The Final Fantasy franchise has come a long way since the first game released so many years ago. The series left behind its roots with the release of Final Fantasy 13 and hasn't looked back since. The next release will be Final Fantasy 15. While no official release date has been set, the game currently sits at 55 percent complete, with a demo scheduled for early 2015.

If you're looking to bone up on your gaming skills before the release of Final Fantasy 15, don't look to previous entries in the series. The new game plays more like Kingdom Hearts than any previous Final Fantasy title. You won't see many turn-based menus to cycle through, just raw action as your character can draw his weapon on the fly as he attacks enemies. You change and configure your weaponry while not in battle, but can summon multiple weapon types depending on the situation at hand.

The combat system in Final Fantasy 15 is called the Active Cross Battle system. There aren't any hard transitions between roaming the world and starting a battle. Once again, think of it more like Kingdom Hearts in that as soon as you see an enemy, you can attack it in real-time.

While you have a party that travels with you Final Fantasy 15, you only control the main character, Noctis. The other characters are controlled similar to heroes in Final Fantasy 13. You can set their desired behavior and actions, but other party members will act on their own accord. Combo attacks are also available under the right circumstances.

Not needing to micro-manage your party opens up the battles. If there's a dangerous enemy attacking, you can let your other party members take a few hits while you determine the best method to approach. Likewise, if you need to heal yourself, you can let your party members draw the enemy's attention long enough for you to get away and take the time you need to heal.

On the defensive side of combat, Noctis has the ability to block and parry. Blocking requires magic points (MP), and parrying requires precise timing (it's not an auto-parry). Due to the fact that magic attacks can be very powerful in many situations, you're advised not to rely heavily on blocking. Lightning Returns featured a combat system that rewarded players for precisely timing attacks and parries. The parry system in Final Fantasy 15 looks to be somewhat similar to this. The timing isn't overly difficult, but it's not easy to perform against harder enemies.

When it comes to magic spells, things operate a bit differently compared to other Final Fantasy titles. Instead of simply attacking the targeted enemy, magic spells engulf the area around opponents. This means that anyone surrounding the target can potentially be damaged, including other party members. In addition, you can combine magic spells with party members to create more devastating magic attacks.

Summoning huge monsters has always been a big part of the Final Fantasy series, and that continues with Final Fantasy 15. Taking a page from Final Fantasy 8, you have to defeat a monster before you can summon it. If you want the ability to summon Shiva, you’ll need to find Shiva, then defeat her in combat.

The environment around your party is as important as the enemies you face off against. In most cases if an enemy is using a vehicle of some sort, you can steal that vehicle. For example, if an enemy is riding in a tank, you can remove the enemy from the tank and then use it against them.

It's a safe bet that Kingdom Hearts 3 will be released before Final Fantasy 15. If that's the case, picking up the new Kingdom Hearts would offer great practice for Final Fantasy 15. The battle systems are close enough that you'll gain a lot more experience playing Kingdom Hearts than you would going back to the previous Final Fantasy games. The only exception to this would be the parrying system of Lightning Returns and the Gambit system of Final Fantasy 12.

We'll have more on Final Fantasy 15 as the release of the demo and eventual retail game draw closer.