The release of the spectacular Final Fantasy Versus XIII trailer at Square Enix’s 1st Production Premier event has shed a lot of light on what we can expect to see in this Final Fantasy action RPG. Director Tetsuo Nomura of Kingdom Hearts lineage has seemingly been given considerable creative control on the title, and has recently revealed much of what he has in store for fans of the series in interviews with Dengeki Playstation and Famitsu. Nomura has promised a more gritty and bleak storyline for this iteration in the series, which also takes place in the same Fabula Nova Crystallis universe as Final Fantasy XIII and the upcoming titles Final Fantasy XIII-2 and Final Fantasy XIII Type-0.
However, besides using the same mythos established in FFXIII, the storyline should not be considered sequel or prequel to the other titles. Instead, expect an original plot with some reference to the elements (like the l’Cie) dealt with in the already released title. The storyline of the game will revolve around main protagonist Noctis Lucis Caelum, the last remaining heir to an isolated kingdom dedicated to the defense of the last remaining Crystals on the planet. These highly sought-after Crystals leave the Caelum dynasty prone to constant attack from neighboring Kingdoms. Nomura promises that Noctis will be much more developed personality-wise than previous main protagonists in the Final Fantasy series. Players will have the option to include Noctis in their three-member party throughout out the entire game, and will not have to substitute him out at any point. The only other named characters that have been revealed are that of Stella Nox Fleuret and Ignis. Stella belongs to a noble family considered enemy to Noctis, however, it is unknown how her relationship with the main protagonist will develop during the game. Ignis is a childhood friend and advisor to Noctis, and should provide a strong supporting role both in the story and in combat. Another childhood friend, a character with a scarred face, and a newly met gun-wielding blonde-haired character have also been confirmed as possible party members.
As the stunning trailer reveals, combat in FFXIII Versus will take place in real-time. Nomura has stressed that the gameplay will involve seamless sequences of adventure and combat. As you make your way through each setting, enemies can appear out of nowhere and initiate combat, forcing you to make use of whatever terrain you are currently surrounded with. Combat can take place on multiple layers of the setting as well. Characters will have a jump ability in order to traverse these layers in order to reach enemies. If the other layer is not reachable by a direct jump, the player may have to look around for an appropriate way to get to the enemy, such as using the fire escape of a nearby building get to an enemy positioned on a rooftop. There is a wide range of traditional (i.e. swords and lances) and contemporary weaponry (i.e. guns and bazookas) on display in the trailer as well. While Noctis has the option of using any weapon-type, other characters will be restricted to the weapons they are specialized in. Nomura has mentioned the ability to switch weapons quickly during battle, and this should add an interesting dynamic to battle sequences. Magic will also be available to any party member as well and will play an important role in the game’s story. Other combat actions observed in trailer include the ability to Summon and perform special techniques called EX-ARTS. At one point in the trailer, you can also see a character manning an enemy tank turret to take down foes. Details regarding character progression, weapon customization, and other promised systems have yet to be revealed.
Also of note from Nomura’s interviews is that FFXIII Versus will be the first game in the series to have a traversable world map since this concept was disposed of in Final Fantasy X. Nomura has claimed that the world map will be quite expansive, and that different vehicles like chocobos, cars, and airships will be available move about the map to different destinations. These destinations all share a modern theme and design, a choice Nomura made in order to compliment the dark storyline of the game. In fact, one city in the game is apparently modeled after the real-life Tokyo district named Shinjuku.
Final Fantasy Versus XIII looks every bit a big release as any other FF title. Developed specifically for the PS3, it will be interesting to see what other features Square Enix and director Tetsuo Nomura will reveal as time passes on. Square says that we probably won’t see Versus until 2012, but we will keep up-to-date on all the latest news for this and all other upcoming Final Fantasy titles.