We've not experienced anything even resembling the presentation for Final Fantasy XV that Square Enix laid on us last night/today. It was more impressive than an E3 press conference, and it shows with clarity what an extremely important game this is for the developer/publisher, and how confident they are that they have something special brewing.
We're on location in Los Angeles and have just witnessed an event that was more than an hour long, which was kicked off by the father of Final Fantasy, Hironobu Sakaguchi, and that ended with chins tenderly resting between knees, jaws dropping in awe of everything that was presented in such a short period of time. Much of it had been done before, but never to the same extent as this, and with so many fun surprises along the way. It was the perfect night for a Final Fantasy fan.
Everything started with a presentation of a demo called Final Fantasy XV: Platinum. It's a demo primarily intended for audiences who are not familiar with the long-running series. To have a title numbered XV/15 can of course act as a deterrent, and we know from experience that many people are unsure about buying sequels from franchises where they haven't played any of the earlier titles. In this instance we think Square Enix is quite right with its strategy, and consequently it's a very simple sequence that plays out in a completely different style to the Duscae demo from last year.
Here we dive into one of Noctis' dreams during a sequence from the game, and try out an adventure that's clearly influenced by Alice in Wonderland, with Carbuncle as the little rabbit that must be pursued. A young Noctis, equipped with a toy sword and a squeaky rubber mallet, chases Carbuncle and beats up baddies and tries his best to keep up. The very purpose of the demo is to give a quick introduction to the game's various systems, but also to show how the adventure is affected by the hours of the day and the weather.
Scattered around the world are buttons to jump on that change sunshine into heavy rain, showing how the world changes in real-time. Perhaps what's most impressive is that we're given the opportunity to fast forward time to show how the sun's position in the sky provides different lighting and causes shadows to wander, all this before darkness descends and other light sources brighten up the world.
Although the demo itself is very short, it gives us the opportunity to try out some of the different elements that will be included in the final game. That includes driving, throwing weapons, practising combos in battles, finding secrets, and major boss fights. Additionally, we also get a preview of the epic scenes we can expect from Final Fantasy XV once it's released. That includes a meeting with the Leviathan, and a closer look at Titan. To save you from spoilers, we'll say no more and let you see for yourselves.
After the demo it was time for the big press conference. We knew beforehand that it was a major event as it was also possible to buy tickets, and because we among many others livestreamed the whole thing. But we must admit that we didn't really understand how big it was going to be. Square Enix rented the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles and fans had bought tickets, which meant that the hall was filled to capacity.
Personally speaking, we weren't happy about the direction Final Fantasy XV was taking after the Duscae demo last year, where we felt they had moved too far away from the Final Fantasy that we've loved for so many years. Therefore, it was so incredibly liberating to see Hironobu Sakaguchi at the launch event. To have the Final Fantasy creator there made us feel safe, and he gave a lovely speech in which he explained that the franchise was, for him, like watching a child grow up, and like all other parents, he wondered at times what the kid was doing. A sign that Square Enix has heard the criticism levelled against the series in recent times.
With Greg Miller and Tim Gettys on hosting duties, there were 14 announcements. The vast majority were new trailers, which you can watch here on Gamereactor. But it soon became very apparent that Square Enix has huge plans for this game. The first really big reveal was the Japanese animated series that's coming in five parts.
The series is called Brotherhood and it explains the run-up to Final Fantasy XV and allows us to familiarise ourselves with the main characters. It looks to be a lavish and well animated series. To have games launched with comics and the like is not uncommon, but to do it in this way surpassed our expectations. Moreover, it was a fun twist to launch it right away on the very same day as the announcement.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of them all was King's Glaive, a computer-animated feature film that, simply put, looks astonishing. Among the voice actors we find Lena Headey (Game of Thrones) in the role of Luna, and she also appeared on stage to talk about how it feels to play a more sympathetic character than the one she portrays in GoT. Even Sean Bean is involved, playing King Regis, while Aaron Paul plays the main character, Nyx. The director is Takeshi Nozue, and the film will be released digitally and via streaming services.
In addition, Square Enix also presented the mini-game, Justice Monsters Five. It's a mini-game of the kind that has become common in role-playing games, but the difference here is that it can also be played via smartphones and will be launched before Final Fantasy XV. It looks like a cross between classic 2D Final Fantasy and pinball, and if it's entertaining, it will make it possible for people to unlock things in the game wherever they are.
Furthermore we were treated to the announcement that Florence and the Machine are doing the theme song for the game (a cover of Stand by Me), the aforementioned Platinum demo is available to download now, and we were presented with various collector editions (which includes King's Glaive on Blu-ray). All in all, an impressive event to really highlight that Final Fantasy XV might well be something extraordinary.
Judging from what we've been playing, and the trailer that was shown during the event, we now feel much more positive than we did before. We're still having a hard time really engaging with what could pass for a cheeky boy band chilling on a fantasy road trip, but the game controls are really well executed, the boss fights are cool, the game world is enchantingly beautiful, and it offers sequences the look genuinely epic. In short, Final Fantasy XV getting really exciting and we're increasingly looking forward to its release on PS4 and Xbox One come September 30.