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Hands-On With “Final Fantasy XV: Episode Duscae”

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October, 2011 was when the original “Final Fantasy Type-0” was released on the PlayStation Portable over in Japan. That version of the highly sought-after video game was never released outside of the great country to the lamentation of all the fans who longed for the game with every fibre of their being. It’s now 2015 and that game has finally been released around the world on Sony’s next generation console the PlayStation 4. The new release of “Type-0” does differ from the original PlayStation Portable release in that it has been tweaked and changed to suit a more contemporary audience. This means better graphics, better gameplay and a better overall experience.

Anyone reading this that hasn’t been keeping up with recent news would probably think that the release of this game would be the most exciting thing for “Final Fantasy” fans in the early months of 2015. If that’s what you do think, I hate to tell you but…you’re absolutely wrong. A certain special demo was provided with early purchases of the long-awaited game. This demo just so happens to be of another upcoming “Final Fantasy” title that may just be more exciting and more anticipated than that of “Type-0 HD”. It’s a little title called “Final Fantasy XV” and the demo that was released alongside “Type-0” goes by the name of “Episode Duscae”.

Thanks to our friends over at Square Enix, we at SnapThirty have been given the chance to not only review “Final Fantasy Type-0 HD” but we’ve also been given a copy of the new demo. Below you’ll be able to read about both Kane Bugeja’s and my very own experience with the demo. Alongside that, we’ve also recorded our play through of “Episode Duscae” and compiled some of the more exciting and/or funny moments into one fifteen minute video, of which you can also see just below. Follow us as we experience a game that will revolutionise the series countless fans around the globe have come to adore. Follow us through “Final Fantasy XV: Episode Duscae”.

Final-Fantasy-XV-Screenshot-01Frank Inglese

I laughed pretty hard when I start the demo of “Final Fantasy XV”. Why’s that? Well, after all the promotional videos that have been released over the past few months, I could’ve sworn that “Final Fantasy XV” was going to be some sort of driving simulator. Upon starting up the demo you’re met with a cutscene that basically explains that, well…you’ve got no car. Not only that; you’ve got no money to fix the car. That essentially sets the scene for the demo wherein which you’re tasked with killing a huge beast, collecting the reward money and getting your motor vehicle back. Apart from all the tedious walking…the demo was actually pretty damn awesome It, first of all, looked absolutely amazing! The seamlessness between the graphics of the game and the graphics of the cutscenes is almost God-like; something fans have come to expect from a company with as huge a lineage as Square Enix.

Me not being a fan of the more contemporary “Final Fantasy” titles, I was really digging the combat mechanics of “Episode Duscae”. Mixing JRPG and hack ‘n slash elements was, in my opinion, the greatest thing Square Enix could have done with this new game. I’ve found that, with more recent titles, combat has been boring. While the games look really nice, there’s a lot to be desired with the way in which you play them…this is not the case for “Final Fantasy XV”. Kane and I constantly fought over the controller because of just how addictive it was to throw down with enemies.

Backing up some incredibly masterful swordplay is that of the main character Noctis. In fact, I’ll say that apart from Prompto, I actually really liked the main group. They each had similar aesthetics that were different enough to represent their respective personalities and they were also just down right cool-looking! Helping add to their likability is that of the voice actors who have leant their talents to the role. Once again, I’ve never been a fan of the voice acting in modern “Final Fantasy” titles. i find they they completely miss their mark and just work to frustrate me instead of impress me. Thank the Gods that “Final Fantasy XV” does not continue that trend. Even the animation of mouth movements matched that of the English dub track which, to me, shows a great attention to detail from the development team.

To say the very least; “Final Fantasy XV: Episode Duscae” impressed me so much more than I thought it would. Despite having to constantly schlep around forests and highways, I did have a fantastic time playing through the demo and now more than ever I cannot wait for the full release of the game. Of course, as with any game, there were little things I didn’t quite like but I believe those only came up because of my insistent nit-picking. They were definitely not things to be brought up here. I did get sick of all that walking though.

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Kane Bugeja

For those of us who have been looking forward to playing through the adventures of Noctis and crew, it has been quite a while. Since way back in the day (a few years ago) when this instalment was known as Versus XIII, fans have been curious about the story and the more free flowing gameplay promised throughout the trailers. So, after all this time, does Final Fantasy XV live up to the hype? Well, from the two or so hours given to us in Episode Duscae, I’m leaning fairly strongly towards yes.

First things first, I have to mention a noticeable absence from the XV cast that you will most cetainly weigh on you throughout Duscae: Noctis’ car. Though it has featured in most of the news releases of the past month, this slick ride is definitely missed in this demo. Of course, that is the entire point of the demo as Noct and friends decide to slay a monster to make a quick buck in order to pay for repairs to said vehicle. It’s a nice little segment to focus on, standing somewhat separate from the apparent road trip of the game’s main story. Unfortunately however, this leaves you with only one mode of transportation…and it is woefully slow.

Ok, so that might be a little harsh, but about 30 minutes of running from one side of the map to the other left me wanting for a faster mode of movement. Heck Noctis has the ability to teleport, though for some reason this is unaccessible outside of combat.

Speaking of, the battle system in XV serves a more free flowing form than some of the previous FF instalments. Rather than battles being a separate event from the overworld, combat simply starts when you cross paths with a soldier or excessively violent creature…or peaceful creature if you possess a certain thirst for battle. Noctis himself possesses a pretty robust set of skills with which to fight said battles, easily accessible even in the midst of enemy attack. The weapon mechanic is also quite nifty, allowing you to trade out power for speed or precision, granting s nice depth to even default button mashing combos.

One issue that arose during playthrough was the AI companions occassional lack of care in regards to recovery. More than once Noctis was left crawling around a battlefield whilst the NPCs simply ignored him. This is especially aggravating when a metric boatload of Goblins are incessantly assaulting each member of the part in an enclosed cave…really wasn’t a fan of that part of the game.

Taking a step back for a minute, one can truly appreciate just how good this game looks. It’s very…it looks very good. The overarching environment conveyed a great sense of scale, whilst the modern aspects gave it a societal aspect that sets it apar from previous FF games. It’s a nice change of pace to see a convertible, as opposes to a sci-fi fantasy concept car. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing the game’s promised cityscapes.

As a whole, Episode Duscae was a nice little snippet of what is certain to be an expansive game. There was a nice fade in introduction, a decent area to experiment with combat and a succinct ending that leaves you wanting more. So I guess it’s time to sit back and do what we fans of Final Fantasy XV have done for the past few years; wait. Or replay Episode Duscae, whatever passes the time faster.

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