Final Fantasy 15 had a number of impressive qualities at launch, but perhaps none were as noticeable immediately as the game’s environmental design. The world of Final Fantasy 15 is vast, expansive, and breathes, with every step Noctis and his band of brothers takes offering the chance to glimpse something beautiful, whether it be a flower they’ve never seen before or the flight of a gigantic creature, so large it barely registers that the protagonist is even in its presence. Some of Final Fantasy 15‘s most breath-taking moments were hardly a blip on the narrative radar, but they linger months after play, snapshots of another world.
Final Fantasy 15: Pocket Edition, then, seems like it has a flaw in its core design philosophy—Square Enix has taken the beating heart of its latest Final Fantasy title and lessened its pulse slightly. We’ll admit we were skeptical before playing the title, thinking that a mobile port of an adventure that was meant to be grandiose could only mimic what had already been done so well by the console version. Instead, however, just minutes after diving into the world of Final Fantasy 15: Pocket Edition, it became abundantly clear that this was the best mobile “port” of a console game we had ever experienced.
The first thing players need to know is that Final Fantasy 15: Pocket Edition—at least as far as Episode One is concerned, as that’s all we had the chance to play—is a faithful recreation of the main game, right down to its voiced dialogue and small, character-driven scenes. Nothing about Pocket Edition is going to surprise fans of the main game who completed it, as it is the exact same story, shrunk down and told with more of a cute flair than the back-in-black, rock star vibe of the original title.
That being said, however, the shift towards the Chibi-style animation has made for an incredible visual shift that makes the game feel new. While Episode One is by far the most lighthearted instalment of Noctis and friends’ adventure, it feels like all of the emotion and gravity of meaningful scenes was still present, despite being acted out by characters who seem to be explicitly designed to sell adorable six-inch figures in the Square Enix shop at some point in the future.
Shrinking down the world has done little to change the combat of Final Fantasy 15: Pocket Edition, too, as the flurry of action that characterized the console launch remains present, if not slightly simplified. Pocket Edition manages to get the feel of Noctis’ warp strikes right, and despite combat being much easier than it was in the main game, it’s still compelling enough that we enjoyed it every time we had the chance to get our hands dirty. The controls, based largely around tapping the screen to follow prompts, are intuitive and fun, with an emphasis being placed on accessibility that will make Final Fantasy 15: Pocket Edition an excellent choice for anyone who has a long commute or a comfy chair in their home.
The decision to bring Final Fantasy 15 to mobile platforms has, however, limited the way the game can recreate its environment. The world of Final Fantasy 15: Pocket Edition is significantly smaller than the game it is a remake of, with less roaming mobs of monsters, a smaller number of side quests, and a reduced map size to compliment it. These elements all feel like features rather than detriments, however, as we really weren’t interested in a mobile title with environments that are easy to get lost in, and a world filled with monsters would run counter to the way the game has established each fight to feel like it means something. Final Fantasy 15: Pocket Edition seems poised to recreate only the most important moments from the main game, and if that is the case, then limiting the number of fights with random enemies is a wise decision, preserving the magnitude of each decision Noctis and friends make.
That doesn’t mean that combat is going to be the same for everyone, though. Final Fantasy 15: Pocket Edition also features the same Ascension system that Final Fantasy 15 had, and during our hands-on, we counted 23 different ability choices for Noctis’ combat skills alone, with another 21 ready to be unlocked under the teamwork section. That’s a lot of customization for a mobile title, and it speaks to the philosophy with which Square Enix seemed to approach this game. The world might be smaller and the characters might look like they’re about to start the world’s cutest boy band, but at its heart, the blood that courses through Pocket Edition is the same that made Final Fantasy 15‘s rhythm and pulse such a joy to listen to and experience.
Ultimately, it is too early to say that all of Final Fantasy 15: Pocket Edition will be as wonderfully executed as its first episode, especially because this chapter will be free to download as an introduction to the game while all other episodes will need to be purchased. While it would make sense to frontload the first episode with as much as possible to hook fans, however, the entirety of Pocket Edition‘s episodic content would be perfectly fine if it only had the features on display in the first instalment, and for that reason, Final Fantasy 15: Pocket Edition is a game to watch. The west has been far more hesitant to accept mobile gaming as part of the future than players in Japan thus far, but Final Fantasy 15: Pocket Edition has all the tools necessary to change people’s minds, one memory made on a road trip shared by friends at a time.
Final Fantasy 15: Pocket Edition releases all ten of its chapters simultaneously in Autumn 2017 for Android and iOS mobile devices.
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