Fantasy has become reality.
Final Fantasy’s ability to let players escape into a realm of magic and wonder has always meant a lot to me. As a lonely little girl with few friends, I knew that I could always join the pixelated (and later polygonized) heroes of Final Fantasy on their adventures without fear of rejection. Yet they were on my TV, I was in my room, and I was certain I’d never be able to fully immerse myself in their world. Fast forward to E3 2016, when for seven fun-filled minutes, I was the closest I’ll ever get to actually being in Final Fantasy, and it made me teary-eyed with joy.
It’s wise of Square Enix to call Final Fantasy XV VR an “experience” rather than a gameplay demo, because the actual gameplay is decidedly simple. Taking on the roll of lanky shutterbug Prompto, you use a gun to help fellow protagonists Noctis, Ignis, and Gladiolus take down one of Final Fantasy’s most notorious bosses: the mighty Behemoth. Embodying a gunslinger makes FFXV VR Experience feel like a first-person shooter, which is a bit odd considering FFXV is a third person action RPG, but the mechanic actually makes sense. Rather than having players potentially get motion sickness from constantly turning their head in order to track their sword strikes, they can use Prompto’s long distance abilities to stay still and take shots from afar. As someone who gets motion sickness pretty easily, I appreciated that I didn’t have to swerve my head in different directions and be subjected to motion blur.
That said, there isn’t too much to do on the pretty, ruin-strewn battlefield. I simply used warp points on the map to instantly move away from the Behemoth’s long reach and fanned the hammer until the big guy went down. (And he is big, filling up a good portion of your vision whenever he gets close.) He goes down rather quickly, though. It only took me a couple of minutes to vanquish the beast, which was somewhat of a letdown considering this is supposed to be a formidable opponent. That said, it was still fun taking on a giant purple horned monster from a literal first person perspective.
Once you win the fight, the demo transports you into a droptop convertible where the game’s resident mechanic Cindy quietly chauffeurs you through a desert landscape in a victory lap. This was easily my favorite part of the experience: everywhere I looked, I could see desert stretching out in all directions, with roads ahead and behind me and a big blue dome of sky above. I confess I kept trying to put my elbow on the side of the car door or grip the headrest behind me as I turned in awe to look around. As I did, I began to tear up with happiness. This was my first taste of VR, and although I knew I wasn’t really in a car, driving down a road in a world where Behemoths dwell and humans can magically teleport, just for a few minutes, it felt like I was.
Final Fantasy XV VR Experience will be available as free DLC sometime after Final Fantasy XV releases on September 30th.