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Final Fantasy XV: Pocket Edition is for fans with no time

A spoiler-free review

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I’ve owned the first three generations of the PlayStation, having only skipped the PS4 knowing that most of its games are also available on Windows. Well, emphasis on most since there were some great titles I missed out on that weren’t ported to PC.

For a while, one of those AAA games was Final Fantasy XV. Only recently had it been brought over to Windows — more than a year after the original release on consoles. This drought left me without my once consistent dose of Final Fantasy. (My last one was Final Fantasy XIII way back in 2009!)

But even with FFXV now installed on my beloved gaming rig, there’s another obstacle I have to deal with: finding time to actually play it. This installment in the series is an open-world role-playing game, meaning you get to play at your own pace by going on side quests and exploring vast plains outside of the main story, which also means this takes dozens of hours to complete.

So, how can I enjoy the rich story while still finding time for everything else in my life? There’s Final Fantasy XV: Pocket Edition for that.

If it isn’t obvious, this is the mobile version of the game, available on both Android and iOS. But don’t think for a second that this is some spin-off with mild references to the full-fledged title. You’re getting the full story on your smartphone — without all the extra fluff.

You could call this the abridged tale of FFXV. The main storyline — from main hero Noctis and his all-male crew riding in a fancy car to saving the world — is intact. You can finish the game and get the entire story like I did. You lose out on a lot of the fun side quests and open-world exploration of the original, but the developers managed to squeeze in as many mini-quests as they could to keep things interesting.

Playing the abridged version before the full game felt like a throwback to high school when I would read up on summaries of novels to save time for actually writing the book reports. It felt wrong during my entire playthrough, but it was either play the pocket edition or wait another ten years for the next FF to release.

FFXV: PE (let this be its name from here on) is divided into ten chapters; each one takes about an hour to finish. Since you’re stuck within the realm of the main plot progression, you’re at the mercy of the game’s own pace. Done with this area? Move on with the story. Want to check out another town? Tough luck.

The game still gives you access to maps, menus for equipping your characters with new gear, items to consume, and a grid for unlocking character-specific skills using Ability Points. All these, however, are parts of an illusion that make you think there’s more depth than there actually is.

You see, because you’re bound to a linear path, there aren’t many ways to play FFXV: PE (this abbreviation still feels too long). The items and equipment I end up with at the end of the game are likely to be near-identical to what you or a random friend of mine would have. Still, it’s nice to have some control than none at all. Acquiring a new weapon and seeing your stats go up is still as satisfying as on the original game.

The controls themselves are as simple as can be: tap or hold the spot you want to run to, swipe during battle to roll around, and choose from a selection of special attacks to end fights in style. The standard attacks are done automatically and your party members are on auto mode the whole time, so the play style here is to relax most of the time and enjoy the scenery.

Hold on… scenery? For a mobile game, the graphics are splendid. Having grown up with Final Fantasy VII, VIII, and IX on the first PlayStation, seeing this style of visuals is a welcome change of pace from the non-stop hyper-realism we’re forced to endure on practically all new AAA titles. With the exception of facial expressions being frozen in place, not once did I feel the graphics were unsatisfying.

You’re going to need a powerful handset, though. I tried FFXV: PE on a range of smartphones and it wasn’t smooth sailing for all. It was only on the Snapdragon 835- and 845-powered devices that I could max out graphics settings. To be specific, I could run the game on the highest settings with the Essential Phone, Samsung Galaxy S9, and Google Pixel 2. The game itself is well-optimized for all aspect ratios, no matter how wide or tall the screen happens to be.

In case you’re wondering: Yes, the original music and voice acting are all there, making this by far the best audio experience you can get out of a mobile title. Your merry crew will banter while running around fields, commands will be shouted during intense battles, and the beautiful musical score will play during cutscenes, inside menus, and while cruising around in their car, the Regalia.

It’s this audio-visual combination that makes FFXV: PE such a joy to play while alone and with headphones on. Even with the tiny screen of a smartphone, you’ll easily get lost in the world of Eos and all the lively characters that inhabit it. It’s only when the plot forces you into tight corridors and bland environments that you gradually lose interest. There were times when neither the new area nor story could sustain my attention.

Being an abridged version of a grand storyline, cuts had to be made. Even though I didn’t finish the original game on Windows yet, I could easily tell when conversations were cut short in order to progress the plot and transitions were hastened to maintain the mobile pace. Some were appreciated; others were not. A lot of drama and twists fell flat because there simply wasn’t enough build-up. When the credits started rolling, I kept wondering, What was the point of that character? and Did I accidentally miss a major plot point?

Asking those questions are ultimately my fault. FFXV: PE is meant to be played after completing the console or PC version first. It’s designed to retell the story of Noctis and his friends in a more casual manner, free from the grips of a couch or office chair. The only way everyone will be happy is if it launches for the Nintendo Switch. (Please?)

Unfortunately, for a mobile game, it’s quite expensive. Although the first chapter is free to play, you have to cough up US$ 20 for all ten chapters. Spending a little more during a sale can nab you the full game on Windows, Xbox One, or PS4 — and that would be loads better if you had the time to play it.

I’m now on the second chapter of Final Fantasy XV: Windows Edition (FFXV: WE LOL) and I feel like I cheated on my book report. The progress so far follows what I already know, except the graphics are prettier and options are far more confusing. There are moments when I fondly look back at the simplicity of the mobile edition and wish I could go back to that.

Sometimes, cutting straight to the chase feels more rewarding.

Apps

The best apps in the App Store this 2020

According to Apple

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It’s that time of the year! Apple finally presented its App Store Best of 2020 winners. The technology giant recognized 15 apps and games that contributed to making life easier, healthier, and more connected this year.

Best Apps of 2020

iPhone App of the Year: Wakeout!, developed by Andres Canella

iPad App of the Year: Zoom

Mac App of the Year: Fantastical, developed by Flexibits

Apple TV App of the Year: Disney+

Apple Watch App of the Year: Endel

Best Games of 2020

iPhone Game of the Year: “Genshin Impact,” from miHoYo

iPad Game of the Year: “Legends of Runeterra,” from Riot Games

Mac Game of the Year: “Disco Elysium,” from ZA/UM

Apple TV Game of the Year: “Dandara Trials of Fear,” from Raw Fury

Apple Arcade Game of the Year: “Sneaky Sasquatch,” from RAC7

App Trends of 2020

App Trend of the Year: Shine, for helping users practice self-care.

App Trend of the Year: Caribu, for connecting families to loved ones.

App Trend of the Year: “Pokémon GO,” for reinventing the way we play, from Niantic.

App Trend of the Year: ShareTheMeal, for helping users make a difference.

App Trend of the Year: Explain Everything Whiteboard, for helping bring remote classrooms to life.

App Store Best of 2020 award

To celebrate these 15 apps, Apple had its designers bring meticulous craftsmanship, creating the first-ever physical App Store Best of 2020 award. It was inspired by the signature blue App Store icon.

Committing to its sustainability mission, each award reveals the App Store logo set into 100 percent recycled Aluminium, with the winner’s name engraved on the other side.

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Enterprise giant Salesforce acquires Slack for $27.7 billion

Salesforce’s biggest purchase in the 21st century

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Business software pioneer Salesforce is buying work-chatting service Slack for US$ 27.7 billion. The acquisition of Slack is being hailed as Salesforce’s biggest purchase in the 21st century.

Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff has said that together the two companies will shape the future of enterprise software. Salesforce has a robust unified platform for businesses to connect with their employees, customers, and partners, making it a perfect match for Slack.

The deal comes as the communication platform struggles to fully capitalize on the Coronavirus pandemic. With remote working becoming the new norm, the demand for enterprise communication apps has skyrocketed.

It faces a lot of competition from Microsoft Teams, which is deeply connected with Office and Outlook. Even Facebook and Google joined the race. However, their solutions lacked deep integration with other enterprise modules.

Slack was founded as a gaming company in 2009 in Canada but it soon emerged as the widely used workplace messaging app. It focused on real-time communication, giving teams the option to rely on an instant messaging app over email.

Details of the sale

According to the acquisition terms, Slack shareholders will receive US$ 26.79 in cash and 0.0776 shares of Salesforce common stock for each Slack share or US$ 45.5 per share based on Salesforce’s closing price on Tuesday.

Salesforce was the first company in the world to widely adopt the SaaS (Software as a Service) model, and it has worked wonders. The company was also among the first to leverage the cloud computing trend. It designed its entire systems around a decentralized hub that can be accessed remotely from any device, anywhere.

If the deal goes through as planned, Salesforce hopes to control Slack sometime from May to July 2021.

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Microsoft could bring Android support to Windows in 2021

Feeling the heat from Apple’s move to ARM

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Microsoft’s Windows 10 operating system is widely used globally and has remained the laptop and PC segment’s undisputed leader. However, Linux, as well as macOS, have gained considerable traction in the last few years. To maintain its edge, Microsoft could bring Android support to Windows soon.

According to a Windows Central report, internal discussions are ongoing over the possibility of bringing Android runtime to Windows 10. Currently, you can install a third-party emulation software like Bluestacks to run Android apps on a Windows device. But the experience is far from perfect and still requires a bit of a learning curve.

Apple has a significant lead in this regard because its move to an ARM-based M1 processor allows it to run iOS apps on macOS seamlessly. This ideally helps in bridging the software gap between two very different devices.

Microsoft has tried to achieve a similar goal with the Universal Windows Platform. But the results are still limited because there are barely any devices with a smaller form factor leveraging the operating system.

More importantly, Microsoft wants to bring Android apps to its Microsoft Store. While there’s no information on how it intends to achieve this, the report does say the release is expected by Fall 2021.

Microsoft no stranger to cross-platform apps

Microsoft has whole-heartedly adopted cross-platform compatibility and has a host of apps on iOS as well as Android. If it’s able to bring Android apps to Windows, it’ll challenge the status quo of Chromebooks, which has long been a pain for the Redmond giant in the affordable segment.

This isn’t the first time a company is trying to incorporate Android within its proprietary operating system. BlackBerry 10 supported Android runtime, and the brand leaned on it to make apps easily available. While the move was too late for BlackBerry, it isn’t the same for Microsoft.

It’s worth noting that the idea is in a very nascent stage right now. We don’t know how Microsoft intends to distribute Android apps or whether it’ll start supporting Google Play Services. Although one thing’s for clear — Microsoft is feeling the heat from Apple.

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