After unveiling some new footage this morning at the Sony press conference, we met up with Square Enix at its booth on the show floor to get a demo of Final Fantasy XIII. The game still isn't playable at this time, so we had to watch as director Motomu Toriyama walked us through a new area. The gameplay that we saw was incredibly brief--sadly--but we did get to see Snow, Vanille, Lightning, and--more specifically--Shiva, in action.
We weren't able to get too many details regarding the story, but the general overview is that Final Fantasy XIII is set in the futuristic city of Cocoon. There is also a place called Pulse, which is a world that was described to us as the "wilderness." Fal'Cie, a race that resides in Pulse and apparently has determined that the main character, Lightning, as well as several others, are the ones who will bring destruction to the world. Lightning's purpose throughout the game is to fight against this "destiny."
Our demo consisted of a single battle, fought in what appeared to be the courtyard leading up to ancient temple ruins. The area felt large and spacious, with grand--mostly deteriorated--architecture and palm trees in the distant background. Snow, a young man with a beanie who we've seen numerous times in trailers leads the pack. You can only control one character at any given time, similar to Final Fantasy XII's battle structure. From the Japanese demo, we know that you can also play as Lightning, which seems to depend on where you are in the story.
The battle system is an evolved version of previous games in which you have an active time bar, but it is split into segments. These segments indicate how many attacks you can make in a row because each action costs a certain amount of points. In this case, the active time bar had four sections, so we were able to chain up to four single attacks--or you can select a light attack and finish with a move that would cost three. We learned that characters do not always have three or four segments in their bar, which means that this bar increases as you level so that you can chain even more attacks. The input is similar to previous games except with a lot more options. The first option in the menu is assault, and when you confirm, it brings up a list of actions that you can pick and put in the queue. After you've decided, your character will unleash a flurry of customized attacks.
Today, Toriyama wanted to show off Shiva and the Gestault mode. We learned that each character is partnered with a particular summon. Snow and Shiva are partners, so when Shiva was summoned, the rest of the party members disappeared. Shiva appeared as twins who were holding a large wheel in their hands and which they wielded with deadly finesse. The Gestault mode is when Shiva transforms into something Snow can fight as and control with one brute force. Each summon has its own unique transformation, but in this case, the twins transformed into a motorcycle, allowing Snow to burn rubber and ride across the battle area. The controls were described as something more action oriented so that you will feel like you have direct control over the characters. We watched as Snow left a trail of deadly icicles in his path while he skidded and screeched around the screen. The battle ended rather quickly because this was obviously overkill, but it's interesting to see the cinematic action that takes place when a powerful summon comes out. We weren't able to confirm other summons, but because Odin was seen a recent trailer, we were told that fans should have an idea of what Odin's transformation would look like if they've seen him in action in previous games. In the meantime, we'll have to use our imaginations.
The voice acting was really good so far, and at this point, Square Enix hasn't confirmed that Japanese voices will be included. Producer Yoshinori Kitase explained that the files would be fairly large and that they would like to keep the game on a single blu-ray disc to minimize the number of discs they would need for the Xbox 360 version. The game also looked fantastic at this stage, running on the PlayStation 3, and it was a shame we couldn't see more.
We'll definitely provide updates with additional information in the coming months. The targeted release date for Final Fantasy XIII on the PS3 and Xbox 360 is spring 2010.