New Final Fantasy XIII Trailer Exposes Battles

Square Enix just dispatched a stunning new Final Fantasy XIII trailer, the key distinction being its focus on actual combat. For the first time, we're treated to extended, uncut sequences depicting key protagonists like Lightning and Snow back-flipping, round-housing, uppercut-flinging, sword-slapping, and obligatorily chucking objects thrice their size dozens of yards into the air before following up with a stylish coup de grace.

Have a look for yourself, though I can't vouch for the fidelity of the English subs.

Anyone else thinking Final Fantasy VII redux? It's got the weird exo-skeletal deific Jenova-looking-thing parading along, the electric blue-green backdrop adorned with fantasy Steampunk architectonics, a train-hijacking scene, a ragtag insurgent group battling a totalitarian military force… Heck, all it's missing are the cerulean Muad'dib eyes and Flock of Seagulls haircuts.

I kid. I love the Final Fantasy games, however chic it's become not to.

What's the new trailer tell us? That Square Enix's in-house developed engine looks amazing, for starters. No surprises there. And it looks like a Final Fantasy game, or I should say like a Final Fantasy VII Advent Children spinoff, which was always the design team's goal.

What else? Combat may finally incorporate a "true" 3D mechanic. Final Fantasy went 3D visually speaking in 1997, but the environments remained little more than pretty backdrops as characters moved in or out of the foreground executing singular attacks.

In FFXIII, with its new multi-command wheel (allowing you to execute several attacks per character, per turn) and the option to launch enemies into the air, the vertical dimension may at last play a role, depending on how you build out your tactical attack chains. Couple with the option to trigger shared attacks with allies and the dovetailing combo chains could prove mind-boggling.

I've seen a few comments from folks making much of the positional elements of combatants in one of the sequences. To be fair, X-axis positioning was already a factor in the first Final Fantasy and it's played a nominal role in every title since, so I'm hesitant to credit the fancy footwork as more than that. Would it be nice if flanking and suppressive or enfilade fire played a role? Heck yeah, but I'm not seeing any of that evidenced in these cuts.

The trouble with analyzing Final Fantasy clips is that mostly what you're seeing onscreen is there for visual/aesthetic purposes, not tactical ones. The functionality of the Active Time Battle systems employed in Final Fantasy VII through Final Fantasy XII has always been radically different from the visual actuality of what you're witnessing onscreen.

In any event, I was already juiced about this one, so I guess this trailer makes me officially juiced +1.

Matt Peckham will be polishing off Final Fantasy VIII while everyone else is playing Killzone 2. You can follow his nostalgic communiqués at twitter.com/game_on.

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