This Week in Games - Final Fantasy XV Revisitedby Dustin Bailey,
I did it, you guys. I finally finished Zelda. I know, I know—you all were deeply concerned for my progress and my ability to find time to complete a very enjoyable video game. I appreciate your support in this dark time, but I made it.
I think my favorite part of Breath of the Wild is the climbing mechanic. The ability to clamber up sheer surfaces has been the stuff of video game dreams since the medium's formative years, but few games are able to strike a balance that makes climbing viable without making it trivial. Assassin's Creed automated the entire process years ago, and even the Tomb Raider-inspired lineage of Uncharted and similar action-adventures has made every handhold color-coded and surrounded each surface with a safety bubble that's difficult to pop. Zelda lets you conquer any wall, and gives you just such a combination of abilities that making it to the top is entirely in your control, yet never a certainty. (Until it starts raining, and then it just sucks.)
This is a slim week, but that's just fine considering that I'm still trying to catch up on Nier and Gravity Rush and maybe—just maybe—that new Mass Effect. Of course, just over the horizon is Persona 5, a massive JRPG that's been met with a level of unreserved anticipation that the genre hasn't seen in ages. We've got a glowing review from the inimitable Dave Riley, and while I envy his early access to the game I'm relieved I'll be able to play it on my own timetable.
The week did see the release of a major new update to Final Fantasy XV, which includes a new DLC story and an update to the now-infamous Chapter 13. I looked at both of those things, and I really don't feel good about either of them.
Opinion: These Final Fantasy Updates Are Making the Game Worse
Episode Gladiolus stars—you guessed it—Final Fantasy XV's hunkiest boy. It takes place during that segment of the game where Gladio slips away to take care of some undisclosed business and explains how he got that mysterious second scar which makes an implausibly perfect cross against his previous scar. If it sounds like I'm struggling to say anything interesting about this sidequest, that's because the thing itself is lacking in any particularly notable quality, so dull as to become offensive by its own triviality.
You play as Gladiolus himself, and that means you've got a different set of abilities to play with. Instead of warping around to vantage points and teleporting in to deliver well-timed strikes to the bad guys—you know, the fun part of FF15—Gladio specializes in hitting things very hard with a claymore that has a single, seemingly unalterable four-hit combo. You can block and parry things also, and doing so builds up a rage meter that strengthens your attacks. Plus, landing hits fills up this super swell meter that lets you do special attacks. That's a video game combat system, right?
So what do you do with all these battle powers? You run through a tunnel, fighting enemies along the way, for 60-to-90 minutes, and then the story is over. I wish I could say there was even an ounce of exaggeration there, but alas, that is not the case. Sure, sometimes that tunnel appears to be a cliff or a bridge or a bit of scaffolding, but most of the time it's a literal tunnel, and the only thing you can do besides beat up enemies is look behind rocks for an occasional potion.
At the end, you beat a boss, the other chocobros tell Gladio how cool his scar is, and you get a really powerful new weapon in the main game, along with access to a score attack mode where you can engage in more of Gladiolus' dull combat. Getting a high score there will give you a shirtless, totally bare-chested outfit for Gladio. The only reason to play this thing is if you're so absolutely horny for Gladio you have to see him shirtless for the remainder of your playtime.
This DLC is five dollars, and that's a small amount of money. You might justify that as no more than the cost of a nice sandwich. But let me fill you in here—you'll remember the sandwich a lot longer than you'll remember Episode Gladiolus.
But that's not the only addition to Final Fantasy XV. There's also a brand-new version of the game's most infamous sequence. While the terribleness of Chapter 13 might've gotten exaggerated by the legend it spawned, it is by far the weakest part of the game—both for its plodding survival horror gameplay and its sudden abandonment of several really important plot elements.
The answer, such as it is, comes in the form of Chapter 13, Verse 2, which is thankfully a free update. Getting to the chapter lets you choose an alternate path following Ignis and Gladiolus through those events, or you can just play the new bit from a menu option on the main title screen. It puts you in control of Gladio, and I guess it's better than the original version by being a scant thirty minutes long. The one big, specific plot point you want addressed—the fate of Ravus—is totally dealt with, but in just a minute or two of cutscene.
It technically addresses the problems, but it's such a slapdash bandaid that it feels nearly offensive. The brief sequence plays just like Episode Gladiolus, and if you launch it from the main menu it even ends with an ad for that bit of DLC—which in turn ends with an ad for Episode Prompto, due out later this year.
As much as I enjoyed FF15, it has some very serious problems, not the least of which is a nearly incoherent plot that goes entirely off the rails in its end game. If you were waiting for updates like these to solve that problem, this really isn't going to do it. The supposed fix for Chapter 13 feels more like an offshoot advertisement for a (bad) piece of DLC, which in turn ends up shilling for another expansion which by now I have absolutely no desire to ever see. I don't often feel grossed out by the business realities which lead to so many poor, pricey content add-ons, but this whole thing just seems skeezy.
FINAL FANTASY XIV'S FREE TRIAL IS DITCHING THE TIME RESTRICTION
In a more positive story about an updated Final Fantasy game, the current MMO is offering a more flexible trial period to prospective players by removing the time limit altogether. Previously, you had 14 days to play before having access revoked—now you're free to enjoy everything up to level 35.
I'm constantly impressed by how strong FF14 seems to be doing even seven years later, especially given how disastrous the game's initial launch was. This update comes ahead of the second expansion's release in June, and Square will certainly be hoping some for some new converts before that day comes.
NINTENDO ISN'T HAPPY WITH SUPER MARIO RUN'S PERFORMANCE
Nintendo released their first mobile game late last year (no, Pokémon Go and Miitomo absolutely do not count), and it didn't quite catch fire the way a Mario-branded iPhone game might. Mobile players balked at its premium $10 price, and more discerning (like you and me, we're elite) weren't satisfied with its limited scope and lack of substance. That's the perspective behind Nintendo's recent statement that the game's revenue “did not meet our expectations.” The truth is most mobile developers would kill for Super Mario Run's “lack of” success, and it's been far from disastrous.
Fire Emblem Heroes has done far better in terms of money, and that's with a mobile-focused free-to-play pricing structure that has you collecting heroes in a random gacha format. Yet Nintendo considers Heroes an outlier, and plans to focus mobile efforts on premium-priced games.
That's because the company has no intention of disrupting their traditional console business. Mobile games are seen as a way to expand brand awareness and bring new users into the Nintendo family and—agh, ick, I feel really gross after that analyst speak. The point is that while Nintendo will absolutely continue putting out new phone games, they're secondary to the traditional games business, and the company is rightly concerned that games built on overly aggressive microtransactions will devalue their properties. In other words, they're trying to do this whole “mobile” thing right.
THE MOON OF TONIGHT IS NOT YOUR FRIEND AFTER THIS PATCH
We all love goofy video game translations. But sadly, most localization efforts these days are good. Not so with the Switch release of Vroom In the Night Sky, which is a real game you can purchase from the easily accessible Japanese eShop. Doing so on an English-language console will get you a great translation that features gems like “It is a Sky. It is a completely Sky,” or an upgrade shop that shows purchased items as “buyed.”
Unfortunately, an incoming update from the game's developer suggests a correction to “spell mistake,” saying “An issue wherein the "shop", that will correct "buyed" to "sold out". and we correct the other misspellings.” I don't want to harsh on anyone for a poor command of a foreign language but please listen, Vroom developer. Fixing these “problems” will only make your game less desirable to English-speaking fans.
NEXT WEEK'S RELEASES
Platform: PlayStation 4 / PlayStation 3
Release Date: April 4
Look, if you're reading this column then you probably don't need me to tell you what Persona is all about. Instead, check out our excellent review. I'll just take a minute to note that this could well be the last PS3 game ever released—and it will certainly be the last release of note. Rest in peace, my overpriced, oversized friend. You were a lovely console.
Dead Rising 4 gets some story DLC, Lego City Undercover escapes the Wii U and comes to current platforms, and Parappa the Rapper Remastered will ensure that you can get your rhythm action on without busting out a PS1 and a CRT.
Now that I know I'm freed from the burden of playing enough Persona quickly enough to deliver impressions next week, I don't even know what I'm going to do with myself. We'll find out together soon!
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