LOS ANGELES--One of the most exciting announcements of E3 2006 just couldn't wait until Wednesday. Instead, Square Enix today revealed at its press conference not one, but three Final Fantasy XIII games. Two of those games are exclusive PlayStation 3 releases, while the other is scheduled to be released on "next-gen" mobile phones. The premier game in the series is Final Fantasy XII, which was shown off in a lengthy trailer at the Square Enix press conference. According to the press release, the entire trailer was rendered in-game, and it revealed quite a bit about the game but left many questions unanswered as well. Read on for the full details.
The Final Fantasy XIII trailer opened with a sweeping shot of a lush canyon filled with dense vegetation stretching beyond the horizon. The camera then slowly descended into the canyon to follow a speeding futuristic train that seemed to be propelled forward by passing through successive portals of some sort. Just as the train entered a dark cave it struck a barrier on the track and exploded.
The trailer then cut to the interior of the train, where a lithe woman with long grayish-reddish hair and two pistols was engaged in a battle with yellow-clad, futuristic soldiers. The stylish, fast-paced battle sequence showed the woman performing all sorts of acrobatic stunts while deftly dispatching of wave after wave of soldiers. Every so often, a faint blue light would come from her body, which appeared to be some magic discharge or perhaps a shield of some sort.
The scene cut to another train that sped along a winding track suspended high off the ground in a dark, possibly underground area. At this point a massive monster that looked somewhat like a weapon or summon from the previous Final Fantasy games appeared next to the track and began to attack the train.
The video then cut to a shot of hovering cars driving through a tunnel toward the camera before they were destroyed by an explosion. The next shot showed some massive airships flying around a floating cluster of tall, dark spires that appeared to be a city.
At this point we got a glimpse of the combat in the game, which appears to be very action-oriented. The dual-pistol woman once again was fighting wave after wave of soldiers, without breaking a sweat. The camera was pulled out slightly to show about 15 or more enemies surrounding the woman as she performed an inhumanly fast spin move and shot all of the enemies on the screen. As she did, icons popped up above each enemy denoting the number of hits and the word "chain," so it appears that the game will utilize some sort of combo system. In fact, if not for the pulled-back camera angle and numbers and words on screen, it would have been difficult to tell the difference between the cutscenes and the gameplay footage.
After the fight, the camera zoomed in close on the woman as she flicked her wrist and transformed her pistol into a large dagger or small sword, similar to a gunblade from Final Fantasy VIII. The next scene showed her walking through a very dense, green forest with crystalline structures throughout. She walked into the forest as if looking for something, then paused and looked around.
Then it was back to the floating cities as another train sped between buildings. A large flying manta ray type of creature flew down from above, landed on the train, and hijacked it. The creature looked mechanical but moved very fluidly and naturally. The trailer then ended with a line of text that simply stated, "PlayStation 3 Exclusive."
After the trailer Yoshinori Kitase, Final Fantasy XIII producer, took the stage to explain a bit of the history of the development of the game. A year ago, the Final Fantasy X team was working on a version of Final Fantasy XIII for the PlayStation 2. That team was pulled off of the project to create the PlayStation 3 Final Fantasy VII tech demo that was shown at E3 2005. Instead of going back to the unfinished XIII project, the team scrapped the game and began work on XIII for the PlayStation 3.
The XIII team was assembled with specialized developers who focused on building a brand-new game engine, called the White Engine. This engine was developed to integrate graphics rendering, physics, cinematics, sound, and special effects. Square Enix promises that the White Engine will allow Final Fantasy XIII to take full advantage of the PlayStation 3 hardware.
Based on what we saw, the game looks to stick to the stylish blend of fantasy and sci-fi themes, although the overall feel is a bit darker than Final Fantasy XII. Several of the environments were especially dark and had the hard, cold feel of technology. By contrast, there were several areas that looked almost tropical and ethereal, somewhat like the land of Macalania from Final Fantasy X.
Although the trailer we saw was of course a very early representation of the game, there were some notable absences. There were no chocobos, no girls with rabbit ears, no moogles, and no massively oversized swords. We also didn't get to see many characters, people, or enemies. The trailer seemed to focus a lot on trains, guns, and that mysterious lady.
Final Fantasy XIII is the premier product in the newly announced Final Fantasy XIII: Fabula Nova Crystallis universe, which includes XIII, Final Fantasy Versus XIII for the PlayStation 3, and Final Fantasy Agito XIII for mobile phones. The tagline for XIII is "A tale of souls from a futuristic civilization illuminated by the Light of the Cystal." We'll bring you more details about the game as soon as possible, but until then be sure to take a look at the first images from the game on our gamespace.