The journey that Final Fantasy XV has had is far from unique in Final Fantasy circles. Projects have started out as something else many times, but the length of the journey that Final Fantasy XV has been on certainly stands out.
(A trailer for Final Fantasy Versus XIII from 2009)
We first saw the game at the Square Enix E3 press conference back in 2006, just after production had kicked off on what was then known as Final Fantasy Versus XIII - obviously part of the Final Fantasy XIII concept at the time (also known as the Fabula Nova Crystallis project) we would then spend the next few years hearing bits and pieces about the game. Sort of like The Last of Guardian. It's still coming, it's still coming.
While it's been in development the entire time (though perhaps not always with a full team), the title has changed in the years in between its reveal and its second unveiling. Over the course of its development many of the most prominent names attached to the series have worked on it at one point or another - including Tetsuya Nomura (director), and Yoshinori Kitase (producer) - currently the project is headed by Hajime Tabata (Final Fantasy Type-0) as director with Nomura focussing his efforts on other projects (including Kingdom Hearts III).
One intriguing aspect about Final Fantasy XV is that it has been developed with the motto "fantasy through reality", and it must be said that the setting in which our heroes live resembles our own modern day world more than any previous title in the franchise. That's not to say it's free of fantastic fantasy or sci-fi elements - it's just slightly more grounded in our reality. It's an interesting approach and something that sets it apart from previous titles. Speaking of the world, from what we've seen it's simply gorgeous and we will no doubt spend hours just looking at the scenery. The trailer below shows off one of the towns in the game as well as a rather massive boss encounter. Certainly whets our appetites.
As you'd expect Final Fantasy offers a new battle system - dubbed Active Cross Battle System - and there are no transitions between exploration and combat scenarios. You can see it in action in the trailer below, released at E3.
The largest caveat with regards to Final Fantasy XV as far as our selection of '15 for 2015' goes is clearly whether it will make it out in calendar 2015. The inclusion of a demo version with Final Fantasy Type-0 HD suggests as much, but Square Enix has made no promises either way.
The demo version will be interesting as it will give us a better idea of how the new combat system works - it looks very action-oriented, but no doubt there are some tactical layers hidden behind the minimalistic heads-up display. Regardless, we haven't been this excited about a Final Fantasy title since... well, we can't quite remember to be perfectly honest.
Even if this is hardly the golden age of JRPGs there are still plenty of potential challengers lined up for Western releases in 2015.
First up is the PS3 exclusive Tales of Zestiria that is due out in Japan in January (and targeted for release relatively soon thereafter in Europe) - the Tales of series may not have as large an audience as Final Fantasy, but it has maintained a high standard over the years. As previously mentioned Final Fantasy XV will be getting a demo along with the release of Final Fantasy Type-0 HD (the original game was released on PSP and only in Japan) on March 20. And then there's Disgaea 5: Alliance of Vengeance that's heading to PS4 (March for Japan, and in 2015 for Europe and North America).
Lately there has been a bit of a genre resurrection on Nintendo systems - no doubt a result of the strong position of the Nintendo 3DS on the domestic market. Xenoblade Chronicles X is coming out on Wii U in 2015, a spiritual successor to Xenoblade Chronicles on Wii (that's coming to 3DS this year as well) from Monolith Soft that should offer plenty of exploration. A sequel to Silicon Studios' critically acclaimed Bravely Default, aptly named Bravely Second, is coming to 3DS in Japan this April and a Western version seems likely, perhaps it will make it out before the end of the year. Then there's the small matter of a couple of Zelda games heading to Wii U and 3DS respectively.
Finally, while we're not fully convinced we'll see Persona 5 over here in Europe next year, here's hoping. Same goes for the following games that likely stand even less of a chance of being released in 2015 in Europe: Kingdom Hearts III, Phantasy Star Nova and Dragon Quest XI (there's pretty much zero chance of that is it's currently pencilled in for 2016 in Japan, but the wait for a new proper Dragon Quest has been too long already). All told it looks like 2015 could be a great year for JRPG fans, and who knows, perhaps Final Fantasy XV will be the star of the show.