Final Fantasy XV: The Savior
Kalvin Martinez / Mar 26th, 2015 No Comments
Final Fantasy served as a lifeline for Square when the first entry released on the NES. The popularity of the title spawned a series full of sequels, spin-offs, and tie-ins that captivated much of the gaming population. Throughout the course of its many games, scads of memorable moments have left a huge impression on gamers. Not everything is sweet; Final Fantasy has also had quite a bit of low points, and those become all the more sour in contrast to the great ones.
In recent years, the series has had more sour notes than sweet, starting with the polarizing Final Fantasy XIII and its sequels and followed by the abysmal launch of Final Fantasy XIV, which greatly damaged the brand. The diminishing quality of Final Fantasy titles mirrored the erosion of JRPGs popularity. However, that might be changing.
The solution is quite simple: Final Fantasy XV. The recently released Final Fantasy Type-0 HD includes a voucher for the demo of Final Fantasy XV. Needless to say, the demo is quite an experience. It isn’t just a simple evolution of the series, it is a revolution.
Changing the Narrative
Final Fantasy XV began its life as a spin-off of Final Fantasy XIII as part of the Fabula Nova Crystallis series. Originally titled Final Fantasy Versus XIII, development started on what was to be a PlayStation 3 exclusive in May 2006. It was poised to be an action-RPG counterpart to the traditional battle system in XIII. After Final Fantasy XIII and its subsequent sequels released, information about Versus XIII failed to materialize outside of a few trailers confirming it was still in development.
Many figured it would be canceled at some point due to the silence. That was until it made a triumphant return during the PlayStation press conference at E3 2013. Not only did it make a splash with its gorgeous visuals, it made even more noise with its notable makeover as Final Fantasy XV. Moving from simple spin-off into a full-fledged numbered entry in the series was the best move for the game and the Final Fantasy series.
There is not a lot of information about Final Fantasy XV, but some basics about the world are known. The lands in XV include Lucis, Tenebrae, Niflheim, Solheim and Accordo. These nations once housed a crystal (except for Niflheim), which give each nation power and political sway. Over time, wars resulted in each nation losing their crystal, but Lucis managed to keep their crystal and develop into a modern society. The nation’s main concern is the threat provided by Niflheim, which wages wars against all other nations.
The demo doesn’t make everything about the end of the world or hammer home the fact that there is a huge threat looming. It focuses on a smaller problem: getting your car fixed and getting out of the boonies. This seemingly normal problem helps contextualize the relationship between Noctis and his friends and does subtle things to help players understand their relationships. Little things like sharing a fist bump after fighting off death and playful ribbing gives a good sense that these dudes are just some bros, not people thrown together to take on some grand threat. This refreshingly ditches the save the world narrative common in Final Fantasy and JRPG titles.
Redefining the Skeleton
The main Final Fantasy series has slowly changed from a simple turn-based RPG into an active time turn-based system, then into whatever Final Fantasy XIII, XIII-2, and Lightning Returns was. While the system has shifted over time, it has remained relatively the same. Final Fantasy XV does away with tradition and ventures into new territory with a more action-based, modern approach to the JRPG. Gone are waiting for your turn or gauge to fill up, spending tons of time scrolling through menus, and vaguely defined mission statements.
Final Fantasy XV places you in the thick of it. In many respects, the game plays like an action title. Noctis can perform chains of attacks through a button press, and the style and order can change depending on which weapons you place in certain slots. He can dodge on command to avoid damage, and follow up with a powerful counteract.
Depending on what weapons are equipped, Noctis has access to a pool of skills to do extra damage to enemies. He can take cover to recover MP or avoid enemies. The most powerful weapon at his disposal is the ability to warp around either to a spot on the battlefield or to specific high points to overlook combat. His warp skill also allows him to teleport and attack with a strike, which can start a powerful chain of attacks.
Other changes include a new approach to main and side quests. You now can set waypoints and active quests via the map. Additionally, you can teleport to any previously visited camp site to rest, level up, and gain buffs from food. While there are concerns with the main quest, players can choose to do side quests at any time, or simply go off exploring. It makes things feel much less linear.
While much has changed in terms of combat, some vestigial aspects remain from prior games. Random battles are long dead for the series. Final Fantasy XV utilizes the enemy on-screen approach first introduced in Final Fantasy XII, and refined slightly in XIII. When the approach first appeared in the series, it seemed odd, but given how popular western RPGs now favor this style, it feels distinctly modern.
The system is similar to the prior games. Run under the radar to avoid battles if you prefer, but if you make a mistake, you’re in for a grueling battle. Say you want to attack a lone Garulas and you attack it in the middle of a heard. This will attract the wrath of all the Garulas in the area. It turns what could have been a simple hunt into a harrowing experience against vastly overpowered beasts.
The day-night cycle reveals more vicious predators at night. If you get caught out in the wild at night and happen to get ambushed by a bunch of goblins, it could attract more monsters and wandering patrols of soldiers, which could prove fatal or fortuitous if you can survive.
Charting the Future
There is still plenty of time before Final Fantasy XV finally releases, but it seems Square is on the right path. This could redefine what a main Final Fantasy entry is, and we mean that in all the right ways. Hajime Tabata, the director of the project, was responsible for the best Final Fantasy projects of recent memory (Crisis Core and Type-0), and he appears to be steering Final Fantasy XV in the right direction. Square also is taking fan involvement seriously as it intends to solicit fan feedback for the game based on the demo (stabilize the frame rate, yo).
If Final Fantasy XV continues down the path it is currently on, not only can it be a great game, but it has the potential to be the best in the series.
tags: final fantasy , Final Fantasy 15 , Final Fantasy Type-0 HD , final fantasy xv , opinion , ps4 , square enix , xbox one