Will FFXV Pocket Edition Be The Best or Worst Final Fantasy Mobile Game?

Is Final Fantasy XV Pocket Edition a dumbed down version of the console game or a masterclass in how to appeal to a wider audience?

Square Enix’s Final Fantasy XV, an ARPG about taking road trips in an awesome car and beating up baddies with your buddies, was a welcome change of pace from the variant turn-based combat that we’d all come to expect from the series. FFXV is emblematic of one thing: Final Fantasy is a franchise that constantly adapts and expands upon its own gameplay innovations. And this entry proved to the world that Square still has that special touch.

The Japanese video game developer is once again shaking things up by releasing a new episodic version of FFXV for iOS, Android, and Windows 10 phones. It’s not what any of us expected, but is that a good or bad thing for this JRPG franchise? Will this new entry be the best or worst FF game to make the jump to mobile?

Let's take a look at a what we know and figure it out.

Announced at Gamescom, the new version of FFXV is aptly named Final Fantasy XV Pocket Edition, as it attempts to scale down everything about the AAA console experience, cramming it all into a condensed package that you can play anywhere. Telling its story over the course of 10 episodes, the first episode will be a free taste of what's to come, while the subsequent nine episodes will cost anyone wanting to play them (prices have yet to be announced).

An "all-new adventure that retells the beloved story of Final Fantasy XV", Square said in a press release alongside a trailer for the game, which showcases some early (and recognizable) moments of the story. Also mentioned in the announcement was that FFXV Pocket Edition will be a more casual experience in order to appeal to a wider audience.

 

Chibi, or not chibi? That is the question...

When you first look at Pocket Edition, there is an immediately striking difference in graphics, as Square Enix has opted to present FFXV Pocket Edition in an adorable chibi-esque art style, a cutesy, cartoonish style popular in Japanese media. Depicting characters as small with over sized heads, the style has risen in popularity in the West in recent years through many popular anime and manga series’.

Going this route is a smart but risky move on Square’s part; if they wanted to port FFXV over to mobile, they would have had to compromise on the graphics anyway. So although choosing the Chibi artstyle may alienate some core FF fans, going this route feels less like a compromise and more like a new direction. And I appreciate developers who take those risks.

Overall, I think it's a good way to go because it makes the game look more friendly and approachable -- which is key to capturing the more casual gamer's attention.

Square Better Noctis Game Out the Park...

The intense, fast-paced combat of FFXV's console version has been revamped to better suit the mobile platform, but seems to have kept the core essence of what made the original combat system so fun. Translated into an isometric ARPG, with “casual touch controls optimized for mobile devices”, it looks like tapping on an enemy will prompt Noctis (the handsome and moody main protagonist) to lock onto an enemy and continue to attack until instructed otherwise.

Typically, touch screen action games haven’t been the most fun to play since they can get pretty clunky -- and half the time you’re blocking what’s on the screen with your fingers. If this is the only way of controlling Prince Noctis, then I don’t have high hopes for the longevity of FFXV Pocket Edition; because as with most touch-controlled action titles, it’ll be harder to play than it is fun.

Let's take Kabam’s Star Wars: Uprising as an example. It was an action role-playing game that released last September, right before Star Wars: The Force Awakens . After months of hype for a new Star Wars RPG that promised to have both intuitive touch-screen combat as well as a thrilling canonical storyline, the gameplay just didn’t live up to fans’ (or my) expectations. Despite a somewhat intriguing narrative, the game was cancelled not even a year after release.

This just goes to show that no matter how pervasive the source material or how beloved the universe in question is, a game is a game. And ultimately, games are meant to be fun. If a game's mechanics don't engross players from the beginning, that game risks losing its player base -- and overall mindshare in a space that's full of alternatives. 

However, a caveat: If Square Enix opts to add compatibility for controller peripherals such as the PhoneJoy GamePad (which has worked fantastically on a ton of mobile games), then FFXV Pocket Edition could become something very special.

I'll be Gladio With Some Customization...

Once you get into the nuts and bolts of Final Fantasy XV Pocket Edition, you'll be able to switch between four weapons by tapping on each weapon’s respective icon in the bottom right-hand corner of the screen. On the console version of FFXV, there are a variety of different weapons that you could find, craft, or purchase on your journey through Eos -- and most were able to be upgraded.

You are also able to customize the clothes of each of the four protagonists, which affects certain stats in some drastic ways, allowing you to specialize each character for specific roles in combat. It's something that complements the strategic hack’n’slash combat in a very compelling way. It's also something I hope carries over to the Pocket Edition, as it will lend depth to the overall gameplay experience. 

On top of that, an aspect of FFXV that I always looked forward to was dinner time. You can go to a diner or a restaurant and pay Gil for a delicious-looking meal, of which your personal chef, Ignis, can learn to cook. Better still, finding and collecting ingredients while out in the wild and bringing them to Ignis at the end of each day is a fun distraction and helps you see Eos from different perspectives, ones that might otherwise go unnoticed. Later, Ignis prepares your choice of food, letting you and the group enjoy a fine meal under the stars.

Not only does unique customization choice provide you and the characters with a few moments of respite after a hectic day of travelling and fighting, but it also gives you bonuses for the next day depending on the meal.

If Square Enix can capture these moments and mechanics well while adding at least a sense of in-depth, meaningful customization, Pocket Edition could turn out to be one of the best Final Fantasy games to make the jump to the mobile platform.

Ignis Gonna be the Best or Worst Mobile FF?

This isn’t the first Final Fantasy game to come to the mobile platform. In fact, Final Fantasy I through Final Fantasy VII, as well as FF XI: Online and FF XIII, have all made the jump -- and that's not to mention several spin-offs that were made specifically for the mobile platform. Most if not all of these versions emulate the experience of the original games upon which they're based pretty well and play very much how they were originally intended. FFXV is by far the most divergent in that line of consistency. 

Due to the turn-based combat in most of these entries, a lot of time is spent selecting options from a menu. This style of gameplay suits the mobile platform, as tapping and flicking through menus has become second nature to most of us. Although these rudimentary controls work fine, there's always that feeling that you don't have total control. Just by accidentally tapping slightly higher on the screen than you intended, you could choose an attack that's not as effective or heal a party member who didn't need healing -- which can be incredibly frustrating. Holding a controller with physical buttons will just always feel better.

So is it going to be the worst Final Fantasy mobile game? Probably not. That title has been well and truly earned by the army base builder, FFXV: A New Empire, which took the name and characters of FFXV, but nothing else. It’s been universally panned as a terrible experience on all fronts. So instead of aping the FFXV name and characters and placing them inside of an arguably terrible formula, FFXV Pocket Edition sets out to make itself a worthy successor to FFXV's lineage. At the end of the day, Pocket Edition has its work cut out for it to be an even bigger waste of your phone’s memory than A New Empire.

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I genuinely believe that FFXV Pocket Edition will be the best of the mobile bunch. I never got around to finishing the console version because of how much of a time sink it became (and also due to my inability to leave no stone unturned in any game that boasts a world as beautiful and intriguing as FFXV). So this more casual experience really appeals to me because I’d love to get back into Eos and see how everything turned out for Noctis and the gang.

Chocobo Race

What do you think? Will Final Fantasy Pocket Edition be one of the best mobile Final Fantasy games? Or will it crash and burn? Let us know in the comments below! 

Published Aug. 31st 2017

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