Part of what makes Final Fantasy XV a “fantasy based on reality” is the cities. The inspiration for Insomnia came from London, New York, Paris, and Tokyo. Lestallum creation and development came from real-world Cuba, with Malaysian and Moroccan influences. And Altissia’s inspiration came from the city of Venice, Italy.
However, before Final Fantasy XV, Final Fantasy VII was first to take inspiration from a modern city. The earlier concept for Midgar came from New York City. In fact, the game was to take place in the “Big Apple”. According to Nomura:
[In] the first plot treatment that Sakaguchi-san wrote, it took place in New York, there was an organization there that was trying to destroy the Mako Reactors and a character named Detective Joe was investigating them.
But according to Sakaguchi himself
I do recall now; I did write a scenario for FF7, a different story [than the one we eventually used]. I don’t remember it being in New York though. You know, I think the New York idea might be from Parasite Eve.
However, the cityscape of Midgar betrays Sakaguchi’s memory, Sector 8 especially. Sector 8 looks eerily familiar to Broadway, one of the most famous road in New York City. The specific location Sector 8 Midgar takes from the segment of Broadway in Times Square.
It doesn’t look like it from the game, as there aren’t many people walking the streets. Sector 8 isn’t nearly as lit as it’s Broadway counterpart. But this is a dystopian setting. Plus, the original Final Fantasy VII would have maxed the PlayStation’s capabilities had it contained so much activity. However, it’s the LOVELESS District that mirrors Broadway. LOVELESS Avenue is Sector 8’s main district of business and art, where people can see performances of the play. Broadway is most famous for the Broadway Theatre, which has come to represent the highest level of commercial theatre in the English-speaking world.
What’s visible in the background of Loveless Avenue? The Shinra Electric Power Company, probably Midgar’s tallest building. As an aside, what’s visible in the background of Broadway? The Chrysler Building, the sixth-tallest building in the city. The Chrysler Building also appears in Parasite Eve, which is no surprise. Parasite Eve came from the ideas of Final Fantasy VII. Whereas the latter took a fantasy tone, the former was decidedly realistic to distinguish the games.