May 2006. I watched over my tenuous internet connection, my breath caught in my throat, as Square Enix announced the Fabula Nova Crystallis: Final Fantasy XIII compendium. I was young(er), I was naive, and I was positively exploding with joy over these announced additions to my all-time favorite video game series. Final Fantasy XIII, Final Fantasy Versus XIII, Final Fantasy Agito XIII. My heart battered against my ribcage, and I’m pretty sure I was drooling. When I finally remembered to breathe, I couldn’t help but think, Yes, this is it! This is what the franchise needs! A whole new direction, an entirely new spin — something to bring the new generation of gamers into the fold. While they may never discover the glory of VI, they can make themselves at home in these new titles, these new worlds.
Fast forward a little over five years. September, 2011. In that span of time I have collected a BA, moved out of my parents’ house, and purchased my own health insurance plan — in short, I’ve grown up (physically, anyway). Square Enix has just released English trailers for Final Fantasy XIII-2; Agito has been removed from the Fabula group, renamed Type-0, and slated for release later this year in Japan. And Versus XIII is still nonexistent save for a series of trailers that show a little less than five minutes of actual gameplay.
When this year’s E3 came and went (I was again hunched over my computer all bug-eyed and again with a crappy internet connection) with no Versus announcement but with loads of info about XIII-2, I jokingly posted as my Facebook status: “Dear Square Enix – Final Fantasy, UR DOIN IT WRONG.” Only one person called me out on my transparency, pointing their finger at the thin veil of faux-anger that I was using to hide a strange combination of despair and hope. Yes, I was excited about XIII-2 regardless… but Versus.
My friends were losing hope. I watched as the internet slowly lost its love for Noctis like one eases off their infatuation with the gorgeous stranger that sits across from you on the train every morning but doesn’t speak a word. I watched as friends shrugged their shoulders and left the series behind them, swearing that only a VII remake would bring them back. And despite all the flack and ridicule I got for dropping my initial hatred of XIII and sobbing like an infant through the last half hour of the game, I kept my chin up and swore up and down that Versus was coming and it would be so worth it when it did.
As a long-time fan of the franchise, I can appreciate the new twists and concepts the team incorporates into its games. While VI is still my favorite, IX blew me away as something I had never seen in a game before — something completely fresh and new and incredible — and the deeply emotional underlying plot of X made me cry. From what we know of Versus already — that Noctis and Stella could be lovers or enemies or both, that Noctis might be openly homosexual, and that the world depicted in the trailer looks startlingly like a modern metropolis — we know that it will be an interesting story.
So why am I holding out for Versus like a hero coming home from war?
Because it is. It will be. After all the bad sentiment stirred by up XIII, the wall of outright rage dividing X and VII fans over the choice to upgrade the former before remaking the latter, the scorn aimed at projects like X-2 and XIII-2 and basically anything that isn’t part of the VII compilation… Versus will come out guns blazing, armed with photo-realistic graphics and a story aimed for out hearts, a game that has been promised to hit close to home and change the direction of the series.
For all Nomura’s hints and blips and the whirlwind of intrigue the game has already stirred, it will be the hero we, those who aren’t bitter over remakes and the employment of the non-traditional, want it to be. It should be. The opening of the trailer presents us with a single sentence, the sentence that defines the game, the sentence that will change the way we view the fantasy genre and our reception to these games:
This is a fantasy based on reality.
Did you feel that tingle whisper along your spine? I did.