In a little more than two weeks, Square Enix will finally enter the battlefield of online gaming alongside the giants of the MMORPG world. Armed with their rich heritage of storytelling and artistic bravado, they enter the fray with their flagship banner held high. Final Fantasy XI is a title that many thought would never see fruition, much less the light of day in North America. When the first major online RPGs were created in the form of Ultima Online and EverQuest, RPG fans would never have suspected that their vaunted Final Fantasy would ever become a multiplayer experience. When Square announced Final Fantasy XI for the PS2 at the end of the millennium, fans everywhere were shocked. Soon after the game’s console release, Square (now Square Enix) outlined plans to bring the game to Windows-based PCs, uniting what was thought to be two mutually exclusive platforms. Could Square tread where angels dare to dream? Could the richness of character and depth of storytelling inherent in Sakaguchi’s opus exist in a virtual world populated by thousands of real people? Would North American gamers ever get the chance to explore this brave new world? I’m sure some of us never thought it was possible; but like life itself, anything can happen in the gaming industry, and usually does.
To date, Final Fantasy XI has enjoyed over a year of success in Japan on both the PC and PS2, and already has one expansion pack under its belt. With the domestic release of FFXI looming on the horizon, we now know that American gamers will be entering a Vana’diel already populated with an experienced Japanese audience. With this in mind, Square Enix has decided to include the expansion, Rise of the Zilart, along with the vanilla version of Final Fantasy XI.
Last week, RPGFan had the distinct pleasure of exploring many of the facets of an expanded Vana’diel along with several other publications. It is my pleasure to share my experiences in A Brave New World.