Category Archives: 2016

Cover Game features from April-December 2016.

Final Fantasy XV: Episode Gladiolus – Reinventing and Refining

For all the criticisms it’s possible to level at Final Fantasy XV, post-launch support isn’t one of them.

Square Enix has not only been preparing for the release of character-centric DLC packages focusing on each of protagonist Noctis’ companions, but also refining and expanding the base game into something that the company clearly intends to be a “platform” for substantial added content for some time yet.

The first of these DLC packages, Episode Gladiolus, is now available. Is it worth your time if you, like me, already sunk a hundred or more hours into Final Fantasy XV when it was first launched?

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Final Fantasy XV: Narrative, Themes and Characterisation

Final Fantasy XV drew some raised eyebrows from certain quarters for its focus on an all-male cast, but this was a specific decision made in order to support the overall tone and character of the story.

Despite what this might sound like, however, Final Fantasy XV does not make any particular effort to explore concepts such as traditional (or indeed “toxic”) masculinity and the like. In fact, at numerous points over the course of its narrative, it subverts expectations through the interactions between its main cast and the supporting characters.

Not only that, unlike most previous Final Fantasy titles, the experience is not intended purely to be judged on its main scenario. Instead, as we explored last time, much like other Japanese attempts at open-world games such as the Xenoblade Chronicles series, the intention is clearly to build up a comprehensive picture of how the game world as a whole works, supporting the main scenario with numerous intertwining side stories and background lore to create a setting that feels well-crafted and truly alive.

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Final Fantasy XV: Inverting the Formula

Final Fantasy XV’s predecessor Final Fantasy XIII, despite attaining widespread plaudits on its original release, has become fashionable to bash in recent years.

The main justification for this is pretty much always the “20 hour tutorial” argument, criticising the fact that the game gradually introduces its various character classes and other gameplay concepts over the course of a very linear, narrative-heavy section that lasts approximately 20 hours.

Once this part of the game is complete, the experience opens up into a much more freeform affair with sidequests and optional battles aplenty, and at the same time the progression system also removes all restrictions, allowing you to develop all of the game’s playable characters as you see fit.

Apparently aware of this increasingly frequent criticism, Square Enix opted to make Final Fantasy XV the complete opposite of Final Fantasy XIII in terms of structure, in the process completely turning the standard JRPG formula on its head.

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Final Fantasy XV: The Latest Reinvention

As we discussed last time, the Final Fantasy series is one that has rarely stood still or grown complacent.

Each new installment has represented a reinvention of the basic formula to one degree or another, with some offering a more radical new take than others.

Latest installment Final Fantasy XV is arguably the most significant and noticeable reinvention of the series since abandoned the Active Time Battle mechanic the series had used between its fourth and ninth installments. And it’s an effective new approach that offers a blend of spectacular real-time action and the strategy of more traditional, conventional role-playing games.

Let’s delve into Final Fantasy XV’s battle mechanics in depth.

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Final Fantasy XV: A Series of Constant Reinvention

“If it’s not new, it’s not Final Fantasy.”

According to World of Final Fantasy director Hiroki Chiba, speaking with Gamer Escape earlier this year, this is the attitude that Final Fantasy series creator Hironobu Sakaguchi strove to work by. And it’s a creed that the various teams around Square Enix responsible for the continued development of the brand have maintained to this day, right up to latest release Final Fantasy XV.

The result is one of gaming’s longest running, most successful series that has managed to move with the times across six generations of console hardware and changing gaming trends, plus jumps to handheld and mobile devices. Your feelings about individual installments may vary, but it’s impossible to accuse Final Fantasy of stagnation at any point in its long history.

Let’s delve into the history of the series and see just how it’s developed over time.

Note: This article spans five pages. Navigate between them using the buttons at the bottom of each page.

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Fairy Fencer F ADF: Sights and Sounds

Fairy Fencer F and its Advent Dark Force counterpart represent an interesting melting pot of influences.

We’ve already talked about how the gameplay includes influences from Compile Heart’s own Neptunia series, and how the narrative includes influences from classic JRPGs of yore, but Fairy Fencer F’s diverse background is perhaps most apparent when it comes to its audio-visual aesthetic.

Featuring concept art by Yoshitaka Amano of Final Fantasy fame, character designs by Tsunako of Neptunia fame and contributions to the soundtrack from longtime Final Fantasy composer Nobuo Uematsu and his band Earthbound Papas, Fairy Fencer F certainly has some impressively heavyweight talent behind it.

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Fairy Fencer F ADF: Narrative, Themes and Characterisation

Compile Heart games, as we’ve previously discussed, don’t exactly follow the mould of the stereotypical JRPG. However, this doesn’t stop them from having a strong sense of worldbuilding.

You may not be able to freely wander the whole world in a Compile Heart game as you can do in a more open-world adventure, but physically representing something isn’t the only way to give the player a feeling of time and place. You can also do it through the writing.

And this is exactly how Compile Heart builds its worlds, both in its popular Neptunia series and in its outlier titles such as Omega Quintet and Fairy Fencer F. The latter, in particular, demonstrates that the company is more than capable of building a convincing world with an interesting mythology using relatively minimal resources.

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