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#UncoveredFFXV event happened last week and it blew expectations out of the water for most. They revealed quite a bit about the project that most would have never guessed. Aside from the core game, there’s going to be a complete CG feature called Kingsglaive with some high profile names doing the voice work. It focuses on Noctis’ father, the king, before the events of the game while Noctis is still a young boy it seems. Likely in the same time we also got a demo that night dubbed Platinum Demo. The content found within it was said to be specific to the demo and wouldn’t be incorporated into the final game. While mostly a tech demo it does have settings and a bit of story tied to Noctis. Specifically it deals with him being knocked out by an outside force while everything inside the demo takes place inside his mind. The demo concludes with child Noctis transforming into his late-teens, more aligned with what we know him to be during the events of FFXV proper. There’s a bit of learning who he is and where his heart lies. Then for the third leg of announcements that night, independant of both of those stories is an additional anime mini-series with Noctis, Ignis, Prompto, and Gladio – the four heroes of li… I mean the protagonists of FFXV. Titled Brotherhood, it’s set shortly before the game takes place and gives fans an opportunity to get to know the crew and understand their relationships before the game starts. Going into Final Fantasy XV we’re expected to have a good read on the fellas. The first episode, “Before the Storm” is already available and plays out like a scene you’d find in the game. Dialog, camaraderie, camping, and gravity-defying combat. It works as a great showpiece for what the world of FFXV has in store. During the events of the first episode they recall moments of Noctis as a young boy (again) when he nearly died when his city was under siege… but why go through all this trouble with episode of anime, unique demo story, or a full CG movie? Historically with The Spirits Within and VII: Advent Children the non-gaming viability for Final Fantasy is questionable at best. Why not just focus on the game, especially after the negative response to the Final Fantasy XIII saga? Let’s go back a bit to answer that question.

Final Fantasy Versus XIII was announced back in 2006. There’s a slew of trailers released over the years. It’s never been shelved completely, constantly being developed on some level. Eventually at E3 2013 (so eight years into development) they officially rebranded it as Final Fantasy XV, breaking any ties that may have been to Lightning and her trilogy. Reviewing the previous trailers over these 10 years of development shows it really has stuck with a lot of the same points. Details might have changed a bit, but it’s always followed Noctis in a modern times setting. Most the trailers focus on a large city, a throne, an emotionally distant protagonist that can teleport and summon weapons from thin air. Even after the initial trailers we get glimpses of earlier versions of Prompo, Ignis, and Gladio with him. So what the hell has been going on during all this development? Where has all this time gone?

Lots of story has been done while the tech has been evolving. The E3 demo first introducing us to the project looks like an early PS3 game, well below today’s expectations of a Final Fantasy mainline title. Clearly there is a lot going on story wise here. Back in 2012 there was discussion of the project being restarted… yet here we are with footage in 2016 very similar to what we knew in 2006. So what happened that they “restarted”? Well really I think that’s when this project got scaled back to a controllable project. Nomura & crew spent so much time developing the world, lore, multiple character narratives, etc. Imagine if George RR Martin tried to squeeze all his stories into one book? HUGE sprawling epic with different tales at different points in time that paint a larger picture. I believe that’s what happened with FFXV. Nomura created a universe instead of a game. When Square decided the game needed to be reshaped into something digestible they weren’t going to just throw away all that development. Now it’s been shaved down to a core story for a condensed core game that won’t trip over it’s own feet. All the B-plot or events taking place outside of the main timeline has been spun into the other projects. Write it off as marketing budget if you’re feeling extra corporate about it. All the extra projects seem to tie to events that will be referenced in game without having to fully develop the game aspect of it, the expensive bit. So now during the game they can talk about your father’s final stand before the Kingsglaive fell during the sack of the city. You’ll learn about the nearly fatal attempt on young Noctis that scarred him for life that’s already been referenced in both the anime and the Platinum Demo. With all these events coinciding it was clearly meant to be included in the original game. Linking content over years of events seamlessly would be too much of a task without feeling clumsy in most hands. All-in-all this new shuffling of the story into separate projects restores hope after a decade of development hell.

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That’s only part of the post though as there’s more reason to be excited for XV. The team in the driving seat of the project at this point is extremely on point. Hajime Tabata as the new director alone restores some faith as he directed Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy Type-0, both on the PSP and received plenty of praise. Hell, he was brought on in September of 2014, and the game is set to release in September of 2016. Granted there was a lot of background work done before that point but it remains impressive to have him step into a mess and steer the ship towards release within a two year window. During that time they’re releasing the anime, a CG film, a mobile game, and two demos (both the aforementioned Platinum Demo, as well as Episode Duscae that released alongside FF Type-0 HD). A man of action indeed.

Speaking of the team, did I mention Yoko Shimomura is composing for Final Fantasy XV? You may know her work from little know releases like Street Fighter 2, Super Mario RPG, Kingdom Hearts, and Parasite Eve. So far known include Somnus and a cover by Florence (minus her machines) of Ben E King’s Stand By Me. It’s going to be an amazing ride. Oh, and if you’re not feeling the original OST for XV you can always tune into Final Fantasy Radio on your road trip as Noctis to hear classic series music played through your car’s radio.

 

Plus ya know, there’s the whole Episode Duscae demo which is both visually stunning and mechanically engaging. If there were any doubts of Final Fantasy finding it’s footing after so many years of fading relevance – I’d say you’re safe to abandon them. Strong mechanics, humor, fantasy, whimsy, and strong character relationships? This will be a game you don’t want to miss.

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