34. Final Fantasy XV
First Played: 2016
Times Completed: 3
A game that went into development hell but made it back out. Just like FFIX and FFXI before it, what began as a spin-off became a main entry to the Final Fantasy series. The core of Final Fantasy is reinvention and FFXV really makes an effort to be different from any other FF titles, while keeping certain ties with the other games. A mostly open world, real-time action battles and a reinvention of the magic system are three major changes from any other FF game. This time, the party just consists of four friends, which initially seemed like a mistake to me, but I soon realised that it wasn't a bad decision. The relationship between them is built upon at almost every turn, even through normal traversal, fights and camping. Summons are also cut back, with no option to call upon them at will, instead they will only show up occasionally, as does one ally, later in the game. Although I wouldn't want this to become the norm in later titles, I do like it for this one game and it not only makes summons seem more powerful and mysterious, but it's also often a huge relief when you see the screen darken and the summon music kicks in, since the summons are usually incredibly powerful to make up for not being available at all times.
Another design choice is to give more freedom from the beginning before allowing the story to take over, later on. This was a reaction to complaints that FFXIII had been too restrictive at first. I have to say I prefer it like this, as much as I love JRPGs, they do tend to hit you with story from the beginning and only gradually introduce more freedom later on. FFXV felt like an antidote to that particular poison and it gave me a chance to explore aspects of the game before locking me into the story, and there is quite a lot to get on with in FFXV outside of the story. I also like the chapter system that allows you to replay any segment of the story. I may be the only person to think this, but the inclusion of an optional end game dungeon, with no enemies and only lots of platforming puzzles, was something I really enjoyed. The fight with Ifrit is one of my favourite battles in the whole series.
Another special mention goes to the soundtrack. Any new FF game will be judged against the masterful music that Nobuo Uematsu contributed to the first 10, or so, games. FFXV certainly has a different sound than Uematsu's entries, but it's more than good enough to stand alongside those revered scores. Yoko Shimomura is the main composer this time, sometimes it sounds like Kingdom Hearts, sometimes it sounds like Ben E. King and one time it sounds like Oasis, but it always sounds good.
FFXV restored my faith in Final Fantasy after I was slightly disappointed with XIII (I did still end up enjoying that game too) and after racking up several hundred hours playtime, I think it's my most played game of this generation.