Fi­nal Fan­tasy ti­tles. With four in­ter­change­able weapons at his dis­posal, Noc­tis (who’s also the only con­trol­lable party mem­ber) can switch from one weapon to

CON­CLU­SION

Gen­uinely worth the wait.

an­other, dodge and parry in­com­ing at­tacks, warp away or to­wards an en­emy, and un­leash ashy, team-linked at­tacks. El­e­men­tal magic, which is ab­sorbed from draw points (ala Fi­nal Fan­tasy VIII), are mixed and crafted into con­sum­ables that are ca­pa­ble of dev­as­tat­ing de­struc­tion (friendly re in­cluded), while fa­mil­iar sum­mons – known in the world of Eos as As­trals – are a sight to be­hold, pro­vided you meet the right con­di­tions in bat­tle.

There will be times where you’ll have to wres­tle with the cam­era dur­ing the heat of bat­tle, typ­i­cally in in­door and fo­liage-heavy ar­eas. With that said, ex­pect to babysit your AI com­pan­ions dur­ing some of the tougher en­coun­ters, be­fore turn­ing in for the night (end­ing the day) on camp­sites, in mo­tels, or other forms of lodg­ings to con­vert those hard-earned EXPs into level pro­gres­sion and APs – the lat­ter which are used to un­lock new abil­i­ties via the grid-like As­cen­sion sys­tem.

One un­for­get­table road trip

Although a fast travel op­tion is in­deed avail­able for pre­vi­ously-vis­ited lo­cales, we found our­selves look­ing for any ex­cuse to cruise around in the Re­galia while lis­ten­ing to ‘best of’ sound­tracks from pre­vi­ous Fi­nal Fan­tasy re­leases. In ad­di­tion to mon­sters from Fi­nal Fan­tasy‘s past, other re­turn­ing se­ries staples can be found in the form of easter eggs, in-game prod­ucts, as well as leit­mo­tifs that are beau­ti­fully in­ter­wo­ven with Yoko Shi­mo­mura’s re­splen­dent score.

Other side ac­tiv­i­ties that Noc­tis can par­take in in­clude shing, cho­cobo races, car cus­tomiza­tion, mon­ster bet­ting, as well as the pin­ball-es­que Justice Mon­sters Five minigame – though bounty hunts are best at­tempted when­ever pos­si­ble to earn ex­tra gils and po­tent cu­ra­tive items. The same goes for hid­den dun­geons, which re­ward your ef­forts with spe­cial weapons and boss en­coun­ters. For PS4 Pro own­ers, you have the op­tion to play the game in ei­ther High or Lite mode. The for­mer ren­ders the game at 1,800p with im­proved tex­tures and shad­ows at the ex­pense of frame rates, while the lat­ter sticks to 1,080p for a mostly con­sis­tent 30 fps ex­pe­ri­ence.

At the end of the day, we are glad that Fi­nal Fan­tasy XV made it into gamers’ hands af­ter its pro­tracted de­vel­op­ment cy­cle. While it won’t likely change the opin­ion of non-JRPG play­ers, the fact that each el­e­ment comes to­gether to cre­ate a re­fresh­ingly fun and wor­thy ad­ven­ture is some­thing worth not­ing for long-time Fi­nal Fan­tasy fans.

Be sure to grab a plate of roti canai when you’re in Lestal­lum.

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