MAKUHARI, Japan--The 2007 Square Enix Party here at the Makuhari Messe Convention Center, just outside of Tokyo, has two stages showing trailers of the publisher's many upcoming games. The "open" stage features brief looks at many of them, but the real action is in the "closed" stage, a smaller, more intimate, enclosed stage that features longer trailers for some of Square Enix's most anticipated projects. One of the trailers being shown is an updated look at Final Fantasy XIII, one part of the so-called Fabula Nova Crystallis Final Fantasy XIII collective series of games based on the FFXIII universe. Though we'd seen the game briefly at other industry events, such as the 2006 Tokyo Game Show, this was the best bit yet.
Unlike many of the trailers on hand in the "closed" stage, the voice-over narration for the FFXIII trailer was in English. As the trailer began, a pair of huge, winged creatures were seen gliding through a ravine, while a female voice described a perfect colony known as Cocoon, crafted by exalted beings. As the narration describes it, this civilization was protected by crystal creatures and prospered until an "invisible incursion" by an unknown enemy sought to undermine the civilization's purity. As a result, the society took drastic measures to "preserve order": Those individuals perceived as "tainted" were rounded up and shipped off.
At this point, the trailer focuses on a futuristic bullet train of sorts, blasting its way along a transparent tunnel built high above the sky. Suddenly, the tunnel is beset by huge birdlike machines; here, the narration continues, referring once again to crystals--a symbol of peace--that also have the ability to shape the fate of humanity. Thus one person, the voice-over continues, has been chosen to end the world--and that person, it seems, is Lightning, the female hero we'd seen in the previous trailers for the game.
Once Lightning gets in on the action, it's ample butt-kicking to go around for everyone. Beset by stormtrooper-like soldiers, Lightning wields her gunsword with skill, dispatching enemies by the truckload. It should be pointed out at this point that, at a certain point in the battle, the game seemed to transition from a CG-rendered movie into what looked to be actual gameplay, complete with menus in the lower corners of the screen for things like spell selection. If the actual final game moves as quickly as was shown in the trailer, and with as many dramatic camera angles, we're in for a treat when it comes to FFXIII's combat and in-game graphics.
Just as Lightning seems about to be overwhelmed by the sheer number of forces closing in on her, she's joined by a partner of sorts--a hulking dude with long blonde hair, wearing a bandana and plowing his way through bad guys as if they weren't there. It seems like the big guy's going to have more than just his brawn on his side; at one point, he casts a spell into the air, which shimmers and dissolves into a dramatic Shiva summon. This doesn't look like any Shiva we've seen before, however. Instead of one ice goddess, this summon involves two Shivas, both of which have some crazy mechanical contraption on their backs. Once the summon is complete, a roller coaster-like maze of ice tracks form in the sky, wherein our hero hops on his futuristic-looking motorcycle (perhaps composed of the two Shivas and their mechanical bodies?) and begins blasting bad guys out of the air as he loops and jets around the newly created ice tracks. Needless to say, it's awesome.
The identity of the new FFXIII hero, as well as his connection to the Lightning--as well as Lightning's role in "ending the world--are mysteries that will have to be solved another day. Nonetheless, it was yet another excellent teaser for a game that looks to inject some new life and inspiration into the Final Fantasy series. Stay tuned for more coverage on the game in the coming months.