When Final Fantasy XV Pocket Edition released on mobile devices earlier this year it felt like one of those titles that weren’t really asked for, but just so happened to be pretty cool anyway. It meant mobile gamers could witness Final Fantasy XV’s tale (albeit in a condensed form), all whilst experiencing the gameplay mechanics that made the main release so great to play to begin with (again, in a condensed form).
What I didn’t expect was for it to release on consoles, especially the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One where the main game is already available. It did though, but it also came to the Nintendo Switch where it feels like a smarter sell – it’s the only way to see Noctis’ story on the Switch after all, whilst the simple gameplay mechanics suit both playing on the go and in the comfort of your home on the big screen. In fairness, it makes for a pretty enjoyable experience too, though it’s one that has its fair share of shortcomings.
One thing I will say is that Final Fantasy XV Pocket Edition HD shouldn’t be a substitute for the main game. If you can play Final Fantasy XV elsewhere I’d do that first, because you’re not getting the full experience here but rather a simpler re-telling of the exact same events. You’re missing out on the open-world, expansive side quests, and more intricate gameplay mechanics, and are instead getting a linear but enjoyable version of the core Final Fantasy XV experience.
Final Fantasy XV Pocket Edition HD tells the mainline story of Final Fantasy XV, with it covering Noctis and his friends’ journey through Eos as they look to defeat the Empire that has taken over their home Kingdom. It comes with all of the voice acting from the main game and feels surprisingly cinematic – in fact, it actually helped me understand the story a bit better since it was more condensed and focused solely on the important parts. Sure, some things are cut out here and there and you miss the extra bits of lore that come from the side quests, but as far as storytelling is concerned it’s on point. Oh, and you still get all the little bits of banter between the gang whilst you’re exploring the game world too, so the characters are as charming as ever.
The combat of Final Fantasy XV Pocket Edition HD feels very similar to that found in the main game, albeit with a more streamlined set up. You’ll mash the attack button to unleash combos, whilst pressing another will allow you to dodge incoming enemy attacks – if you do this when a specific notification pops up on the screen you’ll be able to parry an attack and counter too, giving you a quick and powerful additional hit on a foe. You can equip up to four different weapons and swap them with a quick press of the shoulder button, whilst a meter also charges for you to unleash your powerful Armiger attacks for a short period of time. Noctis still has his warp strike too, which allows you to quickly teleport towards enemies with an attack from afar.
It’s all very simple in design, but it works really well and makes for some quick-paced and satisfying showdowns with foes. Don’t get me wrong, it’s rarely challenging (outside of the occasional boss fight anyway), but it always feels fun – even if you trampling over most enemies you come across.
Whilst the game’s combat is enjoyable, it does have its flaws. The most obvious one is the frame-rate drops, with the game often struggling to keep up with the action and stuttering a bit. It’s mostly witnessed during battles with a lot of enemies, but when it does kick in it’s certainly noticeable.
Secondly, the AI of your team mates isn’t the best. They’ll fight by your side quite efficiently and have special moves that can certainly get you out of a pinch, but when it comes to defending they’re not the smartest – it was something I particularly noticed during boss encounters where they’d stand right in line of an area of effect attack or just stand idly by an exploding bomb without trying to avoid it. Sure, it isn’t a big problem because it’s easy enough to revive your allies if they go down, but it was still frustrating to see them do nothing to avoid incoming enemy attacks.
Outside of combat, you’ll be re-visiting the dungeons and towns of the main game again as you progress through the story, and in fairness they’re all accurately represented – it was certainly nice to visit places like the Hammerhead Garage, the peaceful town of Lestallum, and the stunning ‘City on the Sea’ Atlissia all over again. The game features trimmed down version of each locale so you can’t see every little detail, but the important areas are right there and feel just like they did before.
However, Final Fantasy XV Pocket Edition HD is a more linear experience, so there’s a lot less to do in each location. Quests are at an absolute minimum and are typically made up of finding an item for someone, taking part in a treasure hunt, or finding ingredients for Ignis to cook a meal, whilst character interactions are made up of simple phrases here and there. It’s always clearly marked where you need to go in order to progress and there’s not always much else to do outside of that. It’s not a big problem because Final Fantasy XV Pocket Edition HD is designed to be a more streamlined version of the game anyway, but still, it would’ve been nice just to see a little bit more here and there.
Of course, I can’t talk about Final Fantasy XV Pocket Edition HD and not mention driving. For better or worse, it takes a much simpler approach this time with driving scenes acting as a transition between levels and dungeons. You can control what side of the road you drive on, but for the most part it’s just an opportunity for you to take a care-free look at the world and enjoy banter between the guys in short sequences. Love it or hate it in the main game, there’s no denying that it was nice to be out on the roads of Eos again…
So one thing that’s obvious in the game from the get-go is that it’s not the prettiest of titles you’re going to play, especially when you consider that it’s a remake of a game that looked absolutely stunning. There are sketchy textures throughout, some character and enemy models look like they’ve come straight from the PlayStation 2, whilst character’s mouths don’t even move when they talk – there’re a lot of things on show that makes the game feel like it belongs on consoles from one (or maybe even two) generations ago.
However, whilst Final Fantasy XV Pocket Edition HD might not be a visual marvel, it does have a lot of charm. Seeing characters and enemies re-created in this chibi form was actually pretty endearing, whilst re-visiting locales from the main game and seeing them in this new cute and vibrant style brought more than a few smiles to my face. Of course, if this is your first experience of Final Fantasy XV you might not give it a free pass, but for me it brought back some nice memories of playing the main game and made it easier to forgive the lacking graphic quality.
Whilst it doesn’t have the stunning visuals of the main game though, Final Fantasy XV Pocket Edition HD does come with the brilliant soundtrack. Whilst I enjoyed it the first time I played the game anyway, hearing it all over again and recognising tracks in each locale made me appreciate it all the more. Not having to drive over long-distances so much probably helps too, because I was a sucker for loading up a previous game’s soundtrack and enjoying that instead last time (god bless the Regalia’s stereo). Here though, I could appreciate the tunes of Final Fantasy XV a lot more and in fairness they’re all pretty great.
As of release, Final Fantasy XV Pocket Edition HD comes with a discount that sees the price drop from £25 down to £15. I feel like this should be a permanent price drop – £25 feels like too much, especially when you consider that you can get the initial release on other platforms for cheaper if you look in the right places. Sure, it’s been out longer, but when you consider you’re getting a condensed version here £15 feels like a fair price. The game should only take around twelve-hours to beat too and has very little in the way of replay value, so some players might feel short-changed if they end up forking out the full fee after the discount disappears.
Developer: Square Enix
Publisher: Square Enix
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC,