When Square Enix revealed Fabula Nova Crystallis in 2006, it was an ambitious three game project. Final Fantasy XIII was the anchor title, but Final Fantasy Versus XIII and Final Fantasy Agito XIII were also part of the deal. The main game and Versus were to be exclusives for the yet unreleased PlayStation 3 and Agito was to be a mobile phone game. Versus was even billed as a game that changed things up and would offer Kingdom Hearts-style combat, which was understandable with Tetsuya Nomura at the helm. This was a very bold reveal for Square Enix, and fans were excited, as at this point Final Fantasy XII had not even hit the PlayStation 2.
A lot has changed since then.
Final Fantasy XIII finally made its way to North America in 2010, but on Xbox 360 as well as PS3. It also received a sequel with another one on the way, making it a trilogy of its own. The mobile phone RPG Final Fantasy Agito XIII became Final Fantasy Type-0 on the PSP instead, but was passed over for a North American localization. And Final Fantasy Versus XIII...well, Versus is still the big question mark of Fabula Nova Crystallis seven years later. That question mark is one of the most dangerous for Square Enix.
In the seven years since its reveal, Final Fantasy Versus XIII has become a joke on par with Duke Nukem Forever for some and the coming savior of Square Enix for others. The lead-in game Final Fantasy XIII was a polarizing title and the sequel XIII-2, while improved in many respects, didn't vary drastically from the original. With a third "Lightning Saga" title on the way, it seems like a desperate attempt to recoup seven years of development funds at the expense of fans desperately clinging to hope.
Combine that with North American being ignored for a localization of Type-0 and the disaster that was Square Enix's second MMORPG in the series, Final Fantasy XIV, and Final Fantasy fans have had little to keep them going. Those who were not fans of Lightning have only had the hope that Nomura's Final Fantasy Versus XIII would be the game that would truly turn things around for a series that even the company itself claims has been damaged. That's a lot of hope riding on one game; especially one that's been in development hell for the past seven years.
There have been a lot of rumors tossed around about Versus. Kotaku reported last July that the game had been cancelled, and that Square Enix was just going to let it quietly fade away instead of publicly canning it to avoid a drop in stock value. The publisher was quick to answer that rumor with a promise that Versus was indeed still alive, but no further details were given. That fed into another rumor that development on Versus had changed and that the game had now morphed into what would become Final Fantasy XV, but the next year went by with hardly another word.
Now with E3 2013 upon us, the rumors of Versus appearing have returned along with official confirmation from Square Enix of a next-gen Final Fantasy reveal. We are going to see the next Final Fantasy game, and it might be what we once knew as Versus. It might also be on the PlayStation 4 now instead of the PS3. What does that really mean, though?
Let's pretend for a minute that Square Enix does announce Final Fantasy XVersus -- a game fans have been looking forward to for seven years. A game that has seven years of baggage, seven years of hype, and seven years of fan expectations behind it. This game had better be exceptional. Not just "great except for a few minor flaws," no, it has to blow people away and with more than just fancy cutscenes. For fans who stayed the course, analyzed every trailer, nitpicked every off-screen screenshot, and even bought the Noctus perfume, the expectations for Versus are immense. The game is on a pedestal so high that the chances of it meeting the expectations of the fanbase are near impossible.
For series fans who were turned off by the Lightning Saga, just knowing that this is Versus, a game loosely tied to Fabula Nova Crystallis might be enough to sour them even further. The taste is still bitter, and Square Enix will have an uphill battle to convince these people otherwise. Simply releasing Versus at this point is dangerous enough, but shifting it into the main series as the fifteenth entry is even more of a risk. Like it or not, there is a greater expectation with a numbered title. Unless this new vision of Versus is something outstanding, it's going to be constantly compared to what it could have been, what it should have done, or what a "real" FFXV might have been instead. There is no easy win in any case.
In the end it really doesn't matter if this ends up being called Versus or Final Fantasy XVersus; the game has a serious battle ahead of it. Unless Square Enix comes out with a second major Final Fantasy title after this hypothetical reveal, it's going to be hard for many to get excited. Seven years of disappointment has left only the most hardcore awaiting this game. Fans are ready for something new. We're ready to put the past, and Fabula Nova Crystallis, behind us and move on. Next week will be just the beginning, and reveals are exciting so people will likely be positive. That said, the game needs to get into our hands before anyone can really tell anything about it.
I think I can speak for everyone when I say that regardless of what is shown, it better be released soon. We're tired of waiting.