The “Uncovered: Final Fantasy XV” event in Los Angeles ended with a grandiose trailer showing off the story, environments, characters, and combat of Final Fantasy XV. The tagline for this trailer urged the player to “Reclaim Your Throne”, clearly referring to the game’s central premise of Prince Noctis taking his kingdom back from the invading army that has occupied it while he was out on a road trip with his bros. However, this game is about much more than that; it’s the culmination of a ten-year journey that Square hopes will end in a much more important throne being reclaimed.
Final Fantasy XV has become something of a messiah for the franchise thanks to its complicated development history. In 2006, the game was announced under the title Final Fantasy Versus XIII, a spin-off of FFXIII that “took place in a different world, but shared the same mythology”, whatever that means. The very first trailer of Noctis fighting a group of armed soldiers with a storm of blades in a thoroughly modern world captured fans’ attention, and they were immediately ravenous to learn more about this game based on a tech demo alone.
In the intervening years, very little was seen or heard about this game, save a trailer here and there. It quickly entered the realm of The Last Guardian, Half-Life 3, and Starcraft: Ghost as a game that topped everyone’s wishlist for E3, but people knew wasn’t going to happen. Years of silence led to Versus XIII being written off as vaporware, until E3 2013 when it was announced that the game would be returning as a main, numbered Final Fantasy title.
The fan response to this reveal was overwhelming. After Final Fantasy XIII’s lukewarm (at best) reception from the fanbase, faith in the Final Fantasy name is at an all-time low, and this game has become a beacon of hope. Final Fantasy XV has to be a hit, or the franchise (and by extension Square as a whole) will lose what credibility it has left. After all, if they can’t get a game right after ten years of development, how can they expect fans to trust them?
Square knows this, and their marketing plan is seeking to leverage it at all costs. Before the game is released this September, fans will be able to look forward to a five-episode anime prequel series, a feature-length CGI movie featuring a star-studded voice cast and a plotline cut from the game for narrative flow, a demo that provides a summon in the main game, and an app that ties into the central mini-game of the main game (and will likely have some connectivity to your main game file if Square has any sense). All of these things will be completely free.
With this tactic, Square is effectively wiping away the negative memories of the ten-year wait, and transforming it into an unstoppable hype train. By steadily dripping this content out to the fanbase over the six months before release, players can get invested in the characters and immersed in the world of Final Fantasy XV without spending a dime, while also keeping the game in the forefront of their minds throughout the entire lead-up to release. If all goes as planned, the release of Final Fantasy XV will be a hotly anticipated event that heralds Final Fantasy’s return as the king of role-playing games.
That is the throne that is truly being reclaimed here: a position that Final Fantasy has arguably not held since the days of the PS1. Combined with the similarly legendary releases of Kingdom Hearts III and a Final Fantasy VII remake, Square-Enix is showing its competitors that it means business, and will become the top dog in the JRPG genre just as it was before. However, it all hinges on this game. If Final Fantasy XV is a success, it could herald a second Golden Age for the company not seen since they released Final Fantasy VI, Chrono Trigger, and Seiken Densetsu 3 all in the same year. But if they fail, it could spell the end for Final Fantasy’s reputation, putting it alongside Sonic the Hedgehog and Resident Evil as a once great series that became an easy punchline after failing to modernize.
So far, this campaign is working. After playing the Platinum Demo and watching the first episode of Brotherhood, on top of everything shown at the Uncovered event, I am hyped beyond belief for Final Fantasy XV. I have not been this excited about the release of a Square-Enix game since Kingdom Hearts II ten years ago, and as a lifelong fan of Final Fantasy you can bet that I will be ready to watch the other episodes of Brotherhood, stream the Kingsglaive movie, and download Justice Monsters V to my smartphone as soon as they are available.
As any gamer knows, it is always good to remain skeptical, but I am excited nonetheless. I can’t wait to see if my favorite franchise can reclaim its throne.