“I’m still not sure about how the program is currently designed, and I would like to reflect for a bit about what I think could have been done better and why.” …
During TGS last week, Square Enix announced that Hajime Tabata is now directing Final Fantasy XV. That wasn’t the only big news about the game; the publisher also revealed a playable demo called Episode Duscae will be available for free to those who buy Final Fantasy Type-0 HD. If Square Enix wants to reignite enthusiasm for Final Fantasy XV and demonstrate the game is moving in the right direction, these announcements are a perfect start.
However, even with two big pieces of news hitting recently, we still wanted to know more about Final Fantasy XV. We sat down with Tabata to get his thoughts on a wide range of topics pertaining to the highly anticipated RPG and its associated demo releasing in 2015.
On The Name “Episode Duscae”:
Duscae is the name of an area within the world of Final Fantasy XV. So, we took that as the name of the episode for the playable demo.
On The Reason For A Demo:
It is the first time that fans who have been waiting for XV get a chance to try out the game. I can’t say what their reaction is going to be. The reason I wanted to make a demo is to let players see whatever portion is available right now and to understand that XV is still coming and we’re still working on it.
On The Length Of Episode Duscae:
If you just play straight through the story, it’s about one hour worth of gameplay. If you go and explore the world map or go into a dungeon, it would be somewhere upwards of three to four hours.
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On FF XV’s Progress:
In terms of development, about 50 to 60 percent of the game is complete. We kind of started from the beginning of the game, so the first part is more complete than the others.
On The Open World:
Not literally everything is open world, but it is pretty vast, and you will be able to freely explore. You may have noticed that they’re traveling in a car. You can technically walk around the world, but we recommend using a vehicle, and it’ll be a journey driving through the continent.
In XV, it’s all seamless; you’ve got enemies that are roaming around in all areas…there’s not an “encounter,” per se. It’s all seamless.
We won’t go into too much detail, but you can switch between an offensive stance and a defensive stance with the push of a button.
On The Final Fantasy Icons:
In creating a new game, if you throw in familiar elements just to please the fans, it gives an impression that we’re very shallow. I’m very careful that. With each element of a familiar Final Fantasy icon that I include, I have to think about how it applies to the setting of the particular Final Fantasy numbered title, and make sure that it’s there because it’s necessary. In Episode Duscae, there is a sort of surprise element incorporated toward the end.
On Release Dates:
During the “Versus era” – though it might be weird to refer to it that way – we weren’t able to reveal any information on release timing because that was a project in which we had to overcome so many different problems that arose. Unfortunately, while we were trying to work through the issues, the timing never matched. But about two years ago, when I officially joined the project, we did a pretty major directional change when we decided not to go with the previous generation. I also had to talk with Nomura-san about the direction FF XV is going to take. Unfortunately, it’s still going to take a while, but I’m hoping people will reset their timers from when I joined the team and restart the count from there.
On Fan Reaction To XV:
We can’t gauge very well quite yet. Now that we have decided to put out a demo version, I’m hoping that the fans will come back to us with their input and feed us the passion that everybody has and let us know how they feel about the game.
The road to Final Fantasy XV has been long and winding. The game that started off as Final Fantasy Versus XIII was announced at E3 2006 and very little information surfaced about the title up until it transformed into Final Fantasy XV last year. In a way, it was gutsy move to make it a mainline title. After all, it was always depicted as more of an action game, something the numbered entries haven’t touched. Not to mention, a lengthy development timeline already raises some doubts and concerns. Is this a game we’ll even experience? Is it a quality title? Why has there been such a delay in any information?
Fans have tried to patient, but knowing about the game for eight years and seeing few details isn’t an easy pill to swallow. Back in April, I wrote an editorial expressing my concern over Square Enix’s decisions with the JRPG market. I wrote that the company has a lot to prove to RPG fans, and that it must ensure games like Final Fantasy XV and Kingdom Hearts III are worth the wait. More importantly, Square Enix can’t afford to make both games’ development cycles extend too much longer.
That’s why I’m happy to see that Square used this TGS to finally show off new footage and announce an upcoming demo. The footage looked fantastic with realistic mannerisms and exciting backdrops. It reminded me of what Square has always been known for: making a statement with the power of new hardware. It felt like the game had been made for PlayStation 4 all along. However, I immediately got that inkling of a feeling that it could be too good to be true. Thankfully, while in Japan, I was able to discuss what the demo entailed and what Square hopes to achieve with it with new director Hajime Tabata.
First off, I think this director change is a smart move. This frees up previous director Tetsuya Nomura’s time to focus exclusively on Kingdom Hearts III, another game Square Enix can’t afford to take years upon years to launch. Tabata was candid with us about the demo, called Episode Duscae. It’s not just a 20 minute affair. He said if you’re playing through just the story content in the demo, it should take about an hour. But if you’re really exploring every nook and cranny, it can take anywhere from 2-4 hours. Most times when games are available to be previewed at shows, they are only about 20 minutes long. Having the first hands-on with the game given straight to fans and in such a large chunk shows a lot of promise and faith. Tabata stated he is looking for this demo to provide fan feedback.
He also let us in on the fact that, as of right now, Final Fantasy XV is over 50 percent complete. The game has been in development a long time, but once you switch console generations on a title and completely re-envision it, there’s a lot of heavy lifting to be done. But also with over 50 percent in place, hearing fans’ reactions gives them still enough room to make changes should the demo garner any concerns. Square Enix has some passionate fans and the company has been known for its magical touch on RPGs, but in the past years, it hasn’t seemed as focused on what the fans want. I like that Square Enix is using the demo as a way to gauge that.
All told, these recent developments look like steps in the right direction. I hope it’s all not for show, and that Square Enix really is as serious as they seem. Tabata genuinely seems thrilled with his new role and the game.
An exact exact release date for the demo hasn’t been given so far, but a voucher for it is being included with Type-0. Square Enix indicated that it wants to launch the demo as close to Type-0’s March 17 release date as possible. It feels almost surreal to think we’ll actually be playing some of Final Fantasy XV soon. We sure have been waiting a long time, but things can only get better from here on out. Let’s hope this message from Square Enix is just the beginning and it continues to prove that its games aren’t just ephemeral dreams.
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