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Whatever Happened To Final Fantasy Versus 13?

A dark cityscape, anachronistically armored soldiers with modern weaponry, and a stoic boy with spiky hair and magical powers — many "Final Fantasy" fans will remember the iconic trailer for "Final Fantasy Versus 13," a cinematic sequence that blended some of the most beloved aspects of "Final Fantasy 7" with a crystalline aesthetic made for a new era. At E3 2006, Square Enix announced a trilogy under the name "Fabula Nova Crystallis" that would serve as the series' thirteenth mainline entry, comprised of "Final Fantasy 13," "Final Fantasy Agito 13," and "Final Fantasy Versus 13." 

First to launch was "Final Fantasy 13" in 2010 — and with its release, marketing for "Versus 13" went in full swing. Square put out gameplay trailers, story reveals, promotional posters packaged with copies of "Final Fantasy 13," and much more leading all the way up to 2011. Afterwards, the project went mysteriously silent amidst rumors that it had been cancelled (via Kotaku). 

Fans now know that "Versus 13" went into development limbo before being repackaged as "Final Fantasy 15." However, those who had looked forward to "Versus 13" found that the now separate title was missing much of what made the original incarnation so exciting (per Reddit). The dark urban gothic aesthetic, increased focus on the Goddess of Death who only had a minimal role in "Final Fantasy 13," and a love interest with her own potential who didn't get frigded partway into the plot ... where did that all go?

Final Fantasy Versus 13's lost potential

Much of the redesign can be credited to the project changing hands in the process of rebranding. Where franchise regular Tetsuya Nomura had served as the director of "Final Fantasy Versus 13" for most of its conception, Square instated Hajime Tabata in 2012 as the co-director and eventual director of "Final Fantasy 15." While Tabata tried to respect most of Nomura's original vision, much of it was cut in order for the title to stand alone as its own mainline entry instead of a part of the "Fabula Nova Crystallis" series (via Kotaku). 

The greatest loss is perhaps the exclusion of Stella Nox Fleuret, the original main love interest. Though she ultimately inspired the design of Noctis's fiancée Lunafreya, she was by no means a passive damsel. In the promotional trailers, she displays her own magical abilities mirroring those of Noctis as well as her own complicated motivations as his visual and narrative foil. She briefly made it into the early stages of "Final Fantasy 15" development, showing up with a brand-new CGI render in the 2013 announcement trailer. Ultimately, she was cut in favor of Lunafreya, making room for the latter's vastly different role in the story.

As it stands, Stella's only surviving reference in the official "Final Fantasy 15" universe seems to be a billboard. The early CGI render from the 2013 trailer is re-used in a cosmetics advertisement that appears in chapter 14 of the game as well as the "Kingsglaive" prequel film.

Parts of Versus 13 made it into Kingdom Hearts

All other remnants of the original "Versus 13" are actually in "Kingdom Hearts 3," the major project Nomura was tasked with directing after the rebranding started. Yozora, a Noctis-lookalike, features in the "Re:Mind" DLC as a secret boss with a cinematic ending that recreates the 2008 "Versus 13" trailer nearly shot by shot. He's introduced as the main character of an in-universe video game called "Verum Rex," the advertisements for which are eerily similar to the principal concepts of "Versus 13" — most notably in terms of the setting and the dark-haired girl who resembles the original design for Stella. 

An important aspect to note is that "Verum Rex" roughly translates to "true king" in Latin. Whether this is meant in opposition to "Final Fantasy 15" and therefore an indication that Nomura was unhappy with the direction the game took with Noctis's story is up for debate, of course. It's clear that he was quite partial to his vision of "Versus 13" — as shown by the references in "Kingdom Hearts 3" and his sketch of Noctis for the "Final Fantasy" 25th anniversary — and it's a shame that fans never got to experience the full picture of what he had planned. With any luck, they'll see a little more of the "Verum Rex" world in future "Kingdom Hearts" media, giving Yozora and this rendition of Stella a second chance.