Fabula Nova Crystallis; A Fan's Retrospective

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What did you think of Fabula Nova Crystallis?

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Keyblade Master
May 2, 2016
Back in 2006, Square Enix debuted an ambitious media at the Electronic Entertainment Expo, showed its three main titles; Final Fantasy XIII, its sister project Versus XIII, and the mobile title Agito XIII. Over the following ten years, the project would go through a tumultuous development, which would see XIII spawn two direct sequels, Versus XIII shift into Final Fantasy XV, and Agito XIII become the dark and ambitious Final Fantasy Type-0 and itself spawn a series of games faced with their own troubles and identity crises. Now, in 2016, the last two titles related to this subseries (Final Fantasy XV and Final Fantasy Type-0 Online/The Awakening) come out of the door, I feel it's time to look back at this ambitious but ultimately tragic history.

Spawned from the wish to follow on from the undeniable commercial and (to a point) critical success felt by the Compilation of Final Fantasy VII, Fabula Nova Crystallis was founded upon a system of game production which was already straining under the pressure of the new generation of consoles and the changing gaming and development landscape. It was a massive project intended as a launching pad for multiple future titles, would debut Square Enix's latest technology, and provide outlets for the more radical concepts that would normally not make it into the series. Versus XIII was just one of these concepts, a dark and tragic tale themed around misery and bonds, while Agito XIII would be a tale involving war and its destruction of life's certainties. The entire thing was themed around the concept of destiny and human reaction to it, focusing around a world's crystals; a dark take on themes that had previously been dealt with in a light and positive manner.

But the subseries was faulted from the start by its own ambition. From technical problems and overestimated space capacities on the new hardware to the complexity of the lore, each entry in the series was beset by problems - XIII had half its prospective content cut; Agito XIII evolved into Type-0 and underwent a substantial change in direction as a result; while Versus XIII would need rebranding, its hardware shifting to the next generation, its staff drastically reshuffled, and its story content rewritten and repurposed just to get the game out of the door. XIII was later bolstered by two sequels that extended and ultimately concluded the story of its characters and lore, but their overall necessity and quality is debatable. The original Agito XIII concept was temporarily resurrected in Final Fantasy Agito for mobiles, but before it could see a worldwide release it buckled under the weight of persistent technical issues and ended just a year and a half after its release. Its successor, Type-0 Online, is currently available in China, scheduled for release in Japan at some later date, and is under consideration for a Western release. These two titles are not extensions of the first game's mythos or lore, but gameplay experiences set within its unique take on the universe.

We all know the result well by now, and it's a bitter pill to swallow when you look back at this first promises from 2006. I won't deny that the subseries had its problems, or that each title has its flaws and failings - XIII is highly linear and boasts a complicated backstory and lore that was clearly setting up for the other two projects in development at the time; Type-0 suffered from a story that was if anything more obtuse and a version of the Fabula Nova Crystallis lore that was shoehorned in by its writers when director Tabata just forgot about it; and XV had all overt references to it removed in an attempt to broaden its prospective audience, to the point that its current lore has little to no support behind its face value and falls flat under scrutiny. At the same time, it's hard not to admire that same ambition that brought the project to its knees, and as an avid scholar of the subseries and its mythos, I find great substance and beauty in its tragic tale surrounding the gods and humanity's place in their grand designs.

With Type-0 Online and XV out the door, it's likely that Fabula Nova Crystallis is dead. But that is not reason not to remember this ambitious series that changed the Final Fantasy franchise, and Square Enix, forever. We can end by this most moving piece, which sums up my mixed feelings on this subseries final end...
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