I still think about that one Final Fantasy Versus 13 trailer. You know the one, that first time Square Enix really showed off the supposed Final Fantasy 13 spin-off in full for the first time. The opening shot of a sleepy Noctis being driven into a modern day city, the blend of fantasy creatures and a contemporary environment that felt so fresh for a series that was more than two decades old. Of course, pretty much none of that made it into the final game, and it was inevitably rebooted as Final Fantasy 15, leaving behind a number of elements I was personally greatly excited by, seemingly for good. And then wouldn’t you know it, Kingdom Heart 3’s ReMind DLC came along and threw a spanner in the works.
Spoilers for Kingdom Hearts 3 ReMind ahead.
When you boot up the Toy Story world in Kingdom Hearts 3 for the first time, you’re greeted with what seems like just a bit of a funny cutscene. There’s a protagonist who looks like he could be from any modern Final Fantasy game, a girl that he has to save, dramatic music, it’s got the works.
That protagonist happens to be called Yozora, and for the rest of your time in that world, Rex the toy dinosaur insists on calling Sora by that name due to their similarities. It was a funny bit, as the cutscene is presented as an in-world ad for a game called Verum Rex, which in turn has a line of toys you can buy. Everyone thought it was just Tetsuya Nomura being a bit tongue-in-cheek, poking fun at Final Fantasy as a whole. But then in the secret ending of Kingdom Hearts 3, you see… Yozora? Wasn’t he just a character in a video game?
Well, it turns out he’s real. So real, in fact, he’s the superboss in the ReMind DLC that was released a year after the base game, one that has two endings depending on whether you win or lose. No matter which ending you get, you’ll end up seeing a cutscene that shows a sleepy Yozora being driven into a modern day city, a shot-for-shot remake of that classic Versus 13 trailer, which I kind of lost my mind at.
“What the hell does this mean, Nomura?” I asked myself then, and still ask myself now. We still don’t have any answers to that question, or any of the other thousands of questions I have, because Kingdom Hearts 4 isn’t out yet. We also don’t know when Kingdom Hearts 4 might release, though probably not for a while given that the mobile game Missing Link is up next. Whenever it does come out, I just hope it delivers on what Versus 13 promised.
I really don’t think I can explain how much Versus 13 captivated me when I first saw that aforementioned trailer, as well as its original reveal trailer. At that point in time I hadn’t yet played Final Fantasy 7, which also obviously blends modernity with fantasy, but as much as I love that game, as well as Remake, the steam-punk influence means it just hasn’t quite scratched the itch left behind by Versus 13.
Looking at that gameplay reveal for Versus, you can see how clearly it was meant to be Kingdom Hearts ‘but if it was full Final Fantasy’. It has a similarly designed combat menu, slower-paced but exciting-looking action, even the health bars for Noctis and his companions have their faces in the corner. Outside of that, though, the dark, moody city setting was distinct from the predominantly colourful aesthetic Kingdom Hearts had, and as someone approaching their teen years it was exactly my vibe.
Even now, though, a decade on, there just isn’t really anything like what Versus 13 promised to be. I want to explore that modern, fictitious take on Tokyo one minute while riding around on a chocobo the next, I want to play as a hot anime boy who’s the king-to-be while wearing a stylish black suit, and I want to have bombastic fights on top of the Shibuya 109 building.
Ok, so Kingdom Hearts 3 has already given me that last one, but that’s part of why I hope Kingdom Hearts 4, even somewhat, delivers on what Final Fantasy Versus 13 told us it would be. The reveal trailer for 4 certainly does look like we’ll be going on an incredibly different journey with Sora this time, and that certainly excites me in one way, but I really do need that Versus 13 itch scratched.
More than that though, I want to see those ideas realised. There are of course stories of films or albums that never came to be, but none advertise themselves in the way that games do – footage of Versus 13 exists, but it’s completely unplayable, at least publicly. I want Kingdom Hearts 4 to be aware of this almost mythological idea of what Versus 13 was, and play into that, giving us more of that meta-type narrative the Disney x Final Fantasy series frequently revels in.
Essentially, what I want most of all is the potential of Versus 13 to be explored, even if it isn’t exactly what Nomura had planned all those years ago. That’s what a trailer is most of the time, right? Potential? You never really know what it is until you have it in your hands, and maybe Kingdom Hearts 4 will remove some of that magic that I currently feel from those old trailers. Still, much like how I felt when I was a pre-teen, it’s just fun to imagine what could be.