Final Fantasy XV: Pocket Edition is an example of some of the impressive feats that mobile gaming can pull off. It’s also some of the most fun I’ve ever had with a game based on a popular franchise tailor-made for smartphones. The concept is simple: Final Fantasy XV: Pocket Edition is meant to downsize a 100-hour RPG that’s absolutely massive into an easy-to-digest episodic version that players can try a bit of, then purchase the rest of the episodes as they see fit. It’s also supposed to be cute, to boot. I was a bit skeptical when the game was initially announced, because typically ambitious endeavors like these aren’t at all what we expect, and hardly ever do they reach the potential set out for them to aspire to.
I’m pleased to report that my time with Final Fantasy XV: Pocket Edition was everything I had expected and then some. Having massively enjoyed the full-fledged PlayStation 4 version after a lifelong love affair with Final Fantasy as it is, I was pleased to start playing the first episode of ten, seeing that not only did the game follow the path laid out in the main game perfectly, but it did so with just as much gusto and panache as the full-sized version.
If it weren’t for the fact that I were playing on my iPhone X and staring at the decidedly less attractive leads Noctis, Prompto, Ignis, and Gladiolus as veritable chibi bobbleheads, I may have lost myself in the experience and forgotten that this wasn’t a full release in some segments. From the very first chapter, the spectacle, music, excellent English voice acting, and the storyline is intact. It’s nearly identical to playing the console version in many ways, minus much of the complexities, but as an abridged version it’s actually a pleasant and engaging experience.
Playing in landscape mode with touch controls can be a little frustrating, but that’s par for the course when you’re playing with a larger phone, and I preferred playing on the iPhone X to my old iPhone 7 Plus, but you can either tap and direct Noctis and crew where to go or hold down your finger continuously where you’d like then to head to. Otherwise you’ll interact with your environment with a series of taps, whether it’s a speech bubble above Cindy’s head at Hammerhead while waiting on your car, the Regalia, to be fixed or engaging in battle with enemies. It’s a simple and fairly responsive system that has the occasional hiccup, but is generally without a hitch.
Battle is one of the few areas where there are less complexities to take heed of, but that’s to be expected when trying to translate Final Fantasy XV’s systems into touch-based mechanics. You’ll only control Noctis directly, and he’ll automatically continue attacking enemies while you occasionally dodge, parry, and team up with the rest of the guys for special attacks as well as your own set of skills to wipe out enemies. They’re quite fun, and while simplistic, there’s a sense of depth to combat that lingers despite how much less involved it is than the console version’s.
I was able to play all the way through nearly the end of the first chapter, and I was totally enamored with my time in the game, until disaster seemed to strike. I was playing an early version of the game ahead of its February 9 release, and unfortunately at one point after quitting the game and going about my business, the game ceased to load my save file. Multiple restarts, swapping devices, closing the app all the way and bringing it back up, and even starting again to swap save files did nothing to retrieve my data. Not even Square Enix could assist with the problem, which I’ll chalk up at this point to some sort of bug in the code since I’m not playing with a full build.
But bugs alone, I’m aching to play more of the game, and I know it's going to be just as exciting as the full version of the game. I'm actually hoping Square Enix goes ahead with more translations of its larger games like this one, because there's so much potential here. I'm going to be digging into the rest of the game's ten chapters for a full review, so look out for that soon.