I stopped by the Square Enix booth to get check out the hotly anticipated Final Fantasy XIII. Although the demo being shown was extremely short for preview purposes, I also got to chat with producer Yoshinori Kitase about some game details. Here are some impressions and details I gathered at E3 2009.
Seeing the game running will absolutely take your breath away. Along with Uncharted 2, this is the best-looking PlayStation 3 game I've ever seen. In terms of visuals, believe the hype.
The early level of the game I saw featured Snow (the dude with the condom on his head). Everything looked great, was animated superbly, and almost made me drool. Things got funky when he summoned Shiva for some ice-powered damage. Similar to Final Fantasy X, the command menu changes when a summon is in play. What was really weird was when Shiva transformed into a motorcycle. That's not a typo -- this ice goddess for rent became a frickin' motorcycle. This is all part of the game's "gestalt" feature and apparently all the summons can become different objects.
Kitase wouldn't reveal more details on gestalt, but this feature scared me more than intrigued me. Does Ifrit become a Weber barbecue grill? Does Leviathan become a washing machine? Maybe Titan becomes a pet rock. I'm sure there's some brilliant idea behind this curious feature, but as of now I just don't get it. Anyway, outside of gestalt, I didn't really see anything that revealed details that weren't already shown in the Japanse demo accompanying Advent Children Complete.
Since I had Kitase cornered in a conference room, I used my time to ask him questions about the game's English dialogue. Final Fantasy XIII is heavy on plot and dialogue, so the English voice acting is crucial. Poor voice acting and miscast characters would really hurt the game. Kitase said that the English-speaking actors are set, but recording has just begun. There's still time to change the style and tone of some of the characters. Although I was mostly happy with the voice acting revealed at the Sony E3 2009 press conference, a few of the voices were full and one voice was comical. I was particularly amused by Sazh's voice, which sounded like Robert Downey, Jr.'s character from Tropic Thunder. I know many Japanese people have...interesting ideas about African Americans, but Sazh sounded borderline ridiculous to me.
Gamers hoping to experience the game with Japanese dialogue and English subtitles are likely to be disappointed. Kitase said that Square Enix is considering this option, but is wary of it. The reason being is that it would require a download for the Xbox 360 and he wants players to have an equal experience. He doesn't want Xbox 360 gamers without a hard drive to have an inferior experience. While this is very nice and polite, I say, "Screw that!" A lot of hardcore RPG fans want this feature and they shouldn't have to suffer just because other gamers don't have a hard drive. I am holding out hope that the PlayStation 3 version will have English subs, thanks to the additional capacity Blu-ray offers.
Other Kitase tidbits include the fact that the Xbox 360 version is really, really early in development. He said that up until the Japanese demo, the efforts have been on the PlayStation 3 only. He gave a non-answer when asked about downloadable content, saying only that DLC is being considered. Considering his concern for gamers without hard drives, I wouldn't expect much (if the decision is up to him...which it might not be).
G4tv.com has some excellent Final Fantasy XIII videos on the way. Stay on the lookout for demos, trailers, and more! In the meantime, let me know what you think of the game after its E3 showing. Do you want it more? Less? What do you think of the voice-acting details I discovered? Leave a comment and let me know (please)!