It was confirmed at Square Enix's E3 2005 press conference today that Final Fantasy XII would not make a playable appearance at this year's show. That made us a little sad. Our spirits were emboldened, thankfully, when the company showed off a new trailer of its latest role-playing opus, which we tried to watch entirely without blinking to extract as much information as possible. After all, fans of the seminal RPG series (there are a few of you, we figure) are going to have to wait a good long while to get their hands on it, as Square Enix revealed today a 2005 release for Japan, with a 2006 release to follow in the West.
The new trailer was composed entirely of cinematic computer-generated sequences from FFXII, which, from a technical standpoint, are easily the most lavishly produced yet in the series, with exceptionally lifelike characters, filmlike depth of field effects, and so on. But you knew it was going to look good. As has been widely reported, Final Fantasy XII takes place in the Final Fantasy Tactics world of Ivalice, and the new trailer focused on the story's overarching political and military conflict, which revolves around the aggressive Archadian Empire and its invasion of the presumably benign kingdom of Dalmasca. We saw scenes of a bustling medieval metropolis full of busy markets and trafficked city streets. It wasn't long before the city was obscured by images of armored airships that seemed to be moving into attack position.
We also got a new look at some of Final Fantasy XII's key players, including Ashe, the deposed princess of Dalmasca who's fallen in with a resistance movement against the Archadians; Penelo, an orphan of the war making her living by dancing and singing in the streets of Dalmasca; and Balthier and Fran, a pair of scrappy air pirates getting by however they can. Oddly, the trailer didn't focus much attention on the game's lithe hero Vaan, who's been the target of some derision in the past for his foppish look and devil-may-care demeanor. Has the focus of the story changed, or is Square Enix merely showing us a different angle on the story? Just release the damn game already so we can answer that question!
The trailer also showed a new character that we haven't seen before, an enigmatic dark-haired man who seems to be positioning himself as a freedom fighter, a hero for the beleaguered people of Dalmasca. We saw a scene depicting this character giving a fairly rousing speech to the citizenry, swearing he would protect the land. We're certainly interested to find out the identity and purpose of this guy, who's referred to as "unknown character" in Square Enix's press materials. This latter part of the trailer also showed off a massive battle between what looked like thousands of soldiers. As is faithful to the setting of Ivalice, it looks like Final Fantasy XII will feature conflict on a truly epic scale.
It's certainly a shame that we won't get to play FFXII at this year's E3, but if that means the team was able to hunker down and keep working on the actual game rather than a shiny new demo, all the better. For a hands-on report covering Final Fantasy XII's interesting gameplay mechanics, which include a shift to MMO-style real-time field battles, check out last year's E3 hands-on of the game. At least Square Enix confirmed it will hold an event in Japan at the end of July showing off a new playable version of the game. We'll bring you more on it as soon as humanly possible, so stay tuned.