Initially, “Fabula Nova Crystallis”, Square Enix’s new generation of Final Fantasy games, wasn’t a bad concept but the myth surrounding it was just too casual and uninteresting. “Final Fantasy XIII” was just a huge disappointment overall, not because it was different from the previous iterations of the franchise but because it was different in all the wrong possible ways. So, needless to say, when “Final Fantasy XV” was released, after ten years of troubled development, it was just another pretentious attempt to westernize a game that did not need to be localized in the first place.
It is also a really good game.
This story starts like any other, with a mistake:
Noctis, prince of Lucis, is going to marry Lady Lunafreya, oracle and princess of Tenebrae. During his road trip through the continent to reach the city of Altissia, where the wedding is going to take place, the empire of Niflheim fiercely strike his kingdom, killing his father in the process and stealing their most important artifact: a magical crystal with immense power. The search for the crystal will lead Noctis and his friends, Ignis, Gladiolus and Prompto, to unveil a cruel, well-planned scheme.
The base plot sounds incredibly naive and simple but under that dull facade hides an incredibly well told, detailed and complicated narrative with only one fault: is not on the game disk.
As previously mentioned this title is awfully pretentious right from the start. Only part of the story is directly shown to the player, most of it, in fact, has been delivered in the form of a movie called “Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV” and a short animated tv show with the name of “Brotherhood: Final Fantasy XV”, both sold separately from the original game and fundamental for a complete understanding of the story and lore. The constant rewriting and changing in the elements of the plot during development have led to major plot holes and a messy myth that is all but clear to the player. Regardless, Final Fantasy XV is still an emotional, breath-taking experience if played with the right mindset.
For a sandbox open world game the map is unbelievably small, empty, with nothing to look at. A giant desert with only two major cities and few smaller landmarks here and there. Unfortunately, the open world setting is a complete failure and was implemented in a terrible and boring way. Nonetheless, it is surprisingly fun to venture into dark and dangerous dungeons, pick up items on the way and completing quests, which, now that we are on the subject, are extremely repetitive. Secondary quests come in series. Every quest of the same series requires to complete the same exact task in scaling difficulty. This Assassin’s Creed-esque scheme makes completing quests tedious and boring but, thankfully, the amazing new combat system lightens up what it would have been just a chore.
“Final Fantasy XV” completely distances itself from its predecessors, creating an all new combat system that, at the start, may feel mostly unappealing and that is because it’s not easy to understand how it works properly. Contrarily to the previous entries of the series, mostly strategic, slow-paced, turn based JRPGs, Final Fantasy XV is an action RPG, more similar to “Kingdom Hears”, just to name an other Square Enix’s game. Warping in and out of battle with the right timing, managing magic friendly fire, changing weapons during combat in one press of a button, ordering your allies to use different skills based on the situation and gathering useful information from your foes to use at your advantage are all main mechanics of a combat system that is much more complicated than it looks.
As a tradition the Final Fantasy saga has always had a spectacular presentation and this last chapter is no exception. Some textures are quite stretched, and some idle animations look unnatural and stiff but the overall look is amazing. This is a gorgeous game by all means and the incredible visuals are wrapped up with an enchanting soundtrack and some of the most touching compositions for video games in recent times. Even “Stand By Me”, performed by British band “Florence and the Machine” may seem forced in a Japanese game the first time you hear it but, by the end of the game, it just feels right.
Square pulled out a good one, this time around and even if it definitely has its flaws they are slowly adding new content to the game and patching most of them. As a matter of fact they announced at least two years worth of updates and patches to complete this nearly missed masterpiece. A free DLC called “The Assassin’s Festival” has been released recently, a little something that “Assassin’s Creed” fans cannot miss. We are also waiting for “Episode Ignis” and the expansion pack “Comrades” that should transform the Final Fantasy experience into a massive multiplayer game and bring your friends into battle with you.
Final Fantasy XV, in substance, should be a total failure. The action oriented combat, based on one button press shouldn’t work as well as it does, the story should be a disaster and the art style should be forgettable and bland. There is always something in any aspect of this game that, for some reason, turns out to be fun or interesting. Suddenly that pretentious line at the start of the game, that seamed so out-of-place, “A Final Fantasy for fans and first timers”, starts to make some sense. Not sure about that “for fans” yet but we are on the right way, Square. Just stop milking it already.
This review is based on a Japanese copy of the game, tested on a ps4 pro with 4k settings. Final Fantasy XV is available on PS4 and Xbox One systems, a Windows Editions will be released on Steam in early 2018 while a pocket edition remake of it has been announced for Fall 2017 on Android and iOS.
Video courtesy of: Square Enix