I knew playing the Final Fantasy XV demo so soon would be a bad idea. I wanted to clear through all my other games first, especially Type-0, before tackling it. Instead, I decided there’s no better time to dive into a multi-hour demo of a game as a Sunday morning.
All I want to do now is play more of Final Fantasy XV.
Quite frankly, I don’t even want to be sitting here, writing this. I just want to go back to my Playstation 4 and magically have the entirety of Final Fantasy XV ready for me to play from start to finish. After years of nothing but apathy for this franchise I hunger for it again.
Or at least, a title that happens to be taking up the moniker.
This is no “returning to the roots”. Perhaps in the aesthetic of the monster designs, certainly, and using old terms like Magitek and Magicite once more, but Final Fantasy XV is nothing like its eldest predecessors. It’s an action-based role-playing game with a heavy emphasis on action. Perhaps that is why I love it as much as I am right now, as over the past few years I’ve grown quite accustomed to the delightful flavors of third-person action games. The Wonderful 101, Bayonetta 2, Dragon’s Dogma and DmC: Devil May Cry have become some of my favorite games to play recently, offering a highly-polished and mechanically rich playground to navigate.
Final Fantasy XV happens to be reinventing itself as an action game just in time to appeal to my tastes, or so it would seem. It even harkens back to Too Human, allowing the player to hold down the attack button whilst pointing in the direction of their tormentor to strike. In fact, your usual action game fan may feel that Final Fantasy XV spends enough time playing for you. Hold down the attack button to continue attacking, and hold down the dodge button to keep on dodging.
I would argue that the player’s mind is instead free to consider their environment, the surrounding enemies, and to determine what special attacks or techniques are needed for the situation. Not all foes behave the same, after all, and certain special attacks are based used against specific foes under specific circumstances. Dragon Jump and Tempest are excellent crowd abilities, for example, shining brightest when the player is surrounded by Goblins or encountering a retinue of Magitek Knights.
What this has to do with the story or characters, I’m not certain. The Final Fantasy franchise is largely known for plots of a certain epic splendor, and while the scale of many of the monsters and environments certainly promise that, there’s also something a bit different about a cross-country road trip. Our protagonists are avoiding a war somehow, or perhaps they’re trying to reach a key destination. I’m not entirely certain at this stage, and the demo does little to inform the player of what to expect in that regard.
All I can be certain of is that this feels like a brand new and unique game. It has bits of Dragon’s Dogma and Xenoblade Chronicles sprinkled here and there, and evidently the encounter with the Behemoth is rather reminiscent of Monster Hunter, but if there’s anything to excite me about the game it is as much as it reminds me of Dungeons & Dragons.
An odd comparison, I know. After all, I just stated that our stylish protagonists are driving across a rather modern looking world littered with monsters of mythological proportion. Yet as I was diving down into a cavern filled with goblins, seeking out a treasure uncertain, and sneaking amidst the fog whilst my compatriots plotted how to attack the Behemoth from its blind spot, I was reminded very much of old campaigns with friends. The aesthetic may be different in many ways, but the atmosphere is intact.
Which would mean Final Fantasy XV could be the closest in spirit to the original Final Fantasy than any of its predecessors. It would be a rather interesting irony if it were ultimately true, as the latest game is the furthest from its 8-bit founder as any could be. Yet as I dove into that cavern, rescuing a companion of mine, the connection was made and a smile spread across my face.
I cannot promise old fans of the franchise that they’ll be interested in Final Fantasy XV. I cannot say whether this will be a “return to form” for Square-Enix, that the series is “good again”. The truth is that Final Fantasy has always been about change and evolution. It is just that, over the past few years, those changes have been more drastic than they ever were in the 8- and 16-bit days.
Now it just happens to have reinvented itself to a form that perfectly fits my tastes.
Which is unfortunate, because I’d really like to be able to play and enjoy my other games rather than sitting here wishing Final Fantasy XV could just be complete already.