Final Fantasy XV
|Final Fantasy XV|
Logo artwork for Final Fantasy XV designed by Yoshitaka Amano
|Developer(s)||Square Enix 1st Production Department|
Fabula Nova Crystallis
Final Fantasy XV (ファイナルファンタジーXV Fainaru Fantajī Fifutīn?) is an upcoming action role-playing video game being developed and published by Square Enix for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. The fifteenth main installment in the Final Fantasy series, it is a heavy departure from previous games, providing a darker and more realistic atmosphere that focuses on human emotions and believable characters. The game features expansive environments and a seamless and customizable battle system, which gives players great freedom regarding their preferred play method.
The story is based on the Fabula Nova Crystallis mythology, but has no direct relation to the other games in this series as it features a unique world, visual design and different characters. Its main protagonist Noctis Lucis Caelum is the prince of a mafia-like royal family which protects the last remaining crystal in the world and rules over a technologically advanced city-state. The plot centers on the invasion of a war nation that tries to conquer the crystal. During the course of the game, Noctis meets the aristocratic and kind Stella Nox Fleuret who shares his ability of seeing a mysterious "light" connected to a goddess of the dead.
Final Fantasy XV started production shortly before its announcement in May 2006, when it was initially unveiled under the title Final Fantasy Versus XIII (ヴェルサスXIII Verusasu Sātīn?) alongside Final Fantasy XIII and Final Fantasy Agito XIII (which was later renamed to Final Fantasy Type-0). The game's long development time and absence from the public eye gave rise to several rumors concerning its possible cancellation or shift to another platform. In June 2013, it was eventually revealed to have been renamed and switched systems from PlayStation 3 to PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Final Fantasy XV is being developed by a team within Square Enix's 1st Production Department and directed by Tetsuya Nomura, who also designed characters and conceived the concept and base story.
Concept and presentation
Final Fantasy XV is an action role-playing game with third-person shooter elements. The player character is seen from a third-person perspective that will be adjusted depending on the weapon currently equipped. The game's environments include kingdoms and villages, and allow for much freedom and interactivity: for example, objects can be destroyed and different paths may be chosen to reach a destination. The world map is a wide, open field that the player can traverse on foot or by using a car, an airship or a chocobo. A day-and-night time system affects the appearance of monsters on the world map. Final Fantasy XV uses interactive cutscenes in the form of real-time events. The player keeps control during them as the gameplay is not interrupted, which will result in natural progressions and storytelling that is similar to that of first-person shooters. However, the game also features uncontrollable pre-rendered full motion videos (FMVs) for scenes in which player control would have little to no effect. The ratio of real-time events to pre-rendered FMVs is 7:3.
The game's party-based battle system is a realistic version of the one seen in the Kingdom Hearts series: the player selects a command such as "Attack", "Warp", "Magic", "Item" or "Link Form" and the characters will then perform the desired move. There are also other actions such as double-jumping. The party comprises a maximum of three members and control over them may be switched during battle. The team is initially assembled by the game, but players can choose their preferred party members later on. However, the main protagonist Noctis is permanently present and the only character that can equip any weapon, while others are specialized in one type of combat. Weapons include swords, axes, lances and guns, offer various attacks and may be customized or used as shields. Magic takes on different forms depending on the party member that casts it; for example, Noctis' magic emanates from his weapons. Attacks may change into chain combos by switching weapons or having several characters charge at opponents at once. In addition to the regular offensive tactics, mechas and tanks can be stolen from enemies and used against them. The battle scenes are seamlessly integrated into the environments with no load screens or transitions. Animated portraits in the bottom-right corner of the screen indicate the characters' movements and emotions even if they are separated from the party leader. Enemies have specific jobs such as dragon knight or summoner assigned to them.
Final Fantasy XV is set in modern times, but the city-like country Lucis which protagonist Noctis hails from is the only technologically advanced location, otherwise surrounded by medieval nations. The reason for this divide is a cold war waged over crystals, the last of which Lucis holds. The other nations used to have their own crystals, but lost them due to ongoing conflicts. They have since focused their efforts on the development of weapons rather than on the progress of their culture, which left them in their regressive state. Just as the cold war ends and a treaty on the peaceful use of crystals is declared, the nation Niflheim unexpectedly invades Lucis, forcing Noctis and his friends to escape. Having waged wars against the countries Solheim, Tenebrae and Accordo, Niflheim's forces conquer the last remaining crystal, but Noctis tries to stop them before they can leave the city.
Noctis Lucis Caelum (ノクティス・ルシス・チェラム Nokutisu Rushisu Cheramu?, voiced by Tatsuhisa Suzuki) is the main protagonist of Final Fantasy XV. He is a prince and son to the king of a mafia-like royal family that has protected the crystals for generations. Noctis possesses a special power; unleashing it changes his eye color from blue to red and enables him to control several swords at once via spontaneous teleportation. Not an outspoken person, his body language is more expressive than his words although he just attempts to conceal his shyness with this taciturn manner. Early into the game, Noctis meets Stella Nox Fleuret (ステラ・ノックス・フルーレ Sutera Nokkusu Furūre?), the daughter of a prestigious family from the kingdom of Tenebrae. Her upbringing has made her a polite and well-behaved young lady, but she is not cold or stiff in any way. She is described as a sincere person who faces her problems rather than running from them. Noctis and Stella can both see a mysterious "light" coming from the sky, which legends describe to appear when the goddess Etro opens the gate to the realm of the dead. This enabled Noctis to predict the death of others ever since he had an accident as a child. As this ability has both positive and negative effects on its possessor, the protagonists handle it differently: Stella readily accepts it while Noctis seems troubled by it.
In addition to Noctis, there are four other main characters who aid him in battle: The melee fighter Gladiolus Amicitia (グラディオラス・アミシティア Guradiorasu Amishitia?, voiced by Kenta Miyake) grew up like a brother to Noctis and is son and heir to a family that has guarded Lucis's royalty for generations. These close ties make Gladiolus more of an associate than a subordinate to the government. The level-headed Ignis Stupeo Scientia (イグニス・ストゥペオ・スキエンティア Igunisu Sutupeo Sukientia?, voiced by Mamoru Miyano) was raised a military tactician from an early age and wields a katana in battle. As a childhood friend, he often provides Noctis with advice. The careless and sociable gunner Prompto Argentum (プロンプト・アージェンタム Puronputo Ājentamu?, voiced by Tetsuya Kakihara) was not born into a family of a special social rank and thus feels inferior to Noctis, Gladiolus and Ignis. He is a womanizer and has been a bad influence on Noctis since their school days. The group of four adolescents is joined by the middle-aged and straight-laced Cor Leonis (コル・リオニス Koru Rionisu?, voiced by Hiroki Touchi), the head of the royal family guards who is among the strongest warriors in Lucis. He serves the country and its king with utmost loyalty and accompanies Noctis and the others to look out for them. Across the story, the group is also joined by Stella and an unidentified female knight.
The production of Final Fantasy XV started shortly before its unveiling at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) trade fair in May 2006, where it was announced for the PlayStation 3 under its original title Final Fantasy Versus XIII. Director Tetsuya Nomura conceived the game's concept and base story and collaborated with Roberto Ferrari on its character designs. Hajime Tabata is the co-director and Takeshi Nozue is in charge of all visual aspects, such as the cutscenes. Shinji Hashimoto is producing, Kazushige Nojima is writing the scenario and Yoko Shimomura is composing the soundtrack. The game is currently being developed by Square Enix's 1st Production Department, with the Kingdom Hearts II team in charge of the in-game action and the Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children crew handling the pre-rendered movies.
Nomura intended Final Fantasy XV to be a heavy departure from his lighthearted Kingdom Hearts series. He attributed this move to his "love for extremes" and explained the direction he took as closer to his personal taste and completely different from what producers had requested him to do in the past. Early into development, Nomura said that the concept and thinking behind the game was unfitting for a regular numbered Final Fantasy installment. The title was thus originally intended to be Final Fantasy Versus XIII rather than Final Fantasy XV. However, the rapidly growing scale of the content gave rise to discussions about its rebranding as a numbered entry as early as 2007. Several initial concepts for the game had to be abandoned. A planned first-person view and the lack of a heads-up display were scrapped because these ideas were deemed incompatible with the style of the Final Fantasy series. Intentions to turn the game into a musical after Nomura had seen the 2012 film adaptation of Les Misérables were vetoed by the higher-ups at Square Enix.
Nomura had wanted to use a present-day setting for a Final Fantasy game ever since this idea had been considered but abandoned during the development of Final Fantasy VII. As such, some of the designs in Final Fantasy XV are based on real-world locations such as the districts of Tokyo or the Piazza San Marco and St Mark's Basilica in Venice. The city kingdom Lucis is specifically influenced by the lively Shinjuku, Tokyo area which houses the headquarters of Square Enix and which Nomura passes through every day. The highway and tunnel seen in the game are almost exact replicas of the Shuto Expressway and a tunnel in the Ginza district, respectively. The team created these by driving down the real-world locations repeatedly during their research. Voice casting for the game began in 2010.
Another factor in the development of set pieces was the design of vast and seamless environments. They were meant to enable e.g. levels in which the player character was shot at from a great distance, or in which a battle would change scenes between the outside and inside of a building. This corroborated Nomura's intended action-oriented system with more intuitive game controls. He instructed his team to study third-person shooters for reference, "not in simplistic terms, like controls or mechanics, but in the way they create tension and mood and incorporate the action within that". The implementation of interactive real-time event scenes had two reasons: Nomura felt that regular storytelling cutscenes in other games interrupt the gameplay and that many players skip them for this reason; furthermore, the development frame of Final Fantasy XV could be shortened as there was no need to create high-polygon character models from scratch to use only in cutscenes. However, seamless transitions of these events into the gameplay were hard to achieve and instead increased the time that had to be invested by the team. This seamless transition style was also given to the battle system, which was designed so that the situation was constantly changing, giving combat a realistic feel. However, in contrast with the majority of other action games, the team kept the display of HP lost by the player and enemy units, a feature present in the majority of Final Fantasy games.
The game's lore was drawn from the mythology of the Fabula Nova Crystallis subseries, which also includes Final Fantasy XIII and Final Fantasy Type-0, the games announced alongside XV in 2006. According to Yoshinori Kitase, the mythos was used as a "backdrop and a starting point" for the story, but had no other connections to the other games in the subseries. Nomura chose not to use many of the terms within the mythos, such as "l'Cie" and "fal'Cie", instead opting to use the concept behind them and refer to the terms far less or not at all due to the game's modern setting. The central theme of the story was "a fantasy based on reality", in that the setting was based on the real world and that the story's fantasy elements grew out of the familiar settings. Realising this aspect of the game was quite difficult for Nomura before the game's move onto the Playstation 4. He also designed the story to be similar to many other entries in the series apart from the individual characters, which he wanted to make far more realistic. Nomura wanted to make the game "about man in the real world" and thus included less fantasy elements, resulting in what he described as the darkest entry in the series. He acknowledged that a story focus on human emotions may narrow the target audience, but considered the time right to take such a risk and conceived the characters as believable humans one could meet in real life. Alongside the serious storyline, several elements of light comedy were added as a counterbalance, and chose to include a large amount of in-game conversations as opposed to standard cutscenes.
Because of the game's long absence from the public eye after January 2011, industry commentators labeled Final Fantasy XV as vaporware while it was still known as Final Fantasy Versus XIII. Frequent rumors suggested that it had either been quietly cancelled, or renamed and shifted to another platform during development. When Final Fantasy Agito XIII was rechristened Final Fantasy Type-0 and the next-generation consoles PlayStation 4 and Xbox One were presented to Square Enix in 2011, the company decided internally to change Final Fantasy Versus XIII's title to Final Fantasy XV. For a time, the game was developed for both the PlayStation 3 and the next generation of video game platforms. However, after a public announcement of the title change had not been possible in 2012 due to unspecified reasons, the limited life cycle of the current console generation was considered a problem. After some trial and error, the PlayStation 3 was abandoned as lead platform in favor of a DirectX 11-based development method that allowed for easy porting to the next-generation systems. The Crystal Tools engine that was originally used for the game and specifically designed by Square Enix to develop their seventh-generation console and PC content became disused as well. Final Fantasy XV was later explained to be built on a proprietary, action-oriented engine and to use some middleware tools along with parts of the company's new Luminous Studio engine, such as its lighting technology. The game's development actively influenced the programming work on the Luminous Studio engine; for example, the in-game cutscene camera was optimized to work similar to the one used in pre-rendered movies. The switch to next-generation consoles enabled the inclusion of more destructible environments and the player character's warping to faraway spots on the game maps. It also enabled Nomura to start experimenting with higher facial detail for enemies such as behemoths. At E3 2013, the game's change of title and its planned release on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One were officially unveiled to the public. Additionally, an announcement and a gameplay trailer were released during the event. At Tokyo Game Show 2013, a trailer similar to the two trailers from E3 2013 were released to Japan, but featured a few additional pieces of footage not seen before.
Sequels to Final Fantasy XV were hinted at with the line "A World of the Versus Epic" in the E3 2013 trailer. Nomura explained that the game had a self-contained climax and that it was the first part of an intended continued epic. He said that Square Enix was considering using online elements and developing shorter stand-alone titles to keep players interested and to avoid long waiting times for them. This was interpreted as a move of the company towards a digitally distributed episodic format for possible sequels. Nomura later clarified at the Japan Expo 2013 that no plans for sequels had been finalized.
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