column

RPG Grind Time – Final Fantasy XV Pocket Edition Impressions

by Kimberley Wallace on Feb 07, 2018 at 09:00 PM

As technology continues to dominate our lives, most of us are walking around with a mobile device 24/7/365. Square Enix is capitalizing on this with Final Fantasy XV Pocket Edition, a retelling of the original game’s story that boasts a new art style and touch controls optimized for mobile. It falls in line with what Final Fantasy XV has been about: acknowledging change and trying to reinvent Final Fantasy for modern times. 

Before we discuss more about Pocket Edition, let’s talk about Final Fantasy XV’s impact in general. Some people love the entry’s experimentation and admire its risks even in spite of its flaws, while purists aren’t confident in this new direction based on these foibles and still yearn for a more classic design. I’m of the mind that Final Fantasy XV was a necessary step for Square Enix to compete in the modern RPG market, even if the more open-world setup and battle system show Square was traversing new territory. It has one of the stronger casts we’ve seen in recent entries, and does a great job creating the emotional connection necessary for Noctis’ story to matter. 

Final Fantasy XV Pocket Edition gives newcomers who don’t have the hours to invest sitting at a console a way to experience this. It also provides fans a way to relive some of their favorite moments from the series. I fall into the latter camp, and after playing through the first chapter, I was impressed with how much it aligned with my memories of the game, right down to the side quests. This may retell the story, but it strips away a lot of the fat while still retaining the parts that matter. The result is a laid-back journey with simpler controls and fewer distractions in the world, making for a more contained, easier to pick-up-and-play experience. 

As long as Noctis is close to an enemy, he auto-attacks it. The only time you need to lift a is finger is to press button prompts for parries and activating your party member’s special attacks alongside flinging your finger forward for warp strikes. For the most part, I enjoyed the simpler combat; the controls work well and I don’t feel like I constantly have to tap my heart out to get the job done. You get AP from leveling up, which then can be used to upgrade Noctis with new moves, stat boosts, and combos. This is a modified version of the classic Ascension grid. Certain abilities are essential to unlock before you can get others, but you still have some freedom in choosing what path you want to take and which abilities you want to invest in. You also use AP to increase Prompto, Gladio, and Ignis’ effectiveness in battle. I tried to balance buffing Noctis up between improving his friends’ (support members) combat prowess. I enjoy this simple setup because it makes me feel like I have some control in watching my characters get stronger, while also allowing me to select the abilities that matter to my play style. 

My biggest knock with the mobile journey is that you lose the beauty and wonder of the original’s world. The environments are bland, leaving much to be desired. You can find things in the world to pick and sell, but there isn’t much that makes exploring exciting. This emptiness makes the world feel very shallow. You’re certainly not driving the car as much this time (or for as long periods), but you still are listening to plenty of road-trip conversations. I was pleased to see nothing is really lost from the banter. You can still find recipes for Ignis to cook and you see Prompto pop out his camera every so often. 

Thankfully, the larger-than-life beasts still hold a great allure and make up for the unexciting exploration. These battles require more planning and there’s something about seeing these massive foes in front of your measly party members that makes taking them down all the more satisfying. 

The cute new art style isn’t for everyone. It looks close to Square’s Bravely Default series, but sometimes these iconic characters just look awkward and out-of-place in the new format. Fortunately, the voice acting remains strong and it doesn’t feel dialed back. Seeing small cutscenes that are fully voiced is a nice touch. 

The game is split into 10 chapters, and you can try the first episode for free. After that, you can pay by individual episode (ranging from $.99 to $3.99), or purchase the full season for $19.99. At the very least, give the first episode a shot, especially if you never played Final Fantasy XV and want a less demanding experience. Those who just want to revisit the story without all the contrived elements should feel right at home, too. Final Fantasy XV Pocket Edition launches on February 9 for iOS and Android.

Do you think more games will follow Final Fantasy XV with a mobile iteration? I always think the more people that can play a game, the better.