The Four Pit Stops Final Fantasy Versus XIII Made On The Way To Final Fantasy XV

Final Fantasy XV is here. It’s finally here! After numerous delays, changes in leadership and console generations, the big One-Five is here just in time for holiday breaks and mid-season finales. While it’s been seven years since the last single-player entry into the Final Fantasy series, fans have waited ten years for this particular epic yarn. Originally conceived as an action RPG spin-off of the Final Fantasy XIII mythos, a long and troubled development transformed Final Fantasy XV into what it is today. How much has changed in its ten years of development? How much of the original Final Fantasy Versus XIII remains intact?

The Name

What Was Promised In 2006: Final Fantasy Versus XIII

What We Got In 2016: Final Fantasy XV

The first change is the most obvious. Combining Tetsuya Nomura’s penchant for tie-ins and complicated name-branding, Final Fantasy XV began as Final Fantasy Versus XIII. The main Final Fantasy XIII would serve as the flagship for the Fabula Nova Crystallis series of Final Fantasy titles, while other games (such as Versus XIII) would exist as their own entity within the larger universe. All very hip in a pre-Marvel Cinematic Universe world. As titles such as Versus and Final Fantasy Agito XIII suffered delays and name changes – the latter becoming Final Fantasy Type-0 – only the core Lightning-focused Final Fantasy entries seemed poised to carry the Fabula Nova Crystallis banner. Instead of being delayed into oblivion (and irrelevance), Versus XIII shifted development into the next mainline Final Fantasy. Any ties to the Fabula Nova universe were severed in the process.

The Leadership

What Was Promised In 2006: Tetsuya Nomura

What We Got In 2016: Hajime Tabata

The feverish excitement for Versus XIII was no doubt in part due to the involvement of Tetsuya Nomura. As the character designer for Final Fantasy VII and creator of the Kingdom Hearts franchise, he was a god among cosplayers, anime fans and Disneyland passholders. However, as time passed and very little progress made on both Versus XIII and Kingdom Hearts III, Nomura was forced to give up the reigns. In September of 2014, one year after the change to Final Fantasy XV, it was announced that Hajime Tabata would take over Nomura’s duties as director so that he could focus on Kingdom Hearts III. According to an interview with IGN at PAX 2015, Tabata said work done on Versus XIII “…was around 20 to 25 percent” at the time of transition and was being developed “…up to the point that XV started development.”

The Story

What Was Promised in 2006: Noctis and Stella

What We Got in 2016: Noctis and Luna

While the story of Versus XIII took a backseat to flashy CGI trailers and a prolonged development cycle, the core characters and plot points seemed to have survived the transition to Final Fantasy XV. Noctis and friends can be seen in all but the earliest of trailers. There is, however, one standout that received some attention back when Hajime Tabata took over the director’s chair. Early trailers for Versus XIII revealed a character by the name of Stella. Stella was supposed to be Noctis’ childhood friend turned possible antagonist (early trailers show what looks to be Noctis and Stella preparing to fight). However, later trailers revealed a different character: Lunafreya Nox Fleuret. While similar in appearance, Tabata confirmed in an episode of Active Time Report that Luna was a whole new character created for Final Fantasy XV. Tabata said this was the result of Final Fantasy XV’s direction conflicting with Stella’s original role in Versus XIII. Any changes to Stella would be in contrast to what fans and Nomura had in mind for her, so the character was dropped.

The System

What was Promised in 2006: Playstation 3 Exclusive

What We Got in 2016: Multiplatform

While the Playstation 3 had its fair share of exclusive franchises, it always felt like it was lagging behind the Xbox 360 in the United States. So, when Final Fantasy Versus XIII was confirmed in multiple trailers to be a Playstation 3 exclusive, Sony fans felt like they had their ace. However, development began to hit a wall as what Nomura wanted for the game couldn’t be done on the then-current hardware. With the long development time reaching well into the announcement of the Playstation 4 and Xbox One, it was almost fate that the project shifted gears toward the next generation of hardware. Nomura stated in an interview with Polygon that using DirectX 11 – as opposed to developing for Playstation 3’s powerful but obtuse architecture – would mean multi-platform development would be both easier and beneficial for a hopeful PC release. Really, really hopeful.

It’s been a long, hard road to release – pun! – but if the reviews pouring in have anything to say, it was worth the wait. What once was Final Fantasy Versus XIII will never be, but what is here is awfully close.