Director Tetsuya Nomura-san’s Final Fanasy Versus XIII represents a departure in a series renowned for reinvention. No two Final Fantasy games are the same; each rendition professing its own style, gameplay mechanics and backdrop, while retaining that distinguishable Final Fantasy vibe; permeating themes of ecological concern and the oppressive dogma of totalitarianism ever-present no matter what jumble of roman numerals complete each title’s name.
For Versus, however, Square Enix aren’t just discarding trusted, if somewhat hackneyed, staple Final Fantasy idiosyncratic traits, they’re looking to reinvent the wheel while simultaneously trying to sell you the car.
Set in the same thematic universe of the vanilla version of Final Fantasy XIII, Versus embraces a degree of realism previously absent from the existing – and extensive – Final Fantasy anthology. It’s still fantastical – it wouldn’t be Final Fantasy if it wasn’t – but instead of anthropomorphic characters, traditional magic and some of the series’ other characteristic quirks, expect cars, semi-automatic weaponry and towering metropolises suggestive of how Tokyo might appear in a few hundred years. Godzilla and rogue governmental experiments withstanding.
As with the highly-anticipated and, if we’re being honest, slighty disappointing XIII, Versus concerns crystals, their protection, and how the political and militaristic landscape of the game’s countries is shaped by their influence. You’d be forgiven in thinking this all sounds familiar.
Protagonist Noctis Lucis Caelum is the heir if one such state. A brooding, standoffish successor with a penchant for blue rinse and, from looking at one of the few images of the game released to date, telekinesis, Noct represents another departure in the long-running series – a decisive main character with a strong personality; independent and resolute in his determination to protect the Caelum Dynasty against marauding crystal-coveters. With a mouthful of a moniker that translates from the Latin “Light of the Night Sky,” naming his flaxon-haired rapier-wielding love interest Stella Nox Fleuret, a name that has connotations of darkness, also suggests a star-crossed Romeo & Juliet type dynamic is on the cards, or, more aptly perhaps, in the crystals, for our Noct.
Nomura-san has confirmed that the game’s combat system is a derivation of another series he worked on, Kingdom Hearts, while characters will be able to drive, walk and airship around a world map, replete with the series’ mandatory random encounters. And that’s pretty much all we know.
There’s no disputing that a game of Final Fantasy Versus XIII’s magnitude ending up in the “wrong” half of this list can be attributed more to the franchise’s last less than stellar outing rather than any suggestion of mass Final Fantasy ennui here at TheSixthAxis. XIII has its acolytes, and rightly so as it’s a rewarding game. The fact that it took so long to dish up the rewards when playing said game is probably why we’re not as eager to return to Chocoboland next year with Versus as we possibly should be.
Finally, though Final Fantasy Versus XIII has been designed with the PS3 in mind, don’t be surprised if the oft-rumoured 360 version magically materialises sometime in the distant future. The “normal” version of XIII sold well enough on Microsoft’s console to warrant another faux’ defection,’ so there’s every reason to believe Noct and his merry cohorts will be defending shiny shards of glass on multiple platforms at some point in time.