Even in the busiest of seasons, smaller games deserve some attention. In that spirit, welcome to Month of Coverage Club. Come back each day in November for a full-length impressions piece based on a hidden gem you've probably never heard of.
I love the idea of Final Fantasy XV Pocket Edition. It's a really cool way to try and take a massive AAA release and rework it for mobile phones. I don't understand Final Fantasy XV Pocket Edition HD. With the exception of the Nintendo Switch version, since there's no way the full game could run on it, I don't understand why you'd buy this version of the game. Maybe, however, I'm just missing something. In this spirit, I grabbed my PlayStation and gave it an honest shot.
The game follows the story of Prince Noctis and his three best friends. Set to marry Lunafreya, Noctis is on a road trip to meet her. Along the way, the Niflheim empire attacks his home city of Insomnia, which leaves Noctis cut off from his home and Lunafreya. Circumstances force the young prince to grow up rather quickly as he attempts to reunite with his bride to be. If you've played Final Fantasy XV then you already know the story. Pocket Edition HD serves almost like a SparkNotes version of it, hitting all of the important plot points while cutting out the fluff.
As far as the actual story goes, it's perfectly okay. Cutting out the fluff does make the general story flow better, but Final Fantasy XV's story always suffered from its refusal to take its eye off of Noctus. Often, super important plot events happen off screen and you only hear about them after the fact from other characters. Final Fantasy XV had DLC to explain these events at the very least. Pocket Edition never got that, so you notice these gaps throughout. Still, I was always entertained by Noctus' tale and found this to be a good retelling of it.
Funny enough, I can say the same about the gameplay. First off, Pocket Edition HD chooses to do away with Final Fantasy XV's signature open world. Instead, each level is like a dungeon. You have to get to a certain endpoint and defeat enemies along the way. Combat plays like a simplified version of the main game. Noctis can choose one of three weapons (his choices have been reduced to sword, greatsword, or spear) and will attack as long as you hold down the attack button. Another button will spend a little MP to warp to and strike an enemy. Sometimes you'll get a quick time event that lets you dodge attacks, counter-attack, or ask one of your buddies to use a special ability.
It's all perfectly serviceable but lacks the oomph that Final Fantasy XV had. The loss of warping around the battlefield is noticeable and sorely missed. The fact that you're restricted to a single plane that you can't move off of doesn't help matters either. Magic reduces down to a one-use power-up that you sometimes find in dungeons, and you can't order your team around at all. Despite the simplification, I still found some fun in the combat. I enjoyed having to switch weapons as the situation required and use dodge rolls to avoid enemy attacks. It just doesn't hold a candle to the main game at all.
If there's a feature in Final Fantasy XV then there's a solid 50/50 chance it was either cut or brought over but simplified. Ignis' cooking is probably one of the best examples. In Final Fantasy XV, Ignis would learn new recipes around the world and you could find ingredients to make these recipes and give your party a temporary passive boost. Here, Ignis' cooking is a side quest, with each dungeon or town having some ingredients that you can find. If you find them all, you get some XP and the whole thing plays out like finishing a quest. On the other hand, Prompto's ability to take pictures is just cut. I haven't seen any sign of Noctis' love of fishing either.
A frankly hilarious chibi art style wraps around the entire game. Each character's features overexaggerate to comical proportions, often gaining things like permanent angry eyebrows. The soundtrack comes straight from the original game, which makes sense but also feels ill-fitting. It's hard to take a screaming choir very seriously when it's a bunch of chibi characters performing the action. All the voice acting also transfers from the original release, and it shows at times. Especially when they cut and stitch together lines to work for the more streamlined plot.
Look, if you own a Nintendo Switch then I can sort of understand why Final Fantasy XV Pocket Edition HD would appeal to you. Bluntly, it's the only version of the game that will be on that console. If you have a PlayStation 4 or Xbox One, however, I just don't get it. Final Fantasy XV does everything that Pocket Edition HD does but better, so just get that instead. Not that Pocket Edition HD is bad, it's just unnecessary.
TechRaptor covered Final Fantasy XV Pocket Edition HD on PlayStation 4 using a copy provided by the publisher. The game is also available on Xbox One and Nintendo Switch.