At Square Millennium in Yokohama, Japan, we got a glimpse of not only the next Final Fantasy, but the next three - Final Fantasy IX, X and XI.
Final Fantasy X was moving at a steady 60fps, while featuring immaculately constructed 3D backgrounds. Much in the way Resident Evil: Code Veronica took the pre-rendered backgrounds and tossed them in the trash, so too does Final Fantasy X. While the demo shown only featured one character running around (a Squall clone in skate-punk clothes), the environments looked amazing and showed a production value that would make other developers weep. Another demo shown during the Play-Online session showed a Final Fantasy-like group of characters running around on pre-rendered backgrounds, but it is unknown if that was a tech-demo for display purposes only, or if it was related to one of the new games.
Final Fantasy X is significant since it is the first FF to be released for the PlayStation 2. While FFIX will be available in the summer of 2000, FFX should be ready by spring 2001. This will also be the first FF to be compatible with Square's Play-Online service. You'll be able to check your progress against an online strategy-engine, which will offer helpful suggestions if you have missed some important items for example. It was said during the presentation that Final Fantasy X will be "different from traditional play." If that wasn't enough to sate your appetite for all things FF, the perhaps the announcement that Final Fantasy XI would ship for PlayStation 2 in the summer of 2001, not long after the release of FFX, is sure to cause a commotion. In case you're wondering why exactly Square would release these two games so closely to each other, it's because Final Fantasy XI will be released as a "complete online game." What this means is that, like Ultima Online or Everquest, FF XI will act out its story entirely online. It's currently unknown if FFXI's game-world will be perpetual, meaning life in FFXI will go on even when you're not logged on, or if you can save and stop and have everything restart where it left off. What we do know is that the concept art that Square showed a whole pile of Final Fantasy characters in the midst of an epic battle, and every character had a different name on the top of their heads, indicating who's who and allowing you to keep track of your friends. From the logo Square displayed of FFXI, it said "Final Fantasy XI: Online Another World." While this is a far from confirmed final title, it completely aligns with Square's plan to offer a new level of interactivity to Japanese, and later, Western, gamers.
Again, it's unknown what impact this will have on the United States gaming community and how Square plans to implement this system here, since we're already familiar with what they're bringing to Japan. However, if their sheer effort is any indication, you can be sure, whether it be Sony or Square EA, an online presence will be formed to accommodate the introduction of Final Fantasy to the online world. We'll be here to report it when they do.