Square Enix’s Final Fantasy XV has been out on consoles since November of 2016, and despite the year and half since the game’s initial release, it still manages to be an exciting, enjoyable journey into inevitable heartbreak and depression thanks to the newly released Royal Edition. The question of the new edition is pretty simple: Does FFXV still hold up in 2018 as much as it did in 2016? After all, FFXVRE is an attempt to create a “definitive version” of the game, one designed to be Final Fantasy XV at its absolute greatest, with all the bells and whistles and improvements made over the game’s pseudo-live lifecycle.
Which brings up the cultural significance of FFXV in the first place. It was the first widely popular Final Fantasy in years, appealing to fans of the franchise as well as people who had never picked up a JRPG before. Part of that is because FFXV proves that Final Fantasy games are no longer JRPGs. XV doesn’t fit into the JRPG genre in the slightest. It’s got active combat, has only one combat menu, which is stripped down and can be accessed in real-time, and focuses on open world exploration more than linear storytelling. Final Fantasy XV is more like The Witcher III than it is the original Final Fantasy. And that’s a good thing for the series.
While so many eastern developed RPGs have gone back to trying to recreate the golden age of JRPGs like Chrono Trigger, Square Enix has taken their largest series property and dragged it to the western mainstream. Sure, SE has plenty of games, even spinoffs in the FF series, trying to recreate the old JRPG feel, but there is something landmark about XV being the exact opposite of that. It was a Final Fantasy designed for worldwide mass appeal.
Even I occasionally mock the game as the “boy band Final Fantasy“, but that doesn’t get in the way of the story’s ability to rip your heart out of your chest and then stomp on it while laughing at you. The combat is still exacting and enjoyable, the exploration is still fun if grindy as all hell, and the graphics are still pretty lush and top of the line.
The Royal Edition doesn’t change a lot — it just adds content that players received over the game’s Season Pass lifecycle, including the four single-player expansions and the multiplayer mode Comrades. Plus some other cosmetics changes. Oh, and the fact that it never saw the original version of Chapter 13. The one that had players up in arms for months post-release. While Chapter 13 is still not my favorite sequence of the game — it feels like a very different game than what we’d been playing for about 60 hours previous — the new version of it certainly does feel a bit less restrictive than it had originally.
While creating the “definitive” version of a game is much easier now — all you have to do is package in all the various DLCs and slap a new label on it — recreating the original feeling of the game is hard. Especially for an audience that has already played it. However, the strength of Final Fantasy XV is such that the opening minutes of the game still get me every time. There are some games that just stick with you — sequences that always knock you right in the feels — and FFXV does that. The impressive part is that it hits just about everyone right where it hurts.
So yes, Final Fantasy XV holds up in 2018. Yes, the Royal Edition is the best way to play the game on console right now. And yes, you should absolutely go out and pick up the Royal Edition or Royal Pack upgrade if you already have the base game. You won’t regret it.
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