"I'm very tired," Hajime Tabata, director of Final Fantasy XV, tells me. But he looks relaxed, grinning ear to ear as he leans comfortably back in his chair. We're sitting off to the side of a massive projection screen where, in 12 hours, he'll reveal more details of the long-awaited role-playing game, a title out of time.
Announced 10 years ago as Final Fantasy Versus XIII, the game--and the team--have come a long way. Tabata took over XV from previous director Tetsuya Nomura in 2012, and has been hitting the pavement ever since. He runs a tight ship, and is in constant contact with the game's fans; monthly digital presentations called Active Time Reports are the hallmark of his tenure as the head of Business Division 2, the subsection of Square Enix that makes Final Fantasy. He is always listening, always moving, and always willing to take time out of his busy development schedule to share a few new bits of information with the hungry audience.
After meeting with Tabata at various events over the past two years, with Final Fantasy XV's release date finally in sight, he looks more energized than ever. Sitting next to longtime cinematics director Takeshi Nozue--he worked on the Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children CGI film as well as cutscenes for Final Fantasy IX, X, X-2, XIII, and Dissidia, and is now heading up the Kingsglaive feature film--the two look calm, but very happy. Below is what I learned from them, from details about individual characters to comments on the theme and purpose of the tie in film and anime. "We've done everything we can, everything we could," Tabata says. "There are no regrets. There is no looking back."
1. The Platinum Demo will tie directly into the anime.
In the new free demo, players control Noctis as a little boy. He is in a deep sleep, and moves through a dreamscape at the behest of a mischievous little creature called a Carbuncle. Episodes one and five of the anime, Brotherhood: Final Fantasy XV, will tie directly into this demo's story, which explains a major injury Noctis sustained as a child. However, the team stresses that these additional pieces of media are just still backstory: you don't need to watch all of them to understand the in-game events of Final Fantasy XV (though you may want to).
2. To avoid shipping Final Fantasy XV as multiple games, the team decided to make the story a multimedia property.
"It's an idea that evolved over time," Tabata says. "That being said, initially, I did have an idea of this sort in my mind. Nozue-san joined Business Division 2, and as we communicated and discussed things, Kingsglaive started to formulate. Brotherhood, the anime, is something that we started to develop in discussion with [Akio] Ofuji-san, the producer. Since Ofuji-san is the marketing producer on Final Fantasy as well, those types of discussions started to really develop. The idea was there from the get go, but all these projects really developed over time."
"The initial starting point [for Kingsglaive] was when we had the idea to really complete Final Fantasy XV within one installment, and restructure everything and optimize it so it would be a story that's told within that one installment," Nozue adds. "We really focused on Final Fantasy XV's main game being from Noctis' perspective, about his kingdom and taking it back, and his growth as a king. When we had that discussion, we felt that it would be best to separate out the story of Regis and make it its own independent piece."
3. Kingsglaive's main protagonist is Nix; he won't appear in the main game.
According to Nozue, the team didn't want the feature film to also use Noctis as its main focus. Instead, they chose to portray events surrounding Regis and Luna through the eyes of a totally different character, one that would be completely removed from the events of the main game. Enter Nix. "Final Fantasy has a very unique universe and the idea with this movie is wanting to bring the story down to a level more easily understood by a wider audience. We felt that rather than make the main character someone who is part of the main story, telling the story through someone who is a few steps away from the core cast allows us to better show things that are happening within the world that are more easily understood from afar."
4. Kingsglaive is nothing like Advent Children.
Advent Children was meant to be treat for players hungry for more stories in the Final Fantasy VII universe. Kingsglaive's intended audience isn't just Final Fantasy XV players, Nozue says--which is why the film will launch in summer, ahead of the main game's final release. "Advent Children was for people who had played the game and know the game, whereas the sole purpose of Kingsglaive is to get more people to get to know the universe of Final Fantasy XV," Nozue says. "People who may not know much about Final Fantasy or XV can get interested through Kingsglaive, which is meant to garner a wider appeal for the game. In that sense, the way we've developed Kingsglaive is closer to that for a true theatrical release. We want Kingsglaive to be an entry point into the Final Fantasy XV universe."
5. Some characters overlap between the main game and Kingsglaive.
Namely King Regis, Luna, and Ardyn. All three play very crucial roles in the story, and will have major screen time in both the game and the film. Tabata and Nozue not-so-subtly suggested that the audience should keep a close eye on Ardyn, especially.
14. You will not be able to play as Luna in combat, or fight alongside her.
Despite her large role in the story, Luna will not be your pal in battle. But the team hopes that people find her lovable, and they feel she will appeal to players easily. She will play a huge part in Kingsglaive.
15. There will be Moogles, and they're totally adorable.
"Within reasonable means, from a developer's perspective, as well as something meaningful for our players: yes, Moogles will be there," Tabata says with a laugh. "As you may know from game development we are always strapped on time, but we really worked out brains to figure out a reasonable way of incorporating Moogles into the game."
The he leans conspiratorially over the table and said with a straight, serious face: "I wanted to give you a note that they are very cute. It isn't cheap or anything."