“This is a fantasy based on reality.”
Calling Final Fantasy XV highly anticipated might be the understatement of the century. Ever since the original announcement of Final Fantasy Versus XIII back in 2006, fans have been dying for the chance to step into Noctis’ black leather shoes. Finally, that time has come. But is Final Fantasy XV worth the wait, or is it the final nail in this fantasy’s coffin?
Final Fantasy XV tells the tale of Prince Noctis Lucis Caelum of Lucis. Following a proposed peace treaty with the rival Niflheim Empire, Noctis’s father, King Regis, sends his son away from the capital city to meet his fiancée, Lady Lunafreya, in secret. Noct doesn’t get far however as his only means of transportation breaks down just out of the capital city. This is only the first of his concerns however once word reaches him from the capital: the city is destroyed, Lunafreya is missing, and the king is dead.
There’s no question that the story of Final Fantasy XV starts with a bang. The funny thing is that most of the action takes place off-screen. Proceeding the game’s release, Square Enix released the prequel movie Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV. The plot of the movie leads up to the beginning of the game, covering the fall of the crown city of Insomnia. Unfortunately, due to the movie, the game’s own opening feels rushed and disjointed.
As usual for the series, Final Fantasy XV is graced by a memorable story. What makes the story most impactful is its playable cast of characters. Throughout the game, Noctis travels the world accompanied by his friends and bodyguards. While most JRPGS feature some sort of party system, Noctis and friends are on a whole other wavelength. Whether they are hiking through plains, battling ferocious beasts, or driving down the street, Noctis and friends converse with each other just like real friends would. These conversations feel surprisingly authentic and range from anything between battle strategies to teasing Noct about soon “getting hitched.” The entire game feels like a road trip and it all one hell of a ride!
Square Enix has never been a slouch when it comes to graphics, and Final Fantasy XV is no exception. Despite its over 10 years of development, Final Fantasy XV is one of the best looking games on the market (especially when played on PlayStation Pro). The first thing to take notice of are the beautiful character models. Every detail from Noctis’s wavy hair to his designer jeans is superb. They easily surpass those seen in the Final Fantasy XIII and rival even those seen in the CGI movies Advent Children and Kingsglaive. As implied by the game’s tagline, they keep one foot in fantasy while stepping towards reality. Because of these, though incredibly lifelike, the characters still have that Final Fantasy look to them. This brings a familiarity to the characters whilst also keeping the possibility of uncanny valleys quite low (looking at you Kingdom Hearts II).
Perhaps the only thing that looks better than the characters of Final Fantasy XV is the world that they inhabit. While mostly empty, the Kingdom of Lucis comes to life in amazing detail. From the roads and dirt trails to the gas stations and shops, everything looks pretty great. The vastness of the world invited the player to explore, seeing more of its unseen beauty. The only real issue is the lacking of explorable cities such as Insomnia. Considering that the 10 years of hype all started with an action shot of Noctis be defending the city, one would expect a game world a little bit closer to home.
Being from the same development team, Final Fantasy XV feels much like Kingdom Hearts II. Unlike traditional Final Fantasy titles, the player spends the entirety of the game as Noctis as opposed to direct control over the entire party. Like Donald and Goofy before them, Gladiolus, Ignis, and Propto fight alongside the hero and can even invoke special attacks when called upon. While it would have been fun to bounce between control of characters like Type-Zero, it is understandable in the situation. With the plethora of weapons in Noctis’s arsenal, it’s never a dull moment.
Gameplay-wise, Final Fantasy XV is one of the best Action RPGs on the market. Like many before it, battles are won by timing dodging, item usage, and real-time attacks. What really makes XV shine is the use of warping. Using his power of nobility, Noctis can teleport to platforms or enemy locations by merely thrusting his sword. It is a delight to finally experience after years of waiting and is an irreplaceable part of combat and not a gimmick that was merely throne thrown in. Being able to catch enemies off guard or bring Noctis to safety, warping is an essential whether it be for fight or flight.
The only major issue with the game’s battle system is the camera. After seeing how much ill-placed cameras hurt Tales of Zestiria, one would have hoped that the industry may have learned. With a majority of the game played on the road, much of the combat takes place in the middle of nowhere. Factor in the trees, bushes, stones, enemy swarms, and allies in matching attire, and things can get confusing quite fast. Just about every game overreached in this play through was due to an uncooperative camera. Here’s hoping that the eventual Kingdom Hearts III doesn’t suffer from the same.
Much like western RPGs, such as Skyrim and Fallout 4, Final Fantasy XV‘s greatest strength lies in its freedom to explore. While never quite reaching the epic scope of the Bethesda games, it’s certainly a huge improvement over Final Fantasy XIII and it’s sequels. Once Noctis gets his car working again early into the game, the world quite literally becomes his open road. Whether by car, foot, or Chocobo, there’s a seemingly limitless space to explore. While the main story itself is played within quests of its own, a majority of most players’ playthroughs are made up of the games’ various side quests.
When it comes to video game soundtracks, there are few as legendary as those used in Final Fantasy. Final Fantasy XV is no exception. From start to finish, Noct’s adventures are accompanied by a stream of soothing sounds. It doesn’t take long for the game’s them “Stand By Me” to play, when it does it creates the perfect vibe for this brotherhood’s road trip.
One of the nicest things about Final Fantasy XV is the fact that it doesn’t use a single soundtrack. In addition to its own, the game also features music from Kingsglaive, Dissidia, Type-Zero, and every other numbered title’s soundtracks. By collecting CDs, players can listen to their own mix tapes while driving. From “Dancing Mad” to “Bombing Mission” there’s a song for every setting. Best of all, by buying the in-game MP3 Player, these tracks may be played at any time.
Overall Final Fantasy XV is a solid action RPG and one of the best that the series has had to offer in recent years. The addictive free roaming capabilities and development of the main four make the game an unforgettable experience. While the game certainly isn’t perfect, it should prove enjoyable “for fans and first-timers” alike. Let’s hope that it isn’t a ten-year wait for the next numbered title…
HEY! HEY!! LISTEN!!! gives Final Fantasy XV for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One 9.1 out of 10!
A Fantastic Fantasy
Pros: Lively party, addictive gameplay, unforgettable music, amazing graphics. Cons: Anti-climactic start, sloppy ending, nine-year wait.