“Real-time” is a term thrown around loosely in industry circles by developers looking to hype visual fidelity of their latest games. At E3, it’s unavoidable – and it becomes easy to dismiss.

But when Square Enix brought their Luminous Engine to the show, proclaiming to run a next-gen Final Fantasy tech demo… in real-time, they succeeded where similar marketing approaches frequently fail: They turned heads.

Shown to the media during an after-hours event at E3 2012, the near-four-minute tech demo was introduced by Yoshihisa Hashimoto, chief technology officer for Square Enix, under the name “Agni’s Philosophy.” Game Informer reported that Hashimoto was adamant about its real-time authenticity, announcing that the engine, Luminous Studio, is indeed Square’s next-gen property for creating games.

Though hitched with the Final Fantasy motif, the caveat was also revealed that the tech demo was strictly that; “Agni’s Philosophy” is not in production or associated with a specific game project (think of Quantic Dream and David Cage’s “Kara” demo).

Nonetheless, as the opening scene introduces a priest and his cloaked followers attempting conjure up a mysterious, mystic ancient being, it’s hard not to become spellbound in our own way. The precise muscular structure and fluid animation in the priest’s face quickly negates any notion an uncanny valley, while a red mist floats prominently in the background and each of its ten thousand particles beautifully begin percolating around the creature. It’s easily one of the best-looking pieces of game footage we’ve ever seen.

Square Enix Luminous Next Generatation

And that’s just before the bullets start flying. A raiding unit of masked mercenaries soon intrudes on the group, and flurries of AK-47 fire are met with streams of electricity at a pace as ferocious as today’s Call of Duty’s and Battlefield’s (and Skyrim’s).

Her mentor soon killed, one of the younger female priestesses is able to escape to the outdoors of a mountainside, flavela-like city, and we’re treated again to eye candy that, quite honestly, is better suited for watching than it is for reading about the curvaceousness of Coke bottles and..oh hey, turns out that creature is a riding-ready dragon.

If one thing is clear watching the tantalizing clip – even though Sony and Microsoft stopped short of unveiling the PlayStation 4 and Xbox 720, despite eons of rumor to the contrary – it’s that the technology of the next generation is appearing right before our eyes at E3 2012. (For another example, look no further than our hands-on preview of Star Wars 1313, a game that’s highly suspected to be released beyond today’s consoles and yet looks stunning in its early-developed form.)

Luminous Final Fantasy next generation

Luminous’ demo is likely not something next-gen games will be able to emulate right out of the gate – the sleek cinematography dilutes the picture of what gameplay would actually look like – but it is quite telling of how close to the mark Epic’s 2011 “Samaritan” demo might have been.

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Source: Game Informer