Disclaimer: The following game was reviewed on the PS4.
If you’ve been living under a rock or, are from another timeline, allow me to first explain what Platinum Demo is.
Platinum Demo, developed and published by Square Enix, is – for what it’s worth – a technical demo showcasing the fundamental gameplay, graphics, music and general look and feel expected from the highly anticipated Final Fantasy XV.
Platinum Demo was announced during the Uncovered: Final Fantasy XV event, and released for public consumption immediately after for free. And, while there are certainly industry ramifications indicated by this consumer facing transparency displayed by Square Enix – that I’d love to discuss – this is a review of Platinum Demo itself, not it’s consequences.
Regardless, I think it’s important for us to understand and acknowledge the purpose of Platinum Demo’s existence and what it strove to achieve – preorders for Final Fantasy XV.
Knowing that, let’s start with the thing most people will notice immediately when booting up Platinum Demo – the graphics. Simply put, the game is stunni ng. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen before on the PS4. Platinum Demo is proof that the beautiful and crisp universe that Square Enix imagined has finally begun it’s realization.
Sure, Until Dawn’s life-like characters were great, yes the lighting in The Witcher 3 was fantastic, the animation quality and smoothness were undeniably amazing in Batman: Arkham Knight, and the attention to detail in P.T (keeping in mind that it was one hallway) was unprecedented.
But Platinum Demo demonstrates so much more with it’s beautiful large scale setpieces, in, for example, the Leviathan animation, and it’s immensely precise attention to detail, in, for example, young Noctis’ millimeter thick hair or a frog near the pond that no one will ever see.
Details that are amplified by the Luminous Studio engine’s weather simulation, creating beautiful lighting, that left me baffling in it’s lifelike properties. Platinum Demo, without forgetting it’s small scale, combines all of these aspects and ends up being one of the best looking experiences available on the PS4 to date.
However, the immense amount of resources Square Enix has invested into the visual fidelity of Platinum Demo – and by extension Final Fantasy XV – does indeed come at a cost.
A cost which, for some is unbearable and for others seems negligible. Platinum Demo doesn’t run great. When it’s not locked at 30 frames per second, it drops periodically to low 20s. However, it’s inconsistencies seem to be fairly… inconstant. What I mean by that is, while lots of people around the internet echo-chamber reported frame rate issues, many others, myself included, didn’t experience them in the slightest bit.
Furthermore, the issue seems to be deeply rooted in the fact that the engine was developed with previous generation hardware in mind and as such, optimization has yet to be perfected. Of course, neither of these facts are excuses for a poorly running game, but it is worth mentioning that not only is this simply a teaser that Square Enix, presumably, didn’t spend too many resources on (considering it’s short length, limited scope, and price point) but to their credit, there has been an overall improvement since Episode Duscae.
At the end of it all, I’d like to point out that, despite many complaints, I only experienced two noticeable framerate dips during my three playthroughs of Platinum Demo.
But while framerate went largely unnoticed during my time with Platinum Demo, what didn’t was the sound design. In classic Final Fantasy, no, Square Enix fashion, Platinum Demo is equipped with beautiful, orchestral soundtracks. Both combat and exploration bolstered by grand and emotionally significant music that, in and of themselves have the ability to create set-pieces.
Oddly enough though, they sound more like they’d been ripped from a Kingdom Hearts game as opposed to a child of the Final Fantasy series. Which brings me to an important aspect of Platinum Demo that I’d like to make a point of highlighting in this review. Platinum Demo feels, in it’s gameplay, sound design, and character design like a Kingdom Hearts game emblazoned with a fresh, less cartoony, more mature, aesthetic.
As I mentioned above, it’s not only because of it’s sound design that I noticed this. In fact, the most jarring of it’s resemblances is the locales in which the Platinum Demo takes place, and the enemy fodder which you practice mechanics against, amongst other, more subtle, similarities.
The second venue is very obviously inspired by the Alice and Wonderland opening in Kingdom Hearts I, and the third looks like a more realistic depiction of Traverse Town. The three enemies you fight throughout the game, not including the final boss, are simply detextured (that’s definitely not a word, but you know what I mean) clones of Soldier Emblem Heartless from Kingdom Hearts and Blood Taste from Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII.
Some of the more subtle clues to the inspiration behind Platinum Demo simply come down to the flares in the games aesthetic. When Noctis first swings his arm and materializes a weapon in his hand, it’s oddly reminiscent of the Keyblade appearing in the grip of it’s master. Or the cloud of smoke riddled with cartoon stars that cloaks Noctis before a transformation that obviously borrows paint from the childish fantasy that is Kingdom Hearts.
Furthering the similarities, but also creating distinction, is the core gameplay found in Platinum Demo. While it begins with very basic core action RPG mechanics, similar to Kingdom Hearts, it earns its maturity along with the protagonist, Noctis, before the ending boss fight. Gaining the iconic warp abilities, as well as the fire spell – instead of the practice version, fireworks – allows for us to see where Final Fantasy XV’s combat is going to be.
Platinum Demo introduces the action RPG combat without overwhelming the user like Episode Duscae, which only resulted in complaints due to confusion. We also see a drastic improvement in the camera work, though the lock-in function is missing. All of these, result in an awesome action based combat system that is a lot faster and more combo heavy than Kingdom Hearts, yet is simple and easy to wrap your head around, unlike Episode Duscae.
Overall, Platinum Demo gives me great hope for the experience that Final Fantasy XV will turn out to be. Whether the influence of Kingdom Hearts carries over into the final product or not, I now know for sure that the combat is fine tuned to perfect, as the thrilling combat from Platinum Demo’s boss fight had my mind begging for more. The fun, fast paced action combat paired with the stunning visuals and beautiful score makes Platinum Demo one of my favourite experiences on the PS4 so far and I can’t wait for it to continue when Final Fantasy XV launches in September.