I know what you’re thinking, especially if anyone follows along with my video game challenges on the blog, “Why is she playing Final Fantasy XV when she’s supposed to be focusing on her ongoing video game challenge?” The answer is simple really––I’m weak! I may be tipping my hand early with how my next end of the month progress report will most likely turn out based on being successfully seduced by a new and incredibly sexy game, but I played it and do have some early reactions to what I’ve experienced so far. Spoiler Alert: It’s so much fun.
I haven’t dabbled much in the Final Fantasy series. Between being a late bloomer gamer and not owning a Playstation console at all, there isn’t really a ton of opportunity to backtrack and play some of the best Final Fantasy games to ever be released. I have played but never finished Final Fantasy IV when it released for the Nintendo DS. I bought Final Fantasy XIII from a bargain bin at a Toys R’ Us for the Xbox 360, despite the poor reception this game received, but haven’t finished that either because I remain forever stuck on a minor boss I can’t seem to beat. The closest I’ve actually stuck with and beat a game attached to the Final Fantasy universe is Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII for the Playstation Portable, a sort of prequel to the much beloved Final Fantasy VII. I’m not exactly sure if Crisis Core actually counts as having experienced a true Final Fantasy game. When Final Fantasy XV announced it would also be available to play on the Xbox One and not just the Playstation 4, it became the ultimate opportunity for me to play the most highly anticipated Final Fantasy game to date.
Early game reviews have been mostly positive about FFXV and it has been recently reported that this game is the fastest selling title on record for the series. Fans and Square Enix seemed extremely concerned about the fate of the series. The previous titles sold didn’t do well both with fans and sales and there have been some missteps on the part of the developer. A lot was riding on Final Fantasy XV being the game to revitalize the series, which everyone can now breathe a sigh of relief. Despite a lot of reviewers saying the overall plot isn’t as strong as it could be, the real strengths of the game are the bromance between main character Noctis and his crew (Gladiolus, Ignis, Prompto) and the gameplay.
At the time of this writing, I’ve only completed the Prologue and Chapter 1 of FFXV. While I’m still in the very early parts of the game, I can say I was immediately drawn into the tight relationship Noctis has with his friends. From the moment you see Noctis and the guys set out into the open road in the Regalia with Florence and the Machine’s hauntingly beautiful cover of Stand By Me playing in the background, there’s a feeling of something special and exciting is about to happen as you go on this road trip journey with them.
On first appearance it may seem like following the crowned prince of Lucis having one last adventure with his pals before his arranged marriage to Lunafreya of Tenebrae might not be all that exciting, especially when each guy looks like they could be members of a perfectly coiffed boy band, but their established bond and the natural way their friendship plays out in the first few hours invites the player to care about the characters and to see where their road trip adventures take them. Each character’s very different personalities are also a delight to uncover the more you play. Gladiolus is the beefy muscle guy of the group, Ignis is the culinary savant who cooks the meals the guys eat whenever they make camp at a campsite, and Prompto is the energetic photographer who takes every chance he can get to photo document their travels.
What I’ve played and experienced of the combat is so much fun to master. As Noctis, you get to switch between weapons mid-battle and his ability to teleport from one location to the next to either heal or catch an enemy unawares is one of the best parts about wanting to run into a fight with his bros at his side. While I find level grinding tedious in a game like Final Fantasy XIII, I don’t feel that same burden in FFXV. I’m so engrossed in utilizing Noctis and his friends in a fight that leveling them up isn’t something I need to think about as a chore to prepare for the harder battles later in the game. Like other reviewers have mentioned, the camera angles can be completely awkward and erratic in this game. When you’re in the middle of a fight, all of a sudden you can lose sight of Noctis and who he’s fighting when the camera decides to swing its vantage point behind a bush, obstructing your ability to properly get in those critical hits when they count. This can and will be problematic when you’re up against a hard boss and the lack of smooth camera movements in these instances certainly doesn’t help at all.
I think it’s unnecessary to say how absolutely gorgeous the graphics and world of FFXV looks. While this entry in the series feels more grounded in reality than fantasy with sleek modern cars and roadside diners at a rest stop, it doesn’t make the game any less appealing to play. In fact, you’ll be itching to fire up that console to spend more time in it and explore the different kinds of food the guys get to feast on.
Final Fantasy XV is an enticing escape from reality and I’m looking forward to seeing how the story ends for Noctis and friends. Now, if only I can temporarily quit this game in favor of my poorly neglected video game challenge! Have you played Final Fantasy XV? What are your first impressions so far?