TGS 2016: Final Fantasy XV, XII and World of FF Hands-on
I played three very different Final Fantasies at this year's TGS. I'm drawn to the series, even when I don't particularly want to be, and couldn't help but queue up for FFXV, FFXII: The Zodiac Age and World of Final Fantasy.
I'll start with Final Fantasy XV because that's probably why you're here.
I went into the demo expecting to dislike it. Everything I'd seen and tried of SE's latest epic suggested that this was not going to be a game for me. I've moved on from FF melodrama, find that I struggle with lengthy games, and I despise the look of XV's main crew. Basically, I am the antithesis of Noughties Matt, who probably would've loved this shit. Current Matt - my name is Matt - hated the TGS demo.
I had my preconceptions, was fed of queueing and was so pissed off with the demo booth setup that I almost turned around and left (standing, screen at chest height, headphones with a ridiculously short cord so that I spent the whole demo hunched over). So, yeah, perhaps you should take my impressions with a pinch of salt. That being said, this demo was bloody awful.
It started off promisingly enough, with a mildly interactive scene – an action-packed and visually stunning flashback with lots of fire, explosions and men with excellent hair. The whole demo was visually impressive and the orchestral score was outstanding. Final Fantasy music really is a cut above. The next five minutes or so were spent either sat in loading screens or, equally as dull, pushing a broken-down car by simply pressing forward while being forced to listen to Florence & The Machine. Following a further loading screen, we finally arrived at a garage where we were sent back into the world to run a few errands. The setting was uninteresting, a desert full of giant scorpions and shacks, though I'm sure that there will be lots more variety in the full game.
I already hate the main characters, as they look and sound like a bloody nightmare. The combat seemed decent enough though, as I could swap between my four characters at different points, and could also cycle through weapons. Our lead, Noctis, wielded a sword, a much larger sword and a spear, all of which handled slightly differently and kept the skirmishes interesting, even when I was fighting the same fucking scorpions over and over. Did I mention that the headphone cord was really short?
I enjoyed Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age a lot more, though it was a poor choice of stages for a demo. It was set entirely in tunnels under the main city, a stretch of the game that I remember not enjoying the first and only time I played it, back in 2006. It still looks like a PS2 game, and for the most part controls like one, but SE have done a decent job of smoothing the edges and making everything just a little bit prettier.
The soundtrack is wonderful and brought back lots of pleasant memories. I didn't play the International version back in the day, so you'll have to excuse me if this is old news, but I loved the fast forward button. Characters run faster and hack at enemies at an increased pace; a welcome tool for all those long slogs through repetitive dungeons. I'm told that the battle system has been rebuilt, but honestly its been so long since I played XII that I can't really speak to these changes. Overall, it wasn't the best of demos, but I'm still very keen to revisit XII, and Zodiac Age appears to be a worthwhile upgrade.
Finally, I tried World of Final Fantasy on the Vita. All of your favourite FF characters have been newly deformed, and are now sporting ugly, massive heads. It was all very charming and cutesy, the battles were ATB style and the setting was reminiscent of your favourite world maps from classic FF. Combat seemed simplistic, though there was the option to switch between your character and your allied monsters (Mirages), which mixed things up a little. This appears to be a game aimed squarely at children, but there's nothing wrong with that. Just don't expect anything too deep.
And that's it for Final Fantasy at TGS. I think I'll play Final Fantasy VIII now, the best Final Fantasy, and try to forget all about XV.
Be sure to check back over the coming days, as I'll continue to post lots of hands-on impressions from TGS. I'm also writing over at Critical Gamer