The Nintendo Switch is as of now, the future of gaming. Melding both console and handheld into one, we’re seeing publishers port their existing libraries to the exceptional platform at an wonderful pace. Square Enix is supporting the platform by rereleasing many of the older Final Fantasy titles for the Switch and most recently, the Pocket Edition of Final Fantasy XV.
Final Fantasy XV: Pocket Edition has the same story beats as it’s older brother on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC. This version of that game is stripped down to the essentials and built up with a new platform in mind. Amazingly, this iteration feels coherent and welcoming to those who skipped out on the main iteration or are looking for something more manageable.
To start, this story is similar and places you in the role of Noctis, the Prince of Insomnia. On a road trip with his Royal Guards, they embark to meet Lunafreya, the future wife of Noctis. Of course, things do not go as planned and the warring nation of Niflheim attacks Insomnia killing the King and searching for the Prince.
As it were, the open world mechanics from the main version of Final Fantasy XV are dialed back into hub areas where you control Noctis and company with the Joy-Cons. Completing quests allows you to move forward and the game is separated into chapters at which you can complete on the go.
Combat was tweaked for Pocket Edition HD, and by holding Y, Noctis can attack enemies. X and moving the left stick in any direction will warp Noctis in that direction. B allows Noctis to dodge incoming attacks and the L and R buttons switch between your equipped weapons for the Prince. It’s dialed back and different from the console version but not so much that you won’t get the hang of things. Unfortunately, I had issues being able to properly lock onto enemies.
Exploration is much easier, too. Now, at Noctis’ feet are the direction the group must go. Gone are camp sites, and cooking food is now an automatic process (a shame) that applies benefits to the team automatically. Ability Points and Experience Points are also earned and unlocked differently, this time automatically at the end of story missions. By removing the bloat of the console version, Pocket Edition delivers a smaller, tolerable scenario by delivering a streamlined experience.
Like it’s older brother, Pocket Edition has unnecessarily long load times that had me questioning whether my system froze before finally loading the game. Some of the hub areas often faced pop-in and detracted from the experience. Performance feels good while playing in handheld mode, but when docked I noticed framerate drops, but never enough to ruin a gameplay session.
So, while Final Fantasy XV: Pocket Edition HD dials back the experience, the game delivers many of the same story beats in a new way. Don’t get the graphics fool you, while the character models are cute, and the open world relegated to hub zone, they share the core experience. By taking the important parts of it’s older brother, this new iteration feels more than capable of delivering a worthwhile experience on to go. If you’re interested in checking out Final Fantasy XV, go with the console edition, but if you really can’t this is an adequate way to experience the game.
[A copy of the game was provided by the publisher for review purposes]