Square-Enix recently launched the Square-Enix Collective website (linked below), a partnership with IndieGogo to publish independently-developed games under the Square-Enix label with a crowdfunding model. Developers can create pages on Collective to pitch their games, fans can vote on which projects Square-Enix considers in the Collective forums, and after a successful approval from Squenix's nefarious secret panel* a project can begin the funding process just like a KickStarter or IndieGogo project.
What's notable about this new initiative from Square-Enix is that they're very keep on transparency and open to new ideas. Or at least it sounds that way. As Square-Enix president Yosuke Matsuda expressed last fall:
"We're no longer in an age where customers are left in the dark until a product is completed. We need to shift to a business model where we frequently interact with our customers for our products that are in-development and/or prior to being sold, have our customers understand games under development, and finally make sure we develop games that meet their expectations."
Square-Enix's faith in this relatively new business model could mean independent developers eventually working on a wide variety of intellectual properties. Square-Enix announced that the mostly-abandoned Eidos franchises of Fear Effect, Gex, and Anachronox are available for independent developers to work on via the Collective. What's next? Potentially anything in the Square-Enix catalog.
*There are no details on how the approval process works, and Squenix won't likely be sharing any.
Source: Square-Enix Collective, IGN (January 2014), Siliconera (October 2013)
For the new year, there are new tidbits. Of course, that's the same as it is on (many) Fridays, but it actually is a new year now. So... there?
Bravely Default is on the minds of a lot of Square Enix gamers these days, with the Western release growing closer at hand. That means it was probably a bad time for news to break that there was "censorship" happening in the Western art assets. It's a bit of an entertaining throwback to 25 years ago, but beyond that we can all only speculate as to the rationale behind the changes to the clothing on a couple female characters. I, for the record, am fine with it.
The Japanese convention Jump Festa was going on during the time of the last CoN tidbits; now that it's over, it's a good time to wrap up all the goodies that came out during its short run. Back to Bravely Default, a short new trailer for Bravely Second debuted at Jump Festa, but there was virtually nothing to it besides a few seconds of gameplay and some pretty neat concept art drawn in a sort of live-sketch way. Note that the main character for Bravely Second appears to be somewhat sensibly dressed, at least for a Squenix game!
Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 Remix also got a new trailer. I'm not sure what else to say about it, really. If you like Kingdom Hearts and particularly the HD 1.5 Remix, you'll be right at home here? We can go with that. As an aside, Kingdom Hearts III is being worked on simultaneously to HD 2.5 Remix, which is probably not thrilling news to the people anxiously waiting for a brand-new entry in the series.
In interesting but probably irrelevant in reality news, it looks like Square Enix has dipped its toes into on-demand streaming gaming by adding the newest PC version of Final Fantasy VII to streaming services in Japan. Debuting on Christmas, this release was simultaneous to two competing services, for approximately $15. It seems like RPGs would be a no-brainer for streaming gaming, especially old RPGs, as the only parts of those games that would tax an internet connection would be the FMVs. However, if you're one of the few people in the States who actually have an OnLive, I wouldn't get too excited.
We had the 25th Anniversary celebrations for Final Fantasy not long ago, and now it's time for the SaGa series to follow suit. That series has kind of fallen by the wayside from its heyday with the original Game Boy, but perhaps the anniversary is the time for a kickstart.
Finally, if you're an Xbox 360 gamer with Gold, you've got a few days left to get the first ever Square Enix game offered for free under that program. The game is Sleeping Dogs, which was received pretty well upon its release. It's available until the 15th, after which time it will be replaced by the Lara Croft sidestory, The Guardian of Light, making January a Squenixey kind of month on the 360; not a bad way to kick off the year.
Source: siliconera, Cheat Code Central, Xbox Official Site
For tidbits this time around, there are a bevy of updates for games old and new, so many that they can't even be listed off conveniently! Perhaps it's the holiday spirit taking over - anyway, let's start with the old.
The venerable Final Fantasy XI turned eleven years old last month (in Japan - the game didn't debut in North America for another eleven months after that). To celebrate, the folks still running that game for the die hard players put together some promotions for the "11th Vana'versary," including free re-activation until December 23rd for players that let their accounts lapse and some new features like a 25% increase in movement speed across the world and better teleportation. While I'm sure a lot of fans have moved on to XIV by now, it seems like it might be a fun bit of nostalgia to go back, at least for a little while.
Of course, for Square Enix, everything old is eventually new again, as evidenced by the glut of remakes and ports we've seen over the years. The latest, at least in Japan, is a smartphone remake of the original Dragon Quest game. To promote it, Squenix gave away a million copies in two days. Additionally, for the folks who have complained about Squenix' pricing models on smartphones, check this out - even the folks who are having to pay are only having to pony up about five bucks, far better than the Final Fantasy games that have appeared on iOS and Android. Of course, that awesomeness is offset pretty quickly by the fact that Dragon Quest VIII was also just released at $27.
In terms of recent releases, the recent remake of Final Fantasy IV: The After Years seems to be missing a bit of content; the challenge dungeons that made up a part of each episode's content were not included in the new release. Those dungeons are not part of the storyline of the game at all, so new players might not notice their absence. For another somewhat recent release, Final Fantasy XIV, Squenix announced that the game for Playstation 4 will release at the same time as it does in Japan, specifically for the PS4 Japan launch date.
A third recent/upcoming release, Lightning Returns, is out in Japan now (but not yet here, we're still waiting for next year). Now, while it might be assumed that CoN hates Final Fantasy XIII because only old games can ever be good, rest assured that I'd love to see this game succeed. However, early indications are that the game simply isn't selling as well as its predecessor in Japan. It's still possible that sales will pick up later, but the launch numbers don't compare favorably. That said, if you are looking to get this game when it comes out in the West, you'll want to watch this: on their official blog, Squenix released a "trailer" to show all the cool stuff in the collector's edition. A trailer for a special game package? I suppose at least it's different than a countdown, and more informative, too.
Finally, some new games! Jump Festa, the Japanese anime/manga/games expo, runs next weekend, and Square Enix have announced their lineup. Kingdom Hearts 2.5 Remix and the Theatrhythm sequel will both be playable, as well as Final Fantasy X/X-2 remaster and Dragon Quest VIII mobile. Final Fantasy VI mobile will have a trailer, as will the Bravely Default sequel, which follows hot on the heels of that game (which CoN readers already knew about) being officially announced.
To wrap up, it recently came out that Akihiko Yoshida, a designer for Square Enix for almost twenty years, had left the company. In some places, there was much gnashing of teeth - "Look at all the long-time talent Squenix are losing! That company is useless and will soon be gone forever!" To the naysayers, though, Yoshida spoke with Famitsu this week to discuss the change, saying that the choice to leave was not because of the state of the company, but just that his career track within the company wasn't allowing him to design as much as he wanted. He's now a freelancer, and who's his first client? Well, it's Square Enix. I guess he's not hating their current direction.
There we go, there's another couple weeks of tidbits! Will there be more before I go on Christmas break? Who knows?! Just enjoy Father Christmog in the meantime.
Source: siliconera, PlayOnline, Square Enix Members Blog
To go along with Square Enix's recent release of Final Fantasy VII on Steam, they've now released the eighth game of the series onto the digital distribution platform.
There are a couple of key features in the Steam version; Magic Booster and Chocobo World. When Magic Booster is used, the player's inventory of certain spells is increased by 100. The booster only works on low-to-mid level magic, so it doesn't seem to be too much of a game breaker. Chocobo World is the mini game that was originally only available with the Japan exclusive miniature game console Pocketstation until it was released with the original PC version of Final Fantasy VIII as a separate application. You can now launch the mini game from the game launcher after booting up the game.
The game is priced at 9.99 in the UK, 11.99 in the US and 12.99 in Europe and, just like with VII, it's got its own achievements to earn.
Source: Final Fantasy VIII on Steam, Kotaku
A shorter tidbits this week since we kept up better this week! First up, Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII released in Japan this week. It's out, and that means that in at least one locale, the Final Fantasy XIII generation has come to an end. My guess is that more people will probably be pleased with that news than upset, but I'm not here to judge or even venture my own opinion. Just because it's out doesn't mean the tidbits stop, though. The first neat announcement is that folks who hate English voice acting in their Japanese RPGs will get an option to have the game in their native language but also still have the original voice acting in Japanese; for the first two weeks after the Western release of Lightning Returns, the Japanese audio will be available as free DLC. After that initial window, though, the language option will be put behind a paywall, ostensibly to cover the costs of incorporating the rigging to lipsync in both languages into the game. The way I figure it, this makes it more like a pre-order bonus than anything else, and this is the first time the company's done this for a Final Fantasy game, which makes it okay in my book.
Lightning Returns also has dozens of costumes for Lightning; siliconera reports that the number is north of 80. For that reason, I don't think I've reported on any of them for a while, but the most recent reveal caught my eye as a member of the Caves of Narshe: Locke's garb will be one of the costumes you can garb... um, grab. The costume is based off of the original character design done by Yoshitaka Amano twenty years ago, and it's replicated quite faithfully. And, of course, since that costume is now being put on a female form, it looks almost identical to the original sketch! The link above includes a lot of interesting data about the costume design of the game. It's probably worth avoiding if you think the entire concept is stupid, but otherwise, it's an interesting deep-dive into the thought processes.
Since I can't resist any mention of Dragon Quest merch, for reasons I don't understand, here's a smartphone. Yep, a smartphone. It's loaded with two Dragon Quest games, too - one is a port of Dragon Quest VIII, and the other is a dice game that is DQ-themed. As you no doubt expect, it's Japan-only. However, because I know that half of Square Enix Japan reads CoN daily, I'd like to throw this out there: make a case for an iPhone 5S and a Galaxy S4 that looks like that. People will buy it.
Wrapping up, an interview was published this week from Ichiro Hazama, a Square Enix producer behind some more recent hits like The World Ends With You, Dissidia, and the Kingdom Hearts games. That interview brings forth the notion that some games like Dissidia and Theatrhythm were designed not simply to appeal to the existing fans of the series, like one might assume, but instead were conceived specifically to bring new, younger fans into the fold. Some of this sounds like it could well be some "in hindsight this sounds good!" thought. However, even if, I'm not sure if they should really consider it a success in that regard. perhaps I'm sheltered, but it seems to me like those games appealed as much or more to long-time fans as folks new to Squenix. Anyway, Hazama also talks about wanting to produce a new game with some of the Chrono Trigger Dream Team in honor of CT's pending 20th anniversary. Anyone see that happening?
Source: siliconera, Gaming Union
With surprisingly little pomp and circumstance today, Square Enix announced the release dates for the Final Fantasy X and X-2 HD remasters. In a blog post earlier today, the company announced the standard Tuesday/Friday launch window of March 18 and 21, 2014, for the game in the US and Europe respectively. Also, "participating retailers" are willing to, for a limited time, upgrade all pre-orders of the Playstation 3 version of the game to the Limited Edition, which includes an artbook built into the packaging.
Some users are questioning why there will be no Playstation 4 release, since the original plan was to release these games in 2013. The company has not spoken to this question, though one would think that the PS4's version of Playstation Network would make a digital distribution possible sometime in the future.
Source: Square Enix Members Blog