Our friend Jack Wittich brings us this list as his first contribution to Teal Cheese. Check out what you need to know about Final Fantasy XV.

“Listen to my story,” pleaded a solemn voice as a haunting piano melody underscored the desolate wasteland displayed on the TV in front of me . “This…may be our last chance.”

I was immediately enthralled. Here I was, a nine-year old boy with a Playstation 2 controller in my hand, experiencing the first cinematic cut scene of FINAL FANTASY X. An hour prior, I had every intention of renting Jak and Daxter from my local Blockbuster after playing it over at a friend’s house. However, as soon as my eyes saw the box art for FFX– a young man submerged in waist-high water, holding a sword and gazing up at the ruins in front of him– a genuine sense of curiosity overtook me. I wonder what this is about? So I picked it off the shelf, convinced my father that I was mature enough to handle the “T” rating of the game, and spent the car ride home oogling over the cover art.
Little did I know that this decision would lead to a passion that would follow me for the rest of my life. Up until that point, I thought video games consisted solely of jumping from platform to platform, or trying to blast away any obstacle that appeared on screen. This was absolutely not the case with FFX. There was a story–a 60 hour long epic journey to rid the world of a terrorizing monster named Sin. The characters were fully voiced and had different personalities instead of just the generic battle grunts that were present in other games that my friends were playing. At that point in my life, I had no idea that a video game could leave as big as an impact on me as a movie or novel. After completing the game, I spent the next thirteen years of my life playing each installment in the series whenever time would allow for it.
However, it appears that FFX was the last mainline Final Fantasy game to be recognized as “good” among the majority of the hardcore Final Fantasy fan base. FINAL FANTASY XI and FINAL FANTASY XIV were Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games (MMORPG) similar to World of Warcraft in that it required a monthly subscription in order to play; FINAL FANTASY XII lacked the emotional punch of past games, due in part to the lack of a centralized protagonist; and lastly, FINAL FANTASY XIII was spread over 3 separate games (FFXIII, FFXIII-2, and LIGHTNING RETURNS: FFXIII) that relied on an ambitious yet convoluted mythos to tie the narrative together that ultimately lead to an incomplete singular experience. With Final Fantasy XV slated to release on September 30th this year, fans seem to be split into two camps– those who think the series has passed the point of redemption, and those who have faith that this entry could restore glory to the name Final Fantasy. I am here to tell you that there are at least fifteen reasons why this game should be on the radar of not just FF fans, but gaming fans in general.

1. HAJIME TABATA IS DIRECTING
To those unfamiliar with the inner workings of Square Enix, the name ‘Hajime Tabata’ might not mean much; but to those like myself who are Square Enix faithful, the decision to make him director of FFXV seems like the best choice. He has directed the spin-off titles FINAL FANTASY VII – CRISIS CORE- (a prequel to the critically acclaimed FF7) and FINAL FANTASY TYPE-0, which both released on the Playstation Portable. According to Metacritic, a website that gives various media an aggregate score based on critical reviews, both of these titles scored fairly well (CRISIS CORE received an overall score of 83/100, while TYPE-0 received a 72/100). While game play elements were criticized due to hardware limitations, these games were praised amongst the FF fan base for their emotionally compelling story lines. The most notable example of this would be the brutal ending of CRISIS CORE. Even though fans of the original FFVII were aware of protagonist Zack Fair’s fate going into FFVII:CC, Tabata was still able to create a moving story that shed light on the relationships between Zack and his peers that made his untimely end all the more impactful. In an interview conducted by GameInformer for their April 2016 issue, Tabata stated the following regarding FFXV:

“I want to create a very emotional ending to the game and want to make as many people cry as possible. You’re spending so many hours playing the game, so when I finish a game and it ends on a sour note and it doesn’t move me, it gets me disappointed. At least make me cry or give me some emotion! I want to give a moving ending for the consumers who invest so much time in the game.”

2. YOKO SHIMOMURA IS COMPOSING THE SOUNDTRACK
Anybody who has played a FF game knows how important the soundtrack is for underscoring the intense moments in the narrative. Given the serious tone that’s been portrayed in the trailers of FFXV, Yoko Shimomura’s somber style seems like a perfect fit for the project. Known best for her work on Kingdom Hearts, Square Enix’s other flagship series, Shimomura’s signature use of piano and violin create a nostalgic, wistful atmosphere. FF fans with sharp ears have pointed out that Shimomura has also taken popular songs from the series, such as “The Prelude” and “Main Final Fantasy Theme”, and rearranged them to fit the dark nature of the game. You can hear those arrangements in the score for the “Dawn” trailer.

3. THE ART STYLE COMBINES THE OLD WITH THE NEW
One of the cool parts of Final Fantasy is that despite having more than fifteen games in the series, each game takes place in a different universe with varying art styles. FFXV’s style is based on the work of three artists that have been prominently featured in the series–Tetsuya Nomura, Yusuke Naora, and Yoshitaka Amano. Together, these three artists have created a unique atmosphere for FFXV which should feel like a modern re-imagining of the classic FINAL FANTASY aesthetic. The main cast of FFXV was designed by Nomura, who also designed characters for FFVI, FFVII, FFVIII, FFX, and all of the Kingdom Hearts games. Yusuke Naora, who also worked alongside Tabata on CRISIS CORE and TYPE-0, is once again handling art direction for FFXV. Longtime promotional artwork contributor Yoshitaka Amano is designing the logo and key art for the game as well. Check out this trailer below that shows an awe-inspiring 3D rendering of the promotional visual, titled “Big Bang”.

4.TABATA HAS ENGAGED IN FAN FEEDBACK IN ORDER TO MAKE THE GAME THE BEST IT CAN BE
Following the release of FFXV’s first demo, titled Episode Duscae, Square Enix opened up a forum and survey where fans could submit their feedback on their experience with the early build of the game. “One thing I’ve noticed with a lot of Final Fantasy fans is that they are disappointed in the current state of Final Fantasy but still look forward to, or still have some hope, as to where the brand could go,” said Tabata in a video interview with GameInformer. You can check out the rest of what he had to say regarding the importance of fan feedback here:

5. FINAL FANTASY XV IS NOT PART OF THE FABULA NOVA CRYSTALLIS MYTHOS
Believe it or not, this entry in the FF franchise was not originally intended to be the 15th main installment. In fact, it was revealed back in 2006 under the name FINAL FANTASY: VERSUS XIII along with FINAL FANTASY XIII and FINAL FANTASY: AGITO XIII (which eventually became TYPE-0). These three titles were grouped under the name FABULA NOVA CRYSTALLIS: FINAL FANTASY, and were supposed to have a similar lore revolving around gods called “fal’cie” and their servants, “l’cie”. Having seen the confusion that this convoluted lore created amongst hardcore fans and newcomers alike, Square Enix rebranded VERSUS XIII to XV and dropped the game Fabula Nova Crystallis subtitle to the game.

6. THE CORE STORY IS MORE RELATABLE THAN PREVIOUS GAMES
FFXV is essentially a road trip movie in video game form. The beginning of the game sees main protagonist and heir to Lucis Kingdom, Noctis, departing the crown city of Insomnia with his lifelong friends Ignis, Gladio, and Prompto. The group is tasked with traveling to the city of Altissia so that Noctis can marry princess Luna of Tenebrae, thus uniting the nations of Lucis and Tenebrae in order to stave off the Empire of Niflheim, which has conquered most of the world of Eos. Traveling between areas of Eos will be handled via the Regalia, a high end convertible that belongs to Noctis’s father, King Regis. During their adventure, Noctis and his friends will banter with each other and sometimes butt-heads over what to do in a given situation. Tabata’s emphasis on the “human drama” of FFXV will surely make these interactions on the road trip seem lifelike and believable.

7. THE MAIN CAST HAVE UNIQUE HOBBIES THAT COINCIDE WITH THE ROAD TRIP
Noctis and his crew each have unique hobbies that will make the road trip feel more immersive. For example, Noctis is a fishing expert, and Ignis likes to cook. Depending on what fish you catch with Noctis, Ignis will be able to prepare different meals that will add status buffs to your party the next day. When driving around in the Regalia, sometimes Prompto will ask the guys to pull over so that he can take a picture on his cellphone. Obliging Prompto’s requests will result in his photography skills leveling up, which in turn will increase the quality of pictures he will take. Gladio, whose family has served Noctis’s family for generations, will offer combat advice and survival tactics throughout the adventure.

8. THE WORLD OF EOS IS HUGE
One of the biggest complaints about FFXIII was that the game felt very linear. Despite having environments that seemed open and explorable, invisible borders forced you to stay along a guided corridor path. With each stop the Regalia makes in FFXV, players will be able to explore breathtaking environments like the plains of Duscae or the Venice-inspired city of Altissia. You can see some of the game’s locales in the “World of Wonder” trailer that was released for the Uncovered: Final Fantasy XV event back in March:

9. AIRSHIPS ARE BACK
Since promotional trailers for FFXV began circulating around the internet, fans have been wondering whether or not airships would be available to fly in-game. While Tabata had remained pretty tight lipped on the subject, he made a huge reveal at the Uncovered event in March… the Regalia would be able to gain a flight mode towards the end of the story. Watch the transformation below:

10. ENEMY AI WAS CREATED BY OBSERVING REAL LIFE ANIMALS
FFXV was developed around the idea of “a fantasy based on reality”, and this concept manifests itself within the monsters found in the game. According to secondary art director Tomohiro Hasegawa in an interview with GameInformer, “What [Tabata] said was that our goal was National Geographic – think of a Behemoth that we could have a documentary program about.” The art team visited multiple zoos and animal sanctuaries in order to study behavioral patterns that would then be applied to the monsters in the game. In most action games, enemies will “telegraph” their actions so that players can counter them, but with FFXV, the team is aiming to make the monsters move as lifelike as possible. In the video below, you can see an analysis of some of the monsters that have been revealed thus far:

11. THE SWITCH TO REAL TIME COMBAT IS WHAT THE FINAL FANTASY SERIES NEEDS
Perhaps the biggest complaint from longtime FF fans surrounding FFXV was the decision to radically change Final Fantasy’s signature turn-based combat system in favor of a real time action system. Instead of inputting commands from a series of menu options, combat now revolves around strategically timing offensive and defensive maneuvers while switching weapons on the fly. Personally, I believe that the series has always wanted to have flashy, action based combat, but has had to resort to turn based combat due to hardware limitations. Since the PS4 and Xbox One are as developer-friendly as high end PCs, Square has finally been able to make a beautiful game that also features flashy combat that was previously reserved for cut scenes in older FF games. Watch this video below that details some of the combat options that will be available in FFXV.

12. THE LEVELING UP SYSTEM PUTS A NEW SPIN ON A CLASSIC FORMULA
In most FINAL FANTASY and Role Playing Games in general, your controllable characters grow stronger simply by defeating enemies and accumulating EXP points. In FFXV, Square Enix takes that basic idea and molds it so that it fits with the road trip theme. During the daytime portions of the game, Noctis and crew will encounter and slay monsters, accumulating EXP and materials like Garula Sirloins. At night, players can have the party settle at campgrounds, where two things will occur. First, all of the EXP you gained during the day will cash out at once, which will usually result in the party leveling up a few times per night. After the EXP has been cashed out, Ignis will take the materials you gained and cook a meal, which can affect your abilities for the next day cycle (such as 50% Strength increase, immunity to Poison, or an increase in EXP gained the following day). Not only does this system reward players for their efforts in the day, but it also encourages players to seek out new monsters to slay in order to receive greater status buffs.

13. SUMMONS HAVE A GREATER PURPOSE
Summons in FFXV are drastically different than their counterparts in previous games. Instead of just being a force that players can call upon to deliver devastating attacks, summons in FFXV (called “Astrals” or “Eidolons”) are gods which created the world of Eos, that will act differently depending on the scenario in which you summon them. For example, the summon Titan has three actions it could do when called upon–it will either run up to Noctis and grab him with one hand while using his other hand to smash the ground and cause a shockwave; if targeting a far off enemy, Titan will grab a nearby boulder and launch it at the enemy; or if Titan is called at the end of a battle when most foes have been eliminated, Titan might decide to just run away, deeming your call “unworthy”.

14. THE PLATINUM DEMO DOES NOT ACCURATELY REPRESENT THE TYPICAL GAME PLAY LOOP
So far, Square Enix has released two demos for FFXV: Episode Duscae, which was released as a download code included with TYPE-0; and the Platinum Demo, which was released as a free download on the Playstation Network and Xbox Live. Although Duscae showed full combat options and a taste of the leveling system, not a lot of North American fans played it because of the need to purchase TYPE-0. The Platinum Demo was a sort of dumbed-down version of FFXV in which players control a child version of Noctis that was intended to showcase the game’s lighting and weather effects. Due to the fact that this demo was a free download, a large chunk of fans suspected that this would be a reflection of final gameplay in FFXV. I’m here to assure you that this isn’t the case. The final portion of the Platinum Demo has a boss fight that makes it almost impossible to beat on your first try, but the longer you fight the boss, the more combat options become available to you. In short, the retail version of FFXV will combine the combat found in the last portion of the Platinum Demo, with the freedom and exploratory elements found in Episode Duscae.

15. THERE ARE MULTIMEDIA TIE-INS TO THE GAME
Square Enix has stated that FFXV is a “make or break” situation for the Final Fantasy franchise. In order to grab the attention of both FF faithful and potentially new fans, Square announced two projects that tie into the main game: KINGSGLAIVE : FINAL FANTASY XV, a full length CGI movie that details what King Regis and Princess Luna are up to during Noctis’s journey in the main game; and BROTHERHOOD: FINAL FANTASY XV, a five-part anime web series that details the backstories of Noctis and his companions. Don’t worry though, these projects are simply supplementary and won’t be necessary to enjoy FFXV proper.

Check out the trailers for both below:
KINGSGLAIVE trailer:

BROTHERHOOD Episode 1: