Barely a day after its existence was revealed to the world, Square Enix has released an official trailer for upcoming mobile game Final Fantasy Agito. And it looks pretty good.
The trailer's pretty short, but it does at least show some gameplay. It confirms one important thing, too: rather than being the sort of cheap to produce, gameplay-light card battle games that a lot of Japanese publishers and developers are using as spinoffs of their popular franchises (Star Ocean says hi!), it looks like a fully-fledged follow-up to its PSP-based predecessor Final Fantasy Type-0. There's full 3D graphics, cutscenes, what looks like real-time action RPG combat -- much like that found in Type-0 -- and dialog sequences featuring stylized, animated portraits.
There are still two important concerns outstanding, though: firstly, what impact, if any, the game's adoption of the free-to-play business model will have on its overall coherence and general "fun factor" (to use a distinctly '80s games press term); and secondly, whether or not the game will be localized for release outside of Japan. Final Fantasy Type-0 never saw a Western release, after all, so it's possible we may not see this either.
It would be a shame if Western players didn't get to try this out, however, as it sounds like it'll be trying some genuinely new and interesting things in the free-to-play online mobile RPG arena. The most significant thing is the fact that the story unfolds for everyone at the same pace, with each chapter unfolding for two weeks of real time. 10 of those 14 days are spent running solo missions with your own character, while the remaining 4 are used for cooperative battles alongside other players against bosses.
Special events are nothing new for massively multiplayer mobile games, but they generally take the form of a simple leaderboard competition in which whoever collects the most of a random MacGuffin -- the drop rate of which is pure luck in most cases -- wins some sort of in-game prize. This sort of competition is usually skewed significantly towards paying players, since they'll have more in-game energy to expend on making more attempts to collect the items in question.
Agito does something a little differently, however; the outcome of each chapter and the route the story takes at its conclusion is determined by a combination of individual choices and community voting. There's also an "end" to the story -- once everyone reaches this point in the narrative, the game will simply loop around and start again, allowing for another runthrough with different outcomes and paths through the story.
It's certainly an ambitious concept, in short; hopefully the free-to-play elements won't be too obtrusive and overshadow the genuinely interesting things the game is going to be doing -- and hopefully we'll get the chance to try it for ourselves in the West at some point.