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Hundreds of electronic game lovers mobbed stores in Tokyo’s Akihabara Thursday to snap up the latest version of Final Fantasy, a popular PlayStation computer game that went on sale in the morning.

Well before noon, stores began posting notices indicating they were already sold out of the new game software. “Before we opened our Sofmap 13-Ban Kan shop at 10 a.m., about 200 people were already waiting in line outside to get Final Fantasy VIII. The products were gone in one hour. We don’t know when additional packages will arrive,” said Nobuyuki Matsuda, a spokesman for Sofmap Co.

The first version of the series, created by Square Co., was put on the market in December 1987. It instantly proved popular.

Square Co. has sold about 3.71 million copies of its seventh version since it went on sale about two years ago, said company spokesman Akira Kaneko. Reservations for the latest version surpassed 2 million by Friday, the largest for a PlayStation computer game, according to Square Co.

In the latest version of the game, players play out the battles in a mysterious drama of a young soldier in a world war.

Sunao Okawara, 23, a businessman in Chuo Ward who visited the Sofmap shop around noon, said he wanted to buy the latest Final Fantasy, but it was already sold out. “I like the game because its graphics are beautiful and I have enjoyed most of the series,” he said. “I couldn’t get the new version today. But it’s OK, because I kind of expected that.”

Matsuda of Sofmap said the latest version will become the best-selling game in Japan, a position it may only hold until many new games are released next month. “Game hardware for personal use has pretty much seen a complete lineup (with the introduction of Sega Enterprise’s Dreamcast in November),” he said.

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