During the holiday season, the gamer in me requested for one specific thing. Well, two, if I’m being honest but, because PlayStation 5’s were still very hard to come by, I was more strongly hinting for a PlayStation 4 version of Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII Reunion to get as a gift. I was a big fan of the Remake so I really wanted to play the remastered version of the prequel of the original Final Fantasy VII, so I wanted to play Zack’s adventure. Whew, that was a mouthful! Anyway, Christmastime rolled around and all my hinting paid off! Despite it being wrapped up, there box was shaped like a PlayStation Blu-Ray box underneath the Christmas tree and it was addressed to me! So I eagerly ripped off the wrapping paper and, yes! It was a new Final Fantasy game. However, it wasn’t the Final Fantasy I wanted.
It was Final Fantasy XV: Royal Edition.
My brother, the one who gave me the gift, told me he thought it was better for me to hold off from getting Crisis Core: Final Fantasy Reunion until next year since, by that time, PlayStation 5s would be much easier to get. Why not get that game when you buy your brand spanking new PlayStation 5? I was still a little disappointed but I couldn’t argue with the logic. Besides, a gift is a gift. It’s still a new game to me. So why not play the one I got while I do wait?
I have now officially put in around 110 hours into Final Fantasy XV: Royal Edition since getting it as a gift. I think I have enough experience to give a neat little review of this game.
Final Fantasy XV takes place in the world of Eos. Noctis, the crown prince of Lucis, is to be wed to the Oracle Lunafreya from Tenabrae as part of a peace treaty. However, the Niflheim empire attack Lucis as Noctis and his entourage, Prompto, Igniz and Gladious, are travelling. The entire country, including the sacred Crystal under the country’s protection, is taken over. In order to reclaim the throne, Noctis and company are tasked to find Lucis’ sacred Royal Arms, rescue the Crystal from the Niflheim empire and reclaim the throne.
Honestly, I kind of forgot the overarching plot as, unlike previous Final Fantasy games, Final Fantasy XV is a very open world RPG. You could say earlier games were also like this. However, there’s almost nothing stopping you from exploring most of the world from the outset. After completing a few chapters, Noctis and crew is basically allowed to travel anywhere in the Regalia, their car. The world is so open that, during the earlier part of the story, I went to almost every part of the starting continent, found all of the rest stops, collected most of the Royal Arms available, did all of the accessible hunts and completed most of the side quests! In fact, by the time the next section of the map was unlocked, Noctis and the entire party was rocking super powerful weaponry and were at around Level 50!
I will say the combat in Final Fantasy XV is addicting as there are several ways to do battle. You can just rush in, slashing away with abandon. You can also play all strategic-like, trying to circle around enemies to attack them from behind for that extra damage. As I was playing Royal Edition, you can also switch to different members of your party, something that was sorely missing in the base game. Unfortunately, the other characters’ combat systems don’t really come off as finished. They can be fun but do feel rather one-dimensional when compared to all the attacks and battle commands Noctis has.
Speaking of the characters, I can’t say I really fell in love with any of the ones introduced in Final Fantasy XV. I do like how Square Enix tried to build the feeling of camaraderie between Noctis, Prompto, Igniz and Gladious throughout the adventure as they would talk to each other while they were travelling. However, the conversations do repeat themselves too often. It certainly can get grating at times, especially like when Prompto would hum the victory fanfare over and over again! A few times was funny. By the 57th time, it was not cute anymore.
The secondary characters also aren’t endearing, mostly because they don’t really show up all that often. I really wanted to hate the main bad guy but we don’t really see him that much until the final chapters of Final Fantasy XV’s main story. Lunafreya, Noctis’ fiance is usually shown in flashbacks only. The character I really wanted to like was Cindy, the car mechanic. You’re introduced to her virtually at the start of the game and she’s the one who services and customized the Regalia. With such a really eye-catching design, I thought Cindy would eventually join the party for sure down the line. I was hoping she would be more a part of the story but, like pretty much everyone else, she’s quickly forgotten.
Since I didn’t care the people involved in the story, I also didn’t care for the actual plot of Final Fantasy XV. I didn’t really feel the urgency to find all of the Royal Arms or take the fight to the enemy. I was generally doing all of that on my own because I did like exploring the world. It would just so happen I would stumble upon one of the tombs where one of the Royal Arms were kept or run into an enemy base and get into a fight on my own. I generally kept on doing this and, once I ran out of side quests to do, I would begrudgingly take on the main quest to continue the story. I did eventually finish the story, though. Honestly, I was already at around level 102 by the final chapter so I breezed through it easily. I do find the tonal shift due to that one particular moment in the story very jarring and decreased my overall enjoyment of the game quite a bit. I mean, I was having a blast until everything got so dour. It does pick up by the final chapter but the doom and gloom pretty much killed the vibe of the cheerful feeling of the opening chapters.
Speaking of the story, Final Fantasy XV’s overall tale feels weirdly paced. The early chapters, where you’re just bouncing all over the world, can come off as very long. Then, near the end, the chapters become incredibly short. What happened here, Square Enix? Did you spend all of your storytelling budget early on and you had to rush out the ending chapters? Another thing which hurts it is the game doesn’t tell the complete story. You have to actually watch a CGI movie called Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV and the Brotherhood: Final Fantasy XV anime to understand a lot of the backstory involved. I only found this out while doing some research for this review. Maybe that’s part of the reason why I never enthralled with Final Fantasy XV’s story. Then again, after experiencing the game, I don’t think I’ll be able to take watching a movie and an anime series with these boring characters.
Thankfully, exploring the world in Final Fantasy XV is pretty fun most of the time. The world does feel barren initially as there’s only one major town and even that feels soulless and the only other beacons of civilizations are gas stations and convenience stores. However, the world is still a blast to go through as the settings are pretty varied, which means the monsters are varied as well. You also get to accidentally find a ton of stuff littered throughout the world, from things like ingredients for cooking, gemstones to convert to paint for the Regalia and even some pretty neat equipment early on. If you want to go off the beaten path early on, you can go rent an Chocobo and ride that! This is where I spent most of the time in Final Fantasy XV. I just liked going about the world, searching for new recipes and music tracks to listen to while driving the Regalia, betting on monster fights, take photos of different locations and finding the odd thing to, like Chocobo racing and finding different fishing spots to, well, fish.
Since I never played the original version of Final Fantasy XV, I did have to look up what made Royal Edition special. They didn’t add all that much. In fact, I feel kind of cheated as Royal Edition doesn’t have everything. It does add stuff like a first-person mode (bleh!), a new dungeon (yay), boat exploration (fine), an off-road version of the Regalia (yes, please), additional weapons and costumes (meh) and character specific chapters (thanks). I am irked how Square Enix couldn’t find a way to fit the timed DLC campaigns, such as the Moogle Chocobo Carnival and the Assassin’s Festival events in Royal Edition. To be fair, it isn’t called Complete Edition or anything like that. I still feel a little cheated, though.
Am I glad I got Final Fantasy XV Royal Edition for Christmas? Well, I did spend over 100 hours playing it, so that should give you a hint if I enjoyed it or not. That doesn’t factor in if I would’ve enjoyed as much if I paid full price for it, though. This wasn’t a Final Fantasy which resonated with me as I’m more into the characters and the story of these kinds of games. I didn’t click with the characters and the story. I did find myself compelled to keep on playing because I did love the exploration and the combat. If I did pay full price for this, I would say Final Fantasy XV Royal Edition is still worth it.
Now, where can I get a good deal on a PlayStation 5 so I can finally play Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII Reunion?
Have you played Final Fantasy XV? What about Royal Edition? What was your experience with the game? Let me know in the comments section below!