By Matt Peckham
September 18, 2014

Here comes Final Fantasy XV, an action game that was never supposed to be 15th.

It was originally dubbed Final Fantasy Versus XIII and pitched as a sideline to Final Fantasy XIII, a game that was supposed to be acclaimed character designer Tetsuya Nomura’s directorial Final Fantasy debut (he just announced he’s stepping down as director). It was announced over eight years ago and is still without a release timeframe — year or otherwise.

Square Enix just broke years of informational rehash at the Tokyo Game Show with a beautiful new trailer that showcases just how far the game’s come, visually speaking. Here’s what I made of it.

It’s going to be even weirder than usual

The more lifelike and post-anime the Final Fantasy games get, the more uncomfortable I get watching photorealistic characters screech and yip and yowl like cartoon caricatures stripped of their cartoon-ness. It’s sort of endearing if you’re a Final Fantasy buff, but it’s also kind of bizarre.

You can drive a car

Apparently. And check out the limo-like wheelbase on that ride. All that’s missing are outward-canted tailfins and you’d be somewhere in the vicinity of George Barris’ modified 1955 Lincoln Futura (that is, Adam West’s Batmobile).

The game’s pretty much all dudes

The trailer treats the only female shown with at least a modicum of respect (by which I mean she’s not half-naked or being bodily ogled by the cameraman). But the rest of the trailer is a dude-fest.

Nothing wrong with a bunch of bratty/broody-sounding fellas taking a road trip, but after Final Fantasy XIII‘s female leads, it’s a little jarring seeing none here.

The game takes place on the Isle of Skye

Or, since we know Final Fantasy XV actually takes place on a planet that’s somehow tied into Square Enix’s arcane Fabula Nova Crystallis mythos (which includes Final Fantasy XIII), call it a lookalike version of one of the prettiest spots in the world.

I spent a week back in 2009 driving around Scotland, including Skye, and I’d swear on a stack of Triple Triad cards that those craggy cliffs and scrubby, boulder-cluttered hills in the trailer were imported direct from the land of Talisker, crofting and the Peatbog Fairies.

World-tech min-maxing!

Check out those creepy hover-ships with electric blue lens flare, or the thing floating around the battlefield at 1:56. Then pay attention at about 1:14. Yep, those are contemporary roadside power lines, and I’m pretty sure that’s the water tower I grew up down the street from at 1:50.

The battle system still looks Kingdom Hearts-like

I’m sure there’s more to it, but in the trailer, it looks like whoever’s controlling the protagonist is pretty much attack-button mashing, though the maneuver at about 0:55 and another at 1:54 seem to involve tag-teaming. I’m not sure what to make of the sequence at 1:58 where your buddies react to your getting walloped by smacking around the offending creature in retaliation; it looks scripted, but maybe it’s in fact a combat feature?

No, you probably can’t go anywhere in that ginormous city

I’d love to see Final Fantasy pull off something on the wander-anywhere scope of a Skyrim or Grand Theft Auto V, but I’d bet my life this thing’s still a bunch of linked areas. The best to hope for, if you’re in the hated-Final-Fantasy-XIII‘s-first-20-hours camp, is that the areas are more open-ended.

It’s not a bait-and-switch for Square Enix’s direct-to-video film The Neverending Story IV

Though that crazy-big thing at the beginning does look a bit like a hulked out version of Morla, no?

Write to Matt Peckham at matt.peckham@time.com.

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