[Game Review] Final Fantasy XV

I have officially finished my schooling and am waiting for my commencement exercises then I will officially be unemployed! I will be kicking off the new year with a game I have been following for the longest time: Final Fantasy XV!

If you haven’t been following this game’s development and you’re not really quite sure what to expect–especially if you have not played a Final Fantasy game before–what people may associate this name to are 16-bit graphics with a turn-based battle system or something like Kingdom Hearts. There have been a lot of promotions for FFXV, originally called Final Fantasy Versus XIII (which is part of the Fabula Nova Crystallis series — which started with Final Fantasy XIII). They even came out with an anime, Brotherhood: Final Fantasy XV, which focuses more on the backstories of our characters, released early in 2016 and later, a feature film called Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV.

Story




Final Fantasy XV is an RPG adventure game that centers on the journey of a prince (Noctis) and his friends to restore light to the world while simultaneously dealing with his struggles on living up to his father’s legacy. The concept of crystals has always been central to the stories of the Final Fantasy series, and if you watched Kingsglaive, you more or less get a feel of what the game will be focusing on. Kingsglaive lays down the story for FFXV and why things are happening the way they are in the game. It serves to tell what happens in Noctis’ absence in the Crown City. The developers said you needn’t watch Kingsglaive to play FFXV and vice versa, but you do get a better experience and understanding if you do both. I honestly  never expected to become so invested and affected by the events that happen later on in the story. I compared it once to the way I feel when reading a good book; even as I finished it, I was sat there staring at the credits with tears rolling down my cheeks. I feel like this may be the first Final Fantasy game to really explore more aspects in its plot and really goes in depth. The story is unfurled in a way that gets the player easily attached. There was never a point in the game where I was bored, although if you aren’t very into story-heavy kinds of games, you may find Final Fantasy XV hard to keep up with as you would need to keep track of a lot of details to fully understand what’s happening.

Another thing I greatly appreciate about this game is how real and almost close to home it was written. There’s so much humanity the story exudes, especially with the characters. It’s all so excellently executed that it leaves you feeling nostalgic months after having finished the game, and you know how attached you’ve become at that point.

Gameplay

I really love the gameplay. To put it simply for fans, it feels much like a synthesis of all the good things all the previous Final Fantasy games had all made into one great game. It’s comparable to Fallout 4 / Skyrim with its open world and interactive surroundings. It’s in third-person and while exploring, you can already see the monsters, or in this context, daemons walking about whether on the main map or within a dungeon.

There is an Ascension feature which works just like the Sphere Grid in FFX or the Crystarium in FFXIII as well as the summoning of greater beings to aid you in battle although generally the same and under a different name, as Noctis you are able to get the blessing of gods.

The boys have their own separate talents or skills that not only makes the game more interesting but also makes the characters seem more real. Prompto (blonde) loves to take photos and it’s nice to see his captures every time you rest or set up camp, and it’s mind boggling to me how the game can continue generating more photos. It may not always accurately show what he takes photos of (he sometimes brings his camera out when on a drive), but the clothes you choose to wear are always consistent with his shots, as well as when you ask him to take photos in battle. It matches the exact scene you see, and this holds true for his level of photography. When Prompto’s level is high enough, sometimes the other members will take photos, and you can also clearly see how he improves based on how the shots look the more he shoots.

Resting or camping is also one of my favorite parts of the game. It’s the time where the game tallies your EXP and allows your characters to level up. People like to strategize with this, as resting at hotels gives you an added bonus while camping allows Ignis (glasses) to cook. Camping is great because sometimes Noctis’s friends will ask him for help. Ignis for cooking, Gladiolus (muscular build/scar) for training, and Prompto for photography, however the activities per person are not limited to those.




Battle System

This game is nothing like Final Fantasy XIII or Final Fantasy Type-0. You are free to run, jump, attack, defend, and even “wait” as you please. You can easily command your companions to execute techniques that deal a good amount of damage to your opponents, and when deciding what to do, there is a “Wait Mode” that allows you to analyze your opponents strengths and weaknesses all under a timer, because you can’t stay in Wait Mode forever. You also no longer need an item to flee from battle, you can merely run away from their line of vision or be saved by a chocobo.

One of my favorite things about this game, and something I’ve always wanted actually is to have all your party members walking and running around with you. Whenever you have guest party members, you don’t need to remove anyone from your main group, everybody fights with you. It helps the game feel very immersive.

 

Side Quests

Like Final Fantasy XIII, there are side quests, where you either choose to participate in a Hunt or when other people are in need. It can be as simple as delivering a package or more interesting such as taking photos of specific scenic spots or even catching certain fishes.

My friend Gab brought to my attention a certain glitch that came with the update of the game where you can’t upgrade a weapon. I sometimes felt the frustration with this as well, because talking to Cid will either yield you a general NPC line or something related to the side quest, however I did not experience this bug.

Controls

There is a tutorial at the start of the game that teaches you how to properly use the controls, and it’s very easy to understand and to catch on. You can always return to tutorial mode via the Options button. Final Fantasy XV also makes use of QTE or quick-time events where you’ll need to press certain buttons at certain times mainly to do a follow-up attack or to keep yourself from dying. You can also change the controls (ex. which button is for attack) whenever you want.

 

Sounds

If you’re a fan of Final Fantasy games, you’re in for a real treat. You can purchase the soundtracks of the older Final Fantasy games to play while travelling via the Regalia (your car) and you can even purchase a portable music player which allows you listen while walking around. It’s honestly a great nostalgia run, already being able to see all the consistent Final Fantasy characters and now being able to listen to the older soundtracks! Great job, Square Enix. I would also like to commend the voice acting, I do think it is phenomenal and perfectly fits each character. I listened to both the English and the Japanese audio and I like them both very much.

For the English audio, there are characters with different accents and I’m guessing this is one way for the player to distinguish whether a specific character is from a different place. I’m unable to tell the difference with the Japanese audio as I am not proficient, so I’m wondering if they used dialects for the Japanese audio, or if they changed it at all, not that the accents completely matter. The dialogue is very fun and timely, using slang of the modern times such as “selfies” and “photobombs” and puns as well. I never found a moment where dialogue was unnecessary, it made the characters friendships very endearing and everything else really worked, easily making comical moments as well as dramatic ones without trying too hard.

Also, Yoko Shimomura did the music for the game. Honestly, there are no words. From Kingdom Hearts to this, and a game that was 10 years in the making, really. The soundtrack is beautiful, and right. I can remember and pinpoint which songs belong to where and when they are played; that’s when you know the music was done right (that or I played the game too much), and hearing Florence and the Machine’s take on Ben E. King’s “Stand by Me” was the icing on the cake. There was actually one point in the game where I stopped playing just to listen to a particular track.

 

Graphics

Of course this is last. By far, this could be one of the best I’ve seen in a game. The major cutscenes match the quality of Kingsglaive (obviously) and the in-game cutscenes match the graphics of the gameplay as well. The game is also very consistent as I mentioned earlier, not only does it retain the attire you choose to wear in Prompto’s photos, the same goes for cutscenes as well. As you can use magic, sometimes your magic attacks can hurt Noctis and his friends. If you look at their character, you’ll notice that the effects of either fire, blizzard, or thunder magic show not only on the surrounding area it hit, but also on their person. Square Enix has always been well known for their meticulously crafted CGI/graphics and upon seeing the food in the game, I knew, I just knew they were showing off.

They like the challenge. And the game will definitely show you more of their graphic prowess, but the downside to this is that the graphics are so good that sometimes the game has trouble focusing on the details. You have to wait awhile before it becomes more high definition and maybe this could be because of the space in your PS4, but you can see that the game struggles.

There are some  graphic glitches in the game. Sometimes it can be slightly annoying but it really is mostly funny:

I finished the game with a total playtime of around 90 hours including a bit of side quest completion (to help boost up my level). I highly recommend the game as it is addicting and not limited to only Final Fantasy fans however keep in mind the ESRB rating for Final Fantasy XV is for Teens for partial nudity, and violence.

Rating: 9 / 10

You can buy Final Fantasy XV on their official website and like them on Facebook and/or follow them on Twitter, Instagram.




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