While Final Fantasy XV's decade-long development doesn't beat Duke Nukem's excessive run, it's still a hell of a long time for another part of one of gaming's biggest, longest-running franchises. And it's still not here. However, at the Tokyo Game Show, I got what is possibly the last taster before the main course: a lengthy 30-minute play-through that, barring some brutal initial loading times, felt like a finished game.
The demo started in a pretty fascinating way: you're thrown into a throne room on fire, and some evil (and huge) human figure is goading you to fight. You're also no longer the boy-band prince that's been part of FFXV's promotional materials since 2006, but an older, grizzled version. Even your fellow bros are looking a bit rougher around the edges. You then assemble to duck another magical flame attack, and the demo frustratingly moves on to a glossy intro movie showing the King (the protagonist's dad) biding you farewell as you cross the country to marry... someone. That early fiery scene seems like a tantalizing teaser of what's to come. I'm all about time skips.
After setting off on your
bro roadtrip, your car breaks down. While it's getting fixed, you're free to do some chores, hunt some monsters and get used to the battle system. Like the surprisingly dense Episode Duscae demo that came out two years ago (!), you're pretty much given free reign to do what you want. Explore, fight, camp out, eat at the cafeteria and all the other important things.
My party gained levels, picked up new skills and I even forced them to wear casual clothes during my play: nothing seemed particularly locked down, and I could access monster hunt side-quests even if they were beyond my current level. Like I said at the start, it felt like the start of a whole, entire game, and it wouldn't be a huge shock if it was.
Game Director Tabata himself said the game would have been ready for its previous September launch date, but the team wanted to avoid the curse of the Day 1 Patch, iron out bugs and add further polish.
I'm still not sure what to make of Final Fantasy XV: it's willfully different, and I get why. Now I need to work out whether Square Enix can deliver on a modern, open-world Final Fantasy game -- and get me to care about Noctis and his buddies. The only way I'll know is when the whole thing lands. Which is currently November 29th. For now.