The PC version of The Last Remnant, which launches today in Europe, cannot be played nor installed as far as we - and a Eurogamer reader with the same problem (and an entire Steam forum with the same problem) - can ascertain.
Disappointingly for a game so vocal about throwing JRPG conventions out of the window, The Last Remnant suffers from one of the classic problems of the genre: an extremely slow start, made even slower by an astounding amount of loading. It's a good four hours before you're allowed access to anything interesting like combat and equipment customisation, and in the meantime you'll spend a lot of time staring at the five-to-seven-second splash loading screen that pops up every single time you start a fight, finish a fight, go into and out of buildings, encounter a cut-scene or walk more than twenty paces in a town. Even after so much loading, the game suffers from basic technical problems like shocking texture pop-in and juddering frame-rate, even in the tutorial battles.
One 12GB hard-disk install later and things have improved, but it's far from perfect. Load times are down to two or three seconds, and the in-battle slowdown restricted to conflicts of more than about thirty combatants. But the texture pop-in is still cringeworthily noticeable, the camera still goes mental in buildings to the extent that you have to spend five seconds turning it around before you can leave through the door that you're standing right in front of, and the old-fashioned animation and tearing in cut-scenes is still a definite problem. In a game where you spend as much time just watching as you do in Last Remnant, these presentation problems strip the sheen from what should rightfully be a rich spectacle, elevating them from mildly irritating to a crushing disappointment.
It's certainly not all bad news on the presentation side, however. The Last Remnant's visual design is generally very good, with characters whose distinctive appearance and facial expressiveness render them far more appealing than their serene, airbrushed counterparts elsewhere in the genre. The story and voice acting hold your attention, although as usual the English voice-overs aren't quite up to the standard of the Japanese - particularly in the case of main character Rush Sykes and the Marquis of Athlum (an American doing an English voice that veers between cockney and aristocrat in an amusing way, according to Friend of Eurogamer Simon Parkin).
In the sea of RPGs at the Tokyo Game Show last month, The Last Remnant stood out - not only because it commanded a disproportionate section of the Square-Enix stand, but because its demo pods comprised almost a full half of Microsoft's. It's no longer exclusive, but Last Remnant is a key game for both the Xbox and Square Enix this Christmas: where Microsoft is no doubt hoping that Xbox sales of the game will make a dent in its success on the PS3 in Japan, Square-Enix is billing it as an RPG for the world; the Japanese-developed role-player that will finally break out and enjoy as much success elsewhere as it inevitably will in its home country.
Square Enix has listed a load of release dates at the Xbox 360 RPG Premiere event in Tokyo.
Star Ocean 4, or as it's officially titled Star Ocean: The Last Hope, will be released for Xbox 360 in 2009. There's been no mention of when, or indeed whether, it will turn up on other platforms.
Next up is Infinite Undiscovery, confirmed as a 360 exclusive and down for a European release on 5th September. The US will get it three days earlier while Japan will have to wait, for once. But not for long, as the game's out there on September 11th.
Square Enix's John Yamamoto, president and CEO for North America and Europe, has said that the publisher is busily trying to work out if it can release Last Remnant and Final Fantasy XIII simultaneously worldwide, calling it "a goal".
There was a time when the Final Fantasy brand was reassuringly focused. Each new sequential release was appropriately numbered and sought little more than to better the previous game's scope and technical achievements. The setting and characters changed but the rules never did: Final Fantasy, as with most long-running Japanese products, was a series of incremental evolutions, and both developer and fans knew what to expect of one another.