News from Japan
Jump Festa '18 starts up on December 16, and as always, Square Enix will be on hand for the anime/manga/gaming exposition in Chiba Prefecture. It doesn't appear that there will be any big new announcements there, befitting the expo's slightly lower stature in the industry, but several known properties will appear:
- Dissidia Final Fantasy NT
- Dragon Quest Builders
- Dragon Quest Rivals
- Dragon Quest X Online
- Dragon Quest of the Stars
- Secret of Mana
- Dragon Quest: Scan Battlers
That's right, 2018 plans. In the newest, and reportedly last, Active Time Report scheduled for the one-year anniversary of the game yesterday, Square Enix outlined some new content coming over the course of the game's second year. Unfortunately, the ATR was not subtitled this time around, so there are big parts of it I can't yet report on, such as the survey results from the questionnaire the game served up for a while a couple months back. One takeaway is that anything not explicitly laid out here is still meant to be locked in for plans and timing by the end of this calendar year.
The crux of that survey, though, was asking what other characters in the Final Fantasy XV world needed an "episode" DLC, in the manner that Noctis' party has gotten, concluding with Episode Ignis arriving on December 13. More on that in a bit, but in terms of the survey, it's worth noting that the next episode, centering around Ardyn, will be the first released of the "at least three" scheduled for next year. Ardyn's episode appears as if it might be more of a look back in history than previous episodes, with a focus being put upon worldbuilding in Eos. The dates and other content for other episodes are unclear, but Hajime Tabata expressed in the ATR that 2018 was not a hard-and-fast window, and that episodes would be released only when they were "satisfactory." Tabata also acknowledged that players really want to get more story content for Lunafreya, so I think it's a safe bet that one of the episodes will also center on her. I'm still kind of hoping for an Aranea one, for what it's worth.
The big free December update, though, will be out just before Ignis and will add the ability to switch active party members during battle. For those who haven't played, up until now every battle required you to operate as Noctis, only able to set equipment for the rest of the party and allowing that to influence their battle decisions, as well as giving them orders for special techniques when available. The new update will give a new in-battle option to switch to another member of the four, and use some of the battle mechanics that have been given to those characters in their episodic DLC.
Now, back to Ignis. His episode, as mentioned, will be out in just a couple weeks, and appears to take place canonically in the time immediately after the major plot events of Altissia. It's meant to have a couple hours of plot, but will have two routes of completion, one unlocking only for players who have finished the main game. This secondary route is implied to have some impact on the way that the polarizing ending of the main game has been received; I'll go no further so as to avoid spoilers, but I think anyone who has finished the game can probably guess what that might mean. The secondary route will also have a challenge boss fight, which differs from the other battle available to players who complete the episode via either route - a one-on-one Ignis v. Noctis battle all around Hammerhead.
Stay tuned as more information should lock in over the next few weeks!
Source: Siliconera, Gematsu
Square Enix had a financial reporting briefing today, and the core of it was absolutely Nintendo's new console and mobile titles. As reported by the Wall Street Journal's Tokyo tech reporter, the company plans to "aggressively make games for Switch," ruling out no IPs in the company's stable. They did not go into any detail as to any specific IPs, of course, but they did reference new IP, active IP, or even resurrected IP. You can let your mind run absolutely wild with those possibilities, of course, but we've already seen the concept in action with games like I Am Setsuna or the possibility of Final Fantasy XV Pocket Edition.
The company went on to say that the Switch is a great place for mid-level games, and due to the similarities in system architecture with the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, it's very possible that more games could be made cross-platform in the future and include the Switch. I think in reading between the lines, this implies that the games can be ported but might need to be toned down, particularly in the case of games made with the PS4 Pro or One X in mind.
Additionally, as per Gematsu, the company mentioned the existence of unannounced mobile titles to be released in the second half of this fiscal year, as well as "sharp," "powerful," and "well-made" titles to be seen at next year's E3. There's no information currently as to whether these sharp titles are ones we already know are coming, like Kingdom Hearts 3, or whether they're currently under wraps.
Finally, the company dropped a few ongoing sales numbers to show its strength, with Dragon Quest XI having sold more than three million copies, NieR: Automata booking more than two million, and Final Fantasy XV at over six and a half million worldwide.
Source: Siliconera, Gematsu
A wrap-up, at least in terms of Square Enix. That's plenty, because they did a lot this TGS (and in the times leading up to and coming out of it, too).
As Final Fantasy XV is still the biggest game in the Squenix stable, even as it nears a year from its release, there was plenty of XV news. First, of course, is the announcement of a Halloween release date for "Comrades," the multiplayer XV expansion set. Since I failed to mention it when it was first announced, Comrades will fill in some timeline that is not part of the main XV story by allowing players to play the role of a Kingsglaive soldier to undertake quests in the XV world; it's not yet clear as to whether the expansion will actually create any new canonical story elements, though there will also be some single-player content that might factor in. Nobuo Uematsu has even penned a new vocal theme for the expansion, his first work for the game. Note that reading more about this expansion is likely to spoil some XV for you if you've not finished it!
Still on the topic of XV, new for TGS was a new (and VERY spoilery!) trailer to announce the next phase of single-player XV universe content. Episode Ignis will be out in December, completing the DLC for the main party. A King's Knight mobile game, based on the game to which the guys often refer, is out now in Japan (which I personally hadn't heard about coming). A new update to allow more active hunts is coming very soon - and thank goodness for that - and a number of smash cuts advertising free updates to extend the story promise to fill in some more blanks as well. I've seen rumors that the first of this story expansion might center on Gentiana, but I can't seem to find confirmation of that at this very moment.
Tabata also mentioned just before TGS that while he was previously joking about bringing XV to Switch, he's not really joking any more. They have not figured out how to do it yet in a way that would please them, but they are in discussions about how to possibly make it happen. That could mean that only the Pocket Edition makes it, or they might figure out some magic way to get it to play on the somewhat-less-robust platform. Don't get your hopes up just yet.
Oh, yeah, and Noctis is coming to Dissidia NT. No big shock there, but at least we now have a character where the flying-dash move to get across the battle arena makes sense! If you played the beta of NT, by the way, you will probably be pleased to know that Squenix are revamping the UI before retail release. I personally thought the battle UI was awful in the beta; redoing it won't make it a game I particularly want to buy, but I do think it will improve it quite a bit. You can see the changes in the Noctis video linked above.
For those who have been tracking Lost Sphear, there's a demo out now in Japan for both PlayStation 4 and Switch. Siliconera has video of both so you can compare and contrast - you can even watch both at once at the link should you desire! It looks nice on both platforms, but that shouldn't be a shock because Tokyo RPG Factory games seem to be built not to max out systems' capabilities. The demo will contain a work-in-progress portion of the start of the game, and will allow players to continue with their progress once the full game is out. No information yet about the demo or full game outside of Japan.
The Secret of Mana remake has gone a bit quiet since its original reveal; while some people might be waiting and hoping for news that they might remaster it to be a bit higher-fidelity from the trailer that was announced before, but what you get for now is some new concept art and announcements of the Japanese voice cast.
In the mobile realm, the company debuted a four-versus-four arena battle game called Battle of Blades; the branding reminds me a little bit of a Bravely Default/Final Fantasy Tactics hybrid, but the art style in-game doesn't resemble either all that much. It's got a single player story mode, and also a multiplayer mode in which players can join eight-player matches and compete in the 4v4 battle mode to control various nodes on the arena map. It's due to come out in Japan for both iOS and Android before 2017 is out, but for some reason this one doesn't strike me as something that they're planning for worldwide release.
Outside of RPG-style games, the big reveal from TGS this year was a new IP called "Left Alive." This is a pretty interesting looking game from first blush; Gematsu reports that it will be a third-person shooter set in the world of Front Mission. It's not like this is new ground in gaming, but in this case the character design will be coming from the character designer of Metal Gear Solid, and the game's direction will come from a director of the Armored Core series. The trailer even starts with a look at a Christmas tree in an apartment building, which made me briefly and wistfully think of Parasite Eve. Left Alive has a 2018 release window for PS4 and PC right now, with no other information available.
Source: Siliconera, Gematsu
Last night, a European rating for Final Fantasy IX on PlayStation 4 appeared on the PEGI site, stoking rumors of the game getting a worldwide re-release. Today, at the pre-Tokyo Game Show PlayStation conference, those rumors were quickly confirmed, with the game being released worldwide today.
This release of the game is based upon the Windows/Steam version released last year, which is itself based on the earlier mobile port. That means you can expect higher-resolution FMV and models, as well as all the other upgrades in those previous releases. It also appears that you can expect to be locked into the game's original 4:3 aspect ratio.
Until the 26th, the game will be listed at $16.79, after which it will rise to its standard price of $20.99. Packaged with the download will be a Final Fantasy IX dashboard theme and eight themed PSN avatars. Possibly worth it if you're not a PC gamer, as it remains a great game; for me, I just kind of want the theme without buying the game again.
Obviously Final Fantasy XV wasn't everyone's cup of tea, but by and large it has been a pretty significant success. Likewise, the style of the game might not have been for everyone, particularly those wishing for a return to medieval or early-industrial fantasy, but you can't really argue that it wasn't a pretty game.
With that in mind, Square Enix have announced a special art book filled with concept art and design progression from the game, for which you can get a preview over at Siliconera. The book will have 220 pages of art, and will come in two editions - a standard edition for $49, and a limited edition for $169 that is printed in a larger format and includes two glicee prints. There was also an even-more-limited run of 500 in which the prints would be signed by members of the Final Fantasy XV art team, but it looks like that one's already sold through.
The books are set to ship in December of this year.