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News from Japan

Big Shakeups at Square Enix' Luminous Productions


Square Enix
I'm behind in posting this news, of course, but it worked out for the best because just today the consequences of the original news came to light. Last month, long-time Square Enix bigshot (and, most recently, head of the Luminous Productions studio) Hajime Tabata announced that he was leaving the company, after nearly fifteen years working on Square Enix projects. Today, Square Enix announced that Takesi Aramaki will be the new head of Luminous. Aramaki was the programming lead for Final Fantasy XV.

Simultaneous to Tabata's announcement, Square Enix confirmed that all planned Final Fantasy XV DLC after Episode Ardyn was cancelled; the three episodes that took the axe were likely the most eagerly-awaited, being for Lunafreya, Aranea, and Noctis. Episode Ardyn will continue development and be released in early 2019.

Meanwhile, Luminous Productions appears to have shifted gears before the cancellations were announced, with a LinkedIn post by the graphics director of Final Fantasy XV implying that he is currently working on a "New AAA Title for PS5." That post has been edited to remove that reference now, but we might look back on this as the first inkling that the Final Fantasy series will continue.

As for Tabata, he was apparently waiting for the announcement of Aramaki as new Luminous head to announce his own new initiative: today he posted to Facebook that he is starting his own company called JP Games, with the company's official launch planned for January of 2019. Naturally, no further information is available.

One hopes that this does not indicate a real mess over at the Squenix mothership, but this level of transition does seem at least a little ominous.

Source: Siliconera, Gematsu
Posted in: News from Japan

The Re-Releases Are Everywhere on Switch (and Everywhere Else)


Nintendo
Nintendo did a new Nintendo Direct late last night (America time, that is). And if you have a Switch and are a classic Square Enix fan, you are 100% in luck - there are now a ton of Final Fantasy games coming your way. First, five games from the late 90's/early 2000's: Final Fantasy VII, Final Fantasy IX, Final Fantasy X, Final Fantasy X-2, and Final Fantasy XII were all announced for 2019 releases on the Nintendo system. One would have to assume that for these games, they will be ports of the most recent Windows releases, and in the case of X/X-2, will be purchased as a single unit as they have been previously for PS4 and PC.

The cute and simple version of Final Fantasy XV, called Pocket Edition, was released on mobile in February of this year, and for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One just last Friday. The Switch version was likely also ready for that release day, but as Nintendo Direct was delayed a week due to hurricanes in the Pacific Ocean, the announcement lost a bit of momentum and fell behind the other consoles. It's priced at $29.99 on Switch, but currently you can get it for 40% off as a release celebration.

World of Final Fantasy is also coming to Switch, on November 6. The Switch edition will be called "Maxima," will add in a new feature called "Avatar Change" in which the player characters Reynn and Lann will be able to change their appearance to that of classic Final Fantasy characters when in their non-Jiant modes. Cloud, Lightning, Yuna, and Noctis all appeared in the short video snippet as Avatar Change options, though it's likely that many more will be available.

Finally for new news, a remaster of Chocobo's Mystery Dungeon was also announced for release sometime this winter. This game was originally released a decade ago for Wii, and the new version is subtitled "Every Buddy" because in the new release, every monster is available as a friend option (and because two people can play by splitting the Joy-Cons).

If you don't have a Switch, though, you won't be left out. Xbox One and PlayStation 4 will be getting a number of these games as well. Microsoft gamers get the biggest lift, as most of the games were not previously available there: World of Final Fantasy, Final Fantasy VII, Final Fantasy IX, Final Fantasy X/X-2 and Final Fantasy XII will all be arriving on the XBO; WoFF will arrive on November 6 just as for Switch, with the others coming next year. PlayStation 4 gamers will also get Every Buddy, and can upgrade their WoFF to Maxima with paid DLC. WoFF will also be coming to PC!

Source: Siliconera
Posted in: News from Japan

Square Enix Provide Pre-Tokyo Game Show News


Tokyo Game Show
Tokyo Game Show 2018 starts up on September 19, and being the hometown show for Square Enix headquarters, naturally there is bound to be a lot of news. There's nothing huge yet, of course, but some pieces of information have been released as an appetizer for the main event. Up first, an often-overlooked, ten-year-old Square Enix title: The Last Remnant. A couple weeks back, the PC version of the game was pulled from digital shelves, leaving some to wonder why; the answer came this week, with an announcement of a new remaster for PS4. The game will get the requisite remaster upscaling of graphics and changes to the game engine, and will contain all of the features added to the Windows version of the game after its console release. It's getting a global release on December 6, and will retail in the United States at $19.99, digital-only.

That's not the only remaster of a niche Squenix game announced this week, though; the original Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles was announced for a PS4 and Switch release in 2019. It's also going to be a worldwide release when it comes. The initial announcement trailer is thin on info, implying that the game won't necessarily be an immediate drop in 2019. The trailer also leads with a disclaimer about the game being in development, which makes sense as the visuals do look like they're probably going to get another pass at polish.

The game with more trailers than any other, though, has to be Kingdom Hearts III. I don't know how many I've linked to in one form or another over the last couple years. Tokyo Game Show is the last major show before the game is due to release in January, though, so naturally there's another new one; this time around, Square Enix have released a short version of what will appear at the actual show, featuring Baymax, Hiro, and the rest of Big Hero 6. The Baymax voice actor does a great job of sounding like the movie version... in Japanese.

The last little tidbit before TGS starts up is the first glimpse of anything in motion from Studio Istolia. We had them in the news just a couple weeks back, but they're clearly making progress as the first tease of the studio's first game, still temporarily titled "Project Prelude Rune," appeared in a pre-TGS video produced by Sony. The snippet runs for a minute, and mainly shows a character running through a fairly standard JRPG environment. It does look pretty nice, though, and appears to be in-engine video as the game is being developed in Unreal Engine 4.

That's it for the big news before TGS; stay tuned for more from the show next week, one hopes.

Source: Siliconera, Gematsu, Kotaku
Posted in: News from Japan

Square Enix Partner with Tencent


Square Enix
Announced today, Square Enix is joining with Chinese conglomerate Tencent for a new "strategic alliance" for game development. It appears that the main thrust of this new alliance is the formation of a new joint venture company that will be used to develop new AAA tiles for both new IPs and also around the licensing of existing IPs. Square Enix Holdings' president, Yosuke Matsuda, was quoted as saying that the alliance will be a boost for diversifying content offerings and getting to a wider customer base.

For those unfamiliar with Tencent, they are a massive, publicly-traded conglomerate out of Shenzhen, China, with holdings in tons of tech-related industries. With regards to gaming, they are majority owners of Riot Games (League of Legends) and Supercell (Clash of Clans), and own stakes in Activision Blizzard, Epic, Ubisoft, Paradox, and several other smaller game companies.

There's a lot not said in the announcement, which is not surprising given the fact that it's a brand-new concept today. However, based on what we know right now, I think we can safely make a couple of assumptions. First, it doesn't seem like this will change too much in Square Enix' core business. Flagship franchises currently managed by the main Squenix offices will likely remain the same, since the new company is exactly that - new and separate. Second, this will likely impact Asian markets first, given the fact that the new partnership is between a Japanese and a Chinese company (no word yet on where the new company will be headquartered). Third, there's a pretty good chance that there might be some bizarre concepts using Final Fantasy characters and settings showing up in the future.

Source: Siliconera, Wikipedia
Posted in: News from Japan

Original Phantasy Star Coming for Switch with Upgrades


Back in April, Sega (apparently, I clearly missed it) announced some re-releases of some very old games as digital downloads for Switch. Among them are the first Sonic the Hedgehog game, but more interestingly for RPG players, the first Phantasy Star game is coming too. It's a heavily-upgraded version for Switch, as well; the game is adding automapping for its dungeons, a bestiary, a full list of equipment from the game's menus, and a reduced-difficulty mode.

It's coming out in Japan next month and will be 925 yen, a little over eight dollars. The game's been announced for the West, too, but with no release date or confirmed price point (though you can probably expect about ten dollars). I never got to play any of the Phantasy Star series growing up, and I don't yet have a Switch, but this looks like a pretty nice package. Good for Sega for freshening things up!

Source: Kotaku, Sega Ages | Phantasy Star
Posted in: News from Japan

Studio Istolia Looks for New Team in Tokyo


Square Enix
It seems like far more recently than February of 2017 that Square Enix announced the creation of their new development shop Studio Istolia, but the timestamps don't lie. We haven't heard much about the new studio or its first project, "Project Prelude Rune," in the intervening time, but this week there was finally an update to the company's official website.

The update consisted of a new piece of concept art, showing a village perched above a lake in a soft-focused, dreamlike forest setting, but also a number of job openings for their Tokyo office. The jobs are fairly typical for a game development project, including concept art, technical art, map designers, user interface designers, planners and programmers, but the list does imply that the company is not planning on shifting workers from other studios to this new one and is instead mainly aiming for outside hires.

There's still no news about what Prelude Rune might be in terms of a game genre, or when or on what platforms we might see it. But that's not surprising given that they are still clearly ramping up the team's headcount. More news is sure to follow, though I would have to assume that it won't be this calendar year.

Source: Gematsu
Posted in: News from Japan

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©1997–2018 Josh Alvies (Rangers51)

All fanfiction and fanart (including original artwork in forum avatars) is property of the original authors. Some graphics property of Square Enix.