One of the most talked about and praised items to hit the screen at E3’s Sony presentation was Final Fantasy XV, formally Final Fantasy XIII versus. The game was thought to be cancelled due to the lack of chatter of the game and the critical failures of the other Fabula Nova Crystallis series games, but it appears that the game has come back after getting hit with a phoenix down and looks very different than any other Final Fantasy offering. Unfortunately, Final Fantasy XIII had the same promise but has widely been received as one of the worst in the series, so can XV break Square Enix’s streak of bad luck?
It’s been reported that Square Enix has taken this slump seriously. A cabal of Final Fantasy veterans has convened a committee to overview all future projects, including XV. There has also been talk of letting Eidos, a western company famous for Tomb Raider and the recent Deus Ex outing recently purchased by Square Enix, to have a go at the Final Fantasy franchise from a western perspective. This isn’t the first time they’ve tried this, as SE contacted Grin, a company famous for Bionic Commando: Reamred and Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter, to do something similar but the project ended with Grin declaring bankruptcy and a very unfinished product that never saw the light of day.
So what does XV bring to the table? For once, it’s being directed by Tetsuya Nomura of Kingdom Hearts fame and that influence shows in the action oriented scenes we’ve been teased with so far. The setting looks decidedly more modern than other games, yet not as futuristic as Final Fantasy XIII, featuring our cast riding around in a pretty standard looking luxury vehicle (by Final Fantasy standards anyway). The characters also dress in a much less alien manner, with more normal looking clothing for the most part including t-shirts, jeans, and dress attire. That doesn’t mean that the game will be a more grounded experience, as we see characters teleport around and shoot magical balls of light at will both in cutscenes and in gameplay.
While many are optimistic that this game will fix issues fans and gamers have had with Final Fantasy with recent iterations, with Final Fantasy XIII being very liner and its story very obtuse an alien, they are also jaded. People thought XIII was going to refresh a franchise fraught with emo protagonists and poorly written melodramatic love stories typical of JRPGs, and that turned out not only be totally wrong but it also added the most incoherent story and unlikable protagonists to date. In short, Final Fantasy needs to truly evolve in a time where typical JRPG troupes only satisfy a very small niche of gamers and consumers, and most people are looking for something a lot more grounded like 16 and 8-bit iterations of the series were. The move towards true action is a huge plus, but Square Enix needs to hit one out of the park to get out of their financial troubles, and they haven’t been very good at listening to criticism in the past.
Will Final Fantasy XV be the final nail in Square Enix’s coffin, or will it be the savior they desperately need?