Does Final Fantasy Versus XIII Matter Anymore?
Square Enix was extremely busy in 2006. In addition to completing and releasing Kingdom Hearts II and Final Fantasy XII, the publisher announced three games at E3: Final Fantasy XIII, Final Fantasy Agito XIII, and Final Fantasy Versus XIII. This trio was collectively called Fabula Nova Crystallis Final Fantasy XIII, with each game supposedly connected to the others by a common world or theme, though each would have its own plot, characters, and timeline. Since then, only one of those games has been released, and FFXIII took years of development and was still met with extremely mixed reviews. Almost five years since that initial announcement, with barely any noteworthy progress to announce on Versus XIII, it’s hard not to wonder if the project will ever be complete. And even if the developers pick up the pace and get it out in the next year or two, will it even matter? Will any gamers still care?
Among the many things Square Enix is notorious for are epic role-playing games and long development times. When a year passed, and then another, and still almost nothing was revealed about Versus XIII, it wasn’t too out of the ordinary, especially with Final Fantasy XIII clearly making progress. Then more months went by with only the occasional screenshot or trickle of information. Now so much time has passed since there was any real news about Versus that it’s likely the few facts Squenix has revealed are probably long gone from many gamers’ minds. It’s easy to defend the developers by claiming they were busy with FFXIII, but if that’s the case, why did they announce Versus XIII so early—especially since Square Enix didn’t know how gamers were going to react to the major gameplay changes of Final Fantasy XIII?
It’s not just the long period of development that has made Versus XIII slowly slide into obscurity; it’s also the vagueness surrounding the game and the whole Fabula Nova Crystallis collection. What is Versus XIII about, anyway? What is the gameplay like? Is it even a clearly defined role-playing game? Is the connection between all three games ever going to be better explained, and while we’re on the subject, will there ever be news about Final Fantasy Agito XIII? These questions have been left unanswered for almost five years. It’s one thing to slowly reveal information bit by bit in order to build anticipation, but after making a big announcement and then seemingly shoving the game on the back burner, Square Enix is almost begging for Versus to be forgotten.
Even without all of the other factors, history does have a way of repeating itself, and the previous sidesteps to the main Final Fantasy series have never been quite as memorable or enjoyable as the core games. Everyone loves FFVII, but how many people name Dirge of Cerberus when talking about their favorite games? Final Fantasy X was epic, but X-2 took the strong female leads and turned them into a trio of pop stars in skimpy clothes. One of the strengths of the Final Fantasy series is that each game contains a complete story, and every title is a new beginning. Versus may not have any of the characters or even the setting of Final Fantasy XIII, but the games will share some connection, and it seems like the developers could be breaking free of the last game and starting anew.
Speaking as a Final Fantasy fan, one of the reasons I have disregarded Versus XIII for so long is the timing of its announcement. When Square Enix unveiled the three games in the Fabula Nova Crystallis collection, the only one I cared about was Final Fantasy XIII. At the time, FFXII was on the verge of release, and the Final Fantasy hype machine was in overdrive. I was extremely excited about FFXIII in the months leading up to its March 2010 release, and though it was a bit more linear than I would have liked, it was still one of my favorite games of last year. I thought maybe with FFXIII out the door, the time had come to focus on Versus, but then E3 and Tokyo Game Show came and went with no news, and I realized I had never really cared that much to begin with. If a die-hard Final Fantasy fan like me can’t muster up some excitement about Final Fantasy Versus XIII, how does Square Enix expect to hype up the gaming industry like they have for every other major release?
If Square Enix ever gets close to an actual release date for Final Fantasy Versus XIII, new information about the game will likely come pouring out, but it’s going to take some jaw-dropping visuals, fascinating characters, and a genuinely intriguing plot to actually garner the interest of most gamers. At this point, I’d rather see a brand new game, or perhaps a new entry in one of Squenix’s other RPG series, none of which seem to get as much attention as Final Fantasy. I welcome the opportunity for the developers to prove me wrong, because I would like nothing more than for Versus to be a mind-blowing epic, but even if a release date was announced tomorrow I probably still wouldn’t care.