Square Enix is no stranger to quirky mash-ups and bombastic interpretations of menial tasks. The core Final Fantasy XV game has a special place in the hearts of fans due to its focus on a group of bro-tastic best friends and their car, which is a stark contrast to the dark, brooding tone of many recent entries in the long-running franchise. With Monster of the Deep: Final Fantasy XV the Japanese developer leveraged a lot of familiar elements, characters, and settings to deliver an arcade-style fishing game that came way out of left field when it was announced at E3 2017.
Back during my first demo at E3 I was surprised by just how good the core gameplay felt. Using the right Move controller you cast out a line into different zones with varying types of fish. Then using the left Move controller you reel the fish back in once they bite, making sure to pull and tug in displayed directions. It all feels very authentic and much more interactive than other VR fishing games we’ve seen.
In Final Fantasy XV each of the main characters are defined by their hobbies and quirks. Ignis, for example, loves to cook and as fate would have it, Noctis, loves to fish. The premise of Monster of the Deep is that you are hired as a hunter to seek out and take down dangerous, giant daemon fish lurking in the depths of various bodies of water. In order to draw each large fish out you must catch several smaller fish to get its attention by teleporting around locations finding better spots, at which point you don a crossbow and take down the bosses in a first-person shooter minigame.
Between missions you spend time back at your cabin with Cindy upgrading gear, buying wonderfully detailed costumes, and heading out on new hunts and challenges. There are a handful of other game modes you unlock after completing the short main story, such as fishing contests with Noctis, that add to both depth and replayability. Overall I was pleasantly surprised not only with how much there is to do, but how inherently fun it is to do everything.
The biggest issue with the game has the same root cause as its biggest strength: fan service. Fans of Final Fantasy, specifically the most recent 15th entry, will love the attention to detail surrounding Eos and its characters. Chatting face-to-face with the iconic cast, sitting around a campfire together, and feeling like a part of the team is unparalleled. There is even a great feature that lets you take a picture after you catch a fish and then you can actually pick up and look at the Polaroid after the mission. However, if you don’t have an existing connection to the source material, I’m not sure the fishing alone is enough to reel you in (pun intended.)
The base gameplay is fun and rewarding, but it is relatively shallow (okay, I’ll stop now I swear.) Luckily, even if you don’t care about Final Fantasy at all, the environments are quite beautiful and unique. While other fishing games will stick you on a boat, floating in the sea somewhere, this game has the advantage of not being restricted to what’s seen in the real world. The monsters are huge and towering and the action is over-the-top and ridiculous.
Tracking was never much of an issue for me while playing Monster of the Deep since you’re sitting still and facing forward the entire time, so that’s a relief for a system (PSVR) that often has tracking issues. However, it was difficult to fine-tune my casts as much as I wanted. I found that I’d either flick my wrist and send my line flying way too far, or end up not casting far enough. Hitting the middle sweet spot was much more finicky than I thought it should have been, but that’s a minor gripe for an otherwise fun and engaging affair.
For fans of the series that own a PSVR, Monster of the Deep: Final Fantasy XV is the perfect spin-off. There is enough fan service to keep you smiling and enough original content plus exciting gameplay to make it fun in its own right. Surprisingly, Square Enix was able to craft an addictive fishing game that lets us see brand new sides of beloved characters and really feel like part of the team.
Monster of the Deep: Final Fantasy XV releases on November 21, 2017 for PSVR with a price of $29.99. You can see its PSN Store page here. Read our Game Review Guidelines for more information on how we arrive at our review scores.