By Alyssa Apuzzio
Released on Nov. 29, 2016, “Final Fantasy XV” is the latest installment of the “Final Fantasy” series, which is known for its unique characters, story and acclaimed music. Developed by Square Enix and originally announced in 2005, fans waited a decade to play and experience “Final Fantasy XV,” which definitely stood out from the rest of the series.
The game opens with the main character Noctis, prince of Lucis, standing before his father King Regis in the throne room of Lucis. Regis tells Noctis to set forth with his blessing to marry Princess Lunafreya of Tenebrae, a marriage that was arranged politically to designate the union of the states. Noctis will be escorted to Luna by his bodyguards and childhood friends, Gladiolus, Ignis and Prompto.
Shortly after setting off to meet Luna in Altissia, Noctis’ royal car, the Regalia, breaks down, buzz killing the bro trip and forcing the men to push the car. Not exactly a fairy tale beginning, Gladio says, as “Stand By Me,” starts to play in the background, covered by Florence + The Machine. No other song could describe the the fierce loyalty and bromance among Noctis and his friends better.
I found the main characters to be extremely likeable. Noctis is low-key and stubborn, while Gladio is strong willed and impatient. Ignis is logical and calm, and Prompto is energetic and funny.
Each character also demonstrates their own unique skills. Noctis fishes, and Gladio’s survival skills allow him to pick up useful items from the field. Ignis can prepare recipes that provide ability boosts, and players can save and share photos that Prompto snaps with his photography skill.
Noctis and the gang’s abilities are just one example of how “Final Fantasy XV” incorporates real-world aspects into the game. Players can also order food from diners and restaurants, check-in to motels at night, and set up camp around a campfire while Ignis whips up dinner. As a gamer that has played almost every “Final Fantasy” game, these elements were a pleasant surprise to me and worked well in the game. The game also includes its “Final Fantasy” must-haves, such as chocobos — horse-sized yellow birds you can ride and race — and a male character named Cid.
There are at least 80 side quests needed to complete in “Final Fantasy XV,” as well as multiple optional dungeons to explore. Players also customize their characters with the ascension tab on the menu to redeem ability points and choose which abilities they’d like their characters to learn. In addition, the “elemancy” tab can be used to craft magic spells absorbed from fire, ice, or thunder crystals, a similar concept of “Final Fantasy VIII’s” draw system for magic.
I absolutely loved the first half of “Final Fantasy XV,” completing a myriad of side quests, searching to purchase every “Final Fantasy” soundtrack for the Regalia, and making Ignis cook every possible recipe he could. However, once you complete the story in Altissa, I felt the game’s story moved too rapidly and became too dark. The dreaded Chapter 13, which felt more like a “Resident Evil” game than a “Final Fantasy” game, has enemies popping out of the pitch black and hallucinations from Noctis. The end of the game was a bit confusing at first. I shed tears once it was over and “Stand By Me” was playing yet again.
Overall, I would give “Final Fantasy XV” an eight out of 10, and I would definitely play it again in the future. I completely fell in love with the characters, and took more photos than I’m willing to admit of the beautiful graphics and the (very) attractive main bros. I ended up playing the game for 60 hours, and while multiple events after Altissia left me in disbelief, low spirits and in tears, I wouldn’t change how many hours I put in.