Noct going to lie, this is Sensational!
Game: Final Fantasy XV
Developer: Square Enix
Publisher: Square Enix
(Review code provided by publisher)
It has been 10 years since Final Fantasy XV was first revealed to the public, 10 whole years! It was first revealed as Versus XIII but has saw more facelifts and re-reveals than any other game on the market. I have to admit that whilst I have not played every Final Fantasy, I still am a HUGE Final Fantasy fan, with Final Fantasy X being my all-time favourite in the series, which if you tell me is a poor game, I’ll practically slap you in the face. Well, Final Fantasy XV has FINALLY been released and you know what, this is as close to perfection as you’re ever likely going to get with a JRPG!
Final Fantasy XV is a game of huge and epic proportions, but it was actually the first minute of game time that made me realise that this was going to be one special game. It just completely made me smile and I really hope that you’ll agree with me.
Of course, it isn’t about the first few seconds or minutes, especially in a Final Fantasy game! Final Fantasy has always been a game that give you near enough 100 hours of content, grinding and a story that no other genre for me can ever come close. Final Fantasy XV is no different, especially with the story, which really is something you can dive deep into. Controlling Prince Noctis, you are aided by your 3 friends (Prompto, Ignis and Gladiolus). Your quest is to get Noctis to Altissia, where he can marry his childhood sweetheart Lady Lunafreya. Of course, things aren’t as easy as that in Final Fantasy, and Final Fantasy XV puts so many obstacles, as well as a huge war with Niflheim for you to deal with. I wont delve any further and go into any spoiler territory here, but this is a story that Final Fantasy veterans and newbies to the series will appreciate fully.
Visually, you’d expect that the game would look good after 10 years of development right? Well, Square Enix have really put a treat on for us with Final Fantasy XV. The whole map, from towns to dungeons, night and day, looks absolutely gorgeous. As you travel in your Regalia (Yes, you have a car) or even my preferred method of transport….Chocobo!, you really learn to appreciate the visuals in Final Fantasy XV. If a location is 7 minutes away and it gives you the fast travel option, I strongly recommend that you watch the drive take place, and take in the visual power of Final Fantasy XV.
Visuals are just one of the great things about this game, but the soundtrack to it is just a delight. In my first hour with the game, I was treated to Prompto humming, yes bloody humming the battle-winning music. It was something that will stick with me as one of my gaming highlights in years to come and really complements the development team on adding little things like that. Oh and when you hear the Chocobo music after a few times, tell me if you have it stuck in your head all day like myself! What is even better about the sound in Final Fantasy XV is that the Regalia allows you to listen to past Final Fantasy music, from the past games. Once purchased from a shop, you can listen to a soundtrack from past games. Can not tell you how amazing it felt speeding down the highway in the Regalia, listening to the original soundtrack from Final Fantasy X!
Away from the glorious travel and stunning visuals, Final Fantasy XV is a game that will reward you the more time that you put into it. With all past FF games and JRPG’s in general, you level up as you go along, however Final Fantasy introduces a new way of leveling up. Instead of leveling up automatically when you have gained enough EXP, the EXP builds up until you make up camp or stay out an outpost. Your EXP will then be activated for each character, with your level going up depending on how much EXP you had collected during your quests or general grind. That’s not all though, as you lay to rest at each campsite,caravel or hotel room, Ignis will cook you a meal. These meals are dependent on what ingredients you have at the time. The interesting thing about these meals that they also give out attribute upgrades to your characters, whether that be HP increases or better attacking skills. It is beneficial to get as many ingredients you have along your journey, making sure you can get the best out of your EXP and Ignis’ cooking skills.
Each character will have a specific character trait that will get better the more they use that trait. For example, Prompto is a keen photographer, so making sure you share photos and take on the photographing side quests will also allow for increase in EXP. Away from leveling up, you also will be able to collect AP along the way to spend in the Ascension Grid, which acts a little like Final Fantasy X. This also allows you to further enhance your characters, unlocking nodes for different categories. This part of the game was probably one disappointment I had with it. Whilst not a big disappointment at all, I did feel like some parts of the grid were pointless and rarely offered me anything more.
What I love about Final Fantasy, especially the likes of VII and X (even the recent World of Final Fantasy), is the fact it offered turn-based combat. Final Fantasy XV goes away from that completely, offering real-time combat. There is a wait mode where you can pause action to see your enemies weak points, but that’s as close as you’ll get with XV. However, my fears about the battle system were wiped away instantly. Warp strikes are brilliant, and depending on distance can cause so much more damage than an original attack. If low on HP and MP, you can warp to a higher point which will regenerate your stats at a quicker rate! Link strikes are also very important in battle, where you can link with one of your 3 friends to attack then enemy together. These link attacks can only be activated if the bar is full enough, with some attacks taking 2 segments of the bar to activate so be very careful when choosing when to link strike. If you use too much MP, Noctis will enter a period of stasis, meaning you are very vulnerable to attacks. Your friends will also die, but you can recover them if you get to them in time, or else it will be the good old fashioned Phoenix Down’s that will need to come to their rescue.
Magic is also back with Final Fantasy XV, and is better than ever! You actually have to collect the materials for magic and put them together, equipping the spell as an actual weapon in one of your 4 weapon slots. Casting magic is completely different now too, where you actually have to watch out for your friends and environment!. So many times you will cast Fire and find that you’ll accidentally put it in an area causing your friends to get burnt. Sorry, Prompto!
Final Fantasy XV is not only my favourite game of 2016, it is up there as one of my favourite games of all time. I could’ve easily used another 2 or 3 thousand words to describe this game, but if you are reading this, get out and buy this game now! With 100 hours easy of gameplay packed in, including hundreds of sidequests, fishing, chocobo racing and more, Final Fantasy XV will keep you very busy this Christmas period. Square Enix put at the start of the game, Final Fantasy XV is a Final Fantasy for newcomers and veterans of the series, and they are right. Perfection is hard to get, but this comes as near as you’re ever going to get.