This week, the Final Fantasy XV demo was released across the world to those who picked up Final Fantasy Type-0 HD. However, it's important to remember that it is just a demo and not necessarily the same experience as the full game. I mean, look how much Final Fantasy XIII changed between its demo and final release.
Final Fantasy XIII's demo, Final Fantasy XIII: Trial Version, was released in Japan back in April 2009 as part of the Final Fantasy: Advent Children Complete Blu-ray. The full game was released eight months later -- and is vastly different in everything from the gameplay to the visuals.
Let's start with the battle system. In both the demo and the full game, you play first as Lightning (with Sazh as a party member) and later as Snow (with the other members of the rebel group NORA as backup.) Yet the battle systems are organised quite differently.
In the demo, the battle menu contains Skills, Black Magic, and White Magic -- with Attack and Sky Rocket under Skills; Fire and Firaga under Black Magic: and Cure under White Magic. Snow's is the same but with Ice magic instead of Fire magic. As you can use magic from the start, it is obvious there is no "role system" in the demo.
In the full game, however, Lightning has three possible choices on her battle menu: Auto-battle, Command and Items. Auto-battle chooses your commands for you. Command allows you to select Attack or Blitz. Items has potions to heal your characters.
Lightning and Snow have two sections on their Active Time Battle (ATB) bar in the demo, but have three in the final game. In the demo, you queue up your commands on the ATB bar and then activate them by hitting triangle (or circle twice) when the bar is full. In the final game, however, you can queue up commands on your ATB bar and they will go off automatically when the bar is full.
There is also an interesting difference in how the characters attack. If you unleash a chain of three attacks and the enemy you are fighting dies after the first one in the demo, Lightning or Snow will attack nothing but air for the remaining two attacks. Yet in the final game, they will use the other two attacks on another enemy. This vastly changes how you play in the demo -- you want to use the bare minimum of attacks to kill an enemy so you don't waste time attacking nothing.
Breaking an enemy's defence also works differently between the versions. In the demo, there is no indicator that a break has occurred; you just have to watch the break bar carefully. Then, once broken, you use Sky Rocket -- an uppercut attack -- to launch it into the sky where it is defenseless. In the final version of the game, when you break an enemy's defence, you are treated to a slow motion close-up that notifies you of the break. Then by attacking the enemy normally, you will often knock it into the air automatically.
It also appears that the end-of-battle screen was redesigned between the demo and the launch of the full game. But that is only one of many visual changes.
The overall colour balance, contrast, and use of shadows are the most obvious of these. The demo is generally brighter with more colours while the final version has a greener overlaying hue.
The character models were also altered a fair bit for the retail release. Many characters sport necklaces, chains, or other accessories not seen in the demo and one character, Yuj, has a completely new design in the final game.
Snow's in-battle character model was revised as well. In the demo, the back of his coat is blank while in the final version it has a design that changes based on which weapon is equipped.
Another small change is that the demo lacks the corresponding text when characters banter while moving around the map that is found in the final version. Also, the final game has save points and an out-of-battle main menu not available in the demo.
While the story and dialogue are largely the same between the demo and final version, there are a few notable exceptions. When Vanille accepts a gun from Snow, the final version contains a new line of narration that was absent in the demo.
Also, when Hope's mother dies, the final version adds a reaction shot and accompanying scream from Hope. That same scene also lasts longer -- showing Vanille trying to comfort Hope, while in the demo it ends with Snow falling off the bridge.
The full game also has an additional scene with Lightning and Sazh plus an extra battle not in the demo.
The demo comes to a close with the Fal'Cie flying in front of Vanille and ends with a close-up on her face and some final, ominous narration. In the full game, neither the close-up nor narration happen. Instead, Vanille and Hope shed their robes, we get our first good look at their faces, and the two run off following the Fal'Cie.
So, yes. It's safe to say much can change between a demo and the retail version of a game. And if Final Fantasy XIII is any guide, then the Final Fantasy XV demo we're playing now may be vastly different from the Final Fantasy XV we're playing in a year or two.