FINAL FANTASY XV [Review]: Grind Date.

FINAL FANTASY XV [Review]: Grind Date.

"Monsignor" Travis Moody @TravMoody

“Monsignor” Travis Moody

Final Fantasy XV is The Force Awakens of video games–at least for me. While I was drawn to the charm, albeit Disneyfication of Episode VII’s new-yet-familiar world, some were turned off by TFA‘s underlying simplicity; rather, seemingly many more are digging the grit justice of Rogue One. If you watched Kingsglaive earlier this year and were impressed, the video game successor to the film might not do it for you (although montages from that CGI flick are spread throughtout): the franchise’s newest four porschemen are a tropey bunch, just like Rey, Finn and Poe were mere reflections of Leia, Luke and Han. I was OK with that. I’m also OK with these Teenage Nonmutant Ninja Hairboys (Prince Noctis/Leonardo, Gladiolus/Raphael, Ignis/Donatello, Prompto/Michaelangello) extra silly-yet-tight bond, smattering of a heavy heart and archetypal cheese.

Michelle "Magdalene" Kisner @MichelleKisner

Michelle “Magdalene” Kisner

I’m an old hat when it comes to JRPGs, so seeing a bunch pretty boys dressed in black with really good hair isn’t new to me. I have, however, been highly disappointed with the Final Fantasy franchise for the past 5-years or so (Final Fantasy X was the last one I enjoyed), so I was highly skeptical about this newest iteration. My fears were assuaged after playing the opening 10-minutes of this game, watching those four young men push their broken down car to the tune of “Stand By Me” tugged at my heartstrings. It’s refreshing to see some levity and happiness in a JRPG, and the bond these guys share is palpable and endearing. I do wish that they wouldn’t have offloaded so much backstory onto Kingsglaive and the Brotherhood anime; it makes for a confusing first few hours narrative-wise.

MOODY: Thankfully I did. But, if you can get over that and appreciate the JRPG for what it is, with its lush, open-world settings (magic kingdoms, seaside townships, technology-developed empires), nifty character progression (exotic foods and unique recipes will do) and immersive, ultra-fantastic combat mechanics will likely score high on your year-end list. That combat, in particular, is really what makes FFXV a true blast to play: with the Prince, players can switch between three unique (even legendary!) blades/lances/sabers/axes, hoist magic (although scarcely), heal ‘mates and execute an abundance of screen-stealing double-team moves–not to mention parry, leap, dodge and warppppp-strikkkkkke(!!!) a wide range of challenging, wondrous monsters and imperial stormpoopers.

The Lock-Mess Monsters.

The Lock-Mess Monsters.

KISNER: The visuals are indeed fantastic! I thought the mix of fantasy and contemporary would be super weird, but I was pleasantly surprised at how well it meshes together. I love that I can see something interesting on the far horizon and then actually just drive/run to explore what it is. Though I have a soft-spot for turn-based combat systems, the real-time fighting here is dynamic and fun. It was designed by Yuji Kenichiro, best known for his work on the fighting system for Kingdom Hearts. This feels very similar, though it employs much more complex factors. I did have an issue with the camera during some battles and its propensity to situate itself behind bushes and trees. The sheer amount of weapons Noctus can use keeps it fresh. If I can rant for a moment: who the frak thought making the confirmation button and the jump button one and the same?! I don’t know how many times I have jumped around like an idiot when I am just trying to pick up an item or open a door. They had one job!

MOODY: Glad you pointed that out. Along with the intense battles you mention, Final Fantasy XV is also a nice [read: sillier] departure from all of the impressive-yet-depressive RPG’s that have hit the market recently (i.e. Dragon Age: Inquisition, Fallout 4). What those games offered in austere narrative and more comprehensive customization, FFXV offers more in its road trip naivete and intense boss battles. You ride/race chocobo’s, for christ’s sake! Titans/dragons/summoned gods also take up the whole damn screen; actually, they don’t fit anywhere near the screen at all. When you reach a certain moment of trial and triumph (about 3/4’s into the campaign), Kisner, you’ll enter the fray into one of the most epically scaled, thumb-exhilarating “super god-mode” QTE battles ever. It’s a total troll job from Square Enix; your “that’s it?” will turn into a “holy shit!”

You call this a "side" quest!!?!??

You call this a “side” quest!!?!??

KISNER: Hey, Chocobo racing is a classic and was one of my favorite things to do in Final Fantasy VII! Not to mention my personal Chocobo is powder blue colored. ‘Nuff said.

MOODY: So that explains why you’re only halfway through the game! If everything I mentioned sounds like GOTY to you, well, you’re certainly close but not entirely right. Like many RPGs that have come before it, FFXV offers way too many fetch-quests, the majority of which have no significance to the chief matter at hand. “Go fetch me some vegatables, if you don’t mind, prince!” (Yeah, uh-huh. Sure. Right away, buddy.) While a few are alluring and worth the time to acquire the rare gil found on Eos, most merely consist of your usual and montonous fair of monster hunts, food & tool gathering, and treasure seeking. None of these side missions, aside from maybe betting on some arena beast battles with your fellow bro-heems, share the emotional accomplishments found in, say, Witcher 3.

Wonder how much rooms cost.

Wonder how much rooms cost.

KISNER: Yeah, there are a seriously amount of fetch-quests in this game (hahaha). A lot of them aren’t very engaging either; agreed! I did like doing the monster hunts and the sightseeing trips but I think it was added to artificially make the game longer. I mean, how many damn broke-down cars can we help in one adventure? Eos really needs to look into getting some sort of AAA service going for its citizens. All jokes aside, there needed to be much more variety. I do love riding around in the car listening to retro Final Fantasy soundtracks, though. I don’t mind all the travel time if I have some sweet jams.

MOODY: Oh, yeah, the music is clutch–even the stuff from Afrojack (lol). But what makes them even more tedious is the fact you can hardly control your convertible. Your Double-D cup-sized mechanic can “fix ‘er up” and make the Regalia look cooler, but that doesn’t solve the 10-minutes of real time to get from point A to point B. Hope our readers like graphics, or watching the WWE Network on their laptops while they play. That all said, FFXV is a real treat and, perhaps, one of the best surprise plays of 2016. This side of the Blood & Wine DLC from Witcher 3, I can’t think of more preferred RPG. For a game that has also had a long run of development blunders, delays and heavy doubters, there’s a lot to be proud of here–enough to be considered one of the best games of the year. 4.25/5 Chocobos.

KISNER: I thought I played my final fantasy long ago, but Square Enix pulled out a fantastic game at the last minute. It’s not without its flaws, but it has so much love and heart put into it. It is indeed a game for fans and for first timers. 4/5 Moogles.