Final Fantasy XV
|Final Fantasy XV|
Logo artwork for Final Fantasy XV designed by Yoshitaka Amano
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 atmosphere that focuses on more realistic human characters than previous entries. The game features an open-world environment and action-based battle system similar to the Kingdom Hearts series, incorporating the ability to switch weapons and take control of vehicles during battle.
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 warlike nation that seeks to capture 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?). 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 to have 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 is the first to use the company's Luminous Studio middleware engine. It was originally directed by Tetsuya Nomura, who also designed characters and conceived the concept and base story. In 2014, it was announced that sole directorial duties switched to Hajime Tabata, who had been co-director.
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. 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 world features a dynamic weather system, with transient effects such as rain effecting things such as the characters' clothing. The game's environments include kingdoms and villages, and allows for much freedom and interactivity: for example, objects can be destroyed and different paths may be chosen to reach a destination.
The characters have the ability to traverse the environment in a free-running style, which also extends to battle with larger enemies. They can visit towns and cities to rest in hotels or buy equipment and ingredients for cooking during camping. 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. The car can be driven by Noctis, or one of the other characters can take control, enabling an auto-drive option. It is maintained by the mechanic character Cidney. To ride chocobos, the player must rent them. A day-and-night time system affects the appearance of monsters on the world map. One in-game day equates to one hour real-time, and characters who do not sleep have decreased combat ability. Camping during the night is necessary for characters to maintain combat performance and level up: experience points earned in battle during the day are converted into new levels during camping periods. Camps form a safe haven during exploration, and cooking in them using ingredients from both towns and the wilds grants character bonuses. Minigames, such as fishing, are also available.
The game's combat system, called the Active Cross Battle system, is a realistic version of the ones seen in the Kingdom Hearts series and Final Fantasy Type-0. Unlike the majority of titles in the series, the battle scenes are seamlessly integrated into the environments with no load screens or transitions. The player selects a command such as "Attack", "Magic", "Technique", "Item" and the character will then perform the desired move. There are also other actions such as jumping. The main protagonist Noctis is the only controllable character in the party. Similar to the Gambit system of Final Fantasy XII, characters can move and act freely while assigned pre-determined action sets by the player. In mid-battle, the player can pull up a menu and change the character's actions and the commands assigned to Noctis. In addition to this, Noctis can partner with one character to perform combo moves once an enemy or part of an enemy is targeted. Parrying and blocking can be performed, but blocking uses MP (magic points) and Noctis is unable to auto-parry, with each parry needing to be matched with the enemy's attack. Aside from only controlling Noctis, the party is not fixed, and guest characters can freely join during certain periods of the story.
Weapons for Noctis are arranged in a deck set by the player between battles, changing and being assigned to him depending on the combat situation. The available weapons include swords, axes, lances and guns, offer various attacks and may be customized or used as shields. The selected weapon is displayed on-screen, and can be freely swapped during battle. One weapon is set as Noctis' default weapon, and special techniques can be activated. Helpful actions by other members of the party are triggered depending on the situation. Noctis can also give specific commands to other party members. When performing a major magic spell such as a fire attack, it both effects the enemy targeted and the surrounding area, meaning it is possible to harm allies. Environmental effects caused by the magic can also be used to scare enemy units. Noctis is able to perform a warp, with the distance he can travel depending on his current level. The areas he can warp to are limited, but change depending on the combat situation. In addition to the regular offensive and defensive tactics, mechas and tanks can be stolen from enemies and used against them. Noctis can summon Eidolons to aid them in battle. These summoned monsters, a staple of the series, include new versions of older summons such as Leviathan and Titan. They are arranged by class and subdivided into a ranking system, with large summons like Leviathan being among the highest-ranking. Before they can be used by the protagonist, summons can either be defeated in battle, such as Leviathan or Titan, or obtained in some other way. Enemies have specific jobs such as dragon knight or summoner assigned to them.
Final Fantasy XV is set in a world similar to modern-day Earth. The land is divided between various countries that had been locked in a cold war over the nations' crystals, objects of political power. The result of the war is that all but the nation of Lucis have regressed to a medieval state: Lucis has become isolated from the rest of the world and has become a technologically-advanced nation ruled by a family that operates similar to the mafia. Due to the war, all but Lucis eventually lost their crystals: 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. The nation of Niflheim is the main enemy of Lucis, and the only one not to have been entrusted with a crystal. Among the other nations of the world are Tenebrae, Solheim and Accordo. In the world of XV, people who have suffered from a near-death experience are gifted with magical powers and the ability to predict the deaths of others from the realm of the dead, ruled over by the Goddess Etro. This power has both positive and negative effects on those who wield it.
The currently known playable characters are Noctis Lucis Caelum (ノクティス・ルシス・チェラム Nokutisu Rushisu Cheramu?, voiced by Tatsuhisa Suzuki), the game's main protagonist and prince of Lucis blessed with power from an incident in his youth; Gladiolus Amicitia (グラディオラス・アミシティア Guradiorasu Amishitia?, voiced by Kenta Miyake), a brother-like figure to Noctis and son and heir to a family that has guarded Lucis's royalty for generations; 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), a military tactician and childhood friend of Noctis; Prompto Argentum (プロンプト・アージェンタム Puronputo Ājentamu?, voiced by Tetsuya Kakihara), a friend of the prince from a lower social class; and Cor Leonis (コル・リオニス Koru Rionisu?, voiced by Hiroki Touchi), a man who accompanies the younger group and act as their guardian and Noctis loyal supporter.
Among other characters in the game are 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 who shares Noctis' powers and is forced to fight him; Luna (ルーナ Rūna?), a new character with a connection to Noctis; and an unnamed female dragoon.
Final Fantasy XV begins as a truce is declared between Lucis and Niflheim, ending the cold war which has raged over possession of the world's crystals. Upon the day when an official treaty is to be signed, Niflheim invades Lucis and takes the nation's crystal for its own before launching attacks on Solheim, Tenebrae and Accordo. Having escaped during the attack on Lucis, Noctis and his friends now travel to retrieve their city's crystal while trying to defeat Niflheim's forces. Because of the war, Noctis and Stella, who share some form of connection, are forced to fight each other.
Development of Final Fantasy XV began 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. The game is being created by Square Enix's 1st Production Department, with the Kingdom Hearts II team in charge of the in-game action, the Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children crew handling the pre-rendered movies and technical staff working on the engine. The original director, Tetsuya Nomura, conceived the game's concept and base story and collaborated with Roberto Ferrari on its character designs. Shinji Hashimoto is producing, Kazushige Nojima is writing the scenario and Yoko Shimomura is composing the soundtrack. Takeshi Nozue, the co-director of Advent Children along with Nomura, is in charge of all visual aspects, such as the cutscenes. During production, several staff members joined and left the project: for example, Yoshinori Kitase was originally attached to Final Fantasy XV as producer but is no longer directly involved with it, while artist Yusuke Naora became part of the team later on. In July 2012, the Final Fantasy Type-0 developers were ordered by then-Square Enix CEO Yoichi Wada to aid production of Final Fantasy XV. One year later, Hajime Tabata was announced to have become co-director. When the game had advanced sufficiently, Tabata was appointed to be the game's sole director, while Nomura was transferred from the project to focus his efforts on other products, including Kingdom Hearts III. Between 200 and 300 people are working on the game.
The game originally used Crystal Tools, a middleware engine designed by Square Enix to develop their seventh-generation console and PC content. However, it was later rebuilt with a proprietary, action-oriented engine and some middleware tools along with parts of the company's new Luminous Studio engine, such as its lighting technology. When Final Fantasy Agito XIII was renamed 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. Production fully shifted to the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One in mid-2012. By 2014, the game was being developed solely for the Luminous Studio engine. Development of XV and Luminous Studio occurred simultaneously, with the teams working closely together to optimize each project.
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.
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. While the finished game used a single controllable character, the team experimented with a multi-character battle system. Eventually, it was decided that it presented too many difficulties. After the full shift onto next-gen, multiple elements were influenced by the new Luminous technology: for example, the in-game cutscene camera was optimized to work similar to the one used in pre-rendered movies, and move environmental and gameplay elements could be included, such as 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.
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. Realizing 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. Noctis in particular was meant to be an ambivalent character, having traits indicative of both traditional heroes and villains. Alongside the serious storyline, several elements of light comedy were added as a counterbalance, and Nomura chose to include a large amount of in-game conversations as opposed to standard cutscenes, with dialogue that sounded "natural and not game-like or lofty."
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. 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. The presentation was created using a made-for-the-purpose engine called "Ebony". At Tokyo Game Show 2013, a trailer similar to the two trailers from E3 2013 was released in Japan, but featured additional footage not seen before. At Tokyo Game Show 2014, a new trailer was shown. The footage, in addition to a real-time demo shown to the press, used the in-game Luminous Engine. A voucher is to be included in the HD release of Type-0 for access to a demo of the game, called "Episode Duscae", featuring segments from the early sections tailored for the demo.
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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