Final Fantasy XV was a game 10 years in the making. Square Enix staff agonized over the game, hoping to make it as close to their vision as possible. When it released in 2016, it achieved quite a bit and pleased many. Now, we have Final Fantasy XV: Pocket Edition. Announced in August 2017, it is already here. Surprisingly enough, it is actually amazing. Like as I play this game, I marvel at how well it adapts elements and creates a game that covers everything important about the original game. It is this distinct experience that encapsulates everything that matters about the original in its own way.
The most obvious change is to how Final Fantasy XV looks in Final Fantasy XV: Pocket Edition. I feel like it is a change for the better. The characters are far more expressive in general. But then, I also feel like their depictions here do a better job of giving hints to their overall demeanor and role. I adore grumpy little Noctis. You can tell at a look that he is a snarky little prince with a grim destiny, something that is not quite as evident in his prettier portrayal on consoles and computers. Even though graphical quality is being sacrificed, I feel like we are getting something more distinctive and unique in the process. I like a lot of the character designs in Final Fantasy XV, but I felt like people like Ardyn, Gladio and Lunafreya are more memorable here in the mobile version due to these added details and mannerisms.
The scope is also narrowed, also for the better. When I think about what I remember in Final Fantasy XV, I am not waxing nostalgic about running across fields to complete fetch quests or monster hunts. The open world elements did not stick with me. I remember Ignis making meals. I recall the more major side quests like finding dog tags for the first time. I remember what it was like to meet Ardyn or Iris for the first time. Final Fantasy XV: Pocket Edition prioritizes these moments. It does not pad out the game with extra maps and quests. It keeps me on the important path that gets Noctis and his friends on their quest, rather than offering too many distractions.
Then, there is its battle system. I love how fights are handled in Final Fantasy XV: Pocket Edition. It is easy to perform Noctis’ warp attacks. I never miss a prompt to direct Gladio, Ignis or Prompto to perform one of their skills. It is great how building up Noctis lets us eventually counter attack or dodge. Yet, it is not like it is over-simplified. There is still an element of danger if you do not pay attention or properly position yourself. There is still strategy there. It just is laid out in such a way that it is adapted well to the handheld and is easier to manage when facing larger groups.
Another wise choice alters Ascension. It is much easier to apply upgrades and improve characters in Final Fantasy XV: Pocket Edition. The tree is clearly defined and easy to read. We get concise descriptions of what every skill or upgrade does. It allows us to branch off and build Noctis and his companions the way that we would like. I preferred it to the console edition. There were times when I felt like certain characters were not getting as much attention when I played. (In particular, it seemed like Prompto was being left out when I was building my party up in the original game.) Here, I find it much easier to make sure everyone is handled well.
I even love how Final Fantasy XV: Pocket Edition includes some of the little features that made the main game so unique. You still get to camp out, though you do not have to rely on camping to distribute experience points. Cactaurs are still on maps, but it is not an ordeal to find or challenge them as it was before. When you take a quest, you can make decisions that alter the rewards you will receive from completing them. The car rides are still there, complete with Ignis’ visible driving gloves, and you can enjoy the scenery while cruising on the highway.
Final Fantasy XV is a beautiful, huge game. Final Fantasy XV: Pocket Edition takes everything we know and love and distills it down to the purest essence. The game has the same hallmarks and memorable features, but cuts away the excess that would have kept it from fitting or working on a mobile device. It takes the character designs and manages to convey what is important about each character and location in a stylish and unique way. It is a surprisingly adept adaptation, and one that both people who did and did not play the original may appreciate. In fact, there are times where I like it more than Final Fantasy XV because of the decisions made in retelling this tale.
Final Fantasy XV: Pocket Edition is available for Android and Apple iOS devices.