(Pocket-lint) - Final Fantasy is one of the world's most revered games franchises. Fans of Japanese role-playing games are in a state of considerable ferment over the prospect of Final Fantasy XV, its latest instalment and the first one custom-designed for the current-generation of consoles, arriving this year.
The game's publisher, Square Enix, meanwhile, is understandably keen to build anticipation. To that end it recently held a glitzy event in Los Angeles entitled Final Fantasy XV Uncovered, during which it was announced that the game will hit the shops on September 30.
In addition a vast amount of information about Final Fantasy XV itself was revealed, including a number of related objects such as a CGI film called Kingsglaive and an anime series.
There's a lot to take in, and a lot of excitement building. So read on for everything you need to know about Final Fantasy XV.
You can play it now (as a demo)
At Final Fantasy XV Uncovered, Square Enix launched a demo version of the game entitled Platinum, which you can download now, on Xbox One or PlayStation 4, for free. Unprecedentedly, Platinum is the second Final Fantasy XV demo to be released, following Episode Duscae, which was made available in 2015 to gamers who bought Final Fantasy Type-0 HD.
As demos go, Platinum is slightly odd, but it does at least offer a basic taste of Final Fantasy XV's key gameplay element: its battle system.
Final Fantasy XV producer Hajime Tabata explained: "The Platinum demo offers a very low barrier to entry for people who maybe haven't played Final Fantasy games before." In other words, it offers a pretty simplified take on the game.
Unlike Episode Duscae, Platinum is separate from the main game: in it, you play a version of Noctis, the lead character, when he was a young boy; its general tone, influenced by Alice In Wonderland, is more whimsical than that of the final game, but it gives a decent feel for Final Fantasy XV's considerable graphical polish.
Although the tutorial part of the Platinum demo glosses over some of the battle system's more sophisticated elements - such as the Warp attack which lets you hit enemies from a distance are nevertheless present - there are a wide selection of magic attacks.
Tabata explained that Square Enix, mindful that previous versions of Final Fantasy have been perceived as having over-complicated battle systems, has tried to make Final Fantasy XV's key mechanic more accessible: "Considering the difference between traditional Final Fantasy fans and those who are not, it's important that the game can be enjoyed by both those groups."
We know Final Fantasy XV's main characters and overarching storyline
Fear not: we don't know quite enough about either to get into the realms of spoilers. But we do know it's the first properly open-world Final Fantasy game, as well as the first to feature vehicles.
Final Fantasy XV's overall storyline will send you on a road-trip, in a car called a Regalia, as one of a band of friends on a quest. You play Noctis, heir to the throne of Lucis. He is accompanied by Ignis (effectively his best mate), Gladiolus, who is essentially his bodyguard, and another non-royal friend called Prompto.
Noctis is engaged to Luna, so the road trip is pretty much his last pre-marital blast of freedom (stag do anyone?). But trouble is afoot in Crown City, Lucis' capital, which is why King Regis, Noctis's father, has sanctioned the road-trip.
Confused yet? In true FF fashion it's all about RPG names.
It's a film, an anime series and a mobile phone game
At Final Fantasy XV Uncovered, Square Enix unveiled a whole raft of items designed to support the game. As Tabata put it, they are supposed to "create different ways into the franchise, and to allow people to enjoy the game's universe at a deeper level".
Chief among those goodies is a full-length CGI feature-film called Kingsglaive, which is due to be released ahead of the game. Kingsglaive takes a classic parallel-storyline approach, chronicling events that take place in Crown City while Noctis and co are on their road trip.
It has a pretty stellar cast, with Sean Bean playing King Regis, Lena Headey voicing Luna, and Aaron Paul playing Lord Nyx. Its director is Takeshi Nozue, who co-directed Square Enix's most recent CGI film, 2005's Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children. Nozue said that while Kingsglaive will mainly be made available via digital distribution, Square Enix is looking to release it in cinemas in various territories which, hopefully, will include the UK.
Anime-lovers can avail themselves (for free) of a five-episode series called Brotherhood: Final Fantasy XV. The first episode is streamable now via Square Enix's YouTube channel, and the rest will arrive episodically on a monthly basis, starting in June.
Most bizarrely, Square Enix is making a free mobile pinball game called Justice Monsters Five. Why? Well, at one point the main characters in the game are seen playing an arcade version of Justice Monsters Five, so it's pretty cute of Square Enix to create a real-life version of that. As yet, we don't know when it will be arriving but it, too, will arrive before September 30.
Square Enix is putting a lot of eggs into the Final Fantasy XV basket
Final Fantasy XV will be a huge game and must already have swallowed up an almighty amount of Square Enix's resources: it was originally announced, as Final Fantasy Versus XIII, for the PlayStation 3, in 2006.
Factor in its peripheral accompaniments, such as Kingsglaive and Justice Monsters Five and, although the former has a chance of making money, it must have cost an absolute bomb to make. There's no doubt that Square Enix sees it as the game that, for once and for all, will drag the Final Fantasy franchise fully into the 21st century, and regain Final Fantasy's crown as the king of RPGs. So the company desperately needs it to be a success.
Amazingly, in a press conference held the day after Final Fantasy XV Uncovered, Hajime Tabata admitted that for it to be a success, it will have to sell: "In total, about 10-million units worldwide over its whole lifetime." So we can expect just the teensiest bit of hype in the lead-up to its September 30 launch.
Chocobos and a flying car will feature
On the evidence of various trailers, Final Fantasy XV will contain all the classic franchise-touches that the fanatical fan-base demands.
For example, Chocobos will feature, those brightly coloured emu-like creatures that, in 1997's Final Fantasy VII, could be bred and raced. Square Enix even released a game called Chocobo Racing in 1999. It will be possible to ride them in XV, but Square Enix is currently remaining tight-lipped about whether a Chocobo racing mini-game will be included.
And the Regalia car, in which Noctis and his merry band undertake their quest, has also attracted much attention, since Square Enix revealed that it will be able to take to the skies.
However, that won't be the case all the way through the game, as Tabata explained: "The flying model of the Regalia car is something you get late in the game as an additional upgrade. We will create some areas that you can only reach with the flying car, but it is not something you need for the main story. We want people to feel overjoyed that this car, which you have travelled the whole world in, can now fly. And we also wanted that thrilling, slightly dangerous feeling you get on an aeroplane when it comes in to land. The flying car is easy to take off, but you must be careful when you land it, because it will bounce around."