Video Game Review: Final Fantasy XV Pocket Edition HD
Like Final Fantasy XV, only cuter!
Final Fantasy XV Pocket Edition HD is inherently an odd duck. It’s essentially a Cliffsnotes version of Final Fantasy XV that was scaled down for mobile devices and then scaled back up for a run on consoles. Time to find out if the game does its source material justice or if it should’ve remained exclusively mobile.
Probably the biggest change in the Pocket Edition is how much things have been streamlined, as you’ll now move through one linear section after another with a fixed camera angle. There will be small side areas to explore, typically containing an item or two, but that’s about it. Noctis‘ warp ability can also be used in specific zones, though the prompts don’t always seem to trigger properly and can also be a little finicky when multiple points are available.
While this remains an action RPG, combat has been distilled down to its basics. You can attack, warp, dodge and parry (via a timed meter), switch between weapons, use magic and call upon your A.I. buddies to use special attacks once they’ve been earned. That may sound like a fair amount to keep track of, but in practice it’s incredibly simple and you’re unlikely to have much trouble outside of a few boss battles.
Built for mobile platforms, Pocket Edition takes Final Fantasy XV’s source material and reimagines it through a chibi lens. It looks adorable from a distance, but plastered across a full-size TV the visuals don’t measure up to World of Final Fantasy. This is especially true with close ups where characters’ non-expressive faces have a blurry quality to them. Part of FFXV’s charm was its beautiful open world, and that’s absent here.
Voice acting has been taken directly from the main game for cut scenes so you’re getting all the performances as they appeared in FFXV. It makes for a strange mix now and then — like when an expressionless face reacts to catastrophic news — but it still helps to ground the story’s more serious elements. The music is good, too.
Whereas Final Fantasy XV was a massive game, full of tons of side activities and ways to spend your time, Pocket Edition HD more or less extracts the essentials and leaves everything else on the cutting room floor. On the plus side, that means you’re getting a pretty faithful recreation of FFXV’s main storyline in a fraction of the time, reducing an RPG you could easily spend 80-plus hours on into something you can finish in close to 20.
If you’re thinking to yourself that’s still a pretty sizable amount of time, you’re right. Even with the simple gameplay and removal of the open world (and hunts, and fishing, etc.) it still takes a while to complete objectives, watch cut scenes and run around. That seems to make casual Final Fantasy fans or those with a more limited amount of time to invest as the target demo.
Despite being condensed, the story is the focus here. You are Noctis, Prince of Lucis, arranged to marry Lunafreya for political reasons. After you and your friends Prompto, Ignis and Gladiolus head out on a road trip your father is betrayed and the city of Insomnia laid to ruin. That leaves the burden of ruling to you, but to take back the throne you’ll need to gather strength from your ancestors.
In some ways, Pocket Edition HD is almost a visual novel. Yes, there’s gameplay and combat, but most of it is so simple that you’ll rarely even need to use potions for huge chunks of the game. That’s our way of issuing a disclaimer that if you’re not really interested in the story of Final Fantasy XV there’s precious little to sink your teeth into.
Although many of the traditional RPG elements have been swept aside, you’ll still earn experience, level up and unlock new abilities from a skill tree. With few opportunities to gain extra EXP, however, everyone figures to ascend at the same rate — enemies don’t scale, so that’s probably just as well. On a similar note, you can’t backtrack, so once you leave an area you’re done there.
Given that we did play through Final Fantasy XV, revisiting it in this form is pretty fun, seeing how they were able to preserve aspects of the game while losing others. Its price point ($29.99 US) seems high, especially when you consider you can buy the original for around half that much, so it might be worth waiting for an inevitable sale.
We had fun revisiting Eos in Final Fantasy XV Pocket Edition HD, which does an admirable job of telling XV’s story and does so with plenty of chibi goodness. If you balked at the original’s length this is a decent way to experience it. Fans may also enjoy this interpretation, albeit more as a curiosity than anything else.