Final Fantasy XV: Pocket Edition feels like an experiment of a game. It's a port of the original Final Fantasy XV for PC and consoles, but modified in some ways to streamline it, but not enough to make it feel like a free-to-play cash-in game. It exists in a weird middle ground between traditional mobile releases based on big budget console games and straight up ports, and it's a ground that more developers should consider exploring. Although Final Fantasy XV: Pocket Edition isn't quite a mind-blowing experience, it demonstrates an innovative approach to mobile ports that is both admirable and enjoyable.
What is this game?
By looking at screenshots and video of Final Fantasy XV: Pocket Edition, it might not be entirely clear what it is. To set the record straight, this game is-essentially-the original Final Fantasy XV, but with some changes to its visuals, combat, and structure to make it more streamlined and palatable on a mobile platform.
These changes definitely make Pocket Edition sound like an entirely different game, but it's really not. You still play as Noctis, the boy prince, as he rides around with his bro entourage, and you get sent on more-or-less the same adventure. Some side quests are cut out, environments are smooshed together, and combat becomes a simple tap-based affair, but Pocket Edition is still presenting the same story. The whole thing has just been compacted so it can run and be enjoyable to play on mobile.
Who is this for?
If you compare Pocket Edition to the original Final Fantasy XV, it definitely seems compromised, but that doesn't necessarily work against the mobile version. This on-the-go format seems tailor-made for players that don't want to put up with some of the more painfully tedious aspects of JRPGs.
Since this is a condensed version, there's fewer battles (which use a simple auto-attack, tap-based control scheme), not as many side quests to track down, and an incredibly useful navigation system with remarkably good pathfinding to make sure you're constantly making progress on the adventure and not getting bogged down with overly complicated systems or level grinding.
Should you buy Final Fantasy XV: Pocket Edition?
As someone who constantly starts JRPGs and usually puts them down due to mechanics and systems that seem designed to waste my time, Final Fantasy XV: Pocket Edition feels like exactly the kind of experience I've been waiting for. That, said the game suffers from some performance issues and bugs, not to mention the fact that Final Fantasy XV's story isn't all that riveting.
Pocket Edition suffers from some routine (though minor) audio bugs, and there were a few times when playing where battles broke or the game hard crashed, which forced me to reload my saves. Fortunately, the game has a decent auto-save feature so not much progress was lost. More significant is the fact that Final Fantasy XV: Pocket Edition's plot seems rushed and underdeveloped, with characters piping up for just long enough to string together a basic storyline, which ends up making things like character motivation and basic personalities hard to discern. Considering I didn't finish the original release of Final Fantasy XV, it's hard to tell if this problem is because of Pocket Edition's condensed nature or not. In either case, it makes for a game that isn't necessarily worth playing if you're in it for the story.
The bottom line
Final Fantasy XV: Pocket Edition is a little disappointing, but not for the reasons you'd expect. It's a remarkably competent repackaging of Final Fantasy XV, and I hope to see more mobile releases like this in the future. If that happens though, it'd be nice if the game were a little more polished and it was done with a game that is more interesting than Final Fantasy XV.