Final Fantasy has been a video game series I spent my pre-teen years playing. I’ll confess to not having played each and every numbered title in the series, but I’ve played enough to be more than familiar with it’s themes of adventure, courage and bravery in times of peril. Chocobos, Moogles and Cactuars are all well-versed in my vocabulary, as are the names of each summon, from Shiva to Bahamut.
But do you want to know what the best thing about XV is? Well, the introduction screen says it all…
“A Final Fantasy Game For Fans AND First-Timers”
So don’t worry if you haven’t played I through XIV (the individual stories are never related anyway!). Final Fantasy XV is a fresh new start, that takes place in a world not too dissimilar from our own (including our modern technology like mobile phones, cars, cameras, trains etc) but adds the fantasical elements such as magic, daemon monsters, and other-realm dwelling God-like entities that watch over.
You take control of main protagonist Prince Noctis Lucis Caelum, whose is destined to take his father’s place on the throne and journey across the land to marry his childhood friend Lady Lunafreya, who has powers of her own as the world’s chosen oracle. Joining Noctis on his road trip to his beloved are his long-serving faithful friends and guardians; Prompto, Gladiolus and Ignis. However, it is not before long that the evil power-hungry Empire attack Noctis’s home of Insomnia and kill his father. Distraught Noctis and his friends decide to seek justice and seek out a means to destroy the Empire once and for all.
I won’t delve too much more into the story because, well, unless you’re playing through it, explaining plot points can become a bit complicated ( if you’ve played FF games before, you’ll be used to it!). However, what I do want to praise in particular is the story’s emphasis on friendship.
Although I often joke about FFXV being a “Bro Simulator” (you’re taking control of four dudes on a road trip, so it’s as “bromantic” as it can get), there’s many times throughout the 200 hour strong gameplay where you’re not just button-mashing away at your latest exhilarating foe, but discussing little trivial things between you, such as Ignis’s favourite coffee, or Prompto’s cute crush on mechanic Cindy, or the brotherly/sisterly banter of Gladio and Iris. One of the key elements of the game is the ability to preserve memories with photographs, as Prompto is the keen photographer of the group. You can access the camera and the photos you save anytime you wish.
All these little musings may seem unimportant to the main story, but they are what captivates your attention and imagination as you start to view these characters not as fiction, but as real people you’d talk to, laugh with, and connect with in reality. So despite the somewhat over-the-top scenarios, you root for the main four and believe in their cause, because their emotion and drive is what pushes you.
I shed so many tears at pivotal points because of the genius way the cinematography married with the breakthrough script created such beautiful, unforgettable scenes that detailed the feeling of loss, coming-of-age, and eventually, enlightenment. The only other FF title that made me cry as much was FFX, with its similar themes of friendship, love and sacrifice.
Gameplay wise, the mechanics are indeed the best we’ve seen of the series so far, with turn-based battles a thing of the past, replacement with the live engagements where you control every move, not too dissimilar from that of the Kingdom Hearts franchise.
You fight alongside your friends as a four man army, and there’s even unique commands that let you perform special moves together, such as ganging up on one target or wiping them out in a blast. Each character has their strength; Gladio is the most physically brutal, Prompto is a bright spark with machinery and firearms, and Ignis is the most tactical. Noctis, being royalty, can wield the Armory Of The Kings, which can deal devastating blows, but at the slight cost of Noctis’s HP. Noctis also eventually learns to summon the godly entities he encounters, but summoning in this FF is more random than previous games; perhaps the only downfall of FFXV‘s system. Noctis’s “warp” comes in especially handy when things get hairy, as you can teleport out of harm’s way, and gradually heal, ready to strike again.
There’s still the usual FF items at your disposal: Potions, Ethers, Phoenix Downs etc, as well as Noctis’s Elemental Magic; Fire, Ice, and Thunder. You can also modify the team’s abilities through the Ascension menu to make your characters even stronger. You can also even change their wardrobe to better reflect the weather conditions.
All in all, a fantastic masterpiece of an FF title. I’m so happy there’s a Season Pass so we can enjoy what else this wonderful story has to offer too!
What are your thoughts on Final Fantasy XV? Let me know in the comments!
* All images are official screenshots from Final Fantasy XV, by Square Enix. *