Viewers of last Tuesday's Square Enix 1st Production Department Premier event in Japan got to see a long-awaited glimpse of the upcoming Final Fantasy Versus XIII in action (announced back at the 2006 Electronic Entertainment Expo). Instead of words, director Tetsuya Nomura didn't appear for the reveal and decided to let seven minutes of footage speak for itself. Said footage was shown officially only at the event, but luckily GameSpot Asia managed to catch the livestream on the day itself.
Because the game is still in production, the story elements were kept to the minimum. From the premiere trailer, the game stars a prince named Noctis (Latin for "night"--and the first main character in the history of Final Fantasy games beyond FFVII to deviate from names based on meteorological effects). The scene starts off with him talking to another character named Stella, followed up by what seems to be an argument with his father, the current king, about who is next in line on the throne to rule the yet-to-be-officially-named world of Versus XIII. These two scenes take place in an undisclosed high-class party area, and from the visuals on show, it's safe to say that Square Enix isn't holding anything back in the presentation department.
Developer Tetsuya Nomura promised viewers and attendants a few more minutes of gameplay, and that's what they were given. Throughout the remainder of the trailer's seven minutes, Noctis gets to wander around the environment under the control of the player, while the party, in classic JRPG fashion, gets crashed by giant mechanical airships and Final Fantasy's staple behemoths. Unlike last year's Tokyo Game Show footage, viewers get the full monty: Noctis and his unnamed party members lay the smack down in real time against the aforementioned behemoths, shock troopers that emerge from deployed airships, and all manner of fantasy beasts and machines.
The battle menus and stats make their debut in this trailer. The bottom left side of the screen shows a command menu which lists "Magic," "Item," "Summon," and "EX-ARTS," while the bottom right displays your party members' health and mana points. These options seem pretty self-explanatory if past games are any indication. Magic lets you cast your firas and thundagas; item gives you access to your phoenix downs and perishables; summon lets you cast down your big magical beast of choice to do a powerful attack; and ex-arts are the equivalent of Final Fantasy VII's limit breaks--character-specific special attacks that can turn the tide of battle.
What's interesting is that there isn't an attack command listed alongside the menu. The attacks will either be done on a separate input or will be done automatically by the party's set AI, a la Final Fantasy XII and Xenoblade. It should also be noted that like in those aforementioned role-playing games, there aren't any transition screens that happen when Noctis and company approach enemies or finishes dealing with them.
What's also notable is that players can do an iron-sights zoom-in with one of the characters who specializes in guns, hinting at the fact that there would be some real-time aiming and shooting in the heat of battle. In addition, there were a few more clips of Noctis hijacking and piloting an enemy tank and mech (after weakening them considerably), hinting that this Final Fantasy title may have a lot more action elements involved than the usual turn-based shenanigans.
Final Fantasy Versus XIII looks to be a big-screen version of the PSP RPG Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII, right down to the real-time action elements loaded with minimalistic-detailed menus for spell-casting and limit burst action. This isn't a knock to the game, however; Crisis Core's action elements were enjoyable when it made its debut in 2008.
It's hard to say whether the game will be an antidote for gamers who weren't enthralled by the last game. In fact, Square Enix is still mum about the game's actual release date. Still, Tetsuya Nomura's message delivered via the trailer seems to be one filled with some positive notion that the game is still indeed under production, and we're looking forward to seeing more.