Depending on your point of view, the recent rumors regarding the cancellation of Final Fantasy Versus XIII has likely elicited any number of responses. For those that were looking forward to the game a great deal, there’s disappointment, shock and dismay, or possibly even anger. For those that weren’t as heavily invested, there’s indifference, or possibly even relief, either for the fact that a seemingly tumultuous development has been brought to a merciful end, or for the fact that the people involved in its development may now be at work on other projects like the long-awaited Kingdom Hearts III. And of course, for those more malicious malcontents, a sense of glee.
I myself am somewhere between the first two. If it’s true that Versus XIII is cancelled, then I’m not too disappointed because, well, not much of the game was ever shown, so I couldn’t ever judge whether it was going to turn out well or not. On the other hand, given the people involved, I could hazard a guess at least that the game would be of my taste, and there were obviously a lot of people that had spent years working on it for no apparent avail, and so I’m disappointed as well. But I can’t say I’m angry; bad things unfortunately can happen to well-intentioned projects.
Square Enix will apparently make an announcement regarding the direction of Final Fantasy XIII in the near future; most likely on how the company intends to conclude Lightning’s story, which was left with a major, dangling cliffhanger at the conclusion of Final Fantasy XIII-2. If Wikipedia’s page on the game is to be believed, such an announcement will come on August 31.
This, of course, says nothing regarding the fate of Versus; sources that have leaked the news of the cancellation suggest that Square Enix will just leave the cancellation as quiet as it can in order to prevent disruptions related to stock prices and shareholders. And I can’t really blame them, if that’s their intent. Shareholders can be a fickle crowd, and if they’re invested purely for financial reasons and hear that a much-anticipated game has been canned, it can cause trouble. I doubt that such a cancellation would cause as much trouble as the launch of Final Fantasy XIV, which not only got hammered critically on release, but was so poor that Square Enix President Yoichi Wada felt it necessary to make a public apology. The game’s failure led to a financial wash, and the company is only spending more money in an effort to right the ship. They’re still in the process of overhauling the game for its 2.0 relaunch.
And in that sense, if Versus XIII was truly troubled, then it may have been better that it was cancelled. If it launched to scathing reviews, then that would be that. Unlike an MMO, there’s no way for a single-player RPG to receive a design overhaul after the fact. It’s just not the type of game that gets a mulligan.
Then again, no one outside the company knows precisely why Versus was cancelled, if the cancellation did indeed happen. The game was meant to be part of a collection of titles that revolved around the universe of Final Fantasy XIII, which the company had branded Fabula Nova Crystallis. It was supposed to comprise Final Fantasy XIII, Versus XIII, and another game called Agito XIII. For those that don’t remember, Agito XIII was a PSP title that Square Enix was mostly quiet on, until the day that it was announced that they decided to drop the FFXIII connection and turn it into its own thing called Final Fantasy Type-0.
This was at about the same time that the company also announced that they were developing the previously unannounced Final Fantasy XIII-2; a direct sequel to the original game. And it could just be that about the time that XIII-2’s development was decided upon that the company’s plans for Fabula Nova Crystallis were cracking at the seams.
So how did that happen? Well, Final Fantasy XIII was by no means a failure. It sold millions of copies around the world. Despite what some might suggest, it was far from being any sort of flop. I’d also argue that the combat system in the game was excellent and the characters and story were, while not among the best of the series, far from the worst. What shot the game in the foot, at least perception-wise, was an overly linear world design, and the mechanics were rolled out over a pace that resulted in the player not having full control over their party until around the twenty hour mark.
And so, hearing these criticisms, Final Fantasy XIII-2 was made. The game still uses the same basic concepts of the Final Fantasy XIII combat system, with a few tweaks, and it features far less linear terrain. Really, it addresses just about all of the legitimate complaints that were levied at the original game, and tied it all together with the presence of a highly memorable villain. The one major knock against the game compared to the first is that, as I said before, it ends on a major cliffhanger. It also introduced some oddball DLC choices, like Mass Effect N7 armor costume sets, which were mostly just tacky and out of place.
But all of that aside, with Agito no longer what it once was and XIII-2 produced to address fan criticism of the original game, we’re left with Versus; a game that has been shrouded in secrecy for most of its development and has only rarely been shown in any form publicly. The music track used for the game’s trailer was even released as DLC for Theatrhythm last week. A lot of fan expectation had been built around a game that Square Enix has rarely said much about, and many of those that weren’t interested in it just wanted it done so that the team could get to work on KH3.
That is a public relations nightmare of an obstacle course to traverse, if there ever was one. Yikes.
And then there’s the rumored fate of what’s actually become of Versus. Was the project entirely abandoned? Were any of its assets merged into the development of Final Fantasy XV? Did they just up and change the game’s name to Final Fantasy XV? It’s impossible to say, and depending on the truth of the matter, we might never find out.
As for my own personal take on this, if Versus XIII was canned, my sympathies go to the team behind it. The expectations for the game from some corners were just too much, and whatever led to the game’s cancellation, I hope it doesn’t impede their work going forward. It’s fun to think that, perhaps, the game is being retooled into the next main Final Fantasy game, but I suspect that’s probably not the case. And to those of you tap-dancing to this news, thinking that means that KH3 is just around the corner, shame on you.
But as for the future of Final Fantasy XIII and whatever its shattered crystallis holds, I’m ready to take it. Lightning is actually one of my favorite protagonists in the series, and I’d like to see her story brought to a proper conclusion. That, and a proper resolution to what Final Fantasy XIII-2 set in motion. XIII-2 showed that Square Enix is willing to learn from its mistakes and adapt. Whether the next phase is a DLC cap to XIII-2, or a XIII-3, I’m willing to play it. And if Versus XIII reappears down the line in some form, I’ll play that, too.