Sony and Square Enix showed off the US version of FFXI today at a Sony press event. Following a press conference wherein details on when the game would ship were disclosed, Square Enix presented a demo of the game. The game demo included a brief tour of a few areas in the game and fights against some high-level bosses. The first area shown was Jugner Forest, a lush forest hammered by sheets of rain. The tour through the forest was made easier due to the use of chocobos, the large birds that have been key elements in the Final Fantasy series. The animals can be used for temporary transportation and protection from attack when you're adventuring. To keep the animals from being overused, you will be able to use them for only a half hour at a time. The tour also included battles with some of the powerful creatures you'll face at higher levels in the game. The party squared off against a squidlike creature called an ochu and an ostrichlike creature called a simurgh. The second battle showed the alliance element of party mechanics that will allow several groups to gang up on powerful foes. While the maximum number of players you can have in a single party is six, you can form alliances with up to two additional parties, for a maximum of 18 players, to create a significantly more-powerful fighting force.
While the game has been out in Japan for quite some time now, the US version of the game will include the content from the recently released expansion pack for the game, which includes additional jobs. Square Enix also mentioned that the game would continue to evolve from its current state as dictated by its story. One of the features that is slated to be included in the future is player-versus-player functionality. Final Fantasy XI is currently scheduled to ship this March with the PlayStation 2 hard drive.