A number of Final Fantasy titles were on show at this year's E3 in Los Angeles. Chris Privitere got to spend a bit of time with three games in the series: Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age, Final Fantasy XV, and Final Fantasy: Brave Exvius.
Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age
Having played and completed the original release of Final Fantasy XII at the game’s launch, I was pretty excited to hear of the HD Remake. Promising numerous changes to make the game feel both fresh and streamlined, Square Enix had certain expectations to live up to. The demo didn’t really live up to these expectations, but I’m hoping to have more confidence in the full game.
First, the good: the textures are markedly improved, and everyone’s character models are noticeably crisper, lacking the pixilation of the original release. While backgrounds didn’t receive as much love, they still are improved to some extent. If nothing else, Final Fantasy XII is a much prettier game.
Unfortunately, the demo itself was stifling – new or improved features I wanted to explore, such as the tweaked gambit system, new job board, and controlling of guest characters were all inaccessible during the demo, as I was unable to access the menu. There was also serious controller lag, taking several seconds for the game to react to input like directional movement and button presses. This made the demo feel like a step back in terms of game fluidity.
The game still has several months of development and polish ahead of it, as the game is not due out until 2017. However, one thing Square Enix must take from the E3 experience they presented is the game is not yet up to the standards that RPGamers demand and if that is not changed, the remake will be equally as unsatisfying as it is beautiful.
Final Fantasy XV
Final Fantasy XV has had a long, hard journey. I wish I had good news to share, but the demo left me wondering what the heck they’ve been doing over the last decade. The demo opened with the party fighting three groups of enemies; the AI largely takes control of this minor skirmish, and the player can easily get away with just smashing the circle button repeatedly and win. This fight had none of the finesse that the previous demos of the game have shown.
Next, I came upon Titan, a massive enemy with crushing earth attacks; he lashed out with his feet and hands, trying to crush Noctis into dust. The blocking system in FFXV is based around quick-time events (QTEs), where I followed the on-screen prompts, which were extremely simple. Ultimately it was a waiting game – dodge or block incoming hands and feet until the rest of my party arrived.
The problem with the demo was that Noctis felt unimportant to the events going on around him – if he got hit, his allies would heal him, and they dished out the serious damage while I played a grandiose game of tag. Eventually, a timer popped up exhorting me to cast Blizzaga – something that the game hadn’t actually taught me how to do. When the timer expired, it simply renewed itself for me to try again, and again, until I finally found the spell, which immediately ended the fight with a cutscene where we all threw water balloons at the giant, after which I shattered his arm. Hooray?
The demo left me completely unimpressed. Final Fantasy XV is my least anticipated game coming out of the show.
Final Fantasy: Brave Exvius
Final Fantasy: Brave Exvius was not playable on the show floor, but we did sit down with producer Hiroki Fujimoto to discuss features and gameplay elements coming to this mobile RPG. Much like Final Fantasy Record Keeper, the game is free to play with "gatcha" elements (randomly drawn characters from a pool of potential recruits). The worldwide version will have several notable differences compared to the current Japanese version, including Facebook sync so users can log in from multiple devices, as well as daily challenges and bonuses.
At the game’s launch, approximately one hundred characters will be available to recruit, with more coming in future updates. These hundred characters span the entire history of the Final Fantasy series, including the Warrior of Light, to Exdeath, to Lightning. Players will be free to explore the main story mode at no cost, whereas characters and faster progress can be acquired for a real money cost. Fujimoto joked that the system was more “Pay to Fun” as opposed to more standard “Pay to Win” models. Players can also quest for a daily item that will refill their stamina gauge.
Gameplay takes places on a flat plane, with the player's party on one side and the enemy party on the other. At the bottom of the screen is a button for each party member, up to a maximum of six allies, where the player can tap abilities one by one, queue up multiple abilities to be unleashed all at once, or hold down a character’s button to use a skill. Unlike Record Keeper, which retains the original games’ stories, Exvius includes a unique story along with new, original characters.