Anybody see a giant peach?
Final Fantasy XV Pocket Edition is an abridged Final Fantasy XV for players without the time, patience or attention span for the full game. What a brilliant idea.
I am one of those players. I own the original version of Final Fantasy XV on two different consoles, and I've launched into the early moments of the adventure several times. I get through the game's opening moments just fine (once I got as far as the chocobo stables), but once the world opens up and the sidequests start popping, I get lost. Even though the game's main goals are clear, the sheer amount of things to do and see overloads my brain. I'd love to know how the adventures of Noctis and his boy band pan out, but I just can't.
Until now, that is. Final Fantasy XV Pocket Edition turns the massive, partially open-world epic into a much more linear affair. Instead of wandering the world without a care between quests, chibi-fied versions of Noctis, Gladio, Prompto and Ignis, looking like extras from James and the Giant Peach, make a beeline from one important plot point to the next.
Never change, Cindy.
For example, following the game's famous pushing-the-car opening sequence, Noctis and crew arrive at the Hammerhead body shop, where they meet Cid and his granddaughter Cindy. The events that take place in the console version of the game -- Cindy sending the players off to hunt critters and then tasking them to find a lost hunter -- all take place in a small field map surrounding the shop.
Players simply follow a path using the Pocket Edition's tap and hold to move mechanic. They fight a couple of battles, meet up with the hunter, kill the big creature he asks them to take down and boom, it's back to Hammerhead to check on that car.
There's no convenience store to browse. Noctis and crew can't hit up the diner for sidequests. There's a shopkeeper selling weapons and potions, but that's about it. Once the party is done in Hammerhead, they drive (automatically) to a nearby hotel to drop off an item and meet Umbra, the puppy that helps Noctis and his bride-to-be, Lunafreya, pass notes. Then it's on to the coast to meet up with this bastard right here.
Ardyn is even more menacing somehow.
As much as I appreciate the console version of Final Fantasy XV for its massive scope, Pocket's focused story progression feels a lot more natural. Horrible things happen to Noctis and his friends during their journey, and grave events unfold. Who wanders away to play a mini-game or do a side quest at a time like this? "Hey guys, the Empire invaded my home town and killed my dad. Let's go fishing." No, Noctis.
Despite the cutesy makeover, Pocket isn't presenting a watered-down version of Final Fantasy XV. While some extraneous cutscenes are skipped, the game's major moments are recreated as truly as the less-demanding graphics engine allows. The developers even use the original game's audio, syncing it up nearly frame-for-frame. Seeing the two side-by-side is mind-blowing.
The combat's not too shabby, either. Pocket's battle system is a more mobile-friendly (some might say just plain more friendly) version of the console's. When the party enters a fight, the player takes control of Noctis while the computer handles his companions. The prince auto-attacks, with opportunities to parry and dodge presented as timed button prompts. As the party gains experience levels, Ignis, Prompto and Gladio gain the same sort of special combat abilities they do in the core version.
Sometimes the party splits up. Here Noctis and Gladio take on some dirty Niffies.
Warping is still a major mechanic, with Noctis jumping from one enemy to another with the press of a finger. Warp anchor points are used to get the drop on unaware enemies.
Warp-kills, the series.
I'll say it: I like fighting in the Pocket Edition better. The isometric camera angle makes the action more obvious, which makes reacting to enemy attacks and keeping party members' health topped up much easier.
That's not to say the enemies in the game are pushovers. It just feels like I have more control over battles.
Boss fights can get a bit quick time event happy, but they look nice doing it.
Final Fantasy XV Pocket Edition isn't completely without fluff. It's just more focused fluff with things like collectible cactaur statues hidden around towns and outposts, collecting all of which rewards the player with experience points, or searching for hidden treasure in rest areas, figuring out where to dig using local landmarks scribbled on map scraps.
And it's not like Ignis stopped cooking. Ignis never stops cooking. It's just this time around he gains inspiration from one ingredient found in a dungeon or town, and the player must collect the second to complete the recipe. It's essentially the same thing, just simplified.
That's what Final Fantasy XV Pocket Edition is all about -- taking a complicated game and simplifying it without losing its essence. It's an outstanding abridgement of the original, and a godsend for players like me who want to get to know the story of Noctis and friends but just don't have the time.
I've played for about eight hours now, and I've just completed the epic battle with Leviathan. Six chapters down, four to go. Were I playing the console version, I would have quit six hours back.
Final Fantasy XV Pocket Edition will be available on February 9 for iOS and Android devices. The first of ten chapters is free. Chapters two and three are $US.99 ($1), and the rest are $US3.99 ($5) each. A bundle containing all ten chapters is $US19.99 ($25).