Final Fantasy XV's New Demo Is Delightful

Final Fantasy XV's New Demo Is Delightful

Nearly three years ago, while showcasing what we now know was a game that had barely even started development, the people behind Final Fantasy XV demonstrated a flashy fight between the hero Noctis and a Final Fantasy stalwart, the hulking Iron Giant. We only got bits and pieces of the battle, but what we saw looked spectacular. Noctis rolled and zipped around a giant city plaza, sparks flying as he hacked apart the enemy soldiers that surrounded the Giant. He'd throw his sword at a building and warp wherever it landed, allowing for some aerial acrobatics that put even sister series Kingdom Hearts to shame. In the trailers and gameplay footage that would follow, the battle with the Iron Giant appeared pretty frequently. It appeared to be one of the few things Final Fantasy XV's dev team had actually finished.

Three years later, thanks to the new FFXV Platinum demo, we can finally play that dazzling fight. It's the climax of a 30-minute adventure that takes Noctis through a surreal dreamscape that feels very much like a Final Fantasy game, complete with stellar music, weird humour and astounding scale. Although the demo launched back on March 30, after the FFXV Uncovered event, I was out of the country and didn't get a chance to play until this past weekend. To compensate, I beat it twice.

There's quite a bit to complain about, I should say. The framerate takes some heavy hits whenever you use magic, and the camera is a nightmare, especially when Noctis is trying to navigate the movable big toy blocks that litter the second stage. The whole "defend" function still doesn't make much sense -- there's little point in using it -- and it's kind of annoying that they moved the attack button from X to O, although I imagine the final game will have button mapping. Combat feels a bit shallow, but hey, it's a demo.

What's more important, I think, is that in just four levels the FFXV Platinum demo manages to capture the essence of Final Fantasy. There's no story, sure, but there are hints that Noctis is more interesting than his angsty exterior lets on. A couple of optional dialogue exchanges between the prince and his furry companion Carbuncle reveal that he's got something of a complicated relationship with his dad. We get to hear a smattering of Yoko Shimomura's incredible soundtrack and we even get to test out the driving mechanics that will be so important during Noctis's road trip, thanks to a panel that temporarily transforms him into a car. (Like I said, weird humour.)

As a standalone experience, FFXV Platinum would fall flat. But as a free sampling of what's coming in September, it's a delight. The demo might not be a graphical powerhouse -- some of the textures are dull, and it feels unoptimised thanks to bugs and technical blemishes -- but the environments are surreal and fun to explore. One minute you're adventuring in the forest; shortly afterwards, Noctis has been miniaturised and must jump up furniture to escape a giant toyroom that feels like a cross between Honey I Shrunk the Kids and Kingdom Hearts. Panels scattered throughout the demo allow you to change the weather or speed up time so day will transform to night and vice versa. It's less about giving you a standalone experience, like last year's Episode Duscae demo, and more about offering glimpses of what's to come.

Once you beat the Iron Giant, you can step on a panel to fight a more challenging version of the iconic Final Fantasy creature. If you're good enough, you can combo him to death without taking a hit, dancing around the screen as if you, too, are part of that old E3 trailer.

September 30 doesn't seem that far away now, does it? Everything in the Platinum demo hints that Square has, as promised, gone all out for Final Fantasy XV. One optional panel will summon Leviathan, not to fight you or attack your opponents but to float in the sky for a few seconds before disappearing into the ether. "Look," the demo is saying, "we've got this shit."

In September of 2014, I wrote about how important Final Fantasy XV is, not just for the future of Square Enix but for the climate of Japanese RPGs as a whole. For decades now, other JRPGs have followed in Final Fantasy's stylish footsteps, no matter which way it's walked. If Final Fantasy XV lives up to the potential its showed -- that of a game with depth, with humour, with incredible music and characters whose motivations are tangled and interesting -- we might be in for a grand new age soon. Let's hope it can live up to what the Platinum demo has teased.


Comments

    I thought it was beyond terrible and am rather surprised they released this to the public.

      Honestly the Episode Duscae is the true game demo.

      Platinum seems to be far more of a tech demo, what with the Alice in Wonderland-esque area in the dining room, the unnecessary scaling, the transformations, and the worse combat than Episode Duscae.

      One thing that I absolutely loved and still adore about episode Duscae is how much more fluid and dynamic the combat has become. Yes, it is still essentially turn based combat, but it's more fluid, reactionary. Is this attack going to be one that I can parry or do I dodge? Should I use this special to take down the yellow bovine or should I focus on the smaller bovine charging up to me? Where is my next opportunity to knock a creature off guard so I can start a combo chain?

      I also enjoy the intelligence of Gladiolus, Prompto, and Ignis. They do not rely on you having to save them but if you plan far enough ahead, you can pause the combat and command them to use a potion at the next available chance. This is combat that is deeper than 13,more streamlined(and less flexible) than 12,and I quite enjoyed the gambit system by the time I got half way through the marks list, since I unlocked nearly every single possible command, and was able to have my party auto fight for me so I could focus on the role I assigned myself with the job. However that being stuck to one job permanently was a big issue for me- as well as the license board.

      The dining room seems to be about 60% of the area we get in Duscae in size, it's just devoid of meaningful activities, which can be explained with the fact that the entire platinum demo will not show up in the game.

      My biggest issue which also happens on episode Duscae 2.0 is that No tips and Regis' voices are muted. I have tried reinstalling the games, but with no luck. My last resort is to backup save data, then wipe my PS4, and start over.

      Agreed. I've got my ultimate edition preordered so I'm hyped as the next guy but Platinum demo was trash.

        So trash I'm not even hyped for the game anymore. That frame rate and just the general feel of it was so off. Fingers crossed it improves but I'm not gonna get excited unless I hear its a masterpiece. There hasn't been a good Final Fantasy game for a long, long time.

    I want to play the demo Jason got to play, because I wouldn't describe the one I got that way at all. :(

      What dyu reckon neg, launch day purchase or no? I trust your taste in JRPG's =D

        I'm getting it but only because it's FF and I've got a secret hope that it's got some substance to it that the demos haven't shown. The Platinum Demo played better than Episode Duscae did, but both aren't my sort of thing. Awkward controls and terrible camera and strangely floaty almost Too Human-like combat. I feel like if it was a more conventional action RPG or just a straight up action game I'd enjoy it more. I basically expect to be able to play it like a Souls game and it won't let me which is frustrating.

        The open world in the earlier demo felt lifeless especially when it popped up so close to The Witcher 3, but I tend not to like that style of game anyway. Not remotely interested in any of the cast either.

        For me, the JRPG I'm excited about this year is Trails of Cold Steel II. Have some hope that Star Ocean 5 will be a return to form too.

          What?! No Fire Emblem mention or Persona 5?! I don't trust your taste in JRPG's anymore *angry face*

          *googles Trails of Cold Steel*

          Also I'm not certain how I feel about this FF, on one side I'm hoping for something amazing cos its FF but on the other I'm really not a fan of action based JRPG's, my heart belongs to the turn based era :(

            I can't enjoy the Persona games. The time management element awakens a terrible sort of OCD in me which completely ruins my ability to enjoy it because I'm always trying to optimize and plan ahead and getting frustrated by the randomness of it at times. It's not fun for me at all. Plus the actual bit where you play the game is pedestrian at best.

            And I've had Fire Emblem since February but Nintendo's bungled handling of the leadup to the release really killed my interest in ever playing it.

            The combat still us essentially turn based. Also in the update, you get a new(I guess) super boss fight. Plus parries and chains now involve whichever party members are free and able to move into position. My only issue with combinations is I fail after 15 because by then there is too much action going on and I miss the audio queue to attack

    I definitely enjoyed Episode Duscae much more.
    This felt more like a tech demo the developers slapped together to test different elements of the game.

      It seemed almost like the demo order should have been reversed, Platinum to get us familiar with a little of the main protagonists history, and then Duscae to show us more as a whole. Played through Duscae twice, probably put 20+ hours on it, just having a good time, enjoying the mechanics. I don't think I'll play Platinum again

    I haven't enjoyed a Final Fantasy game in a long time (except FF: tactics) this is looking like the first I might enjoy again

    I agree with everyone else. This demo was not impressive at all. Nothing about it made me want to pre-order the full game. If anything, I'm now less interested and more likely to wait for reviews.

    I was super annoyed about what the did to the combat for the platinum demo. Why wasn't it like Duscae?

      Yeah it seemed so dull. Hold a button (poorly placed, as the article said) to attack. That's not fun. the dining room area where you're shrunk down felt so much like kingdom hearts without the amazing combat of kingdom hearts. Why are they trying to incite that comparison if they don't have an identical or just as good combat system to match? Throwing little bomb attacks was an utter chore too. Why doesn't the game auto lock me on to enemies i attack and do the same for the bombs, i want to be able to flick the stick to swap the enemy i'm targeting with those bombs, and then have a button that allows me to free aim, not the other way around, like it is currently.

    I did enjoy the demo, but it really is just a tech demo and compared to Duscae it is SEVERELY lacking.
    One thing that really started to annoy me towards the end though was Carbuncle itself. The little fuzzball is so cute, but his one-and-only audio file when he talks grated me. Squeenix should've had a few others littered in there to not grate me every time the little guy said something.

    In September of 2014, I wrote about how important Final Fantasy XV is, not just for the future of Square Enix but for the climate of Japanese RPGs as a whole. For decades now, other JRPGs have followed in Final Fantasy‘s stylish footsteps, no matter which way it’s walked.Final Fantasy XV shouldn't be important though. A lot of the problem with JRPGs exist because they try to follow in Final Fantasy's footsteps, producing the same effect we see with MMORPGs that keep trying to follow in WOW's foot steps. Games like the Tales series, Star Ocean, Xenoblade and the Atelier series are all popular and appealing because they are distinct from Final Fantasy. In fact, I'm actually tempted to say that Final Fantasy XV is only important to the continued survival of the series because JRPGs have moved on and Squeenix needs to keep up. (Yes I know SO 5 is also by Square)

    First time I've ever played a demo and then cancelled a preorder because of it.

    I enjoyed both Duscae (post-patch) and the Platinum Demo immensely, and that's all that really matters at the end of the day :)

    I decided to download the Platinum demo today and although it was short and a glorified tech demo i enjoyed it immensely =)

    A big time FF fan, although i haven't played the modern ones (closest is FF12 and that was on PS2) but this one has a lot of potential. I definitely noticed the camera was very annoying during the iron giant fight and the combat mechanics are a bit sluggish, but this is a demo after all so i'm sure the final product will be much improved.

    I'll wait until it drops in price a bit before considering purchase for Xbone =)

    I'm so glad to read the other comments here, I thought it was a pretentious tech demo and did absolutely nothing to sell the game to me. "the climax of a 30-minute adventure" I can only assume the author was actually having a cheeky wank during it...

    (Also I would've upvoted other comments but I can't seem to do it anymore... is that just me...?)

    Last edited 12/04/16 9:55 pm

    The X and O button swap is a Japan thing. They identify the X as cancel and O as confirm, where as is in most western games the X is to confirm. It will very likely be changed for western release.

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