Final Fantasy 15 Pocket Edition preview
Turning a major console hit into a mobile game is always difficult. No matter what Apple and Samsung put into their smartphones, mobile devices just aren't powerful enough to handle the graphically intense games that developers on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC are pushing out. Square Enix gets that, and instead of churning out a low-resolution mobile Final Fantasy 15, the company went about a different approach: Final Fantasy 15 Pocket Edition.
For a quick refresher, Final Fantasy 15 features Prince Noctis, heir to the kingdom Lucis. Noctis goes on a road trip with his friend Prompto, adviser Ignis, and bodyguard Gladiolus after Lucis' Crystal is stolen by the warmongering Niflheims, sending the boys into an epic journey across the world in a 21st century rendition of Final Fantasy. There's smartphones, cruisers, mechanics, and roadside diners for the boys to check out.
Final Fantasy 15 Pocket Edition takes Final Fantasy 15's story and gameplay, simplifies it, and throws it on mobile through an isometric, top-down perspective. For good measure, characters have been chibified, turning them into adorable tiny versions of themselves. Players navigate through the world in either their car, the Regalia, or walking on foot to objectives. It's pretty straightforward and easy to navigate. To walk around, players just need to tap on the ground in the direction they want Noctis to move.
There's some changes to combat in Pocket Edition, simplifying the game's ARPG structure while maintaining its core components. Players use their fingers to select an enemy, after which Noctis heads over and begins auto-attacking. Holding down on an enemy causes Noctis to warp, and players can also use parries to fight back against attacking enemies. The Techniques system, which allows Noctis' friends to jump in with special attacks, is back and similarly simplified for easy use. XP and leveling up is still present as well, and ability points can be used to unlock new skills.
Overall, combat plays a bit more like Dragon Age: Inquisition and other tactical RPGs as a result, albeit further simplified. But battles are still extremely fun, and boss battles are intense in their own right on mobile. The game runs well on iPad, too, with no noticeable framerate drops or graphical issues.
Pocket Edition does have some issues, though. There's no lip sync for dialogue, so when characters talk to one another, their mouths remain closed. Since the game features voice acting and plenty of cutscenes, many dramatic moments are watered down because characters constantly look at one another with the same blank expression. It doesn't work well. At least the character animation is top-notch, with expressive body language that mirrors the original console release.
Part of the original Final Fantasy 15's magic stemmed from its enormous open-world setting, which feels both endless and inviting. Pocket Edition skimps on that a bit, focusing more on storytelling and character development than exploration. It's a big change, one that's sure to turn off fans that love to sit down and check out the game's world. Combine that with the chibi style, which is a sharp departure from the original game's semi-realistic look, and Final Fantasy 15 Pocket Edition just won't appeal to every series fan out there.
But for mobile gamers that don't own the console or the PC version, Final Fantasy 15 Pocket Edition isn't a bad way to experience the game. It's charming in its own right, and a good example of a mobile port that takes its source material and spins it in a refreshingly new direction. Plus, the first episode will be free, with the rest launching simultaneously at release, so it seems worth checking out once it launches later this year for Android, iOS, and Windows 10. Just don't expect the same Final Fantasy 15 experience that's headed to PC early next year. It's not quite the same.