Final Fantasy XIII
Whether or not it’ll be released next year, everybody will be able to play Final Fantasy XIII in some form during 2009. The Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children Complete Blu-ray, a 30-minute extended edition of the original, will come packaged with a 90-minute demo of the releasechallenged RPG from Square Enix. This should be enough time for fans to dissect, complain and pencil hentai inspired by the game, but it’s still a frustrating reminder of how prolonged and frustrating the wait for this potential masterpiece is.
Worse still, each batch of screenshots does a cracking job of teasing at the rich, gorgeous world that waits in the wings. These latest images, for example, present a slightly more elemental environment than the soldier-heavy metropolises that we’re accustomed to. Since the Final Fantasy VII and X team is at the helm of XIII, we’re expecting an artistically varied world, in stark opposition to XII’s range of sandy and bleak locations.
Final Fantasy XIII takes some steps sideways, though. The Gambit system has been scrapped, so battles are no longer automated – admittedly, this was a feature that directly adhered to the characteristics of XII, but it was the only decent way of ensuring that the series could work in real-time. Removing that, and returning to the Active Time Battle system of yore (as reported in Play 169) could quash people’s expectations.
The game won’t suddenly cut away to battle screens, though, so some of XII’s advantages are carrying through to the next generation. Enemies can still be approached and attacked seamlessly, or frantically evaded as the previous instalment allowed. Little is known about the specifics of ingame encounters, but with the Gambit system now missing, here’s hoping the team conceives a similar gimmick to keep the series as real-time and frenetic as possible.
The characters revealed so far include the leaping gun-wielder Lightning, a blond motorcycle man and a cute girl with red hair that seems to be part of some resistance group. Doubtlessly, your party is oppressed by a crazy-rich society, if these screens are anything to go by. Frequently, we have seen images of Killzone-like soldiers attacking these characters since the first trailer at E3 2006, and this type of premise is hardly new to the series.
At this (still) early stage, Final Fantasy XIII remains the most enticing title on the PS3’s release schedule by a million light years. The optimist in us sees Final Fantasy XIII in this way: a demo of Final Fantasy XII came with the NTSC version of Dragon Quest VIII, in November 2005. The game then shipped 11 months later. The demo for XIII, on the other hand, arrives with Advent Children in March of next year, so logic suggests that the game will be ready by February 2010. This isn’t anywhere near an exact science, of course. Then again, this is the freakishly unpredictable Square Enix that we’re talking about – if you remember rightly, Final Fantasy XII was over two years late when it finally hit the UK.
All indicators suggest that XIII will be an intriguing entry in the series, especially as development duties are reverting to a team that some would consider the apex of JRPG developers. At this point, we’re still waiting anxiously for word on XIII’s franchise-worthy innovation – VIII had junctioning, X used the Sphere Grid and XII went real-time. On a piece of hardware that offers more than ever to its loyal audience, XIII should be something special.