As ‘Final Fantasy XV’ approached its eagerly anticipated release, Square Enix revealed the ‘Final Fantasy XV Universe’ – a series of mixed-media releases that expanded upon the lore of the upcoming game. Whilst the movie ‘Kingsglaive’ and free animated series ‘Brotherhood’ seemed to take centre stage, there was also A King’s Tale – Final Fantasy XV – a retro style beat ’em up that tells a short (and perhaps fictional) tale about Noctis’ father King Regis and an adventure he had many years before the events of ‘Final Fantasy XV’. It was originally released as a pre-order bonus, but is now available for free on both Playstation 4 and Xbox One. Whilst it doesn’t have the meat and bones of a full release, it offers a surprising amount of depth and is a heck of a lot of fun.
A King’s Tale – Final Fantasy XV has quite a sweet concept, with the game playing out as a bedtime story being told to Noctis by King Regis. With Noctis clearly excited to hear more about his father’s daring adventures, Regis decides to exaggerate a tale of when he, Weskham, Cid, and Clarus pursued a crystal that had been taken from Insomnia. Whose behind it all is kept a mystery throughout, but the big reveal is certainly a treat for ‘Final Fantasy’ fans. Let’s just say it shows the levels of exaggeration that Regis is willing to go to when telling his tale, but it also shows a sense of innocence to Noctis that is often missing in ‘Final Fantasy XV’. Despite it being a small release, A King’s Tale – Final Fantasy XV touches upon a side of Noctis and Regis’ relationship that is missing in ‘Final Fantasy XV’, so it’s quite heart warming to see this closer bond between the pair.
Given the simplistic beat ’em up nature of A King’s Tale – Final Fantasy XV, there’s a surprising amount of depth to combat. You’ll be using a multitude of different combos that even utilise aerial attacks, swiftly dodging out of the way of enemies with a quick roll, teleporting to attack with your Warpstrike, using three different types of magic, blocking and deflecting projectile attacks, calling in your teammates to help you out, and even summoning the Gods to help unleash massive damage – seriously, the amount of tricks that Regis has up his sleeve is impressive. Much like Noctis in ‘Final Fantasy XV’, Regis is even able to use the Armiger after amassing a twenty four hit combo to unleash a super powerful attack on his foe. Given the game’s status as a ‘free’ release, I kind of expected a half-baked attempt at combat that barely required any thought; instead we have a deep fighting experience that makes it incredibly satisfying to take down your opponents.
That being said, whilst there is a lot of depth to the game’s combat mechanics, they are not always utilised fruitfully in-game. Enemies come in plenty of different varieties that do require different tactics to take down, but it typically just required you to mash a specific button. You could easily finish the game by mashing either the triangle button or the circle button and quickly dodging whenever an enemy attacks. Whilst this is often the case for a lot of 16-bit style fighting games, the fact that there’s so much wasted potential with the intricate combat mechanics is a shame. It left the game feeling a little bit repetitive at times, with most levels just throwing a few enemies at you that need to be mashed away at to take down. The story mode is pretty brief (it took me just under an hour to complete) so it never get’s boring, but you are essentially doing the same thing over and over again.
At least the variety of enemies on offer is impressive though, with plenty of familiar faces from ‘Final Fantasy XV’ showing up. You’ll encounter Garulas, Couerls, Cactuars, Tonberrys – seriously, the sheer variety of opposition is great. There are even some mini-bosses which come in the form of the beasts you hunt in ‘Final Fantasy XV’, with monsters like the Behemoth and Midgardsormr showing their faces and sending a few nasty attacks your way. Seeing these opponents in their new pixely form was quite the treat, especially after spending so much time hunting them with Noctis already.
I’ve already mentioned that the enemies are quite easy to take down, but they do have a few nasty tricks of their own. Take the Marlboro for example – its famous ‘Bad Breath’ attack could cause a variety of issues for the player including reversing their controls, turning them into a frog, or even making their screen go incredibly pixely to obscure their view. It was a nice surprise to see and was a clever use of gameplay mechanics to emphasise the deadliness of the famed ‘Bad Breath’ attack.
Upon finishing A King’s Tale – Final Fantasy XV you’ll unlock the ‘Dream Battles’, a series of encounters against the enemies of the game that grade you on how well you perform. There’s always an extra objective to complete too, such as finishing them without getting hurt, without using magic, or without the assistance of your teammates. They added something extra to try out after finishing the game and were actually pretty fun to play through. For a free title, I was impressed at what A King’s Tale – Final Fantasy XV had to offer – there’s certainly a lot of potential here for a much more fleshed out release.
The game takes a simplistic approach visually, with the graphics reminiscent of something from the 16-bit era. It’s incredibly charming and well designed though, plus seeing some of these locations I visited in ‘Final Fantasy XV’ in this new visual style was quite the treat. Character and enemy models are fantastic too, with the 16-bit re-creations a fantastic representation of their ‘Final Fantasy XV’ counterparts. There isn’t a huge variety of places to see in the game (you only visit three in all, with slight modifications between levels) but at least they were all well made.
The only downside to the visuals was that there was a static feel to some of the combat animations. It was like characters would slide into attacks, with no animation to represent the movement; it wasn’t always the case, but it was quite noticeable at times. It just looked a bit odd, though given that the game was free it’s difficult to complain. It’s just a shame that these smaller details weren’t ironed out when everything else manages to look so great.
Something that is obviously absent from the game is multiplayer. The genre lends itself so well to playing with a friend, so its omission is a surprise. It feels like the developers missed out on an obvious feature – whilst the smaller nature of the game makes it understandable, tackling the story or ‘Dream Battles’ with a friend would’ve not only added longevity to the experience but been a lot of fun too.
I was left surprised by A King’s Tale – Final Fantasy XV. Whilst I didn’t think the game would be bad by any means, I wasn’t expecting it to have as much depth nor be as enjoyable as it was. I really had a lot of fun with it.
With its deep combat mechanics, fantastic pixel art, and the bulk of extra content it gives you upon completion, A King’s Tale – Final Fantasy XV really has a lot going for it. Whilst it could get a little repetitive over time and the omission of multiplayer is a strange one, the fact that this is a free title more than makes up for it – if it was a paid release though this might’ve been more of a sour point.
It probably won’t be for everyone, but those who want an extra dose of ‘Final Fantasy XV’ action ahead of the game’s upcoming DLC release should look no further than A King’s Tale – Final Fantasy XV. It’s a delightful beat ’em up and one that actually has potential to hold its own as a full release with a bit more fleshing out – maybe Square Enix could use this as a starting point for potential ideas with the series in the future… (please release a ‘Final Fantasy VII’ version… please…)
Developer: Empty Clip Studios
Publisher: Square Enix
Release Date: 01/03/2017
Format(s): Playstation 4 (Reviewed), Xbox One