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Hands-on with Final Fantasy 15's new Platinum Demo

Noct to be missed.

If you're reading this, and the mysterious inner workings of Eurogamer's CMS are behaving as they should do, then Square's Uncovered: Final Fantasy 15 event has just concluded in Los Angeles and a brand new Platinum Demo for Xbox One and PS4 has just gone live on their respective online stores - sorry, PC owners. I actually completed the free demo a few hours before the event started, in a small hands-on session in downtown LA. About a half-hour to forty minutes long and very linear in nature, you play as a younger version of Noct, trapped inside his own dreamscape. His guide, an impossibly cute Carbuncle, communicates with him via text messages - complete with custom emoticons. He'll arm you with a Toy Sword and a Squeaky Hammer and take you through four different areas from the main game - a forest, a dining room, a cityscape, and finally the royal Citadel.

One thing Square was keen to note at the hands-on session and also at the live event was that the standalone Platinum Demo isn't really indicative of the content of the final game; it's more like a tech demo designed to show off Final Fantasy 15's final look and various in-game systems. Pressure-sensitive plates scattered around the four areas will have different effects; some change the weather, others alter the scene from night to day and vice versa, and others will transform Noct into different things, like wild animals or toy cars. Various levels of these plates must be unlocked, however, and to do that players need to collect glowing yellow crystals, or Dream Shards, from the landscape or from defeated enemies. The more shards you have, the more plates will be unlocked, and after a certain number (there are at least 300 in the demo), Noct will gain access to more advanced powers and abilities like Meteorain, which becomes available after you've gathered up 250. Neither the pressable plates or the shards will be in the final build of Final Fantasy 15 and in fact, nothing here will carry over into the main game, with the exception being the name you're prompted to give your Carbuncle at the end of Platinum Demo.

The combat still takes a bit of getting used to, especially during a final boss fight with another creature that will be familiar to fans of the series, though you can now switch weapons and magic mid-combo via the d-pad which, if memory serves, was not the case with Episode Duscae. One thing Final Fantasy 15 does consistently do incredibly well is give you a real sense of scale of its world. Early on in Platinum Demo you can trigger a moment when Leviathan rises from across a lake and flies overhead before crashing down into another river behind you, and it really does look and feel impressively massive - in keeping with Duscae's jaw-dropping Ramuh cameo. In perhaps Platinum Demo's oddest sequence, you control Noct as he navigates a dining room in the palace while shrunk to roughly the size of a ten pence piece. Running up and down childlike fortresses built from china cups and chocolate bars and old books isn't your average Final Fantasy experience, and it's going to be fascinating to see players and fans fall into very different camps about whether that's good or bad for the franchise. From everything we've seen of various demos and gameplay trailers of Final Fantasy 15 so far, it seems like, at the very least, Square is up for trying a lot of new things - stealth mechanics, turrets, texting - and just seeing what sticks.

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As far as fire hazards go, this has to be on par with an unattended tealight.

The best thing about the Platinum Demo for me, actually, is that it makes me think 15 might be a Final Fantasy that isn't afraid to get a bit silly, which could be refreshing after later po-faced entries. A lot of that irreverence surely has to do with the fact that you're playing as a child in a world invented by a child, but the explosions of colour triggered by Noct throwing a firework or turning into a Garula are just quite fun to watch. Yet it seems odd to release a demo at this late stage that, by the developer's own admission, isn't representative of the final game. Not as odd as a stylised fennec fox using SMS to communicate, mind, but... here we are.

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