Final Fantasy XV is anything but straightforward, both in terms of its development and how it's been presented and released to the public. The Kingsglaive movie felt like a mandatory aspect of the main game – a separately packaged alternative to the traditional Final Fantasy opening sequence, and an essential component to fully grasp the narrative force of Noctis's plight. The anime collection Brotherhood, meanwhile, was a series of brief flashbacks which fleshed out the central cast and reinforced the bond between them. Thankfully, that one was free.
One member of the cast who has remained underdeveloped to this point, however, is Noctis's father, King Regis, which might come as a surprise considering the narrative importance of this elusive character. Thankfully, this has been partly rectified with this free release, although you won't find the most in-depth narrative here. Originally intended as a pre-order bonus, A King's Tale takes the form of a retro 2D brawler that harks back to the pre-PlayStation era, and follows the exploits of a young King Regis whose narrative is framed within a bedtime story told to a young Prince Noctis.
In terms of story, it fulfils a purpose, providing some context to a character who was severely lacking screen time in the main game, and gives a little more depth to the complicated relationship between Noctis and the King. In terms of presentation, A King's Tale also does a good job of embracing both the charm and limitations of retro gaming – from both a graphical and animation standpoint, shaping the way you interact with the game while filling out your nostalgia bar to breaking point.
In terms of gameplay, there's a surprising amount of depth here, with combos that can be strung together by utilising strong and fast attacks as well as a shield bash. Certain enemies have specific weaknesses which means you must switch up your attacks on the fly, and the ability to roll out of the way and behind enemies is important to a game presented in 2D. There's also magic in the form of ice, lightning and fire – just as in the main game – and even the ability to call on allies to perform special attacks when your attack multiplier hits 8. Max it out at 24 and you can summon the Armiger for even more potent attacks.
Despite its heavily nostalgic presentation, then, there's plenty here to link it back into the main title outside of the cast. The game's at its best when there are different kinds of enemies on screen which all require different tact, but it can slip into a boring grind when multiples of the same enemy appear, leaving you thrashing the same button repeatedly to dispatch them. Unfortunately, this scenario crops up on multiple occasions throughout the two-hour journey, and so a little more care and variation would not have gone amiss.
For a free side course of Final Fantasy XV goodness, you can't go wrong with A King's Tale. It's nothing special – either as a new entry to the narrative or as a 2D brawler – but it provides some depth to a character that lacked development which, in turn, further expands upon the personality of Noctis and his relationship with Regis. Despite some lazy moments of design and unnecessarily repetitive combat sequences, there's a couple of hours of fun to be had here with a surprisingly good combat system and a nice, nostalgia-inducing presentation.