The Life, Death, And Rebirth of Final Fantasy Versus XIII

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Final Fantasy is one of the most revered series in all of gaming. The excitement and speculation following a new game’s announcement is often an incredible experience. That passion for the series makes the anticipation so special; and tragic, in the case of Final Fantasy Versus XIII, a game that never saw the light of day.

Originally revealed in 2006, Final Fantasy Versus XIII was a part of the Fabula Nova Crystallis collection. This was a series of games, including the mainline entry, Final Fantasy XIII, that shared common story elements, themes, and concepts, but did not necessarily take place in the same worlds.

Information regarding Final Fantasy Versus XIII was sporadic in the years following its announcement. We knew that the game would be in capable hands with its director, Tetsuya Nomura. He worked on many Final Fantasy games and directed the Kingdom Hearts series as well. We also knew that Versus XIII was going to be a PlayStation 3 exclusive.

An Uncertain Journey

Story details were consistently vague – we did not even find out the name of our main protagonist, Noctis, until 2008. We knew royalty played an important role, as the lead was a prince. It seemed that the title would be darker than many of its predecessors, as seen that same year in a CGI trailer depicting a battle between Noctis and another character named Stella. An in-game trailer that came out later that year also featured the two, where they discussed certain aspects of the game’s world and lore. It opened with a quote from William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, which once again hinted at the game’s darker tone.

The following years continued to offer little information about Versus XIII. Square occasionally showed very early gameplay, and the game was consistently absent from E3. In 2010, Nomura stated that the game’s story and character designs were complete. The game finally transitioned from pre-production to full production in 2011, according to producer Yoshinori Kitase. Fans continued to eagerly await news on the title as more time passed, with many fearing the game’s cancellation. Square quickly denied these claims, and reassured their audience that Versus was still on the way.

A new beginning

Final Fantasy Versus XIII rebranded

Finally, at E3 2013, Square confirmed they rebranded the title as Final Fantasy XV. To say that this game was polarizing would be an understatement. After all of the years of waiting for Versus XIII, it seemed that fans were finally going to get that experience they were so excited for. But while the characters and some of the basic details of the world carried over between the names, it was obvious that the tone had shifted dramatically. A more upbeat, adventurous story replaced the dark and gritty atmosphere of Versus XIII. This is likely correlated with the fact that Hajime Tabata replaced Nomura as director. When responding to fans’ questions about why Nomura left, Square claimed he needed to focus on another long-awaited title: Kingdom Hearts III.

The main narrative of XV featured a road trip gone wrong – Noctis was on his way to his wedding with his three best friends and royal protectors, Gladiolus, Ignis, and Prompto. Enemy forces annihilated his hometown of Insomnia on the way, and the group had to take back the throne and restore order to the world. While we still don’t know exactly how Versus XIII’s story was going to play out, it’s clear that the original vision for the game had been greatly altered.

XV was an open-world game; a strong contrast to the unpopular linearity of XIII. It featured activities like fishing and camping, and was very action-oriented as opposed to the traditional turn-based systems of previous titles. A short anime series detailing the backstories of the main cast, as well as a CGI movie that takes place before and during Insomnia’s destruction, were released to fill in narrative gaps and build up more excitement.

A Polarizing Title

Final Fantasy XV reception

The game was met with a lot of negative reception after its launch in 2016. Many fans were disappointed that the title they had waited ten years for did not live up to their expectations. Some felt that the story was disjointed and that the side activities and combat were lackluster. In 2018, Final Fantasy XV: Royal Edition was released on consoles. It was a complete version of the game, with all of the DLCs included, as well as a plethora of improvements and updates. Many players saw this version as a step forward compared to the original release, but the title still remained controversial. This was largely due to the fact that an anime series, a movie, and multiple DLCs were needed to tell the game’s complete story. Many players did really enjoy the game, however, and continue to do so. The FFXV subreddit is active and has close to 90,000 people that have joined so far, with discussions about the game continuing to this day.

Over the years, many fans have had online discussions about what the original story of Versus XIII was going to be about, or how sad it was that the project never really came to fruition. Fans gained a new reason to talk about the game recently, in the most unexpected way.

Rebirth

Kingdom Hearts III Yozora

Kingdom Hearts III introduced us to Yozora. In the Toy Box world, he was shown in a small trailer featuring a large city, multiple mechanical enemies, and a group of individuals wielding colorful and powerful abilities. While the footage certainly bore a resemblance to Final Fantasy titles, these similarities were shrugged off as simply being a throwaway reference to Square’s other works. The secret ending of the game showed us Yozora once again. His second appearance confirmed he would be of some importance going forward, but fans still didn’t know what to expect.

The game’s ReMind DLC came out in 2020. There, Sora encountered Yozora in what seems to have been a dream. The two then fight in one of the series’ most difficult boss battles. Afterwards, we see a very familiar scene.

Yozora wakes up in the back of a car, while listening to his driver talking to him in the front. This scene is not only important because of the dialogue, but also because of its connection to Versus XIII.

The scene in ReMind plays out almost exactly like a 2011 trailer for Versus. There, Noctis woke up, and listened to his driver in the front of the car. The movements and shots are identical from when they wake up to when the trailer cuts. Obviously, fans’ minds collectively exploded with excitement and theories after this happened.

Parallels

Yozora looks somewhat similar to Noctis, but has a different hairstyle and color. The major connection between the two, as we know it now, lies in their names. The Versus XIII lead’s name, Noctis Caelum, means night sky in Latin. Yozora means the same thing in Japanese. Another interesting thing to note is the eye colors of the two. Noctis’ eyes were usually blue, but when he used his powers, they turned red. Yozora has one blue eye and one red eye.

The connections between the two extend beyond themselves; the companions aiding Yozora in the Toy Box trailer bear a strong resemblance to Noctis’ friends. Additionally, Yozora is trying to save a girl during the chaos -a girl wearing a star necklace. Final Fantasy Versus XIII was going to feature Stella as a prominent character. Another character, named Luna, replaced her in XV. Stella means star in Latin.

An exciting future

It’ll probably be a while before we discover what’s really going on here. But as fans, we can look forward to Nomura’s original vision for Versus XIII seemingly being resurrected through Kingdom Hearts. The first ten-year journey was long enough, but the fascinating speculation for this untold story is enough to make the next wait all the more enjoyable.

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