As mostly everyone who's followed Final Fantasy XV's development at all knows, Final Fantasy Versus XIII was a project that was stuck in development hell for such a long time that it may as well have never existed outside of a few conceptual trailers. Previous project director Tetsuya Nomura admits that the game had hardly entered development at all before its rebranding into Final Fantasy XV.
About a year later, Nomura was removed from the new XV project and replaced with Hajime Tabata. When the final project finally released, it was no surprise that many scenes and characters from Versus XIII had either been removed, greatly altered, or re-purposed to fit the new plot of Final Fantasy XV.
Warning: This article will go in depth into Final Fantasy XV's plot and thus will contain spoilers
You've been warned!
The first thing to keep in mind is that Versus XIII and XV are simultaneously very different things, and also the same thing. Versus XIII was a part of Square's Fabula Nova Crystalis multimedia project (FNC), and shared a mythos with the other XIII games - XIII and its sequels, and Type-0 (originally branded as Agito XIII). Therefore, any elements from the overarching FNC mythos were cut or changed to fit the new story.
An obvious example of this would be "daemons," who are humans that have been transformed into monsters. They are, for all intents and purposes, the same as "cie'th" from the original FNC mythos; which were, you guessed it, humans transformed into monsters. Perhaps the most glaring example of this is in Ravus, who is transformed into a sort of half-daemon towards the end of the game.
This looks startlingly similar to another boss in Final Fantasy XIII, Cid Raines, who also turns into a dae- er, I mean, a cie'th.
An alleged member of Final Fantasy XV's staff has come forward on Reddit, claiming that he was privy to insider info about the development of the game's story and its transition from Versus XIII to XV. Ordinarily, this would be taken with a grain of salt - any old joe schmoe can waltz in and claim the same thing (just read this article about The Street Sharks to learn about internet lies). However, there is a catch to his supposed leaks: Roberto Ferrari, character designer for Ardyn, Cindy, Aranea, and several other characters, has recently spoken out about concepts of his that were unable to be used in-game. One such concept overlaps with part of the leaker's info: that Umbra, Luna's dog, was meant to be a ninja that could transform into a dog.
Someone posted an image of a character on Ferrari's site, and asked him if this was Umbra's human form.
Ferrari's response was along the lines of "I would like to know [how you got] this art before I answer." The post was deleted on December 27th, 2016.
This does not in any way confirm the leaks, but it does fuel the fire of suspicion a bit. With that in mind, let's take a look at what our self-proclaimed leaker had to say about the story, and entertain his claims as if they were real.
Original Leviathan Fight Details
"There were indoors and outdoors sections, Noctis warped around floating houses around Leviathan and inside he had to fight soldiers. Leviathan had to destroy all the houses and then Noctis proceeded to battle the Leviathan."
Seems legit. There's a section of the TGS 2013 trailer that basically shows what he's describing here.
"No summons were cut."
Cool. There's really no way to prove or disprove this, but don't forget that there were some other summons on Amano's "Big Bang" painting that didn't make it in.
Either way, it seems like the six were always the six, at least insofar as existing in any form beyond conceptual ideas.
"Gentiana existed before I entered the team and she was present in the old game, she had medium powers like Noctis and could speak with the female protagonist too. In one of the concepts she had to hurt herself or deprive herself from senses in order to gain powers. I don't know if this was developed. No mention as to if she was still Shiva in the old game but I don't think so since her role does not match."
Gentiana being Shiva did seem to come out of left field, so this is plausible, at least. It's also worth noting that we know of two different forms of Shiva in the finished game: her giantess form, which is the corpse we see on the side of the train tracks, and her summon form, which is a human sized blue lady. Or, well, a bunch of human sized blue ladies. This would explain the bizarre discrepancy between Shiva's summon form and the other Astral's summon forms, which are exactly the same as the huge forms we encounter in game.
Ignis Was Always Going to Get Blinded
"[Ignis's] story was written like this before the re-structure for the download content happened."
Fair enough. Seems like a story beat that could exist independently of any major changes elsewhere.
End Game Details
"The ending section was decided when I joined the team. It was planned for Noctis to wake up and encounter every character once at a time. The open world was not explorable; there were quests that limited your movement in the map. The Lestallum map in which Noctis was supposed to meet Iris and his other friend was complete, but it was not the full city. The idea was to turn the open world in a dungeon in which the player had to skip from one place to another and piece what was happening as Noctis met the other characters."
This would have made Chapter 14's World of Ruin segment feel much more natural, rather than dumping Noct at Hammerhead where he met all of his friends at once.
On Cindy & Iris' End Game Look
"Cindy wears like motorcycle suit. It reminded me of Kill Bill. Her face didn't change that much. Iris was taller and had a king guard suit."
Man, I would have liked to see this, especially since Cindy's default outfit is complete garbage.
Ending to 'Versus XIII' details
"I remember that and one point, a big ray of light was supposed to appear in the sky, which was the door to the other dimension, the afterlife (which was called versus and that was the meaning of the game title). A bad character (I think it was Ardyn) caused the gate to this dimension to open. The focus of the villains was to kill an angel who lived in the afterlife and took care of the ghosts. The female protagonist could talk to every character in this dimension. In the end the angel helped the characters to return to their world but Noctis was too damaged and he ended sleeping with the ghosts and the female protagonist."
If this is all legit, then I think the team re-purposed this original ending into the new story really well. It still carries the same weight to it despite the circumstances being different. Noctis still ends up travelling to another dimension of sorts (inside the crystal) to defeat Ardyn, where he indeed ends up "too damaged" and loses his life in the process. He and Luna then reconcile in the afterlife, with the logo even changing to a picture of them sleeping after you've beaten the game. The "angel" mentioned here seems to fall in line with the FNC's general depiction of the goddess Etro.
The only things that really seem to have been lost in transition are the dimension to the afterlife playing a more direct role in events at the end, and Ardyn wanting to kill Etro. Now he just wants to mess with everyone.
Nifleheim Was Never Going to be a City In-game
"We used the same concept artworks for Gralea from the old game, it was always planned to be filled with demons as far as I know. There were concepts of how the city would have looked like before the demons but there wasn't plans of showing it."
Again, sounds plausible enough. Not much different from Shinra Tower and the Upper Plate of Midgar in Final Fantasy VII - you only head there when things start to heat up.
Chapter 13 & Cindy Redesign
"The team thought that part was going to be a twist and would surprise players. It was supposed to be tedious but it was thought that players would like it. Ex team mates made these comments about it.
There was a legitimate concern about feedback on female representation on the game, so Cindy was considered to be problematic. This was supposed to be 'fixed' with the dark world design for her and her scenes, but they didn't make the cut."
Maybe the new design would have helped their PR a bit, as Cindy's design has been among the most controversial elements of the game.
"However, people who are still working on the team have told me that if the download content is well received, they will think about making something special for other characters. I don't know if they have changed the schedule for the download content since I left."
It seems like the team has put a lot of leverage behind the upcoming DLC, with it receiving its own trailer recently.
I am hoping that the three bro DLCs expand on elements of the story that the main game glosses over.
"The female protagonist was supposed to appear only to Noctis. She was supposed to be a ghost which visited Noctis from the afterlife. The crystal commanded Noctis to kill her when they were children. In other concepts, I recall her simply disappearing and Noctis returning to his home country without knowing if she was ever found again.
Most of the characters couldn't interact with the female character (which was one of the reasons this character couldn't work with the new narrative for the game and so, it didn't make the cut). Noctis would dream about her and take this hallucinations as reality. She appeared to guide Noctis and lead her to fulfill his duty. She was a special ghost since she died before she could fulfill her mission in life, so the angel helped her come back from the other dimension. The revelation that she had been a ghost for the entire game happened before the gate to the other dimension was opened. This character wasn't in the game when I started my work on it."
It would make sense to cut Stella if her purpose in the story revolved around The Gate of the Dead and Etro, both of which were presumably cut to axe any connections to the FNC mythos. If Stella's character was so intrinsically tied to being a spirit, it wouldn't make sense for her to be in the new, Gate-less world that XV had. It's worth noting that in one of the original trailers for Versus XIII, Stella and Noct discuss near death experiences and The Gate of the Dead near a portrait of Etro. They also, incidentally, discuss what happens when the gate opens: "Those who witness it gain great power." That particular tidbit adds an extra bit of credence to the leaker's previous statement about Ardyn originally wanting to open the gate at the end of the game.
This sounds a bit more compelling than Luna and her role in the story. I imagine it would have played out like The Sixth Sense, where the twist is delivered at the end as a shocking revelation. Luna's character didn't have any twists like that...
"The first part of the game was originally (this was still in summer last year) going to feature children Noctis and Cor walking outside the castle to find Regis getting out of the Regalia. Regis would hold Noctis as Bahamut asked him if he was ready for what was to come. This was a very short introduction, but it didn't make the cut since the team thought it didn't make sense. A portion of the last part of the game was made into the beginning very early this year."
"Umbra was a party member in the original Versus game, but he no longer was when I joined the team. I don't recall anything about the dogs being human ever again, but there were concepts for dogs of different fur that transformed into different people, one of the dogs was white (like Pryna) and it turned into a woman."
This one gets me the most, because we were robbed of a dog ninja man! Instead we just got a dog! What gives? Anyway, combined with Ferrarri's comments about Umbra, this is possibly the juiciest tidbit the leaker gave, as it has a clear trace back to a confirmed member of the development team.
Reddit's Leaky Pipes
This was actually the second series of leaks. There was another a week or so before this more recent batch, which you can read here. (The information for the second batch of reddit leaks can also be found later in this same thread). Much of it seems to be stuff that anyone could presume by playing the game. For example, Tenebrae was meant to be explorable, The World of Ruin was meant to be more expansive, and the segment where you meet Shiva's corpse was meant to have its own area aside from the train tracks. Basically, if a segment seemed rushed, the leaker addresses it as rushed here. The most interesting tidbits from this earlier leak are as follows:
"What Izunia? If you mean the Izunia from a thousand years ago, that is Noctis' ancestor."
Oh-ho, this would confirm the Izunia is Noct's ancestor theory. Not that there was much doubt there, but seeing it stated outright is nice.
The Consequences of Showing the Game Too Early
"The team had to keep a lot of things from the past projects because the former director shared details about them. I assume Ravus was one of those things that had to be kept because details about him were previously announced."
This is intriguing. If true, this means that Ravus was kept in the game only because he was shown in the earlier trailers. Assuming Stella was cut for her role being irreconcilable with the new game's plot, Ravus was likely only in the conceptual stage during his initial reveal, so he was probably much easier to rework into being Luna's brother instead. This might also explain why he feels so out of place in the game's story.
Rewrites, Ravus, and Kingsglaive
"However, I have to say that the story had to be partly rewritten last year (after the movie had entered full production) so that's why that character might have inconsistencies between the game and film."
This would explain the difference between film Ravus and game Ravus. Film Ravus seemed driven by power and revenge, where game Ravus seemed a lot less intense.
The Shift Away From Fabula Nova Crystalis
"The game didn't focus on summons that much (they still existed) and instead there were actual gods which didn't appear physically. One of the gods was the main antagonist of the first FF game. Each nation was inspired by a different capital of the world. The empire was using ghosts as weapons. Ravus wanted to kill Noctis for having killed her sister. The game ended in another dimension which was supposed to be their version of the after-life."
This pretty much falls in line with the more detailed description of the ending above. The takeaways here are that the summons ended up filling the role that was originally intended for the FNC gods, and that the Ifrit we see was originally meant to be Chaos, the villain of the first Final Fantasy game. Based on this art from Amano, it seems easy to draw such a conclusion.
Color him red, add some fire, and... hmm...
Yeah, that sure does look a lot like the Ifrit that we got.
Some Change is For the Better
In the end, regardless of whether any of this is true or not, I think Tabata did a very decent patchwork job. If this is indeed true, some of the end results ended up being more interesting than the Versus XIII concepts, such as Ifrit's atypical role as a major villain. Now if only they put that little tidbit in the game, instead of leaving it to the guide!
Ardyn's role as a villain is something I'm also 100% behind. However, it would be interesting to see how it differed in the original script.
Speaking of the guide, it does reveal at least two things for certain. The Versus XIII trailers had a long haired man accompanying King Regis that does not appear in Final Fantasy XV.
The guide lists this character as "Crailas Amicitia," confirming that this was an earlier design for Iris and Gladio's father, Clarus.
An older design for Ravus was used in the guide, as well. I suppose this was Stella's brother, rather than the brother of Luna we came to know in the finished game.
In the end, there's no way to prove any alleged leaks confirming what changed from Final Fantasy Versus XIII to Final Fantasy XV. It is, however, something fun to think about.
How do you think Final Fantasy XV would have turned out if it stayed as Versus XIII?