Title: “Final Fantasy XV”
Platform: PlayStation 4 and Xbox One
Cost: Retail price is about $60.
Rating: FFXV is rated Teen (13+) for language, mild blood, partial nudity and violence.
“Final Fantasy XV” takes its players on what may be both the best and worst road trip of all time.
You are Prince Noctis, heir to the small, magical kingdom of Lucis, the lone holdout in a world dominated by the technologically advanced Empire of Niflheim, which has just attacked your home, killed your father the king, and now seeks to finish its extermination of the family line.
Accompanying Noctis on this journey are his three best friends from childhood. There’s Ignis, who served as his butler and personal chef; Gladiolus, who trained Noctis in combat and weaponry; and class clown Prompto, who always has his camera in hand.
The relationships among these four young men with boy-band haircuts and the male bonding that takes place as they crisscross an open-world, America-inspired landscape are the heart and soul of Square Enix’s FFXV.
No experience with previous video game titles in the franchise is needed to play, although the well versed will immediately recognize recurring elements, such as the large, rideable birds known as Chocobos and the airliner-size armored turtle Adamantoise.
The game jumps right into the action and only doles out the backstory in bits and pieces as the main storyline advances. A fivepart animated series, Brotherhood: Final Fantasy XV, available free on YouTube, and a feature-length CGI-animation movie, Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV, available for online purchase or rental, and watching both is strongly recommended before playing the game.
Brotherhood, delivered in Japanese with English subtitles, delves into the backstories of Prince Noctis and each of his traveling companions, with moments serious and humorous — much like the game itself. Kingsglaive, voiced in English by an all-star cast topped by Sean Bean and Lena Headey (both of Game of Thrones fame), details the fall of the kingdom of Lucis and gives much-needed understanding of characters and setting.
“Final Fantasy XV” starts with Noctis and friends on the road in their sleek convertible, the Regalia, on their way to the nearby kingdom of Tenebrae, where Noctis is set to marry Princess Luna and forge an alliance with the Empire. But before they arrive, they receive word that the Empire has attacked Lucis and killed his father, King Regis. With the roads ahead and behind now blocked, they must travel around, performing quests, defeating enemies and growing stronger, until they can challenge the might of the Empire and take back their kingdom.
GAMEPLAY AND CONTROLS
Earlier Final Fantasy games used turn-based combat, allowing for considered, tactical battle plans. FFXV’s real-time combat, often against hordes of enemies or skyscraper-size beasts, is more chaotic but also satisfying. Fear not, though, if that sounds unappealing. In the settings menu, simply switch the combat style to “wait mode.” It’s not precisely turn-based, but it does temporarily pause time to allow for a more tactical approach.
Combat is fairly straightforward. Noctis can dodge, block and parry attacks, setting up powerful counterattacks in tandem with his companions. Noctis has access to multiple weapon types, such as swords, axes, daggers, guns and shields. Enemies have resistances and weaknesses to the various weapons and to elements such as fire, ice and lightning. Use Ignis’ ability to analyze enemies to know which weapon to choose.
GRAPHICS AND SOUND
With a recent update, FFXV is now capable of 1080p resolution and 60 frames per second on the PS4 Pro, and 720p resolution and 30 FPS on the PS4 and Xbox One.
The soundtrack for FFXV was composed by Yoko Shimomura, who worked on Disney’s “Kingdom Hearts,” and her scores incorporate multiple genres, including bossa nova and American blues. The soundtracks for earlier Final Fantasy games are available at shopkeepers within the game, and after purchase they can be played in the car while traveling.
Finishing the game allows Noctis and his friends to return home, and unlocks a dozen more dungeons featuring the game’s strongest enemies yet. This also unlocks the option for “New Game Plus,” in which all upgrades are carried over and enemies have new and more powerful items to drop.
A recent free downloadable content (DLC) upgrade has increased the maximum level from 99 to 120, and future paid DLC will focus more on Noctis’ companions and their stories.
FFXV offers a lot of bang for the buck. The main-story quest takes about 20 hours, and there are easily 80 to 100 more hours of side-quests to complete. But don’t rush through it — after all, the point of a road trip is to be able to slow down and enjoy the journey.
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