Final Fantasy XV
|Final Fantasy XV|
Logo artwork for Final Fantasy XV designed by Yoshitaka Amano
|Developer(s)||Square Enix Business Division 2[a]|
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, and currently scheduled for a worldwide release in 2016. It is the fifteenth main installment in the Final Fantasy series, and forms part of the Fabula Nova Crystallis subseries, which also includes Final Fantasy XIII and Final Fantasy Type-0. Originally a spin-off titled Final Fantasy Versus XIII (ファイナルファンタジーヴェルサスXIII Fainaru Fantajī Verusasu Sātīn?) exclusive to the PlayStation 3, 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 and Type-0, incorporating the ability to switch weapons and other elements such as vehicle travel and camping.
The game takes place in a world similar to modern-day Earth. The nations of the world once waged war over control of the world's crystals, and all but the nation of Lucis have lost theirs and regressed to medieval societies. Noctis Lucis Caelum, Crown Prince of the kingdom of Lucis—having gained magical power from a near-death experience—is driven from his home when the empire of Niflheim invades Lucis on the eve of the final peace negotiations between the two nations. Now on the run with his companions, Noctis begins to work towards defeating the forces of Niflheim and rescuing the crystal from their control.
Final Fantasy XV is being developed by a team within Square Enix's 2nd Business Division, 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, co-director Hajime Tabata took Nomura's place as director, while Nomura moved to work on Kingdom Hearts III. Final Fantasy XV started production shortly before its announcement in May 2006. 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 eighth-generation platforms.
Final Fantasy XV is an action role-playing game. The characters have the ability to traverse the environment in a free-running style, which also extends to battle with larger enemies. During navigation, markers can be placed around the environment to help with navigation. The world is a large connected landmass which can be explored on foot or by using a car or a chocobo. Loading screens are only encountered when the party is entering a city or town. They can visit such locations to rest in hotels or buy equipment and ingredients for cooking during camping. The car can be driven by Noctis, or Ignis can take control, enabling an auto-drive option. It is maintained by the mechanic character Cindy. 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. Enemy types, numbers and strength change depending on the time of day. There is a dynamic weather system, with transient effects such as rain affecting things such as the characters' clothing.
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 status buffs. The buffs become weaker as time passes, with further meals needed to renew them. Once a camp site has been activated, the player can return to it at any time. Minigames, such as fishing, are also available. Quests can be taken from non-playable characters and bulletin boards for experience and gil, the in-game currency. Items acquired in the world through gathering or combat can also be sold at areas called gathering points.
The game's battle system, dubbed the Active Cross Battle system, is a realistic version of the battle systems from the Kingdom Hearts series and Final Fantasy Type-0. Rather than the coursing of a menu interface, the player selects commands directly mapped to buttons on the controller, such as "Attack", "Magic", "Technique", and "Item"; there are also other actions such as jumping. Upon pressing the desired button, the character will then perform the desired move. Key to winning battles is said to be found in maintaining a constant and adaptable flow of appropriate actions done by both tapping and holding down command buttons. Unlike previous titles in the series, the battle scenes are seamlessly integrated into the environments with no load screens or transitions. When approaching enemies, a gauge appears on-screen: if the player does not run away in a designated time, the battle is triggered and the enemy will pursue the party. A contextual cover system allows characters to shelter from attacks and recover health, or trigger actions with specific weapons. The main protagonist Noctis is the only controllable character in the party, but other than that party members are not fixed, with guest characters can freely join during certain periods of the story. 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. They can also quickly switch position with a character during battle. Helpful actions by other party members such as healing are triggered contextually. In addition to this, Noctis can partner with one or more 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. Noctis can also give specific commands to other party members.
Noctis' weapons 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, shields, axes, lances and guns, offer various attacks and may be customized or used defensively. The weapons have multiple ranks based on their actions, such as "Crush", "Ravage", and "Counter": Crush weapons are generally meant for opening attacks, while Ravage weapons are designed for multiple attacks during battle. 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 associated with the weapon can be activated. In addition, special weapons referred to as "Phantom Weapons" can be collected. Activating them in battle drains MP until the meter is empty, but the meter can be replenished to prolong the action. 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.
Magic is divided into two types: one type can only be used by Noctis, while the second type focuses on assignable rings that any character can use to manipulate the elements. Unlike in previous titles in the series, using magic does not cost MP. When casting a major magic spell such as Fire, it affects both the targeted enemy and the surrounding area, meaning it is possible to harm allies. Environmental effects caused by the spell can also be used to scare enemy units. Noctis can also call summoned monsters into battle. These monsters are called Archaeans, and include recurring summons such as Ramuh, 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 must either be defeated in battle, such as Leviathan or Titan, or obtained in some other way.
Final Fantasy XV is set in a world similar to modern-day Earth. The known land is divided between multiple nations, including Lucis, Tenebrae, Niflheim, Solheim and Accordo. Every nation except for Niflheim once held a crystal, giving them substantial political power, but wars waged between them resulted in all but the Lucis crystal being lost. Under the protection of the crystal, Lucis develops into a modern, technologically advanced society, while all the other nations have regressed to medieval-like societies due to focusing on weapon development. The empire of Niflheim becomes Lucis' main enemy; by the game's beginning the entire world save for Lucis has fallen under Niflheim's domination. In the world of XV, people who have suffered a near-death experience are gifted with magical powers from the Unseen Realm, the realm of the dead ruled by the Goddess Etro. These powers include being able to foresee people's deaths and communicate with the gods, and has both positive and negative effects on those who wield them. Known as Oracles, these people are the only ones capable of combating the "Plague of the Stars"—a supernatural phenomenon that threatens to plunge the world into eternal darkness.
The only playable character is 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 Crown Prince of Lucis blessed with power from an incident in his youth. Supporting characters include Gladiolus Amicitia (グラディオラス・アミシティア Guradiorasu Amishitia?, voiced by Kenta Miyake), a brother-figure to Noctis and heir to a noble 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 prodigy 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 renowned in Lucis as one of its three most powerful warriors, who accompanies the younger group and acts as their guardian, and Noctis' loyal supporter in respect of the king, who is a close and longtime friend.
Among other characters in the game are Lunafreya Nox Fleuret (ルナフレーナ・ノックス・フルーレ Runafurēna Nokkusu Furūre?), Noctis' childhood friend and fiancée, and an Oracle from the autonomous imperial province of Tenebrae; Cindy (シドニー Shidonī?, "Cidney", voiced by Ikumi Nakagami), the head mechanic for Noctis' party; Regis Lucis Caelum CXIII (レギス・ルシス・チェラム CXIII Regisu Rushisu Cheramu CXIII?, voiced by Tsutomu Isobe), Noctis' father and King of Lucis, and guardian of the crystal; Idola Aldercapt (イドラ・エルダーキャプト Idora Erudākyaputo?, voiced by Shinji Ogawa), the Emperor of Niflheim and the game's primary antagonist; Cid (シド Shido?), Cindy's grandfather; Gentiana (ゲンティアナ Gentiana?), Lunafreya's personal attendant, and an unnamed female dragoon.
Final Fantasy XV begins as an armistice is declared between Lucis and Niflheim, ending the cold war which has raged over possession of the world's last crystal. A peace treaty is finally drawn up, and as part of the agreements, Prince Noctis is to marry the Lady Lunafreya of Tenebrae. After Noctis leaves on the day the 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. Noctis and his friends now journey to retrieve their kingdom's crystal and defeat Niflheim's forces.
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. Later, some of the game's development was outsourced to HexaDrive and XPEC Entertainment, with the game's flight mechanics collaborated upon by Avalanche Studios. The original director, Tetsuya Nomura, created the game's concept and base story and collaborated with Roberto Ferrari on its character designs. Shinji Hashimoto is producing, 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. While handling the DirectX 11 technology, the team used experience from a previous experiment for a scrapped sequel to Type-0. Development of XV and Luminous Studio occurred simultaneously, with the teams working closely together to optimize each project.
The game uses the mythology of the Fabula Nova Crystallis subseries, which includes Final Fantasy XIII and Type-0, the games announced alongside XV in 2006. The mythos was used as background and a starting point for the story, but had no other connections to the other games. Nomura chose not to use the dedicated terminology of the mythology, due to the modern setting. Instead, he used the concept behind the terminology. The central theme of the story is "a fantasy based on reality": the setting is based on the real world and the fantasy elements grew out of familiar settings. Realizing this aspect of the game was quite difficult for Nomura before the game's move onto eighth-generation hardware. While the story was similar to other entries, he wanted to create more realistic characters. Nomura wanted to make XV "about man in the real world", including less fantasy elements. He also described XV as the darkest entry in the series, acknowledging that this atmosphere might narrow its target audience while feeling that the time was right for such characters. Another central theme was the group traveling across the world and getting tangled in strange situations, similar to a road movie. To help convey this theme, the team created towns featuring both strange and familiar elements, taking inspiration from the opening scenes of Back to the Future Part II. Alongside the serious storyline, several elements of light comedy were added as a counterbalance. A large amount of dialogue was conveyed using in-game conversations instead of cutscenes. He also wanted the dialogue to sound "natural and not game-like or lofty."
The original script for Versus XIII was written by Kazushige Nojima, with additional writing and scenario adjustments for XV by Saori Itamuro. The initial draft included the heroine Stella Nox Fleuret, who would also serve as Noctis' reluctant enemy. However, during the transition from Versus XIII to XV—as Tabata later explained—the development team felt that Stella's character and role no longer made sense within the context of XV's story. Thus it was decided that Stella would be dropped; her design would form the basis for the new female lead, Lunafreya. Other scenes such as the proposed party where Noctis and Stella first meet, as well as the event of Noctis and his friends escaping Lucis during the Niflheim attack, were also cut; those scenes were changed to have the group being away at the time of the invasion. In contrast, other characters revealed during earlier trailers were retained and would have important roles in the story. When consulted over how his original draft could be reworked, Nojima said that he would be content as long as the overall concept remained faithful to the original. This gave the team the confidence needed to rework and realize the original story within XV.
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. Development initially followed the pattern of previous high-budget games, but the team eventually realized that such techniques had become dated. Along with bringing in staff members from other sections of the company, they also recruited help from other development studios.
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. Insomnia, the Crown City of Lucis, is specifically influenced by the 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. The game's theme of "fantasy based on reality" was emphasized on multiple levels in the environments, such as the blending of realism and fantasy in Insomnia, and the camping equipment, which was included through a collaboration with Coleman Company.
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 similarly to the one used in pre-rendered movies, and more 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. While CGI cutscenes were present, created by dedicated Square Enix subsidiary Visual Works, the team relied on real-time cutscenes as much as possible, except for scenes whose scale would not have been shown properly using real-time graphics. The transition to next-generation hardware enabled the team to better realize their original vision for the game, as conveyed in the game's original reveal trailer.
Promotion and demos
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 were released in Japan, but featured additional footage not seen before. The game's next official appearance was made at TGS 2014, with the announcement of its commercial demo, and a tech demo to show off the game's engine. Footage from the commercial demo was also shown at that year's Paris Games Week. The footage was released online the following month. After this, it was announced that XV 's release window was "roughly decided", with the company recruiting new staff to work on the game's master build.
During its TGS 2014 presentation, the real-time demonstration footage was dubbed Final Fantasy XV: The Overture, which demonstrated the graphic capabilities in Luminous Studio and the effect of environmental changes on gameplay. While it was intended as a one-off presentation, the team are considering creating a second demo for release in Japan based on The Overture. A public international demo for the game was also created, titled Final Fantasy XV: Episode Duscae. The idea behind Episode Duscae was to give players a personal look at the game due to its long absence from the public eye, as well as demonstrate its gameplay and the fact that it was being actively developed. It was named after one of the regions in the game. The demo is set during the opening segment of XV, where the party temporarily lose their car and must gather funds for its repair by taking on jobs in the region. Gameplay and main story elements are tailored for a demo experience. One of the features left out was the ability for players to rent Chocobos, while the battle system was a slimmed-down version of what was planned for the final game. The character Cindy was also included.
After TGS 2014, where Episode Duscae was first announced, Tabata and the team adjusted the gameplay experience based on fan feedback. The original was a large area of the worldmap that players could explore using the car. While the ability to drive the party's car was originally included, it was later cut as Tabata feared that the feature would be too new for older fans of the series, who might have mistaken XV for "a driving game." The team decided to focus on the characters and environment. The demo includes English and Japanese audio for all regions. The demo released in all regions alongside the physical and digital releases of Final Fantasy Type-0 HD. The physical version was exclusive to day-one editions of Type-0 HD, while the digital version was valid for two months after purchase. The code must be redeemed within one year of purchase. While players can save their progress in the demo, save data cannot be carried over to the main game. Despite this, the team is planning to create a bonus for those who purchased the demo. A patch titled Episode Duscae 2.0 was released in June, which included enhancements for the camera and controls, fixes for bugs, and adjustments to gameplay. At Gamescom 2015, the game's projected year of release was revealed by Tabata during an interview with GameSpot. In an interview with Famitsu, Tabata revealed that the main reason for the delays in release were related to the game's localization and debugging, as the team wanted to bring the game out in the west close to its Japanese release. A report by GameSpot in 2015 stated that XV had been removed from the Fabula Nova Crystallis series, but this has yet to be confirmed by other sources.
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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