A King’s Tale was released as a pre-order bonus to select retailers for Final Fantasy XV back in November 2016. As of the 1st March 2017 the game became free on Xbox One and PS4, but even at that price, is it worth your investment?
This latest spin-off from the main Final Fantasy XV game has you playing as main-game protagonist Noctis’s father, King Regis. Regis is telling Noctis a bedtime story of how the royal capital, Insomnia, was invaded by monsters and an unknown figure stole the crystal. Regis, not particularly happy about this, sets off on a journey to reclaim the crystal.
I loaded the game up to be immediately met with the usual splash screens from publisher Square Enix and the various other teams that worked on this, including Empty Clip Studios and Mirum Studio. I was eager to get started, as having originally forked out for the Ultimate Collector’s Edition of Final Fantasy XV, this was still not offered as a pre-order bonus. However, the game takes an age to display each developer. It is good that they are giving recognition to these smaller studios, but each logo appears for over 10 seconds on average and there are five in total. These aren’t skippable either, so you would be better off loading the game up and making yourself a drink. You’ll have time before the title screen appears.
The game itself is 2D side-scrolling brawler with an art style to match the genre glory days. Anyone who has played a similar game will feel very comfortable with this, but it does go into a bit more depth with the mechanics. X is light attack, Y is strong attack and B is shield bash, and each enemy you encounter is more susceptible to one of these than others. There are also magic attacks to cast, but these are best used for when Flan enemies are on screen.
Flans are not the only classic enemy to appear. There are Tonberrys, Cactuars, Coeurls, Behemoths, Bombs and even Midgardsormrs (yes, plural) throughout the 2-3 hour main story. And the final boss is just pure fan-service.
While the length of the main story is rather short, the game has an extra mode that opens up after you complete the story. This sees Noctis dreaming about the story his father has just told him, and is presented in 25 Dream Battles; shortened scenarios building upon the main game by adding Special Challenges. These may task you with things such as not allowing the use of magic or not using any support members. It is of course, purely optional but certainly helps elongate the playthrough by adding extra difficulty.
The music is also in keeping with the aesthetic of the rest of the game, but for something based off of the sounds of 16-bit it is pretty forgettable, bordering very much on the annoying. The main theme is the main offender and just a couple of listens was more than enough for me.
Throughout the game you will encounter other members of King Regis’s Crownsguard and each member of these can be called upon when you reach a high enough combo to aid you. Keep this combo going and you can call forth the Armiger which brings together a number of the Royal Arms (the weapons Noctis and his crew search for in the main-game), to perform a very strong attack. If during this combo you already used a member of the Crownsguard then they will return during the Armiger and make the attack even stronger. It’s a real risk and reward system that if used correctly can totally decimate the large numbers of enemies that appear on the screen.
The Crownsguard are members who have all featured in either the full Final Fantasy XV game, or in the spin-off CGI movie, Kingsglaive. Whilst neither of these are required to enjoy A King’s Tale, obviously it will help having prior knowledge of who’s who. For those looking for an entry point into Final Fantasy XV, or the wider-arcing Fabula Nova Crystallis series (which also includes Final Fantasy XII and Type-0 alongside XV), remember that this game is not canon. The game is single-player, which is unusual for a 2D brawler such as this, and I think it would have made more sense to have the members of the Crownsguard available as playable characters rather than quick, momentary support characters.
As mentioned before, the game is completely free, doesn’t include any microtransactions and still offers a full 1000G spread across 13 achievements. All are fairly easy to get aside from the bedtime story having two different endings and the Special Challenges in the Dream Battles that all need completing. A King’s Tale though should take no longer than six hours across both halves though.
For the grand price of free, A King’s Tale is good enough. The gameplay is solid but simple, and its length is such that the basic button bashing associated with a side-scroller doesn’t become boring. Combos and support characters help keep it tactically interesting and the building of the Armiger chain attacks encourages you to think more than you would expect. However, a lack of any co-op features in a game of this genre makes no sense and ensures that when you are finished with it, you will never return to it, promptly deleting it from your hard drive.
For the Final Fantasy die-hards who missed out on this first time around it may appeal more seeing more of the minor characters from the main game. But to anyone not familiar with the franchise, don’t let this freebie be considered an example of the rest of it.