Ahead of the Uncovered: Final Fantasy XV live event at the Shrine Auditorium in front of over 6,000 fans, Square Enix executives were on hand to discuss the company’s transmedia approach to launching the next big game in its bestselling franchise.
While Final Fantasy XV won’t launch on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One until September 30, a free playable Platinum Demo is available now for both platforms. The 45-minute experience, which I was able to play through early, puts players in control of a young Noctis Lucis Caelum (the central protagonist in Final Fantasy XV) as he wanders through a dreamscape in search of an exit to awaken.
Hajime Tabata, director of the game, said this demo is an exclusive experience that won’t be part of the retail version of Final Fantasy XV. Players who complete the demo will unlock a Carbuncle creature that can be used as DLC in the full game experience.
“The original inspiration was to show the new gameplay and the depth of the new technologies we used to as many people as possible,” Tabata said. “We made this game for the modern age and for the modern player, to show people how far Final Fantasy has come.”
Tabata said by exploring this demo, players will become attached to him as a character now, long before they embark on the full adventure this fall.
“Also, a lot of people have been waiting for this game for 10 years, so we wanted to give them something they could enjoy now,” Tabata said, referring to the game’s origins as Final Fantasy Versus XIII.
That game was completely scrapped and Tabata and his team set out to create Final Fantasy XV with new technology and new gameplay features such as open world exploration and real-time combat.
“All the stuff we’d shown the world that was going to be in Final Fantasy Versus XIII we tried to keep in Final Fantasy XV,” Tabata said. “And then the stuff we hadn’t shown we reevaluated to see if it would fit in the new game. There were a number of elements that we hadn’t revealed, but we felt wouldn’t work when we rebuilt the game as Final Fantasy XV.”
The Platinum Demo also ties into the other two big transmedia projects that will be released ahead of the full game. Square Enix has partnered with A-1 Pictures to develop a five-part anime series called Brotherhood: Final Fantasy XV, which will be delivered free to fans. The first episode is available now.
Each episode of the series will run 10 minutes in length and follow the friendship of Noctis and his friends Ignis Stupeo Scientia, Gladiolus Amicitia and Prompto Argentum from childhood to adulthood. It’s during one of the episodes in this series that Noctis gets injured and falls into a deep dreamscape, which can be played through in the Platinum Demo.
“Brotherhood shows the bonds and strengths of the camaraderie between these friends, and cel-shaded animation was the best form to show that,” Tamada said.
Perhaps the grandest of the linear efforts from Square Enix is the computer-generated feature film, Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV. This movie was directed by Square Enix’ Takeshi Nozue, who was co-director of the company’s last CGI movie, Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, back in 2005. Sony Pictures Home Entertainment will release the movie ahead of the game launch this fall. The movie will be streamed and available for digital download, bypassing theaters.
Nozue said he approached the movies very differently because Advent Children came out after Final Fantasy VII and Kingsglaive is coming out before Final Fantasy XV.
“The objective is to get as many people as possible into the story, so we needed to have a much more general style of storytelling,” Nozue said. “The film is an introduction to the game, and it’s telling a different story than the game. We needed to focus on showing that human emotion and drama, which is one reason we brought up the technology level for both the film and the game.”
The CGI in the movie will go beyond the visuals of the game, but there will be many similarities. In fact, King Regis was redesigned for the game to fit in with the look of the movie. This helps make the transition more seamless for those fans that soak up every piece of these transmedia offerings.
The movie’s plot takes place during Final Fantasy XV timeline, but the story is focused on King Regis and the Crown City after Noctis leaves for his road trip to wed Luna, which players will live through in the game.
The film features Game of Thrones alumni Lena Headey as the voice of Luna and Sean Bean as King Regis, and Need for Speed actor Aaron Paul plays Nyx, one of the elite task force members (similar to knights) who formed Kingsglaive.
Tabata, who developed the film’s story with Nozue, said the parent/child relationship between King Regis and his son, Noctis, is explored in-depth in the film. The game’s story was reworked from its original form to focus on Noctis’ point of view.
“The bond between father and son is shown differently in the game and in the movie, but these two experiences create one holistic story in which both sides of the relationship are explored,” Tabata said.
Square Enix is using different forms of media to explore the relationships between the central characters in unique ways. Tabata said all of these elements combined create the composite on which the Final Fantasy XV narrative can be fully experienced.
Ultimately, the goal was to create different entry points into this game universe for new people who haven’t played it, or for gamers who played it when they were younger and haven’t played it in a while.
“We’re trying to get as many people as possible interested in Final Fantasy XV so they’ll play the game,” Tabata said.
That game will also have a different feel, as it’s ultimately a road trip journey among friends. And it’s a game that starts off with more modern day elements, including smart watches and convertible cars. Tabata said that, too, was a deliberate approach to attract more gamers.
“We wanted to create a world closer to the real world we live in – for both the game and the movie,” Tabata said. “It helps immerse players in the characters’ shoes if their world is close to ours. And then we can journey into the more fantastical.”
In another offshoot of the franchise, Square Enix will launch Justice Monsters V, a pinball mini-game available in Final Fantasy XV, for mobile devices separately this fall.
The Deluxe and Ultimate Collector’s Editions of Final Fantasy XV are available for pre-order now.
You can follow John on Twitter @JohnGaudiosi.