Final Fantasy XV

Final Fantasy XV

10 Years in the Making

After its original announcement at E3 in 2006, Final Fantasy XV suffered from numerous development problems, causing a number of delays and indefinite release dates that ultimately never came to fruition. It wasn’t until 2014 that things had started looking up, more info was being released on the game, a demo was to be released, and it’d actually seemed like we’d see Final Fantasy XV in the near future. Well, after another delay, two demos, and heaps of information being released on the game, Final Fantasy XV is finally out, and I’m glad to say that it was a fantastic experience from start to finish, albeit a few issues.

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Chocobos are back, and they’re as fun as ever to use.

Reclaim Your Throne

Final Fantasy XV follows the story of Prince Noctis and his 3 friends, Gladiolus, Prompto, and Ignis. The plot starts with the four friends travelling to Altissia where Noctis’ wedding to Lady Lunafreya is to take place. Lady Lunafreya is the former princess of Tenebrae, and she is also known as the Oracle. The wedding is meant to make peace between Lucis and Niflheim, but shortly before the wedding can take place Niflheim betray Lucis and steal the Crystal. King Regis, Noctis, and Lady Lunafreya are all reported dead in the aftermath of the battle, and it’s your job as Noctis to find out what happened, why it happened, and to take your throne back. I don’t want to go any further into it in order to avoid spoilers, but most of main plot develops very slowly over the first 10 chapters, and all is unveiled in the last few chapters. I never felt fully invested in the story until I made it to these late chapters, with a few plot twists that I did not see coming at all. Most of what kept me hooked on Final Fantasy XV’s story, was its characters. Even though voice acting is hit and miss (apart from the exceptionally creepy Ardyn), I loved each and every main character of Final Fantasy XV. The relationship between the four friends feels natural, real, and it’s always entertaining. Their constant bickering and conversation is something I never did and never will get tired of. I was fully invested into these characters, and although they’re a little too stereotyped, the relationship they share is truly something special. The one major flaw in Final Fantasy XV’s story, is that I found there were certain moments that lacked any emotion when they should’ve been filled with it. It’s quite disappointing that certain relationships weren’t developed further early on, making for some more meaningful moments later down the line. Overall, Final Fantasy XV’s narrative isn’t the best in the series, but the last few chapters are certainly very entertaining, with unforeseen plot twists, and a fitting ending. The relationship between Noctis, Gladiolus, Prompto, and Ignis is also something truly special to watch develop and unfold, and watching them grow and learn to deal with problems was one of my favourite parts of Final Fantasy XV.

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Some of the natural wildlife found in Lucis is huge.
The Active Cross Battle System

In some aspects, Final Fantasy XV’s gameplay is a large departure for the series, and in others, it remains faithful to its predecessors. From the start, Final Fantasy XV presents the open world of Lucis to the player, and you’re free to explore it right away. Lucis is absolutely huge, and more parts of it are unlocked after making some progression in the story. Side quests are abundant, dungeons are scattered everywhere, and 35 hours in I’m still finding secrets around the world. Dungeons in Final Fantasy XV are excellent, providing tense challenges but very enticing rewards, they never get boring to explore. Hunts can also be undertaken, following your party as you try to take down a giant beast in the area, such as a Behemoth. They’re very challenging fights, and have large payoffs as a result of completion.Your main mode of transportation through Lucis, is the Regalia; a car given to Noctis by his father. Most of the driving is done by Ignis, and you have the option to drive it yourself, but it’s unfortunately all on-rails, and ultimately comes down to you just holding R2. Outposts and campsites can be found scattered around the over world too, where you can sleep, eat, and tally up experience points from that day in order to level up. Eating provides bonuses to all party members for the next day, and cooking is Ignis’ personal skill, while Noctis’ is fishing, Prompto’s photography, and Galdiolus’ is survival. Each one develops as you do activities corresponding to that skill, further improving it and levelling it up.Combat is definitely one of the most overhauled features of Final Fantasy XV, and it comes in the form of the Active Cross Battle System. All of the games combat is in real-time, none of it is turn-based or a hybrid of both, and thankfully, it works surprisingly well. The shift to real time means that there is less strategy needed to win battles, but that doesn’t mean you can button mash your way to victory. Some of the late game fights are particularly challenging, so utilising the combat mechanics properly is key to winning. Holding the circle button allows Noctis to perform a combo based on the weapon he has equipped, and moving the left stick changes how the combo unfolds. Pressing triangle lets Noctis warp between enemies and vantage points, making for fast-paced, fluent combat. As you fight, you build up your Tech-Meter, allowing you to command your party members to use specific abilities against enemies, and there’s a large variety of skills to choose from. Successful counterattacks, and back-stabs will sometimes cause rewarding link-strikes, that deal a ton of damage, and they’re beautifully animated. The weapons you and your allies use range from swords and spears to daggers and pistols, and who uses what is customised and controlled by you, although specific party members can only use specific weapons. Magic also makes a return, but it functions very differently then it did previously. As you journey, you’ll collect magic flasks, these flasks are then used to store the magic that you craft and create. That’s right, magic is crafted by finding materials in the world. You can mix elements together to create different outcomes, and the potency of your magic is dependent on how much material you invest. It’s also worth mentioning that magic can also affect you and your party members, so when and where you use it is very important. Progression is now in the form of the Ascension Grid, which is reminiscent of the Sphere Grid from Final Fantasy 10. there are different trees dedicated to things like combat, recovery, and survival, all with various skills to be obtained. There’s a lot there to level up, and if you want to fully max it out, expect to put some time into Final Fantasy past the 30 hour storyline. Last but not least, Summons are back in FFXV, and they’re obtained through the story for the most part. once you complete a trial of some sort, you gain the ability to summon Ancients, ranging from Titan to Shiva. The one problem with summons is how inconsistent they are. It’s never fully explained how they work, and what conditions must be met in order for a summon to occur, and it’s really unfortunate that they aren’t used more often and that it seems to be completely random.

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Numerous monsters from Final Fantasy make an appearance in XV.

The Land of Eos

I played Final Fantasy XV on a PS4 Pro and it should go without saying the game looks gorgeous. I was constantly wowed by the sheer size and scale of the world, with detailed models, beautiful locales, and varied environments throughout the entire experience. It’s a gorgeous 1080p, but unfortunately, the frame rate just can’t keep up with it. While it only dropped a few times, one thing that was always consistent was that the game suffers from horrible frame skip on the PS4. It makes for a really uneven experience, and even though there’s a patch coming up for the PS4 Pro, it’s no excuse to have frame skip in the game. It definitely isn’t fatal, but more often than not it annoyed me a lot.

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Not all of XV’s story takes place in Lucis, the latter half is quite linear, and you move through other areas like Altissia and Niflheim.

Verdict: 8.5/10

Final Fantasy XV is the culmination of 10 years of hard work from Square Enix. It’s not the best in the series, in my opinion at least, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it, and that I’m not grateful for how it turned out. I’m so glad FFXV didn’t end up being a train wreck like other games that got stuck in development hell. While it is held back by some technical flaws and lack of emotion, it has a solid plot twist, likeable characters, a strong combat system, a beautiful world and lots to do in it. Final Fantasy XV was worth the wait.

Positives

-The relationship between the four friends is truly special

-Plot twist that was incredibly impactful and surprising

-Massive open world

-Fast, fluent combat system

-Strong sense of progression

-Heaps of great post-game content

-Beautiful world

Negatives

-Lacks emotion when it needs it most

-Frame skip is annoying

-Summons are inconsistent and random

Thanks for reading guys, I’m glad FFXV turned out well, and i’m excited to see what’s in store for Final Fantasy, next year being the 30th anniversary. I might look at The Last Guardian next, but no promises. Thanks for everything this year, 2016 has been awesome for gaming, and I’ll make an update post in the next month detailing what i’ll be looking at next year! Have a good holidays guys, Harry. ūüôā

 

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Pok√©mon Sun and Moon

Pok√©mon Sun and Moon

20 Years Strong

It goes without saying that one of the biggest video game franchises ever is Pok√©mon, currently celebrating its 20th anniversary. It’s captured the hearts and minds of so many gamers, both young and old, including myself from a young age. Pok√©mon has an incredibly special place in my heart, and it makes me so happy to know it’s as big and as better as it’s ever been. Pok√©mon Sun and Moon aren’t just brand new entries into the series, they’re a celebration of the past 20 years of Pok√©mon, with new changes causing much-needed evolution, but still nodding back to the games that came before them. Pok√©mon Sun and Moon are just as good as they were hyped up to be, and you have no idea how happy it makes me to say that.

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The new starts in Sun and Moon in my opinion, are fairly average, although some of the evolutions are very cool.

The Alola Region

Sun and Moon’s story is a fairly run of the mill Pok√©mon story line, but it is unique in terms of its characters and themes. Once again, you play as a trainer who’s recently moved to the Alola Region, a set of 4 islands surrounded by ocean. The Hawaiian theme Alola is based on¬†is refreshing, new, and an exciting change in terms of environment for Pok√©mon, but more on that later. The story is fairly one-note, following your Trainer on their journey to complete the Island Challenge, which is Alola’s version of collecting Gym Badges. Without spoiling too much, you get involved with a number of characters, the Aether Foundation¬†and Team Skull. There are some legitimately dark ideas in Sun and Moon’s plot, and I found it refreshing even though it’s all simply implied rather than directly told. Sun and Moon heavily revolves around family and community, and does an excellent job of displaying so. There’s something very unified about Alola and its people, everyone knows about the Island Challenges, and each and every trainer feels like they’re really part of the world. Sun and Moon also has some of the best characters the series has seen in my opinion. There are a few that are incredibly interesting such as Lillie, Gladion, and Lusamine, and they’re definitely characters that I always enjoyed seeing throughout my 20 hour journey. Sun and Moon doesn’t reach the heights that Black and White 2 did, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad. It’s a fun, likeable, simple storyline that has some implications that hopefully provoke further discussion within the Pok√©mon community. Sun and Moon feel truly unique from a narrative perspective (among many others) and Gamefreak should be commended for that.¬†

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Trainers can once again be fully customised, including hair, clothes and more.

The Island Challenge

Sun and Moon don’t differentiate much from other games in the series in terms of gameplay, but the overall structure of the game has been fundamentally changed. Gyms are now a thing of the past, and in their place are Island Trials. Each Island has a number of trials for trainers to attempt, and what they consist of varies from taking photos of Pok√©mon, to more traditionally finding and taking down Pok√©mon in the area. It’s very different from the established formula, but all the trials are unique and entertaining, making for a very welcome change. the turn-based battle system is still much the same as previous games, with a few minor tweaks and additions that make it easier to use and keep track of. Status buffs can now be viewed from the bottom screen, and if a Pok√©mon is registered in your Pok√©dex, you can how moves effect that particular Pok√©mon. Speaking of which, the new Rotomdex (yes a Rotom inside of your Pok√©dex) has seen some new additions making it easier to navigate and use. You can now see which island and route specific Pok√©mon can be found in, it also just generally looks better, and there’s a genuine satisfaction to have a page filled out in the Dex. And trust me when I say this, there are plenty of Pok√©mon to find and catch in Sun and Moon. Whether it be the Alolan forms of first generation Pok√©mon, or brand new ones, there’s plenty here to catch and find and it goes without saying that most of the designs for the new Pok√©mon are pretty well done albeit the odd Drampa. HMs have thankfully been done away with, and have now been replaced by the Pok√©mon Ride Pager, allowing trainers to instantaneously access a Charizard to fly on, or a Lapras to surf on, it’s a simple change, but a much-needed one. Alola as a region is always interesting to explore, and 30 hours in I’m still finding items and hidden areas throughout. Sun and Moon’s difficulty is nothing compared to the older games, but it’s certainly not as easy as X and Y, which was a nice change, with some of the late game battles taking some genuine thought and preparation in order to succeed. Legendaries and the brand new Ultra-Beasts can be found throughout Alola, making for some great post-game content, with more awaiting the player past the credits. I thoroughly enjoyed playing Sun and Moon, it’s the same battle system we know and love, in the most polished state it’s ever been, and the changes to structure are both new and refreshing.¬†

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The new Alolan forms are vastly different from their original counter parts.

Smooth Seas

Pok√©mon Sun and Moon, from my experience at least, excel technically albeit one or two minor hiccups. First off, the game looks incredible, one of the best on the 3DS. I played on a New 3DS XL and I was genuinely impressed by how good the game looks. Character models are detailed, environments are open and incredible to look at, and this is all while the game runs at 60 FPS all the time, except for one occasion. I experienced heavy frame drops when taking photos in-game with the Rotomdex. It didn’t hinder my experience terribly, but it is definitely worth noting. It is also worth noting that the standard 3DS has frame drops during double battles, but that won’t affect my opinion on the game, due to my experience being on the New 3DS, where this problem is non-existent.

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The version exclusive legendaries are Solgaleo and Lunala.

Verdict: 9.5/10

Pok√©mon Sun and Moon is worthy as both a celebration of 20 years of Pok√©mon, and simply as a mainline entry in general. It’s a love letter to fans of the series, while welcoming new ones, with a simple yet enjoyable story, the most polished battle system yet, a brand new structure, and strong technical production values. Sun and Moon is an excellent entry into the franchise, easily one of the best, and I cannot recommend enough to anyone who owns a Nintendo 3DS. Pok√©mon is back, and it’s bigger and better than ever.

Positives

-Simple, yet enjoyable story with some interesting implications

-Likeable characters

-The best battle system yet

-Small but effective changes, making the formula that much better

-New and inventive structure, making for a fresh experience

-Looks beautiful for 3DS standards, and runs smoothly most of the time

Negatives

-Rare frame drops

Thanks for reading guys, up next is Final Fantasy XV! I’m super happy with Sun and Moon, I’m definitely glad it lived up to the hype, or at least my hype. Thanks again, Harry.