A Final Fantasy adventure truly made for your back pocket.
Some of the earliest NX rumors involved Final Fantasy XV coming to the system. The long-in-development RPG finally came out in 2016, and proved to be a fun romp that was expanded upon the months following its launch. Multiple expansions and various tweaks were made to keep Square Enix's crown jewel in the spotlight. At a certain moment though, what are you going to do next? The answer was a slimmed down version that could go and support weaker hardware. This is how the Pocket Edition of Final Fantasy XV pretty much came to be. It was originally on mobile, but found its way to the Nintendo Switch. Was this platform the right choice for the game? Well, sort of.
For a supposed “slimmed down” version, the story is more or less intact. The player takes control of prince Noctis. He leaves his beloved kingdom of Lucis to go on a roadtrip with his three close friends. The ultimate goal is to marry the lovely Lunafreya, who happens to be the princess of a different country. Sadly, things go awry fast as the Niflheim empire strikes and takes over Lucis. Now it is up to Noctis and his friends to save the bloodline, Lunafreya, and the people living in the kingdoms. Final Fantasy XV is a surprisingly modern plot about friendship and trust. The four heroes get constantly challenged to the point where you can really feel their struggles.
The presentation of the story is the big reason why I prefer the Pocket Edition in some respects. The story is here, but it removes the clutter found in the original. Now don't get me wrong: I really enjoyed the story in Final Fantasy XV, but it didn't explain enough initially. The good thing about this retelling is that it has the proper fixes, plus the open world of the initial release is absent, so progression isn’t constantly halted and distracted. I understand why the bigger game was made the way it did, but the lightweight version here is more valuable for its focus.
On the flipside, Pocket Edition doesn't really provide a challenge. Locales are now walled-off levels that allow for little-to-no exploration. A few branching paths can net you additional items, but that’s all that is off the beaten path. The combat, while surprisingly engaging, doesn't really to go too deep either. Mind you, it is quite fun as you can attack and warp-strike your heart's content. There are special prompts for good measure to stop it from growing stale on the go.
Handheld mode is how Pocket Edition became a package I can get behind. Personally I don't think this is great television game. The RPG elements aren't deep enough for it to be one. A progression system is present, but doesn't go much further than the basics. You gain experience and ability points, the latter of which can be used to add more powerful moves and actions. However, since the game never gets that tough, you never really have a good chance to uses these advanced abilities.
To put it bluntly, I only played Final Fantasy XV: Pocket Edition HD once on the television. While the colorful style looks nice on a big display, it was more comfortable on the actual handheld. I was able to consume the game easily that way, and had a good enough time doing so. The only big negative I have is that these cartoony characters should've had proper faces. The emotional cutscenes hit an uncanny valley, purely due to the lack of mouth movement. The chunky environmental pieces, on the other hand, are actually nice and I liked them a lot.
Final Fantasy XV: Pocket Edition HD is a weird game to review. While it doesn't exactly fill an RPG-sized hole, it’s still fun to play. The challenge might be lacking, but it is fun going through the motions. It is a game you finish a chapter of, feel satisfied and go play something else. Not too hollow, but also not too engaging. Pocket Edition is perfectly fine handheld mode junk food, which is good enough now and again.