It’s only 5 days into December and already what a month it’s been for gamers. Naughty Dog has released a conceptual sequel trailer for their dark horse hit The Last Of Us, and Kojima’s prematurely cancelled Silent Hills is definitively reborn as Death Stranding—especially with the confirmed appearance of Guillermo Del Toro in the new trailer.
It’s just as well considering the year 2016 has given us. At least the gaming industry will welcome us into its warm bosom even if the real world burns around us.
None of these announcements however, can compare to the relief that Final Fantasy fans feel with the release of Final Fantasy XV. This installment marks Square Enix’s greatest departure from the usual Final Fantasy formula on console, and with great success.
Of course if a game is going to take 10 years to make, it better be a flipping success.
So as a love song for all of us who had to wait the full 10 years for Prince Noctis Lucis Caelum (completed version) to finally reach our consoles, here is the decade-long journey that we actually went through.
Let’s raise a glass, guys. We did it. We lived to see FFXV’s release.
Originally announced as Final Fantasy Versus XIII, the game was initially envisioned as part of the Fabula Nova Crystallis series (Square Enix has a thing for pretentious names like this). The series would encompass three core games, Final Fantasy XIII, Final Fantasy Agito XIII (Now Type-0) and finally, Final Fantasy Versus XIII.
2006 – The Announcement
The very first E3 trailer introduced the main storyline, which told the story of a fierce struggle for the control of the last crystal between the isolated but advanced city-state of Lucis and some mysterious invaders from the outside.
The game was announced to great interest in E3 and Tokyo Game Show that year. Tetsuya Nomura (director at the time) envisioned the game to be the dark counterpart to Final Fantasy XIII, basically a versus of XIII.
Yes, it really was that simple.
But between the poignant Shakespeare quote in the beginning, Yoko Shimomura’s chilling score of Somnus Nemoris, and the trailer’s overall feel, fans were excited.
2007 – Feeding Us Morsels Of Information
2007 brought with it some information, and an extension to the trailer. In a June 2007 interview with Edge, Tetsuya Nomura said that he wanted to give a more realistic feel to the narrative of the game compared to past Final Fantasy titles.
Of course, fans at the time were just excited that a Final Fantasy game was actually showing blood in its CG.
2008 – Noctis And Stella
In 2008, we finally meet other characters who would be joining Noctis on his journey, including his father King Regis, a love interest Stella, and Noctis’ companions.
The highlight of 2008 however, would definitely be an unvoiced clip of Noctis and Stella meeting for the first time. On top of the Hamlet references in previous trailers, the new morsels with Stella introduced a Romeo and Juliet element to the story that heightened the game’s hype factor.
There were even fans who dubbed the now iconic footage. A moment of silence for the fans who still miss Stella.
2010 – Introducing Actual Gameplay
By now, Final Fantasy XIII has already been out for a year, so fans were awaiting the release of Versus XIII to finally complement the flagship.
Among the footage of Noctis running around, Tetsuya Nomura revealed an important part of Versus XIII that would eventually become part of Final Fantasy XV’s iconic imagery.
In an article published on Famitsu, Nomura revealed that you’ll have access to a car. You can board and disembark your car whenever you like.
2012 – Cancellation Rumours
By now, it has been 6 years since Versus XIII was announced, and two years of radio silence about the game from the development team. Since Versus XIII was not a flagship, many fans began to worry that Square Enix had abandoned the project.
This was when Kotaku dropped a bombshell, claiming that insider sources revealed that the the higher ups decided on a quiet death for the game. Morale among the staff was reportedly low due to the announcement.
2013 – Project Revival
There was some truth to Kotaku’s rumours, but it painted a totally different picture to what the true story was.
In 2012, Final Fantasy Versus XIII was scrapped to shift its storyline into a brand new flagship, Final Fantasy XV. The team felt that they missed their mark for the game’s release on the PS3, and therefore scrapped everything they had so far to to create a prototype for the next-gen consoles.
Complementing the news was Square Enix’s barrage of new trailers to showcase their year-long efforts. The character designs also received a generous addition of black leather.
While the storyline mostly remained true to its initial core, Final Fantasy XV’s biggest change from its previous version was the new battle system.
The director was also officially changed from Tetsuya Nomura to Hajime Tabata, who had previously worked on Final Fantasy Type-0 and Final Fantasy 7: Crisis Core.
King Regis’ character design also saw a design swap from The Godfather to human Mufasa.
2014 – Battle System Revamp
Personally, I’m working on 15 to make it the most emotional Final Fantasy title that I’ve worked on. My goal is to have people play Final Fantasy 15, and for them to think this is the best Final Fantasy they’ve ever played.
After the re-branding, Square Enix again went mum about the game, perhaps to give the development team some breathing room to work on it.
That being said, 2014 was still a notable year in development because this was when it was announced that FFXV will not feature the ability to switch between party members, a first in its title. To compensate, at least the main character is still able to use everyone’s weapons in the game.
2015 – Stella No More
No release date was announced yet, but it was obvious by now that the game would actually see a release within a couple of years. Square Enix revisited their 2013 strategy and released trailer upon trailer for the game, with information about the game flowing from the hallowed mouths of Square Enix higher-ups like water.
It was here that Square Enix dropped another bombshell. Stella Nox Fleuret’s character, the Juliet to Noctis’ Romeo has been replaced with a new character, Lunafreya (or Luna).
Director Hajime Tabata attributes the swap to the change in storyline they had to make in order to convert Versus XIII’s smaller scale storyline to XV’s more expansive addition. In the name of change, the development team felt that they could not give Stella the justice that fans have expected and decided to scrap the character altogether.
While FFXV is not part of the Fabula Nova Crystallis series anymore, it is worth noting that Final Fantasy Type-0 saw a PS4 remake before FFXV’s first game even hit the shelves. Ouch.
2016 – Kingsglaive & Other Furnishings
Somewhere along the line, the developers discovered that the Final Fantasy XV story was too expansive to fit into just one game. And they are apparently determined not to fall victim to the sequel-itis that befell previous titles of the game (Final Fantasy X-2, Final Fantasy XIII: Lightning Returns, etc) so they decided to release complementary media.
The most well-known of these auxiliary stories is the Kingsglaive movie, which covers the story of how Noctis’ land Insomnia fell to enemy hands. It boasts the high-profile star power like Aaron Paul (of Breaking Bad fame), Lena Heady (Game of Thrones), and even Sean Bean (popularly known for dying in movies that he’s in).
On top of Kingsglaive, Square Enix released a series of Anime shorts on YouTube called Brotherhood, which showcases slice-of-life cuts from Noctis’ life and his companions before they embark on the journey. It provides context into the relationships surrounding Noctis’ life.
November 29 2016 – Finally, A Release
And at long last. 10 years later, a branding change and almost full roster redesign later, Final Fantasy XV is finally available on shelves for all of us to enjoy. It’s been a bumpy ride, both for us and for Square Enix.
The company even later admitted that the game had been announced too soon, which caused a lot of heartbreak for gamers.
At the very least, the game is receiving massive praise, and all of its blood sweat and tears over the years has been worth it.
Three cheers to Square Enix and the chocobros!