TOKYO--Square Enix's role-playing game juggernaut Dragon Quest VIII may be burning up the floors around the role-playing magnate's Tokyo Game Show booth, but the company's other juggernaut, Final Fantasy XII, is curiously nowhere to be found. That is, the game isn't playable, which is a little odd, since it was prominently featured at E3 this past May. At least the giant video wall is running a short trailer every few minutes to make sure the anticipated sequel isn't completely unrepresented, and since Square Enix isn't releasing this footage to the public, why don't we tell you about it instead?
The beginning of the trailer shows the first piece of concept art released for Final Fantasy XII, and as the camera pans upward, the artwork slowly transforms into a lavish computer-generated movie of the same scene. The camera then cuts to a parade scene depicting one of the main characters, Ashe, on a float, flanked by cheering citizens and a few of those weird, rabbit-eared viera. Most of the rest of the Final Fantasy XII trailer featured CG scenes we've seen before, but there was one real-time story sequence that showed Vaan approaching a figure sitting in a chair who then proceeded to vanish into thin air, leaving behind only roses. We didn't recognize this mysterious character, and the scene was certainly baffling in that uniquely Final Fantasy manner.
The most notable thing about this trailer is what seems like very subtle tweaking to the facial features of Ashe and Vaan, the foppish main character who has drawn considerable derision from some fans. Rumor has been going around on some Internet forums lately that FFXII's art style is changing slightly, and the trailer seemed to demonstrate this, as both characters looked noticeably less cutesy and more mature and realistic than in previous footage. This move serves to further offset Final Fantasy XII from other recent entries in the series, whose fantastical, Tetsuya Nomura-designed characters have become a Final Fantasy staple in recent years. Whether this slight shift is a response to fan feedback or not is unknown, but it's certainly interesting. We'll look forward to seeing more of the game soon to get a better sense of how things may or may not have changed.
We won't mince words: The absence of Final Fantasy XII at TGS this year was a little disturbing, given that the game should be well on its way toward completion at this point. Then again, maybe Square Enix is just playing its hand close to the vest. The company still says the game is on track for a spring 2005 release in Japan, with a US release presumably happening sometime before the end of that year. We'll bring you more details on FFXII's release, and on the game itself, as soon as possible.
For more updates, be sure to check GameSpot's coverage of the Tokyo Game Show 2004.