ffversus_hr-copy.jpg It’s time for this year’s Jump Festa, an annual exposition put on by Weekly Shonen Jump publisher Shueisha. Though anime and manga are the general focus of the event, video games are welcome too, and Square-Enix is back for their traditional showing. The problem? The public’s getting jacked again as their most impressive wares are still only being displayed in a “closed theatre.” What gives S-E?

It’s been roughly a year-and-a-half since Final Fantasy XIII’s original announcement and the developers still have very little to show for it. Though the initial footage of protagonist Lightning is still quite impressive, the average gamer’s only been treated to what amounts to remixed teasers since, and the press hasn’t gotten it much better. We plebeians had to settle for artists reproductions and second-hand reports of what transpired behind closed doors at both E3 and the Tokyo Game Show.

Is this fair? In purely technical terms, sure. Square-Enix can show whatever they want, whenever they want, to whoever they want. But this kind of behavior doesn’t instill much confidence in their products, hurting not only the game’s image in terms of potential consumers and Final Fantasy fans all over the globe, but also Sony’s bottom line. FFXIII/Versus have always been a feather in the PS3’s cap, with many claiming they won’t even consider purchasing the console until the games actually hit. Take a step back into history and you’ll notice that Playstation sales didn’t really start to pick up until Final Fantasy VII was released. This could be a major breadwinner for Sony (and Square-Enix), but with each delay and each trailer being shown behind closed doors, that potential slips more and more.

Is it a signal of troubled development? Most likely. It’s always tough getting a new development platform off the ground and, no doubt, the White Engine has posed some nasty problems. We also know what might happen when footage is shown of a game in an unplayable state. Often acceptable by press standards, unleashing video of unpolished gameplay on the public could be disastrous. Just look at what happened to Silicon Knights and their unfortunate showing of Too Human just a couple E3s ago. Denis Dyack become persona non grata at forums all over the internet.

While that’s a legitimate fear, the frustration seems to come more from the idea that Square-Enix should have something to show at this point. There seemed to be no major problems with the trailer at TGS, which showcased more of Versus’ concept, as well as several new characters. Then again, even that wasn’t playable. Could we honestly be in for another FFXII? And that was one game. Imagine three (all part of Fabula Nova Crystallis), each with its own troubled development cycle. Is this what happens when a next-gen game gets way too ambitious for its own good?

For now, all we can do is sit on our hands and wait and consume whatever scraps actually get thrown our way. The recently-announced Kingdom Hearts games are also being shown in the closed theatre, but I think we can all give those a little more leeway. Just about everything else is the standard fare.

Here’s the full listing of what Square-Enix has to offer at Jump Festa ’08:

  • Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker (Playable)
  • Dragon Quest IV (???)
  • Final Fantasy IV (Playable)
  • Chocobo’s Mysterious Dungeon (Video)
  • Dissidia: Final Fantasy (Video)
  • Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days (Video – New)
  • Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep (Video – New)
  • Kingdom Hearts: Coded (Video – New)
  • Fabula Nova Crystallis [FFXIII/Versus/Agito] (Video – New)
  • Final Fantasy VII AC: Complete (Video – New)
  • Star Ocean: First Departure (Video)
  • Front Mission 2009: Border of Madness (Video)

As many of the trailers are listed as being new, we might just get something out of this yet.