For nearly a decade, Final Fantasy fans like me have been eagerly observing the development of one of Square Enix's most elusive RPGs. Now that we've got our hands on two playable demos, how does the future look for the series?
From Versus XIII to XV
I remember awaiting the release of Final Fantasy XIII for years before it finally came out. Shortly after it was unveiled back in 2006, a couple of spin-offs were simultaneously announced: Final Fantasy Agito XIII for PSP and Final Fantasy Versus XIII for PlayStation 3. Agito XIII was later renamed Final Fantasy Type-0 and it never came out in North America. Of course, it arrived here a year ago in remastered HD form, but at the time it was devastating to think that I'll never get to play it. So, whatever happened to Versus XIII? While Final Fantasy XIII received two direct sequels that I unashamedly enjoyed a great deal, Versus XIII was rebranded as Final Fantasy XV. I guess if they did it with Agito, why not give Versus its own identity, too? However, renaming it to a main entry of the most recognizable JRPG series of all time is no small gesture so it definitely has a lot to live up to. Luckily, we got to play through two demos over the past year to see just how excited we should be.
After being introduced to the cast of four young men in the Episode Duscae demo, I must say that I'm surprised how toned down their personalities are compared to characters in other Final Fantasy games. That being said, I'm sure I'll grow to appreciate them more after I get to know them better in the full game. Anyway, the gameplay featured in this demo is probably best described as Final Fantasy XII meets Kingdom Hearts. The exploration and monster hunting reminded me of my time with Vaan in Ivalice while the more action-oriented combat system was more akin to what Sora is used to. All of this awesome gameplay culminated in an epic battle with a Behemoth known as Deadeye that played more like an action game than a JRPG. The sequence of events in order to overcome its immense power made for one satisfying boss fight. I even made a cool animated GIF out of it. Although it strays far from the series' roots, Final Fantasy XV's unique gameplay is showcased beautifully in this demo so let's move on to the next one and get to know Noctis a little more.
Dreaming a Platinum dream
The Platinum Demo is much shorter than Episode Duscae, but it features a few very important aspects of the journey ahead. First of all, it takes place within a dream that Noctis is having as a little boy. Right off the bat, you know that this isn't going to be your average video game demo. After battling monsters with toys, transforming into a car, shrinking down to the size of a teacup, and stepping on pads that change the time of day and weather, you'll realise that Noctis is quite a complex young lad. Besides discovering how deep the protagonist is, the most significant takeaway for me was the gorgeous environments. Each one of the handful of scenarios took place in a unique location that looked photorealistic yet fantastical at the same time. Imagining the places you'll get to visit in the full game has my mind racing. In the end, where Episode Duscae focused on gameplay, the Platinum Demo did a fantastic job of exhibiting a wide variety of visuals as well as hinting at character depth through Noctis' dreams.
Final Fantasy XV is going to be one interesting game to say the least. Gamers can criticise Square Enix all they want, but one thing's for sure; they're definitely not afraid to take risks. Final Fantasy XV arrives for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on September 30 so if you're ready to explore the world of Eos then make sure to pre-order a copy soon.