Square Enix has done an enormous amount of work over the last decade to turn Final Fantasy XV into more than just the latest game in the series. It’s been a spectacle: first announced as a spinoff of Final Fantasy XIII, it later rebranded as a new entry entirely. An entire event was planned around its release date reveal. Its story has been padded and polished with supplementary movies starring Game of Thrones actors and anime. And though the game launched in 2016, Square Enix continues to release content for it, in the form of new story episodes and even a multiplayer mode.
That’s part of what makes Final Fantasy XV Pocket Edition — not a straight port of the game, but not quite a remake either — less peculiar than it sounds. The mobile game repackages the spirit of Final Fantasy XV, both paring down its complex battle and leveling systems and adding a cutesy, potato-head take on the game’s solemn, leather-loving characters. An otherwise lengthy game is reduced from dozens of hours of gameplay into noncommittal, bite-sized episodes that can be purchased at the user’s whim.
Side-by-side, Final Fantasy XV Pocket Edition tells the same story as the original. Prince Noctis leaves his home kingdom to marry a woman from a rival nation, accompanied by his three friends and guardians. After their home is attacked, however, and Noctis is presumed dead, the four men get sucked into a greater war. The game plays out like a big buddy road trip as the group travels, camps, and fights, and the mobile version keeps the game’s cutscenes and even side-banter intact.
While the original game gave players a wide range of quests and leveling systems to make their experience richer, this mobile take is more about refining the adventure into something easier. A battle that would play out through a series of advanced combos and button mashing on a controller can now be completed with taps or a touches; the focus is less on how the player goes on the offensive and more about how to be strategic and defensive. One side quest from the original game about hunting down rare stones while avoiding a monster bird plays out mostly the same, but with less room for player error. The game autopilots, or otherwise adapts to a mobile platform by focusing less on free-movement, and more about timing when you touch the phone’s screen.
Pocket Edition feels infinitely smaller and far more friendly for the casual player. It’s easy to knock out a quest or two on a subway ride, but none of its adaptations change Final Fantasy XV’s personality. The game is still peppered with sweet moments of male bonding, overly detailed shots of food, cruising around in a fancy car, and everything in-between. It’s a cleaner, more refined experience, where everything also happens to be painfully cute.