Final Fantasy versus XIII - Should this be the new Final Fantasy XV?
At the 2006 Electronic Entertainment Expo, Square Enix, the company responsible for the long-running Final Fantasy series, announced a new compilation of titles under the name "Fabula Nova Crystallis: Final Fantasy", which would feature games with certain common elements, but would take place in different worlds with unrelated characters.
Beginning with the thirteenth main entry in the Final Fantasy franchise, Final Fantasy XIII, this Fabula Nova Crystallis: Final Fantasy series was slated to include the enigmatically named Final Fantasy versus XIII and Final Fantasy Agito XIII, each involving such elements as power-granting crystals, the godlike fal'Cie, and branded humans known as l'Cie. However, with Agito XIII being re-christened "Final Fantasy Type-0" in 2011 and very little news being released regarding "versus XIII", the future of Fabula Nova Crystallis: Final Fantasy seemed to be in question.
At the 2013 E3 earlier this month, Final Fantasy versus XIII, the title shrouded in mystery for over half a decade, was finally shown to the public again in a brand new trailer. The characters and revised combat system that had been connected to the game for years were still there and in full force, but it was the final moments that left fans both excited and bewildered. No longer was this branded with the moniker of XIII, as this was now being introduced as the newest main series entry, Final Fantasy XV.
Was this the right idea for Square Enix to do? Should "versus XIII" have been rebranded as XV or would it be better off as it was originally conceived, as a part of the Fabula Nova Crystallis compilation series?
Doesn't Seem Very Final Fantasy To Me
The combat for Final Fantasy versus XIII was originally envisioned as an attempt to replicate fight scenes seen in Square Enix's second CGI-animated film, "Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children", as the game's director, Tetsuya Nomura, felt that the action scenes in that film were very "tricky". He wanted to be able to create a game where the players were able to perform those actions themselves rather than feats that would only appear in cutscenes or other scripted moments of the game. Because of this, versus XIII's combat system was designed incorporating elements of Nomura's popular Kingdom Hearts franchise, in which the player took direct control of the character in order to move and attack in real time rather than just to issue commands.
In addition, for the character Prompto, one of the friends and associates of the main character Noctis, a special combat system was designed to incorporate his use of firearms. Whenever he was selected as controllable character, the camera would take an over-the-shoulder position similar to the Capcom game Resident Evil IV, with an on-screen reticle for aiming. In this fashion, the game would borrow heavily from first and third-person shooting games rather than the turn-based gameplay that has been a staple of the mainstream Final Fantasy games.
It is in this that I personally have some issues with the game. While action is nothing new to the Final Fantasy series, which has revolved around combat since its very first entry, the games in the main line have always adhered to a pretty standard, turn-based format. Some of the more recent titles, from Final Fantasy XI onward, have blurred the line a bit with it being turned based, but it has still predominantly been a turn-based system, with the player inputting a general command to attack, perform magic spells, and the like, and then the computer actually performing those actions without further input from the player.
Now, I'm not against innovation, and I feel that every game franchise needs to take steps forward in order to keep things fresh, but I also feel that change doesn't need to be drastic. Die hard fans of a franchise often greet drastic changes with criticism, and often for good reason, because such changes tend to either alter or entirely remove those elements that the fans enjoy the most. For example, a number of major changes, such as the combat and the exploration system, were made for the previous off-line game in the franchise, Final Fantasy XIII, and it has often been regarded as one of the weakest entries by long time fans of the series.
Will it Keep its Fabula Nova Connections?
Another concern that some people have is whether or not this game will retain the connections to the Fabula Nova Crystallis: Final Fantasy compilation that it previously had, given that it no longer bears the name "versus XIII" anymore.
Though information is still scarce, it seems that, for the most part, the story is the same as it was before the name was changed. The main character, Noctis Lucis Caelum, is still a prince of the kingdom of Lucis, holder of the last major crystal of the world. It is this crystal that supplies the kingdom of Lucis with power used for politics, military might, and economic standing, and being the last crystal in existence, it is sought after by several rival countries.
Alongside Noctis are his comrades Cor Leonis, head of Lucis's royal guards, Gladiolus Amicitia, the "elder brother" of the group, Prompto Argentum, a gun-wielding fugitive, and Ignis Scientia, Noctis's car driver. Players will only be able to control a single character at a time, with the others being controlled by the AI, though the player can switch from character to character, given the circumstances. Each character, such as what was illustrated above by the information about Prompto, is believed to have their own unique play style and specialty in battle, allowing for a level of diversity.
A series of different characters that seem to serve as antagonists have popped up in the trailers for "versus XIII"/"Final Fantasy XV" over the years since it was first announced. The most notable is the mysterious girl, Stella Fleuret, of the rival nation of Tenebrae and capable of summoning weapons to aid her in battle much in the same way Noctis is. Their actual feelings for one another are debatable, as there seems to be some degree of friendship between the two despite the fact that they are forced into conflict with one another.
Aside from Stella is a mysterious hooded individual with far more sinister, but equally enigmatic, motives. He is seen with the ability to form magical runes and crests as weapons around his adversaries. The source of his power and the true intentions of this individual are still unknown, but it seems that he is less wary about doing battle with Noctis and his friends than Stella.
From the most recent trailer released at E3, it seems that all of these elements are still intact, and that the only major difference, apart from the console that it is going to be released on, will be the change in the title. Noctis is still the primary hero, the supporting protagonists are still there with their individual abilities, and the story still seems to flow around the kingdom of Lucis being attacked by opposing forces.
My Thoughts on XV
I'm rather apprehensive about this title, though at the same time I am somewhat hopeful. The Final Fantasy series has been, in my opinion, at a steady decline over the past few years, with a number of their most recent titles failing to live up to the reputation of the older entries. It seems that Square Enix has made a push towards making fast-releasing titles rather than games with any major substance to them, such as the Final Fantasy XIII line of games, and this feels like something along that same line of thought. Square Enix was feeling pressure to release a new mainstream Final Fantasy title, since they had not released a truly new one in nearly two years. Whether this was the case or not isn't known, but I feel that they wanted to make another mainstream entry, but had nothing truly new in the works, so re-branding "versus XIII" was their way of satisfying that need.
I personally feel that, while the game itself might be a good game in its own right, that it probably wasn't the smartest move on Square Enix's part to simply change an earlier project into a mainstream Final Fantasy game simply to fulfill some need to put out a numbered title, ignoring the fact that it retains all the elements that made it so different from the mainstream counterparts. Not only does this detract from those longing for the "versus XIII" title, but it also just exemplifies the current mindset that Square Enix has had for the past few years, that they're more interested in putting out games to make a quick buck rather than taking a chance at new, innovative ones.
Now it probably sounds like I'm berating this game entirely and don't want it to succeed at all, when in actuality I want to be wrong in this case. Despite my apprehensions, I'd like for Final Fantasy XV to push past the limitations I feel that it has placed on itself to become a major contender in RPG genre, and live up to the name Final Fantasy.
Will Final Fantasy XV prove its worth in the coming months and likewise prove me wrong about living up to its pedigree? Only time will tell.