For many of us the 30th March (31st to us English peeps) was an incredibly early Christmas. Gamespot had leaked Final Fantasy XV's release date ahead of schedule and as such, people were hesitant to tune into the Final Fantasy XV Uncovered event. Regardless, Square-Enix promised there was more to show and heartily encouraged fans to tune into their live stream.
It aired 3am UK time and although it would have been worth losing sleep to, I opted to watch the show at a more sensible hour. However, what I saw was amazing. Not only do Square have faith in their game, they placed huge emphasis on the fact they wanted to go back to Final Fantasy's roots. They wanted to re-evaluate what made Final Fantasy so great. What enticed fans to come back time and time again? Well, after recognising FF13 as an absolute train wreck it appears Square are so confident in Final Fantasy XV that they've created a huge expanded Universe surrounding it.
At the time, they announced the Platinum Demo (which is free to play on PSN and XBLA right now), Kingsglaive (a movie made by the Advent Children team), an in-game (and out of) mini-game called Justice Monsters V, plus an Animé entitled Brotherhood. There's a lot to take on board, so I'll expand upon these points a little later, but for now, I've spent a good amount of time with the Platinum Demo and so here's what I had to say about it:
Check out the latest Scenic Trailer below:
The Final Fantasy XV Platinum Demo
Upon starting the demo, strange dialogue can be heard referencing some kind of Demon. It doesn't make much sense, is likely out of context and will probably have more significance when we're able to play the full title. Immediately after however, a young Noctis is seen waking up within a wooded area, as a small quadrupedal animal waits ahead. This is Carbuncle and he serves as your guide through the Dreamscape. The Platinum Demo is a dream. It's separate from the main title, giving a taste of what's to come and really just serves as a glorified Tech Demo, allowing you to change the weather, trigger events, unlock a couple of new weapons and play with the day and night cycles. All you need to do is collect Dream Shards (the floating golden crystals) and when you have enough you'll soon have all plates unlocked (more on these later), which are pressure sensitive, activating only when Noctis touches them.
My first impression of the beginning area really felt like I was playing Final Fantasy X again. Sure the character looks completely different and we're playing as a kid, but the musical tone and atmosphere felt identical to that of Final Fantasy X's Besaid Beach. Intended or not, as you progress a little further through the first section of the demo, there's another nod, this time to Qu's Marsh of Final Fantasy IX, as frogs jump around the shallows of a small Lake. The next section presents something a lot more familiar to us all - A nod to Kingdom Hearts.
This section of the demo spawns you at the back of a large, ornately decorated room. The Kingdom Hearts nod here is not only the music, but also to do with the fact you're tiny while everything else around you is over-sized (Think the Alice in Wonderland segments of any KH title). This is where your first taste of the in-game driving mechanics are. Don't expect Burnout or Need For Speed quality handling though, because the vehicles are incredibly simple, but do the job. There's a fair bit to explore here, but really it's just a fancy pass-through as you make your way to the next area.
In this third section, the vistas here are incredible. You'll also find pressure plates that replace young Noctis with one of three fantastical creatures featured in the full game. Aside from the grandeur viewing points however, there's little to do in this section but fight some Nightmares (the main creatures of the demo, reminiscent of Heartless) and explore the very limited area before moving onto the fourth and final segment of the demo. Still, you can't help but take in the scenery because the architecture is incredibly well designed and beautifully imaginative. As an artist myself, this is something I can really appreciate. It really just goes to show how much attention to detail there is.
Here's my final fight with the optional level 15 Iron Giant in the final section of the demo:
In this last and final section of the demo, you arrive at what I believe to be the Royal Palace of Noctis and King Regis. As you make your way down the carpeted stair set, Carbuncle takes a nasty hit, recovers and then comes running back to your side, when suddenly your younger form transforms into the older, adult Noctis that we've all come to recognise over the past decade. This is when the battle initiates against the mandatory level 3 Iron Giant and although easy, the fight drew several noteworthy things to my attention:
1. It appears the hit detection has been tweaked. You can generally tell where your weapon is making contact, with deflection and at times, sparks.
2. The hits actually feel as though they have more of an impact now. This is a big plus for me, because when I played Episode Duscae the attacks felt so light that it put me off the combat of the entire game. There was no satisfaction. It was just mindless button mashing with little effect. So I'm glad this has been sorted out in the latest Demo and has made me actually enjoy the more intense combat now.
3. We get our first taste of magic in this Demo and the magic for me, felt really satisfying to use. Not only is it gorgeous to look at, you can really feel the impact when it hits.
4. When changing weapons it seems a selection of weapons flash around you, corresponding to the amount you have acquired. This makes me believe the weapon wheel will expand from four to 8 or more, giving a visual appearance more akin to one of the very early trailers where Noctis surrounds himself with blades to block incoming bullets. Alternatively, it could directly correspond to how many different weapons you've collected across the entire course of the game.
5. Weapons change appearance. For a while, I was concerned that the weapons in Episode Duscae would be the only weapons you could use and once acquired, would be with you for the entirety of the game. Thankfully this isn't the case, as the demo provides you with not just the starting "Toy Sword", but also the "Radiant Sword" (which has upgraded damage from the initial one) and Glaive that you find later on. Let's just hope the main title has multiple weapon models for each weapon type you come into ownership of. As the demo is only a taste of what's to come, I'm looking forward to seeing what weapons and other gear will be available come FFXV's release.
6. In a recent Playstation Access video, it's also been confirmed that weapons can have Status Effects on them, but would it really be Final Fantasy if that wasn't the case? I've included the interview with Tabata in the video below.
There is however one downside to this. I'm assuming they've done it to appeal to the more casual gamers out there, but if you hold Circle (the attack button on PS4), you perform an infinite number of string attacks until you release the button again. For me, it would have been nicer to have a combo system in place that requires the press of a button for each attack, because then combat wouldn't feel so automated and would feel a lot more satisfying to watch and play with.
Once the Iron Giant's been defeated, if you've collected enough Dream Shards, you can ignore the Exit Plate, stepping on another Plate further along which spawns a level 15 Iron Giant. Now, you're only level 1 in the demo and this Iron Giant can be pretty brutal, but with Carbuncle by your side, you're constantly being healed when you need it most and from what I've gathered it's impossible to die in the demo, making this fight pretty easy. Of note, you can only Teleport with the lighter weapons. I see this as a good thing however, because it encourages you to mix things up. It's incredibly fun to keep Teleporting from place to place, Warp-Striking the enemy and Teleporting away again. When I reached the peak of the Palace' Central Column, not only did it offer a great view, it also gave a huge boost to damage when Warp-Striking back to the Iron Giant. This leads me to believe the higher you go, the more damage your Warp-Strike will do.
As for unlock-able items, once again if you've collected enough Dream Shards, you'll unlock every Pressure Plate in the Demo. The two hidden ones are in the final area, but they give you two additional weapons to play around with, though the Shield seems pretty useless. It's a timing thing and I'm generally good at that, having been a hardcore player of the original Devil May Cry titles, but I couldn't seem to get the hang of it. It might come in better use during the main game.
Finally though, upon completing the demo, you unlock Carbuncle as a Summon available as DLC for the main title and most importantly you get to name him, reinforcing my belief that Final Fantasy XV (although real-time) is heading in the right direction.
Overall, the demo has me impressed and I'm very much looking forward to the September 30th release date.
Next up, we have the Animé - Brotherhood: Final Fantasy XV
This is a prequel to the main events of Final Fantasy XV and has promised to focus on character development, giving us a better idea of who these people are, what their motivations are and what we should expect from them come September 30th.
Having watched episode 1 already, I can already tell this is something that keeps in continuity with the main title of Final Fantasy XV and although there's still only one episode out at this point in time, episode 1 does a good job in setting things up nicely for episode 2.
There's little else to say on this other than I recommend checking it out and even if you're not an Animé fan, it's still animated nicely enough to draw you in and at the end of the day it's more Final Fantasy content, so what's not to love?
You can check out "Episode 1 - Before the Storm" here.
Next up we have Kingsglaive
Kingsglaive is an animated, fully CGI Sony Pictures Movie, made by the same production team responsible for Final Fantasy 7: Advent Children.
Starring Sean Bean, Lena Headey and Aaron Paul, the potential is there with a solid cast of actors lending their voices (most likely along with their physical performances via Motion Capture work) to the project. I guess really, it will all come down to the direction, script and choreography as to whether it'll be any good or not. I just hope it maintains a serious tone more akin the "Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within" than that of Advent Children, though both films were pretty flawed regardless, with the latter portraying itself more as fan service than anything else.
As for the plot, the Kingsglaive movie takes place back at home within Noctis and King Regis' (voiced by Sean Bean - Yea, I also see it coming) Kingdom, portraying what Regis and his loyal followers/Soldiers are going through during Noctis and the gangs departure/adventures around the world. The story runs parallel to that of Noctis' and gives further insight as to what Luna (voiced by Lena Headey) and Regis are going through back home, along with introducing us all to a new character named Nyx (voiced by Aaron Paul).
"The magical kingdom of Lucis is home to the hallowed Crystal, but the menacing empire of Niflheim will stop at nothing to make it theirs. War has raged between the two for as long as most can remember. King Regis of Lucis commands an elite force of soldiers dubbed the Kingsglaive. Wielding their king’s magic, Nyx Ulric and his fellow glaives stand before the crown city of Insomnia, fighting to stay the inexorable advance of Niflheim’s imperial army. Before the overwhelming military might of the empire, King Regis can only salvage his kingdom by accepting an ultimatum—he must cede all lands outside the crown city, and see his son, Prince Noctis, wed to Lady Lunafreya, the former princess of Tenebrae now captive of Niflheim. As the war of wills rages, the machinations of Niflheim transform Insomnia into an awe-inspiring battleground, pulling Nyx into a struggle for the very survival of the kingdom." - Taken from WikipediaThe Deluxe Edition of Final Fantasy XV comes with the main game, a Steelbook with alternative cover art, DLC and the Kingsglaive movie all bundled together. For now though, you can watch the trailer below:
Last of all, we have Justice Monsters V as part of the Final Fantasy XV overload
Justice Monsters V is an in-game minigame featured within Final Fantasy XV, only Square have made it so you can also play the game on Android, IOS and Windows 10 devices.
The game itself looks like a cross between old school Pinball Machines and top-down screen clearing shooters such as the incredibly old 1942 shooter title. It looks like it could be fun and has the typical magic of Final Fantasy titles layered over the top of it, but whether or not this will be as fun and addictive as the minigames within FF7's Golden Saucer area is yet to be known.
Needless to say, we have a lot of things to look forward to and although we'll have to wait a while for most of this to release, it's good to know Square are taking things seriously now and I just hope their investment into Final Fantasy XV ends up working out for both fans and the company alike.
After Final Fantasy XV's announcement a decade ago, are you still hopeful for the series? Do you like the direction the title's headed or do you have strong feelings against Square and how they're going about this latest Final Fantasy title? Let us know in the comments below, or hit me up on Twitter. - @CaptainCortez
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