Saturday, May 6, 2017

The Renaissance bucket

Final Fantasy XV: The renascence of JRPG
A good old reunion with a friend of mine at the local game store and a discussion we had the day before on the fall of Japanese gaming industry made us depart from the present world of western games and delve into the past. To be fair, we were searching for spin-offs to some retro games such as Zelda, Dungeon Master etc.
Boy, were we not sold when we stumbled upon the game no one thought would ever come out…..Final Fantasy XV. Laughing about the fact that it nearly took a decade, it was all about nostalgia when we sat down to play that afternoon.
Final Fantasy XV opens, quite fittingly, with a splash screen that reads: “A Final Fantasy for fans and first-timers.” Having played every numbered entry since the first, we could see both reverence for the old and a courtship of the new in this latest chapter. I’d like to say it’s an elegant fusion of the two, but my friend here would disagree and say that it’s more of a duality - a conflict that reaches into nearly every aspect of Final Fantasy XV. In the end, its beauty, charm, and commitment to the bond between its four protagonists, Prince Noctis and fellow travelers Gladiolus, Ignis, and Prompto, keep it glued together, even when some of its design and story elements threaten to pull it apart.
Of course, Final Fantasy XV isn’t like other games. Other games don’t launch with a tie-in movie voiced by Aaron Paul and Lena Headey, or a five-episode anime detailing the lives of the main characters, widening the gap between the fans and the first-timers still further. Other games don’t feel the need to open, not with a stunning set-piece, or a slow intro to the world, but with a weird combat tutorial/lore guide where a strange fox-like creature talks to you about how to fight in the game before the game proper gets going.
Save for the vulpine being, it starts so strong. In a flash forward, the four heroes fight a god? Seriously a God…Skip back. Those same characters are stuck with a broken-down car (a beautiful Regalia) in the middle of absolute nowhere. The opening bars of a Florence and the Machine cover of Stand By Me start, as you begin to push the car toward civilization. The civilization we’re greeted with is the small hamlet of Hammerhead, and it’s enthralling. To be on point no other Final Fantasy had given us this much freedom, this early. We could pick up side quests almost immediately, taking our characters on a hunt for rare beasts; wander through the already huge landscape; go fishing, learn new dishes to cook, forage for mushrooms, or practise photography; you can even, for your sins, play Justice Monsters V, a weird pinball/pachinko hybrid which we almost certainly felt the worst Final Fantasy mini game ever.
A few hours later when you actually realize that it’s football time but, well, you don’t care as you unlock the bulk of the rest of the map and see your horizons expand beyond belief. You can forgive yourself for forgetting about the main quest entirely at this point, and just get lost in the joy of wandering the land of Lucis. (We were actually tempted at this point to just play it like GTA:Lucis) But even as you marvel at the lavishness of the meals, or the beauty of Lucis, you might start to notice the wheels coming off.
For the uninitiated, Final Fantasy is always known for its very intricate plot which often includes Game of Thrones-ish main character deaths and small sub plots which haunt you in the end but XV fails in this aspect. The problem being that the danger that befalls the land of Lucis never truly materialises until the end of the tale and the would-be romantic element of the story never gets more than a handful of weepy, insubstantial cutscenes, the mutual respect, understanding of yore falls apart in this one.
But the kinship of Prince Noctis, Gladiolus, Ignis, and Prompto who aren’t a loosely assembled band of strangers uniting to face evil, like in so many other roleplaying games gives Final Fantasy XV’s often incoherent story all the heart it has. The camaraderie between these four is fleshed out and reinforced beautifully whether in combat, on the road, or everywhere in between. There is so much good here, so much heart that we ended up even learning Noctis’s favorite coffee, Gladiolus’ favorite food, Prompto’s chocobos and an endless list of small things which actually sum up beautifully.
We knew the combat camera was a bummer (heavily criticized by every possible website), so just to reaffirm, it is a bit of a worry if you are the average COD type, but being an old fashioned RPGamer it was bearable.
As a Final Verdict (wishing the game could have a second chance to just do it all right): For all its flaws – the dodgy camera, the lack of dungeon save points, the magic system, the bitty, oddly-structured plot – Final Fantasy 15 is the best single-player Final Fantasy in a decade (Maybe biased as you actually don’t remember much of the previous ones). The new combat system is more action-oriented, but still surprisingly tactical, while the new focus on open-world exploration brings the game and its world to life. Crammed with character, choice and interest, it’s an RPG where the good times keep on rolling down the road.So, for the sake of good times if you’ve ever played a fantasy title or like my friend here ever loved a Japanese RPG do give it a shot.. Nostalgia will pour in..
Submitted by - Nithin Kumar