Final Fantasy XV’s Platinum Demo is a trip down the Carbuncle hole By Tony Garsow on April 1, 2016 at 10:44 PM

Announced at the Uncovered Final Fantasy XV event on Wednesday, the Final Fantasy XV Platinum Demo is a free title that allows you to traipse through the Crown Prince Noctis’s dream world. Joined by a guardian Carbuncle, the fuzzball familiar leads young Noct through a series of environments in an effort to rejoin him with the waking world.

While Platinum Demo is very much a demo, don’t expect it to reflect Final Fantasy XV in its full glory. Perhaps it was a misnomer not to call Platinum a “tech demo”, as that’s really what’s going here. While last year’s Episode Duscae gave us an early idea of what a basic gameplay loop might look like in the finished product, Platinum Demo gives us a better idea of the game’s graphical (yet unfinished) prowess.

In the video below, we spend about a half an hour going through the demo – and while there’s a small collectionist aspect to it – don’t expect to get a deep whiff of the final game’s RPG mechanics.

That’s not to say Platinum Demo is without merit. In fact, it gives us a rather disarming update on how the game’s combat has evolved since Episode Duscae.

Carbuncle, a beloved face from the Final Fantasy series pantheon of summons, shows up as Noctis’s guide through his dream state. We’re not given much context regarding Final Fantasy XV’s overall story, other than Noctis’s slumber has put those around him in a state of distress. Was this the result of an accident? It’s not clear. What we do glimpse is the bond between father and son, what ultimately leads Noctis through his dreamworld after facing many nightmares.

9b236c54f02d69a6404125e72b301132Throughout the handful of environments we’re allowed to explore, we can unlock plates that can be depressed for various effects. Some will change the time of day so that you can witness each locale in various, impressive lighting effects. Areas include a dense forest, an indoor playroom that has major Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep vibes paired with composer Yoko Shimomura, an outdoor plaza in what seems to be Altissia, and the famous Citadel in the Crown City we’ve familiarized ourselves with ever since Final Fantasy Versus XIII’s unveiling nearly ten years ago.

Other plates will allow you to transform into vehicles or enemy monsters. While the former gives us an idea of what vehicle handling will feel like in the final product, playing around as crocodile, giraffe, or garula is amusing, even if it seems to have no gameplay purpose in XV proper.

Some will bestow weapons, magic items, and corresponding upgrades to them. Collecting various rubies will unlock various tiers of rewards that you can play with. Switching out weapons and magic items is simple, and you can assign four slots that correspond to your controller’s D-pad.

Combat’s a big change here, no doubt fueled by feedback from Episode Duscae, so let’s start with the similarities. Attacking and defending have made the jump to face buttons; attacking can be executed with the Circle/B button and defending with the Square/X button. It’s a little disorienting at first if you’ve put in some quality time with Episode Duscae (you can see me flub a few moves in the battle with the Iron Giant) but it’s not hard to wrap your brain around.

You can either mash or hold the button to let loose your basic combos, though I felt holding buttons for these basic maneuvers felt much better. 9b236c54f02d69a6404125e72b301132Split second evasions or guards that cross into counter attacks can still be executed, and feel great to pull off – it’s no wonder that the combat centers itself around this dance between offense and defense. You can also manually switch weapons during combos with a simple press of the D-pad – I usually followed up my sword combos with a finish blow from the hammer.

Thankfully, even with larger enemies such as the iron giant, the camera has had some notable improvements. It’s still a bit sketchy when fighting in enclosed spaces or when interactive objects intersect your line of sight, but it’s much improved.

What limited magic we’re given to play around looks impressive, though the framerate noticeably dips when these effects go off. Hopefully that will be addressed as optimization continues into the development home stretch. Magic spells are consumed like inventory items – a mechanic we’ve learned will be in the final game – so using them wisely is pretty important. When magic is selected, you can press the attack or offense button to enter a throwing state, similar to throwing a grenade or launching a mortar in your favorite shootbang game.

In the final area, we’re treated to grown-up(?) Noctis with his Armiger arsenal

For those that complete the demo, you’ll be able to unlock and rename Carbuncle in the full game.

While Final Fantasy XV Platinum Demo probably isn’t the best introduction for the masses, it gives us superfans a brief, charming look at what progress has been made in the final product’s development. It’ll run you about 30-40 minutes of playtime, though if you’re looking to explore and unlock every item, you’ll likely spend around two to three hours.

What are your impressions of Platinum Demo? Share your thoughts with a comment below.

Final Fantasy XV Platinum Demo is now available for free on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Final Fantasy XV will release worldwide on September 30th, 2016 for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.