Originally written for The Daily Star in October 2016. Read the original article here.
As Final Fantasy fans anxiously await the release of the series long-awaited fifteenth instalment this November, the team at Square Enix have been busy working on a host of other entertaining tidbits to whet our appetites in the meantime, which form the universe around which Final Fantasy XV is based.
In addition to Brotherhood, a five-episode anime webseries, the release of Kingsglaive marks the series’ third feature-length outing, and it’s an eye-popping visual feast that’s certain to keep fans entertained.
Directed by Takeshi Nozue, who co-directed the previous Final Fantasy film, Advent Children, Kingsglaive saw him working closely with Final Fantasy XV director Hajime Tabata to create a film that acts as a precursor to the events of the game itself.
A truly global production, Kingsglaive was developed with the help of a team of animators from around the world and, not only that, it also boasts voice talent from the likes of Game of Thrones’ very own Lena Headey and Sean Bean as well as Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul, to boot.
We sat down for a chat with Nozue-san to talk about the film and how it fits in to the Final Fantasy XV universe as a whole.
Final Fantasy XV has been in development for a very long time at this point. At what stage did you come aboard the project?
I have been involved with the film project since Final Fantasy XIII and I have been the in-game motion video director from pretty much the beginning, so I have been on the project for a very long time!
How important was it for you that Kingsglaive stood up as a standalone story, whilst also fitting in to the rest of the Final Fantasy XV universe?
We wanted to tell the theme of father and son from the very beginning, so when we changed the game to an open game format we realised that this would be difficult. In order to tell the story of the father at the same time as the story in the game we arrived at the decision to make Kingsglaive both a standalone film and part of the existing Final Fantasy universe.
Talk me through how you collaborated with Tabata-San and the rest of the Final Fantasy XV team on a project like this. How much did their work on XV ultimately impact on what your team was working on?
Tabata-San and I had been talking about how we were going to explore the Final Fantasy XV universe from the beginning of the transition from XIV to XV – also our desks are only four metres apart so we are in close contact all the time! The game development and the film development team are all sitting in the same area, and from the beginning, the film development team were responsible for the in-game motion video so there’s always been a lot of contact and crossover between the two teams which should translate to synergy between the film and game.
I understand the project was much greater in scale than Advent Children and that your team required help from external studios – and around 50 different companies in total. Could you tell me a little bit more about how this collaborative process worked and how work was divided among the various studios?
The release date for Final Fantasy XV was something we had in mind from the very beginning, so we knew we needed to release the film before the game. We soon realised it would be pretty impossible to do that all by ourselves, in-house, which is why wanted to reach out to worldwide studios. What we were happily surprised by was that a lot of them were Final Fantasy fans themselves and were very motivated to work on the project, so it has been wonderful to work with them.
While Advent Children was made for dedicated fans of Final Fantasy VII, Kingsglaive is intended as an introduction for newcomers to the world of Final Fantasy. How important was it for you to secure a western voice cast of the calibre you’ve selected for Kingsglaive?
Having these celebrated western voice actors has certainly drawn more attention from film lovers and people who appreciate television dramas and are familiar with their previous work. We’re very happy about that. What was most important, though, is that these voices fitted the characters they were intended for. That was the primary focus when casting them. The deciding factor was how well they fit the roles more than anything else.
Was the association with the previous work of the likes of Aaron, Lena and Sean something that made them particularly attractive to work with?
I think everyone is familiar with Lena and Sean’s work on Game of Thrones, and Aaron’s work on Breaking Bad. In the case of Lena and Sean, they play royalty excellently and obviously that is transferable to their roles in Kingsglaive where they function in a special class of society and seek to achieve a higher purpose, so I think they could really get into the psychology of their characters for this film. Aaron Paul is this relatable everyman that the audience can instantly identify with as he is cast into the circumstances beyond his control. I think he’s shown that in his past roles as well as his role as Nyx – it’s certainly a common factor.
How did Final Fantasy XV’s release being brought forward – and then delayed again – impact the production of Kingsglaive?
I’d say that since the film and game take place in the same world, one of the trickiest things was making sure we didn’t spoil anything. We had to make sure we didn’t do that! As a result, by having the two take place simultaneously, and made/directed at the same time, we managed to add more depth and I think our audiences will discover more having experienced both. It’s a new form of storytelling for us, which has been great.
One of Tabata-San’s big objectives of the expanded XV universe is to engage a larger audience than Final Fantasy has in the past and, in particular, a Western audience. Do you feel that there’s an appetite for content of this nature among western audiences?
I think having different media and technology these days allows people to approach films more easily and makes it more accessible for everyone around the world. In the case of Kingsglaive, it has something for anyone who has ever been curious by a Final Fantasy title, for any action film fans, fantasy films fans; there’s really something for everyone. It’s available for digital distribution as well as on disc, plus theatres – elsewhere in Europe and America, so I think Kingsglaive is a really accessible film for Western audiences to engage with.
What would you say to those who may have preconceptions about the Final Fantasy series to convince them that the XV universe has something to offer that they might not have seen before?
For fans of the series coming into Final Fantasy XV and Kingsglaive, I think they’ll see a lot of the characters and elements from the series that they know and love, and also how they’ve been updated and translated for the current generation. Fans will also love the story – Final Fantasies always have pronounced stories, and this time is no different. Each generation is different, I think. They’ll enjoy how deep the story goes and how we’ve managed to weave it together with the universe project.