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News from Japan
We're making a slight change from our usual game-focussed news postings today to give you a brief nugget about Sony and Square Enix finances. Wall Street Journal, eat your heart out:
Sony has announced that it has sold all of its 9.52 million shares in Square Enix to SMBC Nikko Securities, in a deal reportedly worth ¥15.3 billion. That's approximately $150 million, or £89 million. Sony has not given a reason for the sale; but it's reasonable to assume that this has been done as part of Sony's current financially-motivated reforms, which also include plans to sell off the VAIO computing arm and restructure its TV division. Sony hasn't been faring well recently, financially speaking, and the boost this deal will give to its fiscal report will probably please its shareholders.
There's no indication as yet that this will have any impact on Square Enix's output or the release platforms of its games. Sony's previous 8.25% stake didn't prevent games such as Final Fantasy XIII being released on rival platforms, so it's unlikely that PlayStation platforms will be losing out now either.
Source: Eurogamer, Forbes
Leading off, Final Fantasy XIV beta phase 2 is now live for PlayStation 4 gamers. Folks who participate in the beta can carry over their characters when the official release happens this week - I would have given you more notice but I just now realized that I never actually posted this news I drafted five days ago!
If you preorder the game via the Square Enix store, and despite my delay in posting, there's still time, you'll get a screenprinted fabric poster, early access to the post-beta launch, and two items: a Cait Sith Doll minion, and a Moogle cap for your character (complete with head-pom!).
Final Fantasy X and X-2 HD Remasters were released last week in the West. Check out this huge wall-o-art that the company displayed in Gallery Nucleus and put up for auction for charity for the victims of Typhoon Haiyan; all told, the auction raised well over fifteen thousand dollars.
Here are some pre-packaged tidbits to wrap up this midweek edition, too, courtesy of Famitsu via siliconera. Fairly interesting stuff, as well; for one, Squenix took pains to deny that there was a third game in the Final Fantasy X universe in the works. This is the first I'd even heard of that rumor - anyone else? It seems odd that such a rumor could remain under the radar that well but still solicit a denial from the company. A third Dissidia game is on the wishlist of that series' director, Mitsunori Takahashi, and producer Shinji Hashimoto explained that the upcoming releases of Final Fantasy XV and Kingdom Hearts 2.5 HD Remix were moving along as desired. Apparently there are more nuggets coming that Famitsu are not making public until the new issue hits the newsstands, so there could be more updates and details soon.
Source: Twitter, siliconera
The sequel to 2012's Theatrhythm Final Fantasy, subtitled "Curtain Call," is set for release this year for the Nintendo 3DS (April 24 in Japan, in fact). The information about the game is flowing freely now, though, as one would expect from an iteration on a music game. Most of the new content for the game comes in the form of the tracks available, and earlier this week Square Enix announced a big chunk of the tracklist from the first seven games of the series. There are some big names in there, from "Matoya's Cave" to "Golbez, Clad in Darkness" to "Clash on the Big Bridge" to "Dancing Mad" to "J-E-N-O-V-A" (and that's not even ten percent of the track list already announced).
The new version of the game also contains a new mode, "Versus," which takes the core gameplay and applies it to a head-to-head competition in which players compete for best score and also build up debuffs to throw at the other side as handicaps. The other gametype added to Theatrhythm for iOS, "Quest Medley," mode returns as well with some enhancements; on top of that, new characters will be present (some from Type-0), and better sorting and favoriting mechanisms will apply to the growing tracklist. The game's even getting a Crystarium!
The 2.2 patch for Final Fantasy XIV is planned for release on March 27, and as befitting a patch, it will be adding a fair amount of new content. New battles will be added in the patch with Leviathan and Gilgamesh, as well as adding new Beast Tribes and towns. This patch should come in advance of the PlayStation 4 release of the game, which, if bought in the Collector's Edition, will include a Fat Chocobo mount. Look at that goofy thing!
To wrap up with Squenix merch news, check out these goodies. The Play Arts division, responsible for all of the action figures and similar toys produced by the company, is rolling out a lot of new figures at various price points. At the high end, in the plus-$100 range, you can find massive Bahamut, Hero of Light, and Dragoon figures. The Hero of Light and Dragoon figures look a lot like the original Amano arts that were used in the logos for Final Fantasy I and IV respectively, so it's possible that this line could grow to include other similar figures in the theme. Perhaps we could have a Magitek Knight? Please?
The Static Arts line is known for less expensive figures; coming soon to that line are a series of figures modeled after the Monster Octopus design language. The first three of these figures, Cloud, Sephiroth and Tifa, are available now for pre-order. They're pretty reasonably priced, at $30 for five-inch-tall figures - okay, that doesn't seem reasonable, but compared to other collectible figures of similar size, they're not bad.
In the long tradition of Piano Collections albums, which have been released for lots of games in the series, there will also soon be a Piano Opera collection for Final Fantasy VII, VIII, and IX. Piano Operas are single-disc, multi-game albums with a selection of piano arrangements for each game; while the first six games (divided by platform) got albums back in 2012, 2014 will be the release date for the new compilation.
In a recent interview with Eurogamer, series producer Yoshinori Kitase has expressed interest in returning the core Final Fantasy series to the Windows platform. Beyond the MMOs, XI and XIV, a new game in the series has not been published to the Windows desktop OS since Final Fantasy VIII. It's clear, though, that the company maintains some interest in the platform with releases from other series like Deus Ex and Tomb Raider, not to mention the recent re-releases of Final Fantasy VII and VIII to Windows last year.
While no games from the Final Fantasy XIII series were released for the platform, Kitase reminds Eurogamer that the original XIII development took place in a Windows environment, so the notion of a release was not restricted by the development itself but instead Squenix' own market analysis and concerns about DRM. Kitase stops well short of promising a release of Final Fantasy XV via Steam, but it's clear from his words that the interest is there and that a release could easily be in the cards if the numbers look to work in the company's favor.
Square Enix has registered "Shinra Company" as a trademark specifically for use with video games. After all this time, and with no remake on the horizon, could we be looking at another spin off here? Could the trademark be used somehow for the upcoming Kingdom Hearts 3? Today's news correspondent, fatman, puts his weight (ha!) behind the former, as Square has seen some success with releasing Final Fantasy VII on Steam and PlayStation Network, and no doubt all the recent sales have been lucrative. The time might be right for another continuation of the universe to reach the new and revived players recently brought into the fold.
Source: CVG, siliconera
Square Enix must have really wanted me to post some Tidbits this week. Some of the emails that went out to their mailing lists came to me five times! So, to oblige their largesse, most of our news will be coming straight outta the mouths of the company this week.
The next big Final Fantasy release is Lightning Returns, coming to the West in just about two weeks (or less!). With that, the demo became available this week for both Playstation 3 and Xbox 360; remember that a version of the game has not been announced for any new-gen platform as yet. The demo has a boss monster which, if defeated and shared to social media, will get the user a new costume, namely Siegfried.
My favorite Final Fantasy and Lightning Returns news of the week, though, is the proof that Square Enix can still put out an awesome-looking 16-bit experience. To get folks up to speed who may not have finished (or even experienced!) Fabula Nova Crystallis, they marketing brains at Squenix put out a fantastic video recapping the first two games of the trilogy. It's clever and it's adorable and if you have any love for Lightning's saga it's worth the time.
Additionally, if you're willing to make a trip to southern California in March, you've got a chance to visit Alhambra and see a Final Fantasy X and X-2 exhibit in an art gallery from the 15th to the 26th. If you can get there for the opening, you might even get an early copy of the games and get it signed by members of the original production team!
Finally, in non-Final Fantasy news, there're updates on the Tomb Raider and Bravely Default fronts. For Lara Croft, the "Definitive" version of the game came out for new Sony and Microsoft consoles. For Bravely Default, though, check out this nice long piece from Kotaku about the origins and the future of this new IP. There are two really interesting takeaways, in my opinion. First, the parallels between Bravely and the old-school Final Fantasies that so many gamers love, and how Bravely could become what Final Fantasy once was, but for handhelds. The other is producer Tomoya Asano's now-stated goal of making Bravely a yearly series. Obviously that won't ever happen, but how many of you would either pick up or dust off a 3DS for something like that?
Source: Square Enix, Kotaku
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