It was the best of times, it was the worst of times... actually, that's about right. There's been a lot of FFXV news about in the last week or so, and some of it quite big;now that the dust has cleared, here's where we stand.
The biggest change is that Tetsuya Nomura has been replaced by Hajime Tabata as head director. This came as a surprise to just about everyone, even the folks over at Famitsu. The two had been co-directors since 2012, but the project had been Nomura's baby since the beginning; Tabata was only added to begin with in order to keep the company's PS4 projects (he was and continues to lead work on Type-0) on the same page.
Depending on which source you believe, this change varies greatly in significance. For Kotaku, Tabata is 'the man who saved FFXV,' but though the change was indeed sudden and unexpected, the real story is probably less drastic (but also thereby less click-bait-y). Nomura has always been more on the design and outline side of things (we are told he will now be able to focus primarily on Kingdom Hearts III, as well as a couple projects in early development), so his replacement may just be a case of playing to personal strengths. All the same, Nomura has been silent on the change, and it would be very difficult to not see a Hand of Judgment in his reassignment.
Tabata assured Famitsu that, while the product that will ultimately emerge as FFXV is different from the project conceived of as FF Versus XIII even as recently as 2012, there is a continuity of vision between Nomura's work and his own. While character design and combat type are prominent examples, another key continuity is that of overall plot vision. The earliest trailers for FF Versus XIII quoted Shakespeare and promised a 'fantasy based on reality'; Tabata told Siliconera that he has become interested in engineering a historical feel in his work with Type-0 and FFXV, something which he hopes to approach more explicitly in future projects.
A demo for FFXV, featuring the subtitle Episode Duscae, will be included in the release of Type-0 HD, which will be available next year on March 17th in the US and March 20th in Europe. The specifics are still vague, but the demo is reported to contain about four hours of exploration, and Tabata has made it clear that he is working hard to ensure that it will please. There has been no hint regarding the release of the full title.
The game, Tabata said in an interview with 4Gamer, is around 55% completed. This is admittedly a disappointment: yes, development had to be restarted from scratch when the decision was made to switch to PS4, but that was some three years ago. He is acutely aware, as several interviews show, of the high stakes - not only for producing a flagship, console Final Fantasy title but for one that has already had so much time and money invested in it.
Part of the new direction that Tabata's director-ship has indicated is that he wants this game to feel 'casual.' This will be evident both in the party dynamic - the protagonist's car will be a mainstay and he hopes to create the feel of a 'road movie' - as well as the combat engine, which Tabata hopes to streamline. These aspects, he believes, will make the game approachable despite its size, as well as appealing to the aging demographic (THAT'S YOU JOSH) that originally played Final Fantasy games.
There's a bit of heat, as one might expect, coming from the Kotaku Justice Pulpit and directed at the fact that the main playable characters will all be male. While this fits with what we've seen in trailers from the very beginning, it is a bit unusual given the series' strong history of female protagonists (and with mostly realistic clothing / breast sizes, at that). It is the hope of this writer that, unless informed of some malign intent on the part of Square Enix, we can just infer that the team is looking to create a specific vibe in this game rather than initiating a project to finally rid the world of all women.
But hey, if you disagree, let the world know thine fury via comment!