James is a lifelong Final Fantasy fan. His favourites include VII, VIII, IX, X and XV.
One of the signature aspects of the Final Fantasy series is the summons. They’ve been called many things over the years, such as Eidolon, Aeon and Guardian Force. Whatever their name, the main concept is that they are huge elemental beings that destroy everything in their path. Sometimes they are just simple magic that you can obtain, other times they are an integral part of the plot. What’s guaranteed, however, is that they perform spectacular-looking attacks and look cool while doing it.
The summons in Final Fantasy XV were named Astrals. Fans of the series found many things to be disappointed with in XV, and that includes the Astrals, at least from a gameplay perspective. They shared similarities with previous summons, yet they fell short of people’s expectations. Why was that? Let’s take a look.
Firstly, there are only eight of them in the entire game. These include Titan, Ramuh, Leviathan, Shiva, Bahamut, Ifrit, Carbuncle and Garuda (technically the last two aren't Astrals). Worst yet, Bahamut can only be summoned once in the entire game, Ifrit can’t be summoned even once and Carbuncle is only available in easy mode. This brings the number of summons that can be used throughout the game to five (six if playing on easy). This is disappointing, especially when you consider the likes of VIII had sixteen and XII had thirteen.
There were some measures taken to alleviate this, such as a few of the summons having different animations. Ramuh, for example, will perform a unique-looking attack depending on if the party is in a cave or not. Titan has three unique animations but good luck getting any of them (I’ll get to this later)!
As for how you summon the Astrals, that’s where things can get a little complicated and frustrating for some. There are many factors at play here. Really, a lot of it comes down to luck. For one, you can only summon once a battle and only once per day. Usually, Noctis or his allies have to be in “danger” state (though, Garuda seems to just appear whenever she wants). Other factors include the environment. Ramuh, Shiva and Garuda are the only Astrals that can be called upon indoors. You must be near a body of water to summon Leviathan, and Titan will also only appear on certain parts of the map.
This all leads to a very inconsistent system. Ramuh seems to appear more than the others—that is until you receive Garuda. Leviathan and Shiva are just behind them in appearances, and good luck ever getting Titan to appear; in my last playthrough, I only summoned him three times after 80 or so hours!
However, that’s where the negatives end. When you do finally get to summon an Astral, you’re rewarded with a spectacular scene. The music changes to the epic “A Premonition”. The screen darkens. If it’s Ramuh, thunder rumbles up above. If it’s Garuda, gusts of wind will engulf the area. You hold down the button when prompted and they finally appear in all of their glory. Ramuh’s enormous hand grabs out for you; Leviathan rises out of the lake you were fighting beside; Garuda emerges from the clouds or Titan stomps towards you. They then proceed to unleash their awesome attack on your enemies, whether that includes dropping a lightning staff on them or freezing them in an icy tornado. The music stops and you’re left with silence and the remnants of their attack, such as the scorched or sopping ground. You see the Astral one last time as they return to where they came, Noctis’ eyes glowing purple.
This leads to a lot of differing emotions when it comes to the Astrals. It’s a frustrating and confusing system. There are a lot of inconsistencies, such as Bahamut’s single appearance, Ifrit not even being available to call on and Titan’s difficult summoning conditions. But when you hear that music and you get the summon prompt, there really is no feeling like it in the game—at least for me. It’s all a mixed bag and a matter of taste. It would’ve been nice if we could summon whenever we wanted (at some kind of cost, of course), however that would take away some of the thrill of the system, I suppose. If there was one thing I could ask for, it would be to fix the inconsistencies mentioned above.
It’s a love/hate system but that sums up the Final Fantasy series, I suppose.
© 2022 James Author