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Square Enix had a playable demo for their upcoming tentpole title, Final Fantasy XV, this year at Tokyo Game Show 2016. I hadn’t touched anything related to the game since the first playable demo, Episode Duscae, so it’d been a while since I’d experienced anything really FFXV-related. Regardless, coming out the demo, I’m totally on board now.

The demo starts with fire. Lots and lots of fire. A mysterious flaming figure sits on a throne. Players then take control of the game’s protagonist, Noctis, except he’s unshaven with a scruffy beard and moustache. To be honest, this model of the character is way cooler and had more character to his look than the standard clean-shaven version. I seriously hope that the Scruffy Noctis is a selectable skin for actual gameplay.

After a brief moment of dodging flames and getting help from the other three main party characters, the scene switches to a throne room with Noctis’ father, Regis, informing Noctis and co. that they are to travel to the captital where Noctis is to be wed to his fiancé, Lunafreya.

It was during this scene more than any other in the demo that I marveled over the beauty of the game’s CG. Throughout the intro, I felt genuine fatherly love between Regis and Noctis. Simply through facial expressions and physical movements, I could see that the two had a healthy relationship but that they couldn’t openly express their personal feelings for each other as father and son because of their social standings as king and heir apparent. Noctis looked and acted somewhat resentful at the fact that he had to act proper towards his own father and Regis’ eyes shone with love and concern for his blood and heir.

Noctis and his friends head out and the scene changes to where they are stranded on the road with their car broken down. It was at this point that I was given control again and got to spend a few minutes pushing the broken car down the lonely road to a solemn cover of Stand By Me playing on the car stereo. I tried to mess with the game a bit by pushing the car off the road, but invisible walls barred my way, so instead I pushed the car into the opposite lane hoping to cause an accident, but no oncoming cars came.

The scene changes again as the group reaches a mechanic’s garage where Sidney and her father, Cid, offer to fix the car. But in order to pay for repairs, the group needs to earn money by hunting monsters. The game then opens up and lets you go out into the field and try out the combat.

Having previously played the Episode Duscae demo, I could definitely feel that the battle system has been streamlined and become more user friendly. Where I remember Episode Duscae feeling playable, yet complicated and clunky, the new demo feels more intuitive and easier to grasp. The only problems I encountered were with Noctis’ special teleport move, which took a bit to get used to. Even by the end of the demo, I didn’t really feel confident that I’d be able to use the ability well in a pinch.

The world itself felt really big and expansive–even more so than I remember with Episode Duscae. I wanted to run around and explore, but at the same time, running long distances felt as monotonous as it does in real life. I actually let out an audible groan when I realized I had to run about 400 meters back to the garage. Cars really feel like a necessity in the game’s world.

I managed to return to Sidney with a job completed, but it was at this point that I was informed that my time with the demo was done. I think I got about thirty whole minutes with the demo, but it still felt like I barely scratched the surface.

Episode Duscae left me feeling unsure but optimistic about Final Fantasy XV, and all the subsequent info dumps felt like a holding pattern. I never got a chance to play Platinum Demo FFXV or see Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV but, after playing the latest demo, I want to go back and check those out. Whereas, originally, looking forward to FFXV had begun to feel like an obligation, I now seriously want to get my hands on the game.

I just hope they make scruffy Noctis a selectable skin or even DLC.

Final Fantasy XV is scheduled for release on November 29, 2017.

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