Review: Final Fantasy XV Pocket Edition HD (Nintendo Switch)
- Release Date (NA): September 14, 2018
- Release Date (EU): September 14, 2018
- Publisher: Square Enix
- Developer: Square Enix
- Genres: Action JRPG
- ESRB Rating: Teen
- PEGI Rating: Twelve years and older
- Also For: Android, Computer, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Single playerLocal MultiplayerOnline MultiplayerCo-operative
I have a peculiar relationship with the Final Fantasy series. I’ve always loved their artistic style with cool-looking characters sporting out-of-this-world hairstyles and garments strolling in worlds with seemingly deep storylines and intricate gameplay. However, the amount of time that one needs to dedicate to most titles always felt daunting to me, ever since I saw the increasing number of CDs that the later PS1 titles came with. Nevertheless I would still try to play the famous titles by taking my time. I have even grown a soft spot for Final Fantasy VIII, maybe because it was the first title of the series I actually properly played.
However, as time flew by, I have less... time to dedicate to titles like Final Fantasy that not only have super long plots but elaborate RPG mechanics that need to be mastered in order to progress successfully. Hence my experience with Final Fantasy titles have mostly been passive of late, always postponing the adventure to a day when I’ll have time to dive into one (soonTM). But with the advent of Final Fantasy XV Pocket Edition, I was intrigued; not just by the questionable chibi artstyle but by the new approach that Square Enix took by enabling a wider audience to pick this title up by playing it bite-sized in episodic fashion but still experience the core of it all.
I played a few minutes of it when it was first released for Android but the lack of controller support threw me off. That version relied solely on the touchscreen (and not virtual on-screen controllers) and this is something that I can’t personally stand. As such, when it was announced for the Switch, I was very much looking forward to finally give it a go, controller included.
Noctis & The Boy Band
Final Fantasy XV Pocket Edition HD still puts you in the shoes of crown prince Noctis during his very eventful road trip. He is joined by his brothers in arms, Prompto, Ignis and Gladiolus, who all share a strong bromance going beyond helping and protecting the future king on his ordeal to reclaim his throne.
Playing fluidly with some crisp HD visuals on the Switch’s screen, this iteration of Final Fantasy XV did provide me with some fair share of fun. Yes, the controller support did have a role which also includes a rumble feature gimmick. Thanks to this edition, I finally got to play doll with Noctis & co. by choosing the best combination of equipments and upgrading abilities without feeling overwhelmed at any point. It indeed felt like Final Fantasy but less daunting. I also got to “drive” the Regalia and “ride” chocobos but those were mostly automated with some Joy-Con rumble because why not. As planned, it took me a relatively short amount of time (about 15 hours) to beat all of the included 10 episodes at a comfortable pace, exploring the vibrant areas and completing side quests, but that was not without caveats.
For me, two aspects define the Final Fantasy series: the combat and the plot. Usually, much emphasis is laid on those two elements which then condense to provide a memorable experience. The choice for an open combat system in this title might put off some die hard fans but I did not mind it at all. Actually, I preferred this more fluid, dynamic system. There is a choice to swap between Noctis’ weapon types on the fly to adjust to the situation and even conjure spells at the tap of a button. However Final Fantasy XV Pocket Edition HD offers almost no challenge. Sure, you have to upgrade your equipments and abilities, heal your allies and fight tough bosses in order to progress but it all felt easy, almost too easy (either that or I was OP since booting the game) and button mashing blindly could get me out of almost any situation. Some sequences in key battles are straight up "Press This Button" and success! Nevertheless for regular combats I would not rely only on button mashing as using warp-strikes, combos and greatsword finishes proved to offer quite some flashy, entertaining animations.
However, for a game that focuses on the story as much as it does on the combat, this abridged version felt too abridged at times. Several seemingly important sequences feel anticlimactic or poorly developed like the fall out between Gladiolus and Noctis, Gladiolus going AWOL, Ignis’ injury, the whole deal with Ravus and even part of the final arc is left wanting in explanation. Presumably, some of those events are explained in more details in the main game’s numerous DLCs. However, with no apparent DLC planned for the Pocket Edition, this version will leave adopters wanting. More so when the side quests, which could have breathed some life in the game, are almost exclusively fetch quests.
One aspect that bugged me from the beginning to the end is the aesthetic. Not that it is bad or unpolished but the choice for a cutesy artistic direction felt odd in a game whose plot is not all roses. I get that it was intended to appeal to a wider audience, probably a younger one too but I’d go for Cloud’s blocky head or Squall’s more slender, polygonal sprite anytime over chibi Noctis.
Final Fantasy XV Pocket Edition HD - Launch Trailer
+ Controller support
+ Fluid gameplay
+ Fully voiced scenes by original voice actors
- Blatant lack of challenge
- Several plot elements feel underwhelming and underdeveloped
- Chibi artstyle
I’m no fan of the cute aesthetic approach of this abridged version which does not really suit the theme as a whole.
This port plays fluidly on the Switch with full controller support. However, with an easy-to-tackle approach Square Enix dumbed down the challenge way too much that it feels like the game holds the player’s hand all too often.
Once (very easily) beaten, there won’t be much of a reason to stick around with this game.
out of 10
(not an average)
Final Fantasy XV Pocket Edition HD isn’t the best version of Final Fantasy XV out there but it is the only version available for the Switch. Pick it up if you really want to experience Noctis' adventure on the go but be prepared to be left wanting for more in several aspects.