A triumphant comeback
Final Fantasy XV
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
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.