As you read this, practically all of Japan will be a third way through their first playthrough of Final Fantasy XIII.
Us Westerners, unless you want to import like myself, won’t get our hands on the game until March 2010 in a US/EU sim-ship. The question that only remains is can Final Fantasy XIII turn out to be not just one of the best RPGs of next year, but the best of next year altogether?
So… lets start from the beginning. Development started on the game straight after Final Fantasy X-2 for the PS2, with XIII being developed for the PlayStation 2 from the outset alongside Final Fantasy XII, which was starting to come into the final stages of development.
However, the game’s development was canned for the PS2, so that they could work with the PlayStation 3 instead. Within two months of FFXII’s release in Japan, XIII was revealed at E3 2006 at the Sony Press Conference, with two other games to be revealed the same year at E3: Final Fantasy Versus XIII for the PlayStation 3 and Final Fantasy Agito XII, originally for mobile phones in Japan, it will now release for the PSP.
However, other than ducking and weaving in-between scans for Famitsu, no-one had no idea what the game was going to be about. We would see the odd screen or two drop, and every December since 2007, new trailers for all three of the mentioned games, known as the Fabula Nova Crystalis series, were released on DVD. Even then, Square would shoot down anyone who tried to upload said trailers onto YouTube. In fact, they were so secret on the game, there would be a Mega Closed Theatre every time there was a big gaming event in Japan: be that their own DKΣ3713 sigma event, Tokyo Game Show or Jump Fiesta.
But whatever secrecy that came with the title blew up – massively, it should be said- at the Los Angeles Convention Center in July 2008 when the game was announced it’d be coming to the Xbox 360. It was seen as a massive blow, consider that:
1) – The game was a PlayStation 3 exclusive.
2) – Even though the series roots began with Nintendo systems, everyone grew up living on FF with PlayStation systems.
In fact, everyone was so distracted for the “inevitable” Metal Gear Solid 4 360 announcement that it was an announcement no-one seen coming, even though there were hints it was on the cards, short-term and long-term.
1) – Announced at GDC that year, it was announced the Crystal Tools engine which FFXIII used was a multi platform engine.
2) – Just before E3, Square Enix announced the month before that all of it’s next-gen RPG collection, bar the FNC series and The Last Remnant, would be exclusive to the Xbox 360.
From then on out, info was starting to trickle out at a better rate then it was the year before. The big blowout started then in January this year, when we got a short teaser of what then shortly turned out to be the trailer from Jump Fiesta the month beforehand. A demo then packaged with FFVII: Advent Children Complete on Blu-Ray in Japan, demoed for the first time on Xbox 360 and more, before the info everyone wanted to know: the dates. Japan’s December 17th date was announced at a Premiere Party for the game, which also had the announcement of bundles for the game in Japan, as well as the announcement of Sayuri Sugawara singing the theme tune to the song.
Europe and the US then got it’s date just last month with a release on March 9th 2010, Compared to the Japanese announce, this was rather lame, as it was announced through what could arguably be called an infomercial. And then Leona Lewis! Come on!
But enough of the back history. Plot time. Well, as much as we understand anyways.
The worlds of Cocoon and Pulse are very different. While Cocoon is seen to be a peaceful world full of life and technology, Pulse is considered to be very dangerous, with anyone from Cocoon caught down on the surface of Pulse been banished by the Cocoon government, known as the Sanctum, before being purged. However, soon starts a chain of events that will see Lightning and Snow, as well as Snow, Vanille and Hope become l’Cie’s because of what happens within the opening moments of the game. And a kicker also sees a personal motive in the story: Lightning’s sister and Snow’s fiance Serah.
Lightning and Snow have never been BFFs over Serah. That much seems to be confirmed during some of the earlier trailers released, as well as the release of the back story to the game via “Episode Zero.” Serah becomes a l’Cie at some point in the game, although how that happened is unconfirmed at this point, with later trailers apparently showing that she could potentially be meeting her maker. Again, how that happens is unknown at this point. Because of what happens to Serah, what with becoming a l’Cie, Lightning and Snow team up, although they still dont neccsarly meet eye-to-eye.
From what we have seen of gameplay footage from the demo, and the English walk through that was shown at the Microsoft press conference at E3, it looks like a proper Final Fantasy game. If you didn’t like XII, and wanted a “proper” Final Fantasy game again, XIII could be what you’re looking for. Of course, we could be wrong for all we, or I, know.
Is it “the most anticipated gaming experience of all time”, as that muppet proclaimed in the big Western release date reveal? Even for me, and us, to say it is wrong. Unless your name is Modern Warfare or Grand Theft Auto that is. That said, there is no denying the pulling power that a Final Fantasy title can be, so while Japan will probably have seen millions of copies fly off the shelves overnight and today, the same of course can be said for Europe and the US. Final Fantasy XIII, while certainly not “the most anticipated gaming experience of all time”, is the most anticipated game of 2010.
And we can see why.