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Square Enix Debuts Playable Final Fantasy Versus XIII Footage

Tetsuya Nomura is a liar. But it's all good!


Tetsuya Nomura is one of Square Enix's most powerful producers, so I probably shouldn't be saying this... but man, Nomura, you're a big fat liar!

Late last month, Nomura revealed to Famitsu that Square Enix wouldn't be holding a Closed Mega Theater in its Tokyo Game Show booth this year. He also said that the company it probably wouldn't be showing new footage of Final Fantasy Agito XIII and Final Fantasy Versus XIII. He was wrong on both accounts.

While it's true that there wasn't a traditional sit-down closed theater in this year's Square Enix booth, there was something extremely similar to it. After playing Final Fantasy XIII and Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep, players were ushered into a shared viewing space between the two demo areas where they viewed the latest Square Enix trailers on a massive Sharp LCD monitor. This theater was standing-only. But it wasn't visible from outside the booth, making it fit my definition of a closed theater.

Following my first viewing, I tried my best to peak through the curtain closing the theater off from the outside world because I'd seen something during the trailer showcase that I really liked: actual gameplay footage of Final Fantasy Versus XIII.

While we've been seeing realtime footage of Stella and Noctis's first meeting since last year's DK-something-something-90210 event, the new TGS video offered a first look at gameplay -- that is, someone was clearly moving a character around. I'm pretty sure that character was Noctis. A series of clips showed Noctis moving around through the streets of a European-style city, first surrounded by other people, and then alone at night. Next, the footage switched to Noctis moving about a vast field. Here, he was joined by monsters, some massive. I was actually reminded of a scene of Hope running around FFXIII's vast Pulse fields in the TGS FFXIII trailer.

When referring to the Versus XIII TGS showing, I use "footage" instead of "trailer" because what we were shown wasn't actually a trailer. The footage was all off-screen, filmed off presumably development units by the development staff. It was set to the same music from past trailers, but there wasn't any attempt to make a promotional trailer out of the various gameplay clips.

Below the footage, subtitles showed a conversation being had by Tetsuya Nomura and other staff members as they viewed the footage. They seemed to be joking around mostly. For instance, someone asked why there was no one around in the night scene. Nomura's response was that everyone had probably gone home.

Admittedly, I was only able to view the trailer once, so I didn't get to look too closely at the text. There may have been some other gameplay secrets hidden in there (if the usual progression holds, a Famitsu interview will clear up such things in a couple of weeks).

This was definitely an unconventional method of showing off first gameplay footage from a game. But, then again, it's not entirely surprising. The DK-something-something event also offered visitors a glimpse at early prototype clips of Versus in similar fashion, with the developers joking around as the brief footage flowed across the screen.

Versus wasn't the only attraction in the "closed theater" trailer real. Square Enix also had new footage of Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep, Final Fantasy Agito XIII and The 3rd Birthday. The Final Fantasy XIII trailer was also new for most visitors, although I'd seen it in advance at the Premiere Party event a couple of weeks back (I was happy to see it again, now that developer interviews had shed some light on what we should be looking for).

Like Versus, the trailer for The 3rd Birthday included first actual gameplay sequences. Here, while a proper trailer, the gameplay scenes were largely obscured by post processing effects. From what I could make out, the game is a third person shooter, with the action taking place from behind Aya's back. There was just a few seconds of blurred gameplay footage mixed in with what was already a short CG trailer, so it's tough to say more. Still, being shown first gameplay footage -- regardless of the form -- is a good sign that a full unveil is on the way.

Final Fantasy Agito XIII has seen playable footage in past trailers. In this latest trailer, I noticed the characters' battle menu palette changing depending on the character. While fight and defend/evade were always there, two other commands would change between such things as Snipe, Black Hole, Nebula. I presume these are skills. Square Enix will hopefully start getting specific on the game once FFXIII sees release later this year.

The Famitsu.com article makes one additional note about the Agito trailer. Apparently, some footage indicated that the players were taking on a mission of some form as assigned by a Magic Guild of some form. The mission that appears in the trailer asks that players use magic once within a minute.

As for the Birth By Sleep trailer, I'll have details on that in my hands-on playtest of Aqua's stage. With all the press conferences and stage events going on, Birth By Sleep was one of the two games that I was able to play today (the other was Metal Gear Solid Peace Walker).

I'm glad I did play it, as in addition to Birth By Sleep being a showpiece title for the PSP, the play session also got me into Square Enix's secret closed theater.

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