Thursday, December 22, 2016

FFXV: Expectations met PLUS

Final Fantasy XV is a masterpiece. The battle system is fun, if simple, the music is some of the best, and the characters are the most thoroughly developed of any game in the Final Fantasy legacy.

Prince Noctis warping around the battlefield
Battles: Random encounters, which I never minded, are completely gone, and your conflicts seamlessly transition into a hack and slash fest, with some dodging and weaving. While you only ever control one character, the AI characters are battle-competent. However, there's always a weakling in the bunch, and, while not as frustrating as Edge from FFIV, Prompto is 99% why I ever used items. The camera proved to be a pain because trees and bushes block your camera view, and setting the distance to far just loses so much of the battle intensity. Luckily, you get treated to at least 5 different battle themes that do a lot for fighting in FFXV.

Even though you unlock popular tracks from past games in the series to jam to as you explore, FFXV's own soundtrack is gorgeous and quite operatic. I thought the series took a massive dive in memorable music tracks after Nobuo Uematsu left after FF IX, and composer Yoko Shimomura has brought the quality back with a vengeance, after almost 10 games.

food looks hella real, and this is one of Noct's favorites
Despite having "fantasy" in the title, this game has details of everyday life almost on par with GTA V. You can fish, cook, take photos, go on pleasure drives, and listen to old FF game music as you do so. The 4 friends banter spontaneously, and you get a great sense of their personality in some of the most natural character development I've ever seen in gaming. I truly cared about all the peril my characters were in during the story, and a particular scene at the end of the game brought on the man tears.

Aside from the quips and quotes in and out of battle, the smaller details are the random amount of actions your bros take during car rides: Prompto (the wisecracking photographer) will turn around and stand up in the car, waving his arms while telling a story, Ignis (the level-headed nerd) will drink his favorite coffee, Ebony, and hand it back to one of the passengers before placing it in the cup holder, and Gladio (the warrior who centers the party's emotions) will whip out a book and read. Although you can teleport between points on the HUGE map, watching these very varied interactions make the game feel very organic.

The other thing to down vote about this story is the dreadful relationship between Prince Noctis and Princess Lunafreya. Not only do the two never meet up, but they are completely unromantic and don't even seem like good friends. It was the worst-written part of the experience, and the Kingsglaive movie that came out didn't really shed much light on their relationship beyond establishing that they were childhood friends. During the game, you get even less of that, as you two basically write dry letters to one another. Who signed off on that?

However, besides the occasional battle camera flaw and the poorly-done man-woman relationship, there are plenty of other things to gush about and enjoy from one of the top games in the series. This game is a must for people who want something for a new console that isn't an FPS. I'd recommend Final Fantasy XV to anybody.

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