Square Enix’s Final Fantasy XV found its way onto my PlayStation 4 upon release day and is now appearing on our list of Game of the Year 2016 nominees. The game follows Prince Noctis and his three friends as they wander through an open world trying to restore order to the lands.
At its broadest, Final Fantasy XV is another Final Fantasy game, but for as many ways as it harkens back to its predecessors, Final Fantasy XV reimagines the series in more. To ape the intro title card, Final Fantasy XV is “A Final Fantasy for fans and first-timers.” It’s a set of white text on black background that has surely been echoed on any written or spoken mention of this game, but it does a perfect job of summarizing this game.
For someone who has played less than half of the games in the series’ history, Final Fantasy XV reinvigorates my enthusiasm for the franchise, past and future. Just prior to release, I was playing Final Fantasy VI (and currently am still working my way through it) and its massive cast of characters began to accelerate my excitement for FFXV. Now, FFXV and my party of four has an equal and opposite effect on FFVI.
For the first time in an open world game, I don’t bother to fast travel. I love riding along with Noctis and three friends, hearing them banter or share enthusiasm over the sights. It feels like I’m in the car with them as the fifth invisible friend that no one can hear.
The game’s free combat system does little to teach you how its best used but experience earned by the characters in turn equates to you as you become more comfortable with navigating a battle. Leveling up does more than just add strength and health points, but unlocks new abilities for all of your party members. In time, you will perfectly balance physical attacks with magic and party commands to take down enemies massive and microscopic.
Final Fantasy XV is such a great experience and such a fantastic game, one that few of us expected it to be. It transforms our expectations for the franchise and rekindles the flame that we once felt strongly for this near thirty-year-old franchise.