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Final Fantasy XI Ages, Dies, Continues, is Reborn


Final Fantasy XI
Did you know Final Fantasy XI was still a thing? I don't think I'd thought about it since the last time I posted news about it, back in 2012. That's unfair, though, because the game is well over a decade old but still has a core of diehard players; it's just that none of us are included in that list!

Anyway, Square Enix had a Final Fantasy XI event today, in which the very definition of what Final Fantasy XI is changed somewhat. Most importantly, the final additional scenario to the game was announced; called "Rhapsodies of Vana'diel," the scenario will come in three parts and are intended to incorporate aspects of the game's history into new battles and loot in an effort to create a feeling of closure to the adventure. These three pieces will be free to all players.

The three pieces of "Rhapsodies" will be released in May, August, and November 2015. In March 2016, the game will be shut down for Playstation 2 and Xbox 360 players, which seems like it might be well due. This will leave only the PC version as an active platform. Sometime before the March shutoff, as well, the game managers are planning a final gameplay event called "The Goddess' Gala," which promises fun content for both active and lapsed players.

While the ancient platforms are being eliminated, though, a new platform is being announced; Final Fantasy XI mobile is in the works now for smartphones and tablets worldwide. The game will carry the XI name, and has optimizations intended to make the game more playable via touch; however, it is not yet clear if it will interact with the existing platform or will exist solely on its own servers and will be multiplayer only with other mobile players.

Also announced today, for release in Japan later this year, is a mobile game set in the universe and leveraging the characters of Final Fantasy XI. The game is called Final Fantasy Grandmasters, and while it will have ad hoc multiplayer, it's not to MMO scale and the gameplay based on screenshots looks like a hybrid between MMO combat and more standard Final Fantasy line-up-and-sword-them fighting. It's aiming for beta sometime in April, but again, there's no release planned outside of Japan.

Source: Gematsu

Some Final Fantasy Released Today: Type-0 Review Roundup


Type-0
Hope you're wearing green, because it's Type-0 day. At least in North America, Type-0 HD released for current-gen consoles today, and, along with it, Episode Duscae. For the former, the reviews are starting to come in; by and large, reviews from some of the big outlets seem to be on the positive side of mixed.

Polygon gives the game an 8/10 based on the strength and variety of combat and the darker and more militaristic storyline and the gameplay changes those things require. Given that review starts off with a few shots at how little the reviewer cared for the Final Fantasy XIII series, and a sidebar about how the port and upscaling was not done very well, that seems like a solid number.

Over at Siliconera, the review is also generally positive, though it's not "scored." The same high and low points are mostly covered, with special emphasis on the changes that Final Fantasy players will notice in terms of combat style and party management. The general theme is that the story is sub-par, but I must say that everything described in the review seems like a pretty interesting concept to me personally - it does come off a bit as though you might need to appreciate how Final Fantasy XIII told its story to really get into Type-0, though, so that won't be for everyone if true.

IGN also nails the game to an 8/10 and has the overall most positive review of any of the three, I think. Here, the darkness of the story is highlighted often, and you definitely need to know that Type-0 is the first game to carry the Final Fantasy name to receive the M rating (and international equivalents). A few sticking points still crop up, though, such as the not-fully-HD quality of some of the graphics and the poor quality of English voice acting.

A friend at work asked me earlier today, "Do you think I should pick up Type-0?" After first reminding him that I probably carry some bias, I said from everything I knew, it looked like it was worth a shot, especially if you're tired of the core Final Fantasy line. I think these reviews back me up just fine on that optimism. Has anyone out there grabbed it yet?

Of course, there's that whole thing of Episode Duscae, too. With all the push around Final Fantasy XV recently, you might have thought you knew just about everything that the demo was going to do - but until today, you didn't know about a summon showing up. And man, did a summon show up. The video contained therein shows an Eidolon well beyond the scale of anything we've seen in a Final Fantasy game, and note that it's Ramuh - typically one of the base-tier summons you get in any FF game. That actually worries me a little bit, because that is a pretty high bar to set, and to me it runs the risk of becoming something over-the-top and annoying over time. To me, this points to the idea that summoning will be a special, less-used thing in Final Fantasy XV, or the summoning itself will have some sort of shortening mechanism to keep the gameplay running.

Oh, and if that's not enough for you for this day, check this out. President Yosuke Mitsuda mentioned in an interview this week that "there is a surprise in store" this year in terms of information about a new JRPG reveal. Siliconera's reporting implies heavily that said reveal will take place at one of the big shows this year, either E3 or Tokyo Game Show. Speculation, naturally, is already underway. Final Fantasy Type-1? Final Fantasy XII HD Remaster? Final Fantasy VI HD Remaster?!?

Yeah, yeah. Don't get too carried away.

New 2015 Orchestral Shows for 'Distant Worlds' and 'A New World'


Distant Worlds
It's that time again, where the Music division over at Square Enix (or whoever the heck runs these things) sends out an announcement of a number of new live performances for the "Distant Worlds" and "A New World" concert series. Since our last update, I did in fact manage to grab tickets to the Boston show, but that's old news now. Check out instead the new ones for a show near you!

The first new show is an interesting one that I don't think they've ever done before: there will be a show during E3 in Los Angeles this year, June 17th at 8pm local time, and Hitoshi Sakimoto will be in attendance as well as conductor Arnie Roth and vocalist Susan Calloway. It's at the Nokia Theater, which apparently has a 2,200-seat capacity for concerts; if they open that all up, that's going to be one big show. Presale tickets go on sale today, and general purchases kick in on Monday.

In July, the series moves to Seattle for two shows at Benaroya Hall, the home of the Seattle Symphony. Those shows are on July 10th and 11th at 8pm, and tickets are already on sale. No guests have been announced for those shows save Arnie Roth, but there's still plenty of time.

Further down the road, August 1 sees the tour arrive in Pittsburgh, with the Mendelssohn Choir appearing. Tickets for that show go on sale this Monday, March 9. Even later, Rochester, New York gets their first ever Distant Worlds show on October 29th.

For those who like the smaller chamber orchestra format of A New World, there are some new shows in new locales for that series as well. In April, at the Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo, there will be a show open to all ticketholders for the con on April 17th. On May 15th, the show will come to Milwaukee for the first time - this show promises a world premiere score, and the debut of arranger Eric Roth as conductor. The last new show announced is a return to the Anime Central con in Chicago; the tour stopped at the same event last year, and will return on May 17th for a show open to all con-goers with a badge for that day.

Last note on this topic is that there is a third Distant Worlds album out now! It's a thirteen-track album with music from seven different games and some tracks that span multiple games. It's available in both CD and downloadable forms, and is available from AmaCoN now.

Source: Distant Worlds, A New World, Distant Worlds III on AmaCoN

Square Enix PAX East Rundown


Square Enix
I just got an email from Squenix discussing their offerings at PAX East this year. The company does have a sizable footprint on the show floor, as well as the panels mentioned in our last podcast and more, but today's email detailed some new information regarding activities and events coming this weekend.

With Type-0 coming out in just a couple weeks, it makes sense that it will be playable now, and so it shall be. Folks who play the game on the show floor will also get a poster splitting between Ace and Noctis; the poster is similar or even identical to the ones that you might have seen in your local game store.

Additionally, the Final Fantasy XIV panel on Saturday will be livestreamed. Feel free to look through the crowd for yours truly. This panel, as a reminder, will be an overview of the upcoming Heavensward expansion and might talk further about the future of the MMO as well.

There's also going to be a Life Is Strange panel on Friday afternoon. If you've tried this game, you might be interested to know that the panel will discuss not just the development of the game, but also will release some new details about the second chapter in the episodic game. Unfortunately, this one I won't be able to make.

Finally, for Tomb Raider and cosplay fans, there's a chance to get a limited edition Rise of the Tomb Raider poster on the show floor. A cosplayer by the name of Jenn Croft, who has portrayed Lara Croft for a decade and a half, will be at the con and folks who get themselves all selfied up with her will get a chance at the poster. Square Enix will also be hosting a cosplay meetup Saturday afternoon; unfortunately, it looks like they're doing it at the exact same time as the Final Fantasy XV panel, so I will have to figure something out.

In case it's not clear from the rest of this post, I am still planning on being there for Saturday, March 7. I'll be spending a lot of time on the show floor, so if you or anyone you know will also be in attendance, reach out to me on the CoN Facebook or Twitter to find out where I can be found.

Final Fantasy X/X-2 Remaster Announced for Playstation 4


Final Fantasy X
Late last year, we noted that a leak on an online store made it appear that the high-definition remasters of the Final Fantasy X series might make it to PS4. Not only has this week proven that to be true, the games are coming to the West, and they're coming quite soon, May 12 to be exact. (For Europe and Australia, the date is the 15th.)

This new release will allow transfer of savegames from the previous releases on PS3 and PS Vita; additionally, it will contain all the features of the previous HD releases plus the additional option to switch from the remastered soundtracks back to the original PS2 versions. Preorders of the limited edition in North America, via the official store and "selected retailers," will also include a 2015 calendar with Amano illustrations from the X games. Preorders in Europe will receive a steelbook copy of Amano art.

The price is currently listed at 49.99 for the US and Eurozone, and 39.99 in the UK.

Source: Square Enix Official Store (NA), IGN

Mevius and Bravely Second Updates


Bravely Default
Mevius Final Fantasy, a mobile title we were first introduced to last December, has been given a lot more detail in the last Famitsu. As we noted in that news post, quite a few important folks are involved in the title, and their ambition can be seen on the game's official website: "we're crafting a full-scale, high-quality RPG world the likes of which has never been seen on smartphones and tablets." The protagonist, we are told, will wake up in an unfamiliar world, guided by "Voice," a voice/being of type unknown. The game will once again feature a riff on the job system; Ranger and Black Mage jobs have already been shown. That said, combat will involve active touch-screen use. Did I mention it's looking gorgeous? It is not yet confirmed whether Mevius will be available in western markets or for Android.

We've also got some fresh information out of Bravely Second. Bravely Second will have a bonus activity/area/game/thing like the Norende Village of Bravely Default. You may remember learning in school (or, um, one of our earlier newsposts on Bravely Second) that everyone on the moon speaks English. That's where the character Magnolia is from, and that's where you'll be going, in the bonus activity, to fight off "Demon Kings." This involves utilizing Busterships (battleships) for added bombardment. I'm not making any of this up, people.

Finally, in the "um, alright" category of news, Final Fantasy XV art director Yusuke Naora presented some of the game's art and architecture for an audience at Southern Methodist University. The images - featuring skyscrapers and the city-enveloped royal palace - can be seen in the third source link below.

Source: Gematsu, Siliconera, Gematsu
Posted in: Square-Enix News

Square Enix News Tidbits: Recordkeeping and Heroes


Square Enix
Time to do a proper weekly Square Enix News Tidbits! Mostly for the same reason that we always do - because we run out of time to keep up during the week.

This week, we've got two new announcements for game releases coming West from Japan. First up is a mobile app called Final Fantasy Record Keeper that you might have noticed in the Final Fantasy magazine. Record Keeper appears to be a retelling of critical events from the Final Fantasy canon as evoked by a boy tasked with keeping the memories of those adventures alive, presumably in some sort of alternate universe. Characters from the series are rendered in SNES-era sprites and the player will control them in battle. The battles look similar to All the Bravest... so all we can do is hope that this app isn't quite so much a joke! Pre-registration for the app is available now from the official site.

The second announcement is from the Dragon Quest series. Dragon Quest Heroes for PlayStation 3 and 4 has just come out in Japan, and Squenix commemorated the release in a way by announcing it also for release in the West. DQ Heroes is a "Warriors" style game - think Hyrule or Dynasty - and is the first entry of the series on a Sony console in quite a while. Simultaneously, a load of free DLC was announced for the Japanese release, and one can safely assume that it will also make it over here. One of the DLC packs looks to include Zoma, from Dragon Quest III; I note that specifically because I always thought his giant eye-helmet was pretty creepy. At the moment, it appears that there will be no PS3 version of the game outside of Japan, merely PS4.

Finally, let's turn back to last week's biggest news, Final Fantasy XV. With the demo livestream done, the XV team has turned back to handing out small bits of news for the full game. In an interview this week, Hajime Tabata noted that the demo coming out next month will be roughly 5GB in total disk size; of course, that doesn't do much for explaining how much real content there will be, but it's worth noting that is only about a tenth of a double-layer Bluray's capacity. In the same interview, Tabata implied that there would be some shocking moments in the plot and some brutal scenes, and it's worth noting that Tabata also worked on Crisis Core, so he's probably not bluffing.

In another, separate interview, Tabata discussed some of the other differences between the demo and the full game. The equipment selections, for weapons, armor and accessories alike, will be a small subset of the full game's functionality in terms of equipping and customization. While the (famous) cars and the (heretofore unknown) trains will not be in the demo, both methods of transport will be available in the full game in different contexts. Chocobos will also appear, of course. Additionally, the new content came with a video with some new scenes, notably exploration and battle inside a claustrophobic cave. A second new video emulates the feel of a nature documentary and shows more landscapes and creatures. Tabata also noted that the team is still refining the demo and will be continuing to do so.

More random news is cropping up today, though, so we might be able to throw some more good stuff at you in the near future. Or we might get lazy. It's Friday.

Source: Final Fantasy Record Keeper, Square Enix Europe, Siliconera

Heavenstrike Rivals Release, Review


Square Enix
Heavenstrike Rivals, a game for Android and iOS about which we posted a while back, was finally made available to everyone yesterday. Described as "a cool mix of Tactical RPG and Trading Card Game," Heavenstrike Rivals (or Leavenstrike Ribalds) is free-to-play with in-game transactions and a PvP mode. From now until March 4th, players will have double the chance of obtaining "extra rare" and "legendary" units.

Well, given that it's free to play after all, I decided to check it out for myself. Let me first say that the coolest thing about this game is the wonderful art design for the Heavenstrike Rival's many units.


(My rarest unit is apparently last year's Corn Palace Queen)

The game is very accessible. Computer opponent difficulty increases gradually, with a soft learning curve to start. Combat basics are pretty easy to pick up, and battles, while not brief, don't tend to take too long. The game's story advances a few sentences of dialogue at a time, inserted between campaign battles, but you'll be spending most of your time on a 3x7 grid.


(I'm the guy with the festive scarf)

While the Heavenstrike Rivals seems simple at a glance, there's a surprisingly large amount of tactical options available. This is in large part due to the wide range of units available, whose usefulness can vary considerably depending on which other units you have on the grid and each unit's location relative to the others. Due to the fact that the units available to you each turn are selected randomly (the card game aspect) from a team of up to 15 units, even repeated battles against the same opponent tend to feel fresh. Tides can turn quickly in battle as well: if multiple units are defeated in one turn, you have that many more mana points for summoning new units.

That isn't to say there are no kinks in the system: in the three hours I've played, I've had two half-minute freezes and one crash. The folks over at Square Enix and Mediatonic are continuing to work out bugs - as well as add content like the "daily quest" - on a regular basis.


(Alright then.)

The icing on the cake is that Heavenstrike doesn't (at least not yet) harass you about spending real-world money. I have to say, Heavenstrike has definitely hooked me. It's simple enough to sneak in a quick battle any time, but with enough complexity - I haven't even gotten into items, training, or promoting - to make a unique game experience. I recommend it for anyone - even a relative newcomer to the genre like myself - who wants a tactical mobile experience that captures Square Enix's recent (delightful) mobile art style.

Source: Square Enix Blog
Posted in: Square-Enix News

Full Details on the Final Fantasy XV Livestream


Final Fantasy XV
The Final Fantasy XV stream that we mentioned in news earlier this week went off without hitch early Friday morning. We've got the entire stream if you're up for it, or just read on for the highlights and my own takeaways from the event, which are fairly extensive and exclusive to this post.The recording went on for an hour and forty minutes, and while it was fully in Japanese, the gameplay took center stage for the majority of the time, and even with a language barrier it was a pretty illuminating experience.

The demo is expected to take gamers about three hours to complete, but it won't be done in the now-famous car; the plot of the demo is centered aroudn the car breaking down and the party digging up money to have it repaired. If the gameplay shown is anything to go by, it appears that the demo will earn that money largely by beating down on the large number of creatures in the environment. As in the final game, the time will move from day to night. The cycle of days will take 45 minutes in the demo - it's not clear yet whether that same time structure will continue to the full game.

One of the creatures in the stream drops meat when defeated, which is part of a big new part of the game, camping and cooking. Camping will be vital to the game, as it appears to be the way by which XP are aggregated and turned into levels. Cooking will provide benefits to the party, of course, though the full extent isn't yet known. The camping scenes also create an opportunity for party banter and possibly also the chance to hear about or see activity that is happening elsewhere, perhaps like Final Fantasy IX's Active Time Events.

Finally, at least in Japan, you can get the demo not just via the Type-0 Collector's Edition, but also by purchasing the game digitally for two months after release.

Here are one watcher's thoughts upon checking out the gameplay demo of Episode Duscae. I don't know Japanese, though most of the big points have been translated already anyway, so these are just thoughts from what I could see and hear:
  • Even at this stage of development, things look lovely. The text design throughout is more delicate than the Eurostile-heavy display of the XIII series. The title screen itself has more graphical elements than most in the series, but it's done with a light touch and looks very elegant.
  • Similarly, I find the UI very appealing. Like in XIII, there's a lot to look at, but individual elements drop a lot of the visual flourish from XIII and tend to be less obtrusive and treated more like lightweight overlays than heavy menus; they feel like they could be part of an augmented reality app, and I mean that as praise. Specifically, I think the weapon selection menu, which was shown in detail, is really attractive in the way that it's used and the way that it shows silhouettes of the weapons from which you're picking, which is a nice detail since you'll most often be seeing them on the battlefield and will know the silhouettes from sight before long.
  • Navigational waypoints are now treated a bit more like what you would see in an open-world game like Saints Row, with distance measurements and larger, more visible beacons. They, too, look like they could be from an augmented reality app.
  • Sticking to that theme a bit longer, it looks like the quest update messaging has been improved from XIII as well; it appears to show more information on the fly now relative to how XIII essentially used it as a prompt to go into the menus to read more. With the new design, all that information shows up without being obtrusive - it might be tricky to make that work in English, though.
  • This isn't new news, but the transition from field to battle is almost seamless now; I barely noticed the transition until I started to look harder. Again, this looks like an upgrade from how XIII did things, likely made possible by the enhanced hardware. The battles remind me a lot of Lightning Returns in a lot of ways, specifically.
  • Also in terms of battles, I saw some interesting stuff I'd never noticed before. Creatures apparently can be targeted before instigating battle, and it looks like that can be used with cover and stealth to possibly trigger this game's version of a Preemptive Strike. Physical weapons are only in sight when the character is preparing to use or is using them, which is a neat visual effect but I'm not sure if it serves much purpose. It looks also like Noctis can swap weapons from a set of ready weapons, the same set shown in the menu. Battles are graded on time, damage that Noctis inflicted, and attacks that he successfully parried.
  • It looks like water has depth this time around; at one point, Noctis starts ankle-deep but ends up knee-deep. Not sure if this is indicative of anything larger, but it could imply that water could have a bearing on puzzles, obstacles, or other travel.
  • The handling of the nighttime scene is pretty cool. The moon and clouds are gorgeous, and the moon's dim light is augmented by each character's worn-on-the-shirt flashlights. The light sources can combine and diverge very realistically, and the overall effect is very cool. It looks like monsters can be nocturnal or diurnal, too, which is something that's been touched upon previously in Final Fantasy games but could have more impact here.
  • At one point, a big troop dropship flies in from nowhere. Maybe it had context if I knew what was being said, but either way, that looks like it could be a really cool set piece in the final game, and potentially a mode of transport for the party that isn't a massive lowrider convertible.
  • Finally, one random thought: Noctis looks like a huge bro when he's healing his buddies. He wraps his arm around them and looks like he's giving them a fist-pumping pep talk, and then poof! Cure magic.
To me, this looks more and more like it's the kind of game that you'll really enjoy playing if you liked Crisis Core or Final Fantasy XIII, specifically Lightning Returns. My early impression is that it takes the best parts of the Action RPG elements from those games and tunes them and polishes them for the current generation of hardware. It's hard to tell where the story might go yet, but the gameplay basis seems like it will be solid for people who liked those predecessor games.

There's a lot going on in the stream and in the links in this news post, so I suggest checking them all out.

Source: Gematsu, Siliconera

PAX Eastcast 2015: The CoNcast Episode 29


Podcast
PAX East 2015 sneaked up on me - that's what happens when one buys their pass five months before the actual event. Of course, you have to do that nowadays, because the tickets tend to vanish within the first 12 hours. Once my pass came in the mail, though, I remembered that our first ever CoNcast was about the last time I got to go, in 2013 - we got our group together to preview things that might be there, and things that I should try to seek out while there.

Now it's two years later, and we're doing the same. This time around, there's some added stuff for CoN readers, as Square Enix will have both their standard booth and additionally will be running two panels on Saturday, March 7, the day I'll be there. We'll talk about all those things and more, and we'll have some entertaining anecdota that goes well off-topic.

If you've never tried a CoNcast before, start now - this one is quite short and will give you a good taste for how much you'll adore hearing me speak. And those other guys, I guess.


Source: The CoNcast Subscription Feed, The CoNcast on iTunes, This Episode
Posted in: CoNcasts

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