E3 2013: Final Fantasy XV: Where is the RPG?

Just before the start of E3 2013 I told the rest of the crew of Gamer Horizon that I was really hoping Square Enix would show up at one of the press conferences and wow us with Final Fantasy XVKingdom Hearts III or SOMETHING. Their last appearance at the PlayStation 4 reveal event was less than spectacular; all they showed then was a video that we had already seen before. “Please be excited,” eh? I don’t think so. But then, they did exactly what I wanted them to do, and announced both Final Fantasy XV and Kingdom Hearts III! Why then am I filled with a growing sense of dread instead of excitement? To be honest, I’m even more worried about Square Enix now than I was before the games were revealed.

It probably has a little to do with the games Square Enix has been releasing lately. Despite having actually enjoyed Final Fantasy XIII and it’s spinoff sequel Final Fantasy XIII-2, I’d still place them towards the bottom of a “best to worst” list of Final Fantasy titles. And while Final Fantasy XII was a great game, the last Final Fantasy I really loved was Final Fantasy X. Though some may argue this point by naming games like Dragon Quest IX and The World Ends With You, I feel as though Square Enix—the company formed by the merging of the two best RPG developers of my childhood—has forgotten how to make RPGs.

It seems their focus has shifted from role playing to action. I won’t hold this against Kingdom Hearts III, which should be an action RPG according to its roots. But Final Fantasy XV on the other hand, well… just take a look at the E3 2013 reveal trailer.

Final Fantasy XV - Screenshot
I would.

When the trailer finally gets to the gameplay we see the main character taking cover, avoiding gunfire, and fighting enemies while moving around in real time. If this trailer is a representation of the majority of the gameplay in Final Fantasy XV, it’s safe to say that it is an action game through and through. Beyond that, our hero is seen climbing up walls and fighting on the side of a building. It would not be an exaggeration to say that the trailer is more reminiscent of Devil May Cry, God or War, Assassin’s Creed and Uncharted than Final Fantasy—at least in terms of gameplay. If it weren’t for a brief mention of crystals, some awesome CGI, a few magic spells and airships flying through the skies, it would be difficult to find the “Final Fantasy” in this trailer at all.

Of course, unlike the persistently traditional Dragon Quest series, Final Fantasy is known—especially in recent years—for radically reimagining itself with every installment. For example (aside from Final Fantasy X-2), we haven’t seen the Active Time Battle system since Final Fantasy IX, and every game since has had a unique battle engine. But no matter how the series evolved, one thing remained consistent: Final Fantasy games are always RPGs.

I am really struggling to find the “RPG” in Final Fantasy XV.

There are hints of an RPG here and there throughout the trailer. We can see numbers that presumably represent the hit points of the characters in a party of 3, and we can assume that there is a leveling mechanic that determines how the characters grow. It’s also clear that there is still a heavy focus on storytelling. But aside from that, we don’t see many RPG mechanics in the trailer at all.

Perhaps they shouldn’t have changed the name. As a spinoff, Final Fantasy Versus XIII had every right to be an action game. But as the fifteenth numbered Final Fantasy game, it seems disappointing. Who knows? Maybe it will be a great game. Despite the concerned tone of this article, I am looking forward to Final Fantasy XV. I just feel like Square Enix decided to rename the game because three years since the release of Final Fantasy XIII (and disregarding spinoffs and Final Fantasy XIV because it’s an MMORPG), they had nothing else to show to the diehard Final Fantasy fans at E3 this year.

Beyond that, did you know Final Fantasy Versus XIII was originally announced in May of 2006? That’s 7 years of development already! What’s going on? In only 4 years between 1997 and 2000, Square Enix (and Squaresoft) managed to release Final Fantasy VII, Final Fantasy VIII and Final Fantasy IX. Yet Final Fantasy X, Final Fantasy XII and Final Fantasy XIII came out over the course of 10 years from 2001 to 2010. With Final Fantasy XV likely to be released in 2014 it seems we can now only expect a main series single player Final Fantasy game once every four or five years. I know game design has become much more expensive and time consuming as technology has developed, but it still seems ridiculous that after 7 years of development, all we’re getting from Final Fantasy XV is a renamed spinoff.

Still, I can’t help but to wonder if there was or is another Final Fantasy XV in development. If so, it’s probably safe to assume it has been renamed Final Fantasy XVI, but I get the feeling we won’t see or hear a peep about that until E3 2015, and we’ll be lucky to see it released by the end of the decade (we’ll probably get Final Fantasy XV-2 or something of the sort between now and then though). I just hope when Final Fantasy XVI is revealed that it’s an RPG.

So yes, I got what I wanted from Square Enix at E3 2013. Kingdom Hearts III and Final Fantasy XV are coming. But can you blame me for being worried about the future of what was once my favorite RPG developer?

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0 thoughts on “E3 2013: Final Fantasy XV: Where is the RPG?

    1. It is, but Elder Scrolls has always has been an action game since Elder Scrolls: Arena. Final Fantasy has been a turn based RPG and not an action game since the beginning of the series.


  1. They have to leave the turn-based era to effectively compete in this new gen. The turn-based era is like the new text-RPG of current gen, it’s too outdated and was created in a time when it was basically necessary. I use to love turn-based RPGs too, I can’t stand them now though, they’re neanderthals in this gen. FF turning into an action RPG is a natural evolution IMO. I’m actually happy they’re finally leaving turn-based, the action looked pretty decent in the trailer. My issue with Square-Enix is that they seem to be losing their creativity in general. For instance, I don’t like how all the characters are just regular emo-looking humans, it doesn’t seem as cool as past iterations in that area.

    On the subject of Square’s action rpgs, I still don’t understand how they completely ruined the Secret of Mana franchise. The first game was an amazing 3-player masterpiece. Then they made all these horrible sequels that changed up the formula for no reason. I really wish they’d revisit Secret of Mana, except give it the treatment it deserves, and make it a next gen title.


    1. While I agree personally, I do think that there are a lot of
      traditional, turn-based RPG fans out there. I think the problem is that
      on consoles, in order to be able to compete, turn-based RPGs can’t have
      the huge budgets that core Final Fantasies have.


  2. Let’s not forget the original point of making Versus XIII was to recreate tricky battle scenes seen in Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children. Now, after a LONG trial and error process they realized that an open-world action-RPG they set out to make was too restrictive for current-gen consoles. As for the RPG elements, you’re right, there has not been a display of much; however, if what Nomura says is true of it still being the same game, then there will be dungeons in the world map to explore. Story will be there, exploration will be there, as well as others; the only thing (ok, maybe not the only thing) that would be missing is a turn-based style. Also, Nomura has mentioned that you’ll need to beat summons to use them, so there will be those quests as well


  3. FF7 and FF8 are 2 of my fav all time games. Didn’t enjoy any of the FFs this gen. I think more focus goes into CGI than anything else.


  4. Real time battle systems have no impact in categorizing a game as RPG or not. Type-0 was in real time and it was more of an RPG than the latest Final Fantasy games. And considering out of 14 main games only 4 have been truly turn based i wouldn’t exactly consider a key aspect of the franchise.

    For the purists, Square has said time and time again they will keep returning to time or turn based battle systems. So no need to get all worked up.


  5. A lot has changed since FF XII. Western RPGs have taken over in a big way. In fact I would say that the WRPG has been much more successful overall. Only FF really hit blockbuster numbers and as evidenced by FF XIII, interest in that style of gameplay has severely waned. I’m not surprised at all that FF XV is more action-RPG than traditional. This is the way of evolution, Ari.


    1. Granted the recent FF series games have mostly revolved around, control 1 person while the others do auto attacks/gambits/whateverelseAIwishestodo. There really hasn’t been the controlling of multiple characters since X.

      Still wishing/waiting for Suikoden 6 to arrive…


  6. Im surprised u ppl didn’t complain all this when the first game play for final fantasy versus xiii got released.


    1. In all fairness, VS XIII was always a spin-off, the core numbered titles in the FF franchise have never been so heavily action. Not that I mind.


      1. Oh I get it. But overall, I actually think ff xv is gonna be a great game even though it’s not “completely” rpg.


  7. here is what square should do – simply
    they make 15 and kingdom hearts 3. hopefully earning a lot of money on it – they make final fantasy 16 a traditional turn based combat. if it’s good and all of the fans cheer then yes, that proves they should stick to it. if it gets mixed feedback then that justifies square enix’s turn to a more action oriented combat, and the old- final fantasy fanboys can shut up.


  8. Personally, I wish that Final Fantasy games would go back it it’s root. It would be nice if Square-Enix would do a re-mastered for Final Fantasy V and VI for the Vita, like what they did with I, II, and IV. I would normally say that new IP>Re-Mastered, but in this case, I’ll make an exception.


    1. I would love a remake of Final Fantasy VI! Final Fantasy IV has been remade so many times, which is fine because it is also a great game, but Final Fantasy VI is long overdue for some attention!


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