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Hands-On With Final Fantasy XV At Madfest 2016

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It has been quite a while since Square Enix gave us the opportunity to preview Final Fantasy XV, and since then the game’s release has been delayed for seemingly unknown reasons. This, to all those who have been anticipating the game ever since it’s reveal, is something they hope does not plague them for longer than it has to, but Square Enix are doing everything in their power to expose it’s audience to FF XV in whatever form they can. At the inaugural Madfest Japanese Pop Culture Festival, Square Enix’s sizeable gameplay area featured several consoles running a brand-new build of the upcoming game, albeit only playable in twenty-minute segments.

I can’t say that the game has changed too much from the last time I was able to get my hands on it, but certain tweaks and changes, though minor, are very much recognizable. Perhaps the biggest change that I was able to notice was that of the altered combat system. As a whole, it’s very much the same, but there was one key striking difference that had me pondering why Square Enix decided to step, essentially, backwards: In the last build of the game, hand-to-hand combat played out by tapping a certain button (depending on what console you play it on) that will execute a pre-built combo list which features an array of varied bladed weapons. In the current build, players are asked to switch weapons mid-combo by using the D-Pad in conjunction with the Attack input. The transition between weapons is just as smooth as it once was, the only difference being that, now, it is up to you to transition from one to another.

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The game still looks fantastic, despite a few graphical issues that, I assume, was only present in this demo-like build. During cutscenes, I noticed that the mouth-movements of the character models perfectly matched the English dub; something not often seen in Final Fantasy games of this kind. It was clear that Square Enix had used the voice talent for motion capture and that truly brought depth to not only the interaction between characters but the visual quality as a whole. It still features much the same soundtrack as previous preview/demo builds, but during this particular experience it was Florence + The Machine’s cover of “Stand By Me” that took the spotlight as the track that kicked off the preview. Coming as no surprise at all…this track was hard to top. Practically impossible.

Twenty minutes, in the grand scheme of things, isn’t enough time to understand or even enjoy anything to it’s absolute fullest, but the time I had with Final Fantasy XV at Madfest 2016 thanks to Square Enix has truly rejuvenated my excitement for the game most of us have been waiting for since it was originally announced as a PlayStation 3 launch title under the name “Final Fantasy Versus 13” back in 2006. Though it’s still too early to know for sure, from what I have played I believe Final Fantasy XV will live up to the decade of hype surrounding it. My trust is with this game, wholeheartedly.

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