Despite being hailed as the iconic roadtrip simulator, a joke that even caught on with the developers at Square-Enix, you won’t have a chance to drive around at all in the upcoming demo of Final Fantasy XV.
This demo is scheduled to release with the launch of Final Fantasy Type-0 which is scheduled for later this year. But despite literally every trailer thus far emphasizing the importance of travel and the journey of our fateful quartet of youths escaping from a war-torn cityscape, we won’t be having a glimpse at this driving around the massive fantasy landscape any time soon. Director Hajime Tabata comments in an interview:
“Originally we were planning on making the car be available to drive throughout the world and throughout the demo,” Tabata told Polygon. “But we didn’t want people to mistake it and think ‘When did Final Fantasy become a driving game? [Instead] You’ll be able to experience the starting point of what an open-world Final Fantasy would potentially feel like. You’ll really be able to experience that seamless Final Fantasy world within the demo itself, but then if you play it, you’ll still really get a sense that it’s a Final Fantasy game. You’ll get that balance within the demo.”
An interesting way to describe a game that has so far touted its driving portions at every press event Square has had a chance to speak on the game. Although we still don’t know too many details about Final Fantasy XV, we do know that this is a big deal for Square-Enix. Despite nominal sales for both Final Fantasy XIII-2 and Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII, the entire Lightning arc of the Final Fantasy series that has consumed the last decade of Square-Enix Final Fantasy releases has been marred by heavy criticism of lacking story, poor gameplay, and the iconic developer falling out of touch with gamers and their own roots as the leader in turn-based JRPGs. While Square remains one of the largest Japanese developers and publishers in the world, they have their work cut out for them as Atlus has risen to the scene with the most recent releases in the Persona series, as well as with this years upcoming release of Persona 5. Square-Enix has rarely had a direct competitor in their own style of game (except for Enix itself in the 90s and early 2000s, which subsequently merged into Square), from their own market-base; this will no doubt fuel a Square-Enix’s desire to make this next release a huge success.
Moreover, Final Fantasy XV has not been an easy development. Originally announced as Final Fantasy Versus XIII, the game was intended to be a spin-off of Final Fantasy XIII and Lightning’s arc (it technically still might be, if you go by certain scenes show in Lightning Returns). But the game has been locked in what is colloquially referred to in the industry as “development hell,” having been in production for over eight years (or possibly even more), never coming to fruition. Final Fantasy XV has been a closely kept secret and has consistently been delayed until now, when Square-Enix has finally felt confident enough to begin speaking more publicly about the project. Even then, what we already know about the game is a massive switch in the franchise, featuring a seemingly open-world coupled with action-RPG gameplay, along with a science-fantasy setting reminiscent of Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy XIII.
“We’ve re-thought the demo in order for it to be more playable and accessible to people who know the franchise,” Tabata continues. “You’ll be able to experience the starting point of what an open-world Final Fantasy would potentially feel like. You’ll really be able to experience that seamless Final Fantasy world within the demo itself, but then if you play it, you’ll still really get a sense that it’s a Final Fantasy game. You’ll get that balance within the demo.” Those looking forward to driving their sleek convertible around the Final Fantasy XV demo will be sorely disappointed. But hopefully we’ll have a better idea of where the Final Fantasy franchise is heading when this demo debuts alongside the release of pre-ordered copies of Final Fantasy Type-0 in what they’re claiming will only be “a few months” into 2015.