Because of how beloved the series is with gamers of all kinds, there’s never going to be a lack of Final Fantasy titles on mobile. The problem that Square Enix has run into with ports of newer additions to the console franchise is how to get them onto devices with lots less memory and muscle under the hood. With Final Fantasy XV: Pocket Edition, the company has devised a pretty ingenious solution, keeping the story and the gist of the gameplay intact while streamlining or eliminating other parts of Final Fantasy XV as needed. The result not only works like a charm, it provides a blueprint for how the brand can continue to thrive on phones and tablets down the road.
The most notable difference between the Pocket Edition and its console counterpart is that it’s not an open world affair. The tale of Prince Noctis and his companions Prompto, Gladiolus and Ignis is much more on rails on mobile, with each main quest propelling the narrative forward. That’s not at all a bad thing, as the most dramatic story beats are reached in much more prompt fashion, which could even be a selling point for anyone who sometimes get frustrated at how long it takes some Final Fantasy games to get to the point.
Square Enix makes up for the constraints on the story by adding in side quests that Noctis and company can tackle while in towns or rest stops. In-between those, there are sequences where the group is riding from place to place in their car, the Regalia, which seem extraneous but actually provide some of the best moments to appreciate how amazing it is that the voice acting survives the port intact. There are also speech bubbles on the screen so you can play with the sound completely off, but you’ll want to take in the dialogue and the typically strong soundtrack as much as possible.
Combat has also been simplified to allow Final Fantasy XV to fit on mobile devices, but an argument can be made that it’s still really faithful to the original. That’s because you still only control Noctis, guiding him in movement by simple taps and activating special abilities based on prompts that pop up on the screen. The companions have their own abilities that can be utilized when available with just single taps, and a skill tree allows you to focus on powering up Noctis or spreading out experience/leveling games among the whole squad. The game also does a nice job not throwing too many different gameplay elements at you at once, instead introducing them gradually as you advance.
In fact, the game does such a good job leading you along that you finish the first chapter, the only one available for free, before you even realize you’re done with it. The chapters have a tendency to end on dramatic cliffhangers — this is a Final Fantasy game, after all — and you have to pay to unlock additional chapters. An interesting pricing structure offers a couple chapters at just 99 cents (at least at the time of this review) before charging more for later ones. You can also unlock the entire game for $19.99.
Yes, that’s an awfully hefty price for a mobile game, one so large that it does make one wonder whether it’s worth it to take the plunge or simply buy the console version of Final Fantasy XV, which by now can be had for less than its original price. Still, if seeing the game on mobile is what prompted you to want to give it a try in the first place, it’s well worth trying out the initial, free chapter to see if you want to invest more money and time into it, as well as to marvel on how a full-fledged RPG can be translated to touchscreens without compromising all that much.