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Replay – Final Fantasy III

After 10 years of development, Final Fantasy XV is finally upon us, and it's quite good. In celebration of this game's release, we're taking a look back at one of Final Fantasy's highest points. Some of you who grew up with the Super Nintendo know it as Final Fantasy III, the youngsters who didn't play it until it was re-released likely call it Final Fantasy VI. Confusing naming conventions aside, this is one of the best role-playing games ever made, and is often cited as one of top Super Nintendo releases.

In this week's Replay, we take a lengthy look at the game's action-packed intro, show off the memorable opera scene, and give you a small taste of open-world exploration. We also dive into another lesser-known Super Nintendo RPG, and discuss other titles that released around the same time. It was a great era for gaming, and you'll soon see that Final Fantasy III hasn't lost much of its charm in the decades that followed.

Thanks again for watching our silly little show. We'll see you again in seven days.

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For more episodes of Replay, check out our Replay hub, or click on the banner below to watch episodes on YouTube.

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Replay – Final Fantasy III

After 10 years of development, Final Fantasy XV is finally upon us, and it's quite good. In celebration of this game's release, we're taking a look back at one of Final Fantasy's highest points. Some of you who grew up with the Super Nintendo know it as Final Fantasy III, the youngsters who didn't play it until it was re-released likely call it Final Fantasy VI. Confusing naming conventions aside, this is one of the best role-playing games ever made, and is often cited as one of top Super Nintendo releases.

In this week's Replay, we take a lengthy look at the game's action-packed intro, show off the memorable opera scene, and give you a small taste of open-world exploration. We also dive into another lesser-known Super Nintendo RPG, and discuss other titles that released around the same time. It was a great era for gaming, and you'll soon see that Final Fantasy III hasn't lost much of its charm in the decades that followed.

Thanks again for watching our silly little show. We'll see you again in seven days.

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For more episodes of Replay, check out our Replay hub, or click on the banner below to watch episodes on YouTube.

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Test Chamber – The Final Verdict On Final Fantasy XV

After ten years in the making, Final Fantasy XV is finally here. Square Enix's newest entry in the series brings new gameplay mechanics, character progression, and a gorgeous, sprawling world.

Andrew Reiner and Joe Juba walk you through the high and low points of the game, offering overall impressions on the full experience. Check out the Test Chamber below, and read Reiner's review for more!

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Reader Discussion – Are You Picking Up Final Fantasy XV?

Well, gang, it's nearly here. After more than a decade in development, Final Fantasy XV will be released tomorrow. Reviews are already out and our very own Andrew Reiner seemed to like the game quite a bit:

Final Fantasy XV is unlike any RPG or open-world experience I’ve played before. It succeeds and struggles in finding its unique stance, but a few problematic designs don’t hold it back from being a hell of a journey. Just days after playing it, I find myself reflecting on it fondly.

The thoughts of that damn car are recessed and blanketed by Noctis’ journey and some of the stunning moments that unfolded within it. I wasn’t a fan of Final Fantasy XIII’s sequels, but I hope Square returns with another XV or a similarly designed sequel to iron out the rough spots. There’s a solid foundation here that begs to be explored further.

As someone who isn't very into Final Fantasy (outside of VI, IX, and X), I'm looking forward to giving this interactive road trip a spin. It looks weird and  fantastic enough to be my kind of thing.

What about you? Are you picking up the game? Excited to try it? Cautiously optimistic? Couldn't care less?

Let us know in the comments below.

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Tracking Final Fantasy XV’s Long Road To Release

Many gamers are looking ahead to the next generation for exciting games, but for one of Square Enix’s most anticipated upcoming titles, we have to look backward. Final Fantasy Versus XIII was unveiled in 2006, but remained seldom-seen and mysterious until it reappeared as Final Fantasy XV. Even then, concrete answers about the game’s status are rare, so we’ve assembled this timeline of its progress, major appearances, and related comments from original director Tetsuya Nomura, current director Hajime Tabata, producer Yoshinori Kitase, and brand director Shinji Hashimoto.

Update 11/28/16: New entries added to reflect the continued (and presumably final) developments, including Final Fantasy XV's release on November 29, 2016.

May 2006 
At E3, Final Fantasy Versus XIII is announced as part of Fabula Nova Crystalis, as is Final Fantasy XIII and Final Fantasy Agito XIII. Along with Final Fantasy XIII, it is revealed as a PS3 exclusive. 

January 2007 
Nomura says Versus XIII will feature some kind of unique support for the PlayStation 3’s Sixaxis controller.

July 2007 
Versus XIII is absent from E3.

September 2007 
Versus XIII is absent from the Tokyo Game Show.

December 2007 
Square Enix releases a new video adding more content to the original reveal trailer, showing a stylish fight and more of the protagonist’s powers in action. 

June 2008 
Nomura says Versus XIII is on hold while the team helps complete Final Fantasy XIII. Square Enix later denies this, attributing Nomura’s statement to mistranslation.

July 2008 
Square Enix announces that Final Fantasy XIII is going multiplatform at E3. The company claims it has no plans to change the PS3 exclusivity of Versus XIII, which is otherwise absent from the show.

August 2008
A new trailer debuts at a Square Enix fan event, showing a new female character battling the protagonist.

October 2008
At the Tokyo Game Show, the protagonist’s name is revealed to be Noctis, and the woman he was fighting in the previous trailer is named Stella. The first in-game footage is revealed in the form of a conversation between Noctis and Stella. The video shows no exploration or combat.

June 2009 
Versus XIII is absent from E3.

September 2009 
Gameplay footage in a closed theater at the Tokyo Game Show depicts Noctis running around in various environments, but no combat is shown.

December 2009 
Final Fantasy XIII (now multiplatform) releases in Japan. The North American release follows three months later.

March 2010 
Nomura reveals via Twitter that players can navigate the world of Versus XIII with an airship.

June 2010 
Versus XIII is absent from E3. Nomura claims that the game’s storyline, character designs, and clothing designs are finished.

August 2010
Voice casting begins in Japan. Yoshinori Kitase says that Versus XIII might not release in 2011.

September 2010
Nomura affirms via Twitter that Versus XIII is being developed exclusively for PlayStation 3, saying: “The debate over porting is decided by the management based off the current market and the costs. All I can say right now as a developer is that Versus is being developed specifically for the PlayStation 3.”

What Else Has Happened Since Versus XIII’s Announcement?
  • All three Mass Effect games released
  • The entire Assassin’s Creed franchise
  • The rise and fall of music games
  • Five other main Final Fantasy titles:  XII, XIII, XIII-2, Lightning Returns, and XIV
  • BioShock, BioShock 2, and BioShock Infinite released
  • Every Call of Duty game after Call of Duty 2, including World at War, Ghosts, Black Ops 1 and 2, and all three Modern Warfare titles released
  • The PlayStation 3’s entire life
  • The Wii craze
  • Sony and Microsoft introducing/releasing their own motion controllers
  • Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo each designed and released a new generation of hardware
  • Duke Nukem Forever released

October 2010 
Listings for battle planner and level design plannerpositions appears on the recruitment page on Square Enix’s website.

January 2011
Square Enix releases a six-minute trailer highlighting the story, new characters, and the battle system in action. Nomura confirms that Versus XIII will not release in 2011.

June 2011
Versus XIII is absent from E3.

July 2011
Versus XIII is still in the pre-production phase, though Nomura says that  the team is making preparations to screenshots are shown to selected press, but are not published or otherwise released to the public.

August 2011 
Square Enix files a new trademark application for Final Fantasy Versus XIII, indicating that the company still intends to move forward with the game under its current name (rather than dropping the XIII, as many had speculated).

September 2011
Versus XIII is absent from the Tokyo Game Show. Yoshinori Kitase confirms that the game has entered full production.

October 2011 
Final Fantasy Agito XIII (the second of the three announced Final Fantasy XIII titles) releases in Japan under the new name Final Fantasy Type 0. No North American release plans are announced (though a renewed trademark keeps hope alive).

May 2012 
When asked about Versus XIII in an interview, Nomura tells Game Informer: “We would like to ask for your patience on an official announcement for this title. It always takes time when tackling the challenge of doing something completely new, but we are doing our best to bring information to the fans as quickly as we can. Your patience is greatly appreciated.”

June 2012 
Versus XIII is absent from E3. Square Enix gives Game Informer the following comment: “We appreciate the excitement for this title, but at this time, we do not have any new information to share on its development. We are extremely thankful for the continued support for the Final Fantasy franchise and Final Fantasy Versus XIII.”

July 2012
On Twitter, Square Enix CEO Yoichi Wada denies rumors of Versus XIII’s cancellation, explaining that he was recently in a regularly scheduled meeting for the game and that the visuals of the city are particularly impressive.

February 2013
Shinji Hashimoto says that a new Final Fantasy entry is coming to the PlayStation 4. He is not specific, leading to speculation that the title is related to the next-gen Final Fantasy tech demo (shown below).

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April 2013
Nomura describes the development of Final Fantasy Versus XIII as “a delicate situation within the company” on a podcast. He says that the date has been set for the next big reveal.

June 2013
E3 2013 brings with it the most substantial news since the game’s unveiling. At Sony’s press conference, Square Enix reveals that Final Fantasy Versus XIII is now Final Fantasy XV. In addition, the game drops the PS3 and goes next-gen multiplatform, now coming exclusively to PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. No specific release date is given, but it is not soon, whatever it is.

June 2013
Shortly after the re-reveal, Square Enix provides new art and character info.

September 2013
Apart from a very familiar trailer, Final Fantasy XV has no significant presence at the Tokyo Game Show.

February 2014
In an interview, Kitase says Final Fantasy XV is “quite far into development now and it is being given a very high priority within the company itself.” He also says that it is not competing with Kingdom Hearts 3 for resources, implying that KH3 is further out on the release schedule.

April 2014
Official product pages for Final Fantasy XV describe how it has been “designed as an action game,” highlighting stylized combat over traditional turn-based mechanics.

June 2014
A year after the announcement of the name change, fans were hoping to see the game reappear at E3. That didn't happen, with Hashimoto explaining that fans will have to wait until after E3 for more information.

September 2014
During the Tokyo Game Show, Square Enix made two important announcements regarding the status of FF XV. The first was the changing of the director role; Hajime Tabata took over for Tetsuya Nomura as the head of the project. The second piece of news was that a Final Fantasy XV demo entitled Episode Duscae is scheduled to release in 2015. 

December 2014
A new trailer and Q&A with director Hajime Tabata comes out of Jump Festa.

February 2015
Square Enix releases new screens for the upcoming demo. 

March 2015
Gamers get some hands-on time with Episode Duscae at PAX East. For the first time, we get some solid, playable proof that this game is moving along toward release.  

March 2015
As promised at the previous TGS, the Episode Duscae demo is released with Final Fantasy Type-0 HD. After so many years, the public has its first playable taste of Final Fantasy XV.

May 2015
Square Enix announces plans to release a substantial update to Episode Duscae, adding new combat options and quests.

June 2015
Final Fantasy XV does not have a presence at E3, but the updated Duscae demo releases. Tabata reveals that the previous heroine and love interest, Stella, was dropped from the story. In her place, the plans for the character were reforged and she was renamed Luna.

August 2015
Gamescom brings with it new story details, along with a new trailer entitled “Dawn” that paints a picture of the characters’ lives 15 years prior to the events of Final Fantasy XV.

August 2015
At a PAX Prime panel, Square Enix confirms that Final Fantasy XV will launch in 2016.

September 2015
Square Enix releases a new, shorter “Dawn 2.0” trailer.

January 2016
On the game’s official forums, lead game designer Takizawa Masashi discusses how the two battle settings – one active and one more relaxed – are essentially the equivalent of difficulty settings.

January 2016
During an Active Time Report development update, Tabata confirms that an official event will be held in March to announce Final Fantasy XV’s release date. In addition, he shares that a free tech demo separate from Episode Duscae will be released.

March 2016
At the Uncovered: Final Fantasy XV event, Square Enix reveals an array of new information, including a September 30 2016 release date, the Platinum Demo, a full-length CG movie, a short anime series, a mobile game, a new trailer. 

April 2016
We here at Game Informer launch a month of in-depth features from when we visited Square Enix’s Tokyo headquarters for our Final Fantasy XV cover story. Highlights include interviews, character insights, and hands-on impressions.

May 2016
What are the birthdays of Noctis and his buddies? Now you know.

June 2016
Square Enix brings Final Fantasy XV to E3 in force, with multiple trailers and a stage presentation during Microsoft’s press conference. The presentation had some technical errors, but felt much better when we played it ourselves.

August 2016
Square Enix details its DLC plans for Final Fantasy XV, giving players a general idea of what to expect from the season pass, as well as various pre-order bonuses.

August 2016
With a little over a month until the announced release, Square Enix confirms rumors that the game has been delayed to November 29, 2016. The explanation revolves around the desire to avoid a substantial day-one patch, instead putting all of those critical updates on the disc. The game's movie tie-in, Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV, also hits this month (with its own ups and downs). 

September 2016
Final Fantasy XV has a presence at PAX and Tokyo Game Show, and we get more details about what to expect from the music

October 2016
With big-picture stuff covered, fans get to dive into smaller details, like trailers for specific spells and Moogle demos. Square Enix also distributes a preview version of the game that includes the first several chapters, letting press outlets play and discuss it at length.

November 2016
Over 10 years after its initial announcement, Final Fantasy XV releases! We give it plenty of praise (read our review), and we aren't alone.

A portion of this feature originally appeared in issue 232 of Game Informer.

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Reader Discussion – Are You Picking Up Final Fantasy XV?

Well, gang, it's nearly here. After more than a decade in development, Final Fantasy XV will be released tomorrow. Reviews are already out and our very own Andrew Reiner seemed to like the game quite a bit:

Final Fantasy XV is unlike any RPG or open-world experience I’ve played before. It succeeds and struggles in finding its unique stance, but a few problematic designs don’t hold it back from being a hell of a journey. Just days after playing it, I find myself reflecting on it fondly.

The thoughts of that damn car are recessed and blanketed by Noctis’ journey and some of the stunning moments that unfolded within it. I wasn’t a fan of Final Fantasy XIII’s sequels, but I hope Square returns with another XV or a similarly designed sequel to iron out the rough spots. There’s a solid foundation here that begs to be explored further.

As someone who isn't very into Final Fantasy (outside of VI, IX, and X), I'm looking forward to giving this interactive road trip a spin. It looks weird and  fantastic enough to be my kind of thing.

What about you? Are you picking up the game? Excited to try it? Cautiously optimistic? Couldn't care less?

Let us know in the comments below.

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Final Fantasy XV Review – Cruising To Success

Final Fantasy XV is a road trip that comes dangerously close to running out of gas, coasting on fumes long enough to deliver a rich and rewarding open-world experience that embraces the bond of friendship just as much as the thrill of hunting for rare treasure and beasts. The concept of hitting the open road in a convertible with three friends is largely successful, consisting of pit stops at roadside dinners, detours to lakes for a quiet evening of fishing, campfires under the stars, and expeditions through the wilderness to find a landmark for a group photo. Final Fantasy XV captures the atmosphere of cruising down an American interstate, but also the boredom that comes from staring down hundreds of miles of open road, or not having anything more to say to the people in the car. If you can tolerate a baffling amount of time where nothing but travel happens, Final Fantasy XV is a good game that upends series traditions and stands as a uniquely satisfying adventure.

Although much of the focus is on the road trip, this isn’t a traditional coming-of-age story for the four young gentlemen in the car. Protagonist Prince Noctis is hitting the road to attend his wedding not by his own will, but the order of his father. Noctis is to wed Lady Lunafreya to bring two kingdoms together and end the threat of war.

The narrative sticks to basic beats and doesn’t try to overwhelm the player with lore or branching threads, something Final Fantasy XIII struggled with. The story ends up being a fun and emotional ride. The camaraderie between Noctis and his pals is beautifully told, as is the turmoil plaguing the kingdom. Like a car rolling along the highway, the story doesn’t dwell on particular moments for too long, and moves along at a fervent pace. Some big, emotional scenes are hurt by the push to move on, but the political jargon is kept to a minimum, and the focus is instead placed on developing the characters.

I was a big fan of Final Fantasy X’s ensemble, but thanks to the smart (and often funny) dialogue, Final Fantasy XV’s characters are my favorite in the series. Prompto is loud and full of bad jokes, but he is sweet at heart and easy to root for. Ignis is the father-like voice of reason. Gladiolus is quiet and reserved, but ends up being the perfect wingman. Noctis is a bit of a cipher (which deepens the disconnect in emotional moments), but is a great leader, and an interesting, conflicted character, torn between his duties to the kingdom and wanting a different life.

The characters are made stronger by their interests, which are brilliantly sewn into the story and gameplay. Prompto is a photographer, and he snaps as many photos as he can throughout the trip. Whenever the group of friends rests for the night, the player can view all of the images he’s taken, and can even save them. Ignis’ love of food is just as fun to follow. Whenever he sees someone eating a new dish, or discovers an ingredient, he has a “eureka” moment, and jots down a recipe, which can benefit the group with significant (albeit temporary) attribute bumps.

The group’s car, the Regalia, is as much a character as they are. Sadly, I found it to be more of a thorn in the side of progress than the antagonist (who I wouldn’t dare spoil since it's a mystery). Although most of the game takes place on roads, the car cannot be controlled in a traditional way. The top speed is roughly 50 mph (60 with an upgrade), and its basic movements, like turning or changing lanes, are predetermined. It feels like it’s on rails – you're more of an observer than a driver. The player is better off letting Ignis take the wheel, if fast travel is not available – which is often the case. Some trips can take upwards of 10 minutes. During these painfully long rides, you even see Gladiolus read a book in the backseat, almost telling the player to do something else than pay attention to the game. The car design is a monumental blunder, especially given the open world doesn’t consist of that many roads; the same paths are taken over and over again. The Regalia eventually transforms into a more useful flying vehicle, but not until after the game is completed – another strange decision.

Given just how barren portions of the world are, I never wanted to just aimlessly run through it. Yes, there are treasures to find off of the beaten path, but you won’t find many things to do along the way. Even battling monsters is somewhat scarce in certain regions.

The world isn’t wasted, however. The abundance of side missions get you where you need to go, and most are enjoyable. Yes, a good number are of the "fetch" variety, but Square Enix does a nice job of making them worth your time. I always felt like I was finding something new, unlocking new abilities, or stumbling upon a secret that had been buried for centuries. The game is designed with side questing and hunting in mind, and it can be a blast if the player embraces these elements. Some tasks even take you into excellently-designed dungeons, complete with over-the-top boss battles.

Combat is nicely crafted, offering a wide variety of team-based strategies on top of the need to be swift and skillful. Although combat feels more like an action game in the vein of Devil May Cry or God of War, RPG conventions are the foundation, and it ends up being an excellent hybrid experience. Noctis’ weapons are greatly varied in functionality and power, but the best (and flashiest) attacks are the link strikes that Noctis coordinates with his friends. Faulty camera tracking sometimes becomes a nuisance, as do objects blanketing the action, but I looked forward to each encounter, and felt most were wonderfully balanced and challenging. This is one of those games in which you use the evade button as much as attack, and it can feel great if you get in the flow of evading or countering enemy attacks. The monster hunt missions are particularly awesome for this type of play, but I wish more than one could be active at a time.

The battles are mostly about weapon play. Magic is relegated to the role of expendable items rather than skills, meaning you won't use them much since they are low in supply, but they do pack a satisfying punch (and will even hit your characters if you aren't careful). Don’t expect many summons in battle, either. Most are tied to
story sequences or specific conditions. The summons are a sight to be hold, always showcasing a Godzilla-like scale and high levels of destruction.

Just as I was settling into a nice groove with the open world, the story takes a dramatic shift, and the final third of the game becomes a linear experience. I enjoyed a good portion of the content that unfolds in these chapters, but Final Fantasy XV’s attempt at stealth is clunky and frustrating, and is unfortunately the backbone of the game’s longest chapter, which sees Noctis investigating a lead on his own. I love that Square took chances in changing up the action and tried to sync it up with story developments, but the result is the feeling that two games were mashed together – the open-world experience and the act that follows. That isn’t a bad thing, but it was a startling revelation that I wasn’t prepared for.

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Everything you do is funneled through an awesome leveling system, where ability points are exchanged for meaningful upgrades for Noctis and crew. From unlocking powerful new techniques to smaller assists like AP points being rewarded for driving or winning chocobo races, I was always looking to do as much as possible to earn more abilities. This isn’t a game of weapon or armor collecting – you wont find much of that outside of Noctis’ armaments, which are tied to the critical path. Most boosts in power come from ability enhancements or upgrades, a design I didn’t think I would like, but ended up appreciating immensely by the time the credits ran, as my party had become a serious wrecking crew.

Final Fantasy XV is unlike any RPG or open-world experience I’ve played before. It succeeds and struggles in finding its unique stance, but a few problematic designs don’t hold it back from being a hell of a journey. Just days after playing it, I find myself reflecting on it fondly. The thoughts of that damn car are recessed and blanketed by Noctis’ journey and some of the stunning moments that unfolded within it. I wasn’t a fan of Final Fantasy XIII’s sequels, but I hope Square returns with another XV or a similarly designed sequel to iron out the rough spots. There’s a solid foundation here that begs to be explored further.

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Get Ready For Final Fantasy XV’s Release With Our Hub Of Exclusive Content

In two days time, a new installment to the Final Fantasy series will release. To prepare for Final Fantasy XV, now is a great time to look back at Game Informer's hub of exclusive content from our May 2016 cover story

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This hub includes video interviews, podcasts, articles, and more. You can listen to a podcast about our impressions, Final Fantasy creators' favorite moments from the series, a special edition podcast that answers your lingering questions, an interview with artist Yoshitaka Amano on creating the series' art, and an extended look at the first chapter of the game.

Final Fantasy XV releases on November 29 for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Click here to be transported to the hub or click the banner below. 

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Appealing to kids as well as longtime fans in World of Final Fantasy

World of Final Fantasy director Hiroki Chiba discusses how his whimsical spin on the venerable RPG franchise tries to attract a new, younger audience while simultaneously rewarding longtime fans. …


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Reader Discussion: Would You Rather Eat Castlevania Wall Turkey Or Final Fight Floor Turkey?

We've eaten a lot of questionable garbage as video game heroes. We've rooted through the trash to improve our health, swallowed pain pills found in subway bathrooms to laugh off death, and imbibed questionable liquids hoping for the best. These turkeys, however, stand out as an anomaly.

Both appear to be fully cooked, which is not something that happens accidentally or in nature, and both have been placed on plates. Someone put a lot of effort into making and plating these turkeys, which makes their discovery all the more mystifying. How did they end up where they are? Who made theses? Why does it restore so much health when real turkey makes you sleepy?

We're not answering those questions here. The question today is which one would you rather eat. Dracula's castle in Castlevania is full of horrors, but inside a wall is a pretty good hiding place. Final Fight's turkey isn't hidden, making it more susceptible to outside interference, but you also don't have to worry as much about asbestos.

Which would you rather eat? You can't choose both. Make sure to think about this while eating turkey tomorrow.

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