Everyone wants their favorite home console games on their phone, but past results have been mixed. So is Square Enix onto something with Final Fantasy XV Pocket Edition? Or is it another downgraded wannabe tie-in game?
Mobile hardware is advancing at a blistering rate. With every new model, our cellphones and tablets are catching up to our home computers and laptops. As such, many developers have tried to bring console quality experiences to mobile. Surely if a handheld can support Fortnite, we’ll have Call of Duty and GTA running in no time, right? It’s a noble goal, but few have cracked how to translate such titles to mobile. Direct ports have rarely worked, but therein lies an opportunity Square Enix is now exploring with Final Fantasy XV Pocket Edition.
“What about Final Fantasy XV‘s mobile port is so special?” you ask. Instead of trying to make the hardware replicate a console experience on mobile, Square Enix replicated the Final Fantasy XV experience on mobile hardware. It’s not a port, but a full remake designed with mobile gaming in mind. All the core story content, mechanics, themes, and features are here, but translated to an isometric action-RPG built with touch screens in mind. While it’s not the high-flying, genre defying masterpiece many know and love, it encapsulates the essence of Final Fantasy XV by what defines the game.
Think of a book being adapted to a movie. There’s no way you’re going to fit everything in the same way because you’re working with a different medium. Each media has its own language, so you change things to suite the new setting. The key to doing this right is about identifying why people engaged with the source material in the first place. What aspects make the title, are most important, and will stand out best in their new form?
With Final Fantasy XV, it’s about going on an epic fantasy road trip with your three best friends while fighting massive monsters, zipping around with your teleport move, and exploring the world. All of that can be translated to mobile, it just needed different graphics, a more hands-off approach to combat, and smaller levels. The entire interface is as simple as tapping and dragging, but you engage in the same fights and quests as you would on your gaming machine. You can still do team-up moves with your party members, summon giant demigods to your aid – heck, Ignis still comes up with new recipes that buff your team. Nothing critical gets sacrificed; it’s simply adjusted to the platform.
Handheld gaming went through these growing pains already, with failures like Serious Sam Advance giving way to more successful translations, such as Assassin’s Creed II: Discovery. In fact, AC II: Discovery did so well, it later was ported to mobile phones. Just like Final Fantasy XV Pocket Edition, AC II: Discovery took the core concepts people loved about Assassin’s Creed – a thrilling parkour adventure with dashes of stealth and brawling in a historical setting – and melded them with the strengths of its platform.
However, there’s still been many developers trying to jam a full console experience on handhelds without adjusting, and while some series like NOVA have come close, the best attempts always work to accommodate your phone or tablet’s strengths. Though it’s a noble goal to try and bridge the gap perfectly, even more recent attempts like Guns of Boom‘s cancelled PC cross-play and the Fortnite cross-play update are grappling with the struggles this entails. The efforts made aren’t without fruit though – while the PC cross-play didn’t pan out for Guns of Boom, it did end up offering a workable solution to make multiplayer FPS on the go work. The solution was to focus on working with mobile, rather than forcing mobile platforms to be what they aren’t. We can only hope more developers follow Square Enix’s lead, bringing us more great adaptations of AAA titles.