Pretty much everyone on the planet expected Square Enix to announce another Final Fantasy title at its E3 press conference this year, but few could have guessed it would announce three Final Fantasy of them that bear the moniker "XIII." The series is collectively being called Fabula Nova Crystallis (that's "the new tale of the crystal" to those of us not fluent in Latin) with two of the titles appearing on PS3 and one on mobile phones. The premiere title, simply known as Final Fantasy XIII, was the most talked about and had a wild (mostly real-time) trailer to back up the discussion.
Keep in mind, that Final Fantasy XIII is not a prequel or sequel to the other two FFXIII titles in the traditional sense. As Square Enix explained, the trio is linked through a common mythology but do not have any common characters, worlds, or stories. They all take place in the same universe, but aren't related to each other directly.
The video trailer of Final Fantasy XIII featured a futuristic world with a female protagonist who kicks some serious ass with a short sword-gun combo, similar in appearance to Squall's Gunblade from Final Fantasy VIII [Editor's Note: the video shown at Square Enix's conference was actually longer than the one shown at Sony's later in the day]. The video began with the woman soaring through a city and then followed her onto a train as she fought soldiers in a battle where she was clearly outnumbered. The train sequence ended with a giant mechanical scorpion monster attacking from above.
A collective gasp was heard in the audience when the movie went from what appeared to be pre-rendered footage to a full set of menus indicating that nearly everything we saw was made using the in-game engine. We were then taken through a series of environments ranging from futuristic cities to dense jungles. All of them were lushly detailed with plenty going on in both the character's immediate vicinity and in the background. Square Enix reps have told IGN that other than a few sequences, the majority of the demo is indeed real-time.
Everything we saw in the trailer pointed towards a title that leans heavily towards the action side of the RPG spectrum. The press release also described "intuitive controls" and an emphasis on real-time gameplay. Although much about Final Fantasy XIII is still up in the air, one thing is for sure -- this is one incredible looking game.
Preview by IGN