July, 2006, Square Enix unveils to the world a trailer that would be the start of a 10 year long wait. The premier for Final Fantasy Versus XIII (now known as FFXV). The crowd, breath held with anticipation,
watched the protagonist, Noctis Lucis Caelum, waste an enemy squad on screen with little effort, showing us a taste of what was to come from this series in terms of abilities, mood, weapons, and characters. It was the darkest we’ve seen in a Final Fantasy game go with a reveal trailer in the history of Final Fantasy. Thus completely capturing the attention of fans from the series, it created a want to play this game. It would be 10 years before the game would go gold and start shipping out to retailers around the world. Here we are 10 years later, about to embark on one of the most anticipated journeys of all time.
In the developmental purgatory that FFXV was caught in, the game came under many changes from the original plan for Versus XIII. The changes varied from switching directors, character redesigns, new engines, and gaining it’s very own title. Tetsuya Nomura, the critically acclaimed director of Kingdom Hearts, helmed the dark Final Fantasy entity for a majority of its existence. With Nomura being tied up in many Kingdom Hearts projects, he enlisted help from Final Fantasy VII: Crisis Core director Hajime Tabata. Tabata became co-director along with Nomura to help lighten the workload that was Versus XIII. Progress on the project was starting to take form, it even reached 20% completion. When in 2012, orders from above said to rebrand the Versus project giving it main title recognition – the title of Final Fantasy XV. The world would not know of the title rebrand until E3 of 2013, when Square Enix unveiled the announcement trailer. The trailer put rumors of the Versus project being nothing but vaporware to rest. It showed the world that Square Enix was hard at work with the project and it had not been scrapped, as some rumors had thought.
Co-director Tabata ended up becoming the sole director when Nomura had to dedicate his full time to other in house projects, Kingdom hearts 3 and the Final Fantasy VII Remake. This was a massive shift from creative influence that Nomura was so set on being a darker, grittier, Final Fantasy. Hajime Tabata ended up making character redesign on Lunafreya (Previously Stella), and most markedly, King Regis. The change from Stella Nox Fleuret, to Lunafreya was perhaps among the most questioned redesigns. Initially Stella was written to have a similar role to Noctis, but was fully transformed into Luna, who was more regal than her predecessor. Nomura was quoted as saying that Stella would “stand out” in some way from the other female characters in the series. That in and of itself would have been a clear challenge. Stella underwent changes throughout 2013, which led to the birth of Lunafreya. The roles between Stella and Luna were vastly different according to the staff. Luna’s redesign, however, pales in comparison to the late changes made to one of the more forefront characters of the series, King Regis. Regis underwent the most drastic redesign and one of the latest in the production of the game. His design originally portrayed a man with gray, short, swept back hair, salt and pepper stubble, and looking at least 10 years younger. Regis’s final design sports a full blown gray beard, gray medium length hair, a limp in his walk supported by his knee brace (which is pretty majestic with all the gold trimmings), and a cane. For 8 years, we had envisioned Regis as this younger father to Noctis, a relatively young king, and a strong head of Insomnia. The reworking gives Regis a feeling of vulnerability as weak and feeble older man. It makes sense if the story was to originally have Noctis take back his throne from the Niflheim, but it would make less sense as how the Nifs got the better of a younger, stronger king Regis. Leaving the rework of King Regis so late in the production was an interesting move, and one I still don’t fully understand. I’m a fan of his latest rendition, but it just floors me how Square Enix took it to the last inning to make changes on Regis.
Director Tabata has come out and spoken about how Square Enix could learn from Western IP brands and adopt those features for XV. Tabata explained in a Roundtable interview that “It’s more of the triple-A western approach: Where they release their games, the size of the market they’re going after, their marketing campaigns, how they go about creating and planning those campaigns, localization support – all of that. That’s really what I’ve been influenced by.” It became apparent that Tabata wanted to make this project a complete success worldwide instead of just in Japan. He understands that the Final Fantasy series has stopped growing in the “HD age” and he goes on to say that “Once we entered this [high-definition] age, [the franchise] sort of stopped growing. We haven’t really seen major changes to it”. Fully aware that Final Fantasy has stalled, Tabata continues, “I’m also aware of the many people who comment that Final Fantasy has reached its peak — it’s sort of over-the-hill. Once we entered this HD phase of gaming, there are many Western [intellectual properties] that have become the torch-bearers [for RPGs]. We can’t necessarily mimic a Western approach to creating and developing a Final Fantasy.” A world where Final Fantasy is over-the-hill and western RPGs are becoming the model for RPG releases – we’ve come a long way in these 10 short years.
With time ticking away, the game will be finally available on 11-29-16. Having high expectations for this game is not at all out of the ordinary. Many gamers, streamers, reviewers, have prospects that will be either met or missed. I have a few expectations that I hope are met within this game:
- Total emersion: What I mean by this is that XV takes its time to create an expansive world, filled with little bits of lore and history to suck us into this universe that has taken 10 years to build.
- Fluid Combat: We’ve played (or at least seen) the combat from Duscae, Platinum, and Judgement and we’ve noticed the difference in combat from all three demos. I’m hoping that the final product is a cohesive, fluid, natural combat system that compliments players that are more tactical, and mechanically gifted.
- Comprehensive storyline: This is what probably will make or break the game for most people. The way the story is interwoven, explained, and showcased to players is critical.
A decade invested into this game and decade worth of hype is about to come crashing down. Its finally time to immerse ourselves in a game that we’ve been waiting for so long. I hope everyone enjoys this game as much as I will. My inner teenager is about to take over for the next few weeks, and fulfill a desire that has been there since 2006. I can only imagine what like minded gamers are feeling right now as we sit on the cusp of what is the holy grails for Final Fantasy. The expectations are sky high for this title, and I hope it will shatter all of our previously set goals for this game. You can purchase ffxv here through amazon.