Final Fantasy XI E3 2005 Preshow Report

Final Fantasy XI is coming to the Xbox 360. We have our first impressions of the game from the Microsoft E3 2005 press conference.

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One of the oddest emphases of the Microsoft E3 2005 press conference was the fact that the company was pushing the presence of Final Fantasy XI. While it's important for Microsoft to show that it has the support of Square Enix, who's never released a game for a Microsoft console, it's still odd that the game that it's choosing to push is FFXI, which came out over two years ago in Japan and has been out for over a year in the US. Although it's one of the most popular MMOs in the world, it just seems a little underwhelming that Microsoft is publicizing a port as being a key part of its online strategy for the Xbox 360.

Most players will be familiar with the world of Vana'diel, even if it's only knowledge of a secondhand nature. The gameworld for FFXI isn't related to those of any other Final Fantasy (the series as a whole isn't known for continuity from game to game, anyway), but it features a familiar mix of technology, magic, and bizarre fantasy races, all of which seem to be faithfully re-created in FFXI for the Xbox 360. Since the game is going to be compatible with the versions of FFXI already released on the PC and presumably the PS2 as well (although Iwata diplomatically didn't mention that platform by name, calling it only "the first console to use PlayOnline"), it's unlikely that it'll feature any exclusive new content (although details on this are still forthcoming). But the content that already exists (and there's a lot of it) has seen a significant visual upgrade since its PC release, so Xbox 360 players will be treated to new lighting effects and upgraded models. Taratarus are still small and Galka are still hulking beastmen, but everything looks much better than it has in the past.

Although Yoichi Wada, the president of Square Enix, spoke at the Microsoft press conference, he didn't reveal any specific details on the Xbox 360 port of Final Fantasy XI. Indeed, he seemed to imply that the most impressive Square Enix footage from the press conference, the rendered environmental graphics that appeared after he spoke, might not even be from the FFXI product that it's shipping, although it did seem to use models from that game. Here are Iwata's comments on the footage in their entirety:

"Close collaboration between Microsoft and Square Enix is just beginning. As a company that is dedicated to expanding the boundaries of what is possible in the world of video games, SE looks forward to working with the Xbox team to create new worlds that the Xbox 360 will make possible. Tonight I'd like to share you with a sneak preview of what we believe the future of video games might look like. We created this real-time rendered image taking advantage of Xbox 360's superb graphics power."

So who knows if this footage (listed as FFXI Gameplay Footage 2 on this page) will ever actually appear in a game. On the plus side, Iwata did strongly hint at a continuing presence for Square Enix on the Xbox 360 beyond the port of FFXI, so hopefully this can be considered a sneak preview of some future game. Final Fantasy XIII, anyone?

GameSpot will, of course, have more details on the Microsoft/Square Enix collaboration, as well as the FFXI port, as they become available. Stay tuned.

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