It's been a decade, but gaming's most famous example of vaporware this side of Duke Nukem Forever finally has a release date.
At their Uncovered Final Fantasy XV event in LA, Square Enix revealed that the long lost next chapter in the series will be out September 30 on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, ending speculation as to whether it would make it out in 2016.
The announcement was paired with a new trailer highlighting the progress Final Fantasy XV has made since early 2015's Episode Duscae, showing both the combat and scenes from the roadtrip (or brotrip) themed story. It certainly looks more polished than it did a year ago, which director Hajime Tabata said at the time was approximately 50 percent complete, and it's loaded with familiar Final Fantasy imagery - chocobos, summons, and all the rest.
In addition to the release date, Square Enix highlighted several media tie-ins.
Final Fantasy XV Platinum Demo
The previously leaked demo was formally revealed at tonight's event, and should be available as you read this on both PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. It follows a young Noctis and Carbuncle as they venture through a world of dreams. It's meant to introduce players to the game's systems and world in a setting that is alternately fanciful and dangerous while also telling a (small) story of its own. If you finish it, Carbuncle will be available as a special summon in the final game. We'll share our impressions of the demo with you soon.
Justice Monsters Five
In the tradition of Blitzball and all the rest, there will be a minigame in Final Fantasy XV. Titled "Justice Monsters Five," it looks a bit like a bullet hell pinball game, and it will be available to play outside the game via iOS, Android, and Windows 10. It doesn't look all that impressive, honestly - certainly not on the level of Blitzball or Triple Triad - but we only really have a trailer to go on, so it could actually be really deep and fun. It certainly draws from a strong tradition of Final Fantasy minigames.
Brotherhood Final Fantasy
A new anime by A-1 Pictures that serves as a prequel of sorts for Final Fantasy XV by showing how Noctis first got together with his roadtrip crew. It will span five episodes lasting around 10 minutes each, and it will be available for free on Youtube. In addition to laying down some of Final Fantasy XV's backstory, it depicts an injury that becomes significant in the main game.
Kingsglaive Final Fantasy XV
A new full-length motion picture (yep) by director Takeshi Nozue featuring a story that takes place at the same time as Final Fantasy XV. Kingsglaive deals with an invasion taking place during Noctis's roadtrip, with all of the attendant consequences. Compared to Final Fantasy XV proper, it has a bit more of a high fantasy look and feel to it, which may appeal to old-school fans of the series. Adding to that feeling is the casting of Lena Headey (Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones) and Sean Bean (Ned Stark in Game of Thrones), who bring their own brand of fantasy street cred with them. Oh, Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad) has a role, too. The distribution has yet to be determined, but there's a possibility it will end up getting a limited theatrical run. More likely, it will end up on a streaming service near you.
With Kingsglaive and Brotherhood, my first thought was that Square Enix was attempting something akin to a scaled down Fabula Nova Crystallis - the ill-fated multi-game series that partly gave rise to Final Fantasy XV. I asked Tabata if this was an attempt at a more manageable Fabula Nova Crystallis, and he replied, "I was personally responsible for one of the games in Fabula Nova Crystalis, so I felt somewhat [unmanageable], yeah. But my focus is more making Final Fantasy XV work in this new era we find outselves in than trying to kind of reinvent Fabula Nova Crystallis."
Regardless of Square Enix's intentions, it's once again full steam ahead for the series. Square Enix pretty clearly wants Final Fantasy XV to be a big deal this fall, so it's not surprising to see this sort of tie-in media, as well as a second demo. But at the risk of seeming trite, it's really down to the game. If the game is good, then the hype and excitement will grow organically. If you want a good example, just take a look at the success of Final Fantasy XIV.
In the meantime, I'm curious to hear what you think of the demo. Share your impressions in the comments, and we'll have expanded thoughts of our own soon.