Final Fantasy XV had a lot to live up to – far more than most games have done and ever will do. With such a turbulent development, it’s easy to be apprehensive of Final Fantasy XV and although it has its faults, it’s more or less what I expected and I quickly fell in love with it.
Final Fantasy is a series very close to my heart and, with Final Fantasy IX being one of my all-time favourite games along with one of the reasons I fell in love with Japanese games from such a young age, I tend to expect a lot from them. I can’t say I love all of them but overall it’s a series that I very much respect and appreciate for freshening things up with each installment. Final Fantasy XV is perhaps the biggest shakeup to the mainline games thus far, but it’s also one of my favourite Final Fantasy games – those summons have me in awe each time!
Final Fantasy XV’s plot is rather dark with forces at war and Noctis, and his close friends Ignis, Gladiolus and Prompto, are caught in the middle of it as he travels to marry his lovely bride to be Luna. It’s easy to forget about the war and bleakness of their situation for the first half of the game but from chapter 9 or so onwards, you’re thrust into an intense, emotional tale that’ll bring tears to your eyes by the end. One thing that never changes though is the close friendship between the four leads, and straight from the beginning of the game you can’t help but fall in love with them and enjoy their constant conversation.
I can’t really talk about how much I love the plot of this game without mentioning how a good few people were disappointed with how the game ditched the open-world and fully focused on the story for the latter half of the game but, well, what do you really expect? It’s hard to tell a story with an open-world game, and many more games have failed at telling a consistently paced, thoughtful story in an open world than those that have succeeded but I think this one is amongst the latter. As you’re playing through the first half the events of the game clearly grow progressively more dire, and there comes a point where you can’t dawdle anymore and have to continue – you have to do this for your city, your friends, Luna and the world. I think it was handled really well and although there are issues, especially where content was cut for DLC and where it was handled so roughly, Final Fantasy XV managed to tell a gripping story and it ultimately feels very Final Fantasy-ish!
Gameplay-wise it’s very similar to Kingdom Hearts in that it’s more of an action RPG rather than turn-based, but you can activate ‘wait mode’ which pauses everything if you stop moving so you can plan ahead which is pretty cool! I left that off though so I could enjoy the frantic, quick battles and my team was brought to the brink of death countless times. It’s incredibly simple and accessible to play, clearly echoing Square Enix’s intent to make this a Final Fantasy for fans new and old, but as a long-time Final Fantasy fan I very much enjoyed it. If you’ve played and enjoyed Type-0 or Kingdom Hearts, then it’s like those but faster paced – the added ‘warp’ function to teleport around is great fun too!
So you’ve all seen the car and may have spent a lot of time in the group’s car at this point and whilst you do spend a lot of time going from location to location, it’s something I never grew bored of. Being able to play tunes from the games anime and movie, a variety of tunes from a bunch of other games in the series amongst other music, I found myself kicking back and relaxing the tones and watching the friends interact with each other. It’s a little thing but I feel driving in the car helped a lot in having me connect with these characters, and they truly felt like real friends.
I’d be amiss to not talk about how wonderful the voice-acting and soundtrack are though, because both are phenomenal. Composer Yoko Shimomura has created a soundtrack that follows the series’ traditions of having outstanding and memorable music – you might already know her as the composer for Kingdom Hearts. I’ve found myself listening to the soundtrack often after the games completion and it’s my favourite soundtrack overall this year! The voice talent do an incredible job in bringing their characters to life and the chemistry between Ray Chase, Adam Croasdell, Chris Parson and Robbie Daymond is evident, and they’re a part of the reason that it’s so easy to fall in love with the four boys.
Yes, Final Fantasy XV has its faults but it doesn’t feel dated in anyway, and its ambition is met for the most part but it’s important to temper your expectations – this game wasn’t in development for ten years no matter how you cut it, as many of the early work was scrapped when it became an almost entirely different project away from Versus XIII. What Square Enix have delivered is a very human, emotional story about war and hope, and all of the things that come with it. This may be one of the darker Final Fantasy games in the series but it also manages to be hilarious and heart-warming, and I’d happily play through it again!