Final Fantasy XI was one of the most anticipated titles at this year's E3, and for very good reason. The impressive track record of the Final Fantasy series puts a lot of pressure on SquareSoft to come through with another hit, and from what I saw when I sat down with the game, they are doing exactly that. While the game was entirely in Japanese, I was still able to get a great feel for the game due to the assistance of a very helpful man, SquareSoft rep Yasu Kurosawa, who assisted me in navigating the menus and understanding the basic schemes.
Visually, Final Fantasy XI is absolutely gorgeous, with incredible detail in both the characters and the environments. I was able to witness a cutscene showing an Elvaan tribe marching into the night as the sun dropped below the horizon, and the lighting effects were nothing short of spectacular. However, I didn't have much time to admire the scenery as I quickly found myself in battle.
Once in battle, my character, part of the Tarutaru, proved that size is of little importance as I was able to make quick work of a hovering, bug like creature. I was able to move freely around while attacking, which is possibly the coolest part about the new battle system. However, even with the aid of Mr. Kurosawa I still found it somewhat difficult to navigate the battle menus due to the Japanese text. However, my impression of the battle system is that, once localized, Final Fantasy XI will have one of the best battle systems the series has seen.
Overall, Final Fantasy XI is shaping up very nicely. With amazing visuals and seemingly solid gameplay, it looks to be everything that Final Fantasy games have been in the past, with a few new twists of course. Final Fantasy XI is currently scheduled to release some time next year.
5/31/2002 Ryan Hartmann