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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

Square Enix comes to PAX East 2015


Square Enix
The schedule for panel discussions at PAX East 2015 was recently announced, and a couple of them this year are of particular interest to CoN readers. On Saturday at lunchtime, Naoki Yoshida, producer and director of Final Fantasy XIV, will spend an hour discussing the first expansion pack to A Realm Reborn, titled "Heavensward." As described on the official site:

"Join FINAL FANTASY XIV Producer/Director Naoki Yoshida as he takes the stage to discuss details on the first expansion - Heavensward. Also, Yoshida has a habit of announcing things he shouldn't, so you won't want to miss this! (We'll keep the PR team distracted so they won't interfere.)"

Later in the day, a second panel will feature Square Enix personnel, this time "Behind the Game Designs of Final Fantasy XV." The two lead game designers of the upcoming flagship title will discuss the process of designing the latest game in the core Final Fantasy series; again, from the official PAX site:

"Join two of FINAL FANTASY XV's lead game designers, Wan Hazmer and Prasert Prasertvithyakarn, as they share their experiences working on one of the most anticipated games of all time. Hazmer and Prasertvithyakarn are attending PAX EAST from SQUARE ENIX's Tokyo Studios where they work in tandem to bring FINAL FANTASY XV to life. Fans will also be in for a treat with additional information revealed on the upcoming title, FINAL FANTASY TYPE-0 HD!"

Of particular interest to readers here, by the way: yours truly will be in attendance that day, and I plan to visit both these panels as well as the Square Enix booth, where I plan to collect both photos and experiences around Squenix games (to share with you) and hopefully swag (which I won't). If you have requests of things to look for, or just want to see a bit of the show floor, let me know.

Source: PAX East Schedule

Episode Duscae to Debut on Stream; Final Type-0 Trailer Released


Final Fantasy XV
Later this week, Square Enix Japan will be running a live stream to present real, live gameplay from the Final Fantasy XV demo, which will be released next month with Type-0. Game director Hajime Tabata will host the stream, which is said to show both gameplay and the "systems" comprising XV, which likely means the combat style and user interfaces both inside and outside of combat.

The demo will begin at 6am Eastern time on Friday, February 20, and will be shown on the streaming services NicoNico and YouTube Live. There's no indication as to whether the stream will be geoblocked, so if you're an early riser or a night owl, it'll be worth seeking out in a few days.

On a similar note, Square Enix also released the "release trailer" for Final Fantasy Type-0 HD last night. The trailer remains in Japanese, but the company is quick to point out that the release version will allow the gamer to switch between languages. I would presume this trailer to be the last we'll see, as the game now releases in exactly one month and counting in the United States - the Japanese and European releases come a few days later.

Source: Siliconera, Square Enix Youtube

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