Stella

To talk about Luna, we first have to talk about Stella.

If you’re not familiar with FFXV’s long, tumultuous development cycle, you are probably wondering who I’m talking about. Let me introduce you to Lunafreya’s predecessor, Stella Nox Fleuret.

When it was first announced in 2006, this game was called Final Fantasy Versus XIII. It was intended to be part of the Fabula Nova Crystallis series, which was this new idea Square had to give their crystal-shaped plot devices a deeper mythology that would be shared across multiple games. From its initial trailer, Versus XIII appeared to be a fairly dark title, showcasing a young man on a throne, facing off against an army by himself, wielding a dozen floating weapons and teleporting from one spot to another. It was billed as an action RPG, against the main series entry Final Fantasy XIII’s more traditional turn-based combat.

Stella was introduced in a 2008 trailer, and was depicted wielding a sword as she faced off against Noctis. It appeared that she was to have some sort of opposing role to Noctis, but details about her were scarce even up through the game’s rebranding into FFXV. The most information about Stella comes from the 2009 Jump Festa trailer.

The painting depicted in this cutscene is of the goddess Etro, a key figure in the Fabula Nova Crystallis mythology: the goddess of death and the afterlife. In each of the games that use this mythology (the FFXIII series and Final Fantasy Type-0), Etro has a strong influence on the story, and indeed for years it was thought that she was the figure on the game’s logo based on this trailer.

However, Final Fantasy XIII received a rather polarizing reception (more so than most Final Fantasy games, that is). While it was popular enough to receive two sequels to round out its story, Versus continued to languish in development hell, no doubt plagued by its ambitious ideas. For some time there was no talk at all of the game, leading fans to wonder if it had been cancelled. At E3 2013, however, a new trailer for Versus was released — one that revealed its name change to FFXV.

The E3 2013 trailer is Stella’s last appearance, and on the whole it showcases a merging of ideas that made up Versus and the game that would go on to become FFXV. There are a number of details that don’t appear in the final game, but it’s much closer to FFXV than most of the trailers that preceded it.

Stella, however, was a problem for the developers. As they revamped the game to remove the elements that tied it to the Fabula Nova Crystallis mythology, they had to figure out what to do with the character most closely associated with it. You’re probably not surprised to hear that they chose to retool her into the character of Luna.

There were, to put it mildly, a lot of complaints about this. This announcement came in 2015, a solid nine years after the game had been announced and seven after Stella’s introduction. Fans were expecting Stella, and the news that she simply didn’t exist anymore was not an easy pill for many to swallow. Couple this with the considerable firestorm over the lack of female party members and the absurdity of Cindy’s character design, and, well… Honestly, let’s just say that Luna had an upward battle, and I was not optimistic that she’d be able to climb it, or that the developers would even let her.

I think I’m most bitter about the fact that FFXV actually lulled me into a false sense of security. Really, I should have known better. (We’ll get into this more over here.)

I bring this up here, though, because in the period since FFXV’s release, there’s been something of a rallying cry that Stella would have been a better character than Luna. I understand where this sentiment comes from: Stella was presented as a fighter, and it appeared that she would have had a very different role to Luna, one that may have been more independent.

The thing is, though, we’re never going to know. Maybe years down the road Square will talk about their unrealized ideas for Stella, but here and now we have no idea what they were planning to do with her and where her story would have gone. It’s not fair to judge a character we only saw in a couple trailers against one who was developed in a movie and a game; one is inevitably more fleshed out than the other. (Furthermore, almost no scenes in any of the FFXV trailers ended up in the actual game, so who’s to say anything of Stella’s would have remained?)

I would love to see a character like Stella in a future Final Fantasy game; I think she had a lot of potential. But Luna is the character we have, flawed story and all, and I’ve made my peace with that.