Hirai toasts PS3 at FFXIII date night

With JRPG hitting Japan Dec. 17, Sony Computer Entertainment CEO hypes console bundle in Tokyo, talks intertwined fates of PlayStation brand and Final Fantasy franchise.

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TOKYO--Final Fantasy XIII has been dated for 2009 in Japan for months, but Square Enix has remained mum about its exact release date. Tonight, the publisher made it official at a massive party in Tokyo, inviting about 100 guests consisting of business partners, staffers, and press, many from overseas.

Kaz Hirai gets toasty.
Kaz Hirai gets toasty.

Taking the stage at the opening ceremony, Square Enix president Yoichi Wada officially announced that Final Fantasy XIII will be released in Japan on December 17. The game's price of ¥9,240 ($100.25) including tax is a little over the ¥8,990 ($97.53) post-tax price of 2006's Final Fantasy XII for the PlayStation 2. Pretax, the game will cost ¥8,800 ($95.46).

"Some 22 years ago, the very first Final Fantasy made its debut on December 18 [in Japan]," said FFXIII executive producer Yoshinori Kitase. "So in a way, our newest release is coming out on the eve of the series' birthday."

The game's director, Motomu Toriyama, expanded on Kitase's comments. "The concept behind FFXIII's development was 'the future form of role playing games.' It features top-level graphics using the PlayStation 3's capabilities, a very dramatic storyline, and an even more action-packed active time battle system."

The active time battle system is at the center of FFXIII.
The active time battle system is at the center of FFXIII.

With Final Fantasy XIII exclusive to the PlayStation 3 in Japan, Sony Computer Entertainment CEO Kazuo Hirai also made an appearance at the event. He gave a toast to the game with a special cocktail made just for the occasion.

"Looking back, the PlayStation has truly been taking its steps in history together with the Final Fantasy franchise," said Hirai. "Back in 1996, it was announced that Final Fantasy VII was coming to the PlayStation platform. When the game came out in January the next year, the sales of our console instantly doubled. It was of tremendous support to us. On the PS2, there was Final Fantasy X [in 2002]. On the PSP, there was Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII [in 2008]. So, Final Fantasy is a wonderful franchise that has continually supported the PlayStation format."

FFXIII will be another graphical leap over its predecessors.
FFXIII will be another graphical leap over its predecessors.

Hirai confirmed that a FFXIII PlayStation 3 Slim bundle will also be available alongside the game on December 17. However, no details--including price--were revealed, nor was it clear if the included console would be a special edition like the PS3s in the Final Fantasy Advent Children bundles.

"We at SCE just announced our new PlayStation 3 model, and it's posting an excellent sell-through rate. On the release date of Final Fantasy XIII, we also plan to ship a bundle edition as well. Final Fantasy fans all over the world have been long waiting for this wonderful title. We plan to team up with Square Enix and to support them though the game's release at the end of the year."

Kitase discusses FFXIII's Western launch.
Kitase discusses FFXIII's Western launch.

Among his litany of praise for Square Enix, Hirai never mentioned the publisher's controversial move to simultaneously release FFXIII on the PS3 and Xbox 360 in North America and Europe. Square Enix is shooting for a spring 2010 release in the West, a target that Kitase repeated today.

"We're not at a stage where we can announce any specific dates yet. In the past, it took about a half a year to a year [after the Japanese release]. But we're hoping that this time, we can release it with only one season's worth of a delay."

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