Another World

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Final Fantasy XIII preview!

Posted by evans στο Σάββατο, 12 Αύγουστος, 2006

Quo vadis, Final Fantasy? Regardless of internal and external criticism («Final Fantasy- ism») regarding the extensive milking of the Final Fantasy franchise, the success of Square Enix’s flagship series has always been, and remains to be, an undeniable fact. However, after a successful venture into online gaming (Final Fantasy XI) and the belated release of a deliberately different game (Final Fantasy XII), the question that begged to be asked, was what plans Square Enix had for the next (main series) installment of its poster franchise. Since May 2005, an appearance on PlayStation 3 seemed more than likely, even though the official confirmation only came at this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3). Along with another PlayStation 3 title, Final Fantasy Versus XIII, Final Fantasy XIII made its public debut. So, what kind of title is Final Fantasy XIII? From what little we know so far, it promises to be more of a classic Final Fantasy title than Final Fantasy XII. Instead of reinventing the series like Yasumi Matsuno did with the latter, Final Fantasy XIII seems to take a more traditional approach, comparable to Final Fantasy X. Naturally Final Fantasy XIII should be closer to Final Fantasy X than Final Fantasy XII, as the development team behind the series’ newest entry is led by producer Yoshinori Kitase (who produced Final Fantasy VIII, X and X-2) and director Matomu Toriyama. The duo is joined by two other mainstays: Character designer Tetsuya Nomura and scenario writer Kazushige Nojima. Kazumi Kobayashi (who previously worked on Chrono Trigger, Xenogears, Chrono Cross and Final Fantasy XI) has joined the team as main programmer, while composer Masashi Hamauzu returns for his second job at a main series installment, following Final Fantasy X. Fans of Nobuo Uematsu can at least look forward to him creating Final Fantasy XIII’s main theme. Originally planned as a PlayStation 2 title, the game is now headed for PlayStation 3, powered by a propriety engine known as White Engine. Developed by an internal technology group, this game engine will not only power Final Fantasy XIII, but also Final Fantasy Versus XIII and other upcoming Square Enix PlayStation 3 titles. Similar to Final Fantasy X on PlayStation 2 in 2001, Final Fantasy XIII is sure to become a visual benchmark for PlayStation 3 titles, RPGs in particular. In an interview with a Japanese online publication, the development team went so far as to declare the aim of creating battle sequences rivaling the quality of last year’s CG movie Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children. Just like its predecessors (with the exception of Final Fantasy XI), Final Fantasy XIII will be a traditional single-player RPG. However, producer Yoshinori Kitase has promised the implementation of some undisclosed, «interesting» online features. Leaving aside the new platform and technology, Final Fantasy XIII will see the return of the Active Time Battle (ATB) system, but with a twist. For Final Fantasy X, battle director (and Front Mission mastermind) Toshirou Tsuchida added a strategic component to the traditional ATB, creating what was dubbed CTB in the process. In case of Final Fantasy XIII, the development team plans a more speedy take on the good old ATB system, which will include a traditional input scheme for commands. The battle system will also include new effects, such as slowing down the flow of time. Prominently featured in the upper-right hand corner of the battle screen is a circle-shaped gauge. Once this gauge is filled up, players will gain access to an Overclock mode. This status effectively slows down your foes in battle, but also comes with an undisclosed risk for the protagonist. Another key aspect of the battle system will be a stat referred to as ATB cost. Apparently every command costs a certain amount of this stat. For the first time since Final Fantasy VI’s Terra, players will be in control of a female protagonist again. The virtual beauty highlighted in the E3 trailer is not only highly apt at using magic, but also advanced weaponry. In particular, we are talking about a sword that can be transformed into a firearm on the fly. Setting-wise, Final Fantasy XIII will take place in the most highly advanced world the series has seen to date. Despite the high-tech futuristic setting, crystals and magic will play a major role. In fact, the development team has hinted at a balance between technology and the power of the crystal. Square Enix has also highlighted the importance of the latter by referring to the entire project (including Final Fantasy XIII, Final Fantasy Versus XIII and Final Fantasy Agito XIII) as Fabula Nova Crystallis. In its current form Final Fantasy XIII has only been in development since early 2005, hence fans should not expect a playable demo before early 2007. The game will most likely make its Japanese debut at next month’s Tokyo Game Show, but whether in movie or playable form remains to be seen. Though officially listed as «to be announced,» a late 2007 release in Japan is definitely within the realm of possibility.

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