Square Enix just wrapped up their E3 presentation without major surprises, though a lot of what they had looked pretty solid. The team went bold by leading their show with Final Fantasy VII Remake, hot on the heels of the release date announcement and trailer we posted earlier today. Tonight, they had a lot more detail worth checking out, of course.
First up, some information about what to expect; the game has "two blu-rays of content" available, with the first disc apparently being all about Midgar. This was essentially the first bit of information of the presentation, and it bookended nicely with the announcement that preorders are now open and there are multiple special editions to be had, which is naturally completely unsurprising given the profile of this game and Squenix' normal business practices. Both of these things seem to be a bit odd given the previous news that the game would be episodic; if they have backed down from that now, the March 2020 release date seems very ambitious.
We could glean some detail of the battle system from the first trailer, but tonight's presentation walked through much more detail and left me with the impression that the game was going to play a lot like Lightning Returns (since most of you haven't played that, I consider that a good thing) with some mix of Crisis Core and Final Fantasy XV involved too. There is an ATB system, but it seems to be an ATB twist on Lightning Returns' charge meter, with abilities requiring at least one unit on the ATB meter to be full before they can be used. The ATB system appears to be used for magical attacks and item usage, and combined with the Limit gauge, used to access Limit Breaks as well. The ATB mode also runs in bullet time, to allow easier access to desired commands. The ATB fills as melee attacks, using the Square button, are successfully executed, with combos increasing the bar more.
Also like the Final Fantasy XIII series, a Stagger mode will be present to cripple enemies. Like those earlier games, it looks like depending on the enemy Stagger can be built up by combo attacks or weak point attacks. The party will remain at maximum three, with two characters run by the game while players control the third. However, Squenix promised to be able to switch between active party in battle with a single button press. Speaking of buttons, attacks can also be mapped to buttons for quick access, as in other recent Final Fantasy games.
The character reveals are what drove the crowd crazy tonight, though. We saw a bit of Aerith in last night's video, but in this longer one she shows up a bit more, including in battle. Tifa's character design was finally revealed as well, and we see her with Marlene, conversing with Cloud in Seventh Heaven, and also in battle. We even got a little Sephiroth towards the end, which appears to be in a flashback to Nibelheim.
Square have made the game available for playing on the show floor, though they did not make any mention of what parts of the game would be playable. I assume until we hear otherwise that it's the game's opening mission on the reactor. If you missed it earlier, they're selling March 3, 2020 as the release date, which still seems pretty ambitious to me if they are going to pack the entire game with as much as they have in the first mission.Here are some other games that showed up in the presentation tonight, which ran for about an hour and fifteen minutes.
- A longform trailer for Life is Strange 2's upcoming content
- Crystal Chronicles Remaster with online multiplayer for PS4, Switch, iOS, and Google Play; the video implied that cross-platform play might be an option. It's coming in December
- The Last Remnant Remaster, releasing tonight for Switch
- A new, long trailer for Dragon Quest Builders 2, releasing on July 12 with a PlayStation 4 demo on June 27
- A Fall release window for Dragon Quest XI S
- A couple upcoming Square Enix Collective games, including one called Circuit Superstars that looks like a modern, multiplayer version of RC Pro-Am
- A short trailer for Re+Mind, the first Kingdom Hearts III DLC
- A new trailer for the next Final Fantasy XIV expansion, "Shadowbringers," releasing on July 2
- A trailer for Dying Light 2, which made great use of an old Metric song
- An announcement for Western releases of Romancing SaGa 3 and SaGa Scarlet Grace
- An introduction to the next game in the Brave Exvius universe, called War of the Visions, which appears to be a turn- and grid-based tactical strategy game with five different warring factions
The other linchpin for Square Enix this year was obviously going to be Avengers, given how many times they've reminded us of the game on social media over the last week, and that's how they wrapped up the show. Frankly, it looks amazing. The entire video they showed claimed to be in-engine, and the transitions between non-interactive and interactive parts of the game were beyond seamless. The scale of the environments, illustrated by the setting of the Golden Gate Bridge for much of the trailer, were spectacular as well. It's also an original Avengers story, according to Marvel Gaming, outside the comic and cinematic universes.
The game is going to release on May 15 of 2020, and it appears that the playable heroes will start with Captain America, Black Widow, Hulk, Thor, and Iron Man. According to their very own version of a post-credits scene, it looks like Hank Pym is on deck for the future as well. Crystal Dynamics say that there will be no loot boxes, play to win, or even costs associated with downloading new missions or heroes as they're made available as DLC. It's coming for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC and Google Stadia, and it's another game playable on the show floor.
All that said, Square Enix look like they are going to be thin on the ground for really big titles in 2019, but the first half of 2020 is going to ship a lot of games for the juggernaut.
Source: Square Enix Twitch
They must be further along than they are letting on, or they are being fairly optimistic: Square Enix announed last night at the Final Fantasy VII Reunion Concert that the long-awaited remake is due to release on March 3 of next year.
Most of the new trailer that accompanied the announcement was still from the game's prologue, but it does seem to indicate more clearly that the battle system looks to be closer to Final Fantasy XV than a modified ATB system. The new trailer is also bookended by a brief shot of Shin-ra and Aerith dropping her flowers in terror. In the middle there appears to be a first glance at Cloud using a Limit Break!
Squenix say that we can expect more details tonight at their pre-E3 showcase. I'm an old man but I can probably stay awake for that.
Source: Square Enix Facebook
It's been over two years since Square Enix announced the setup of Studio Istolia, headed by Hideo Baba, and Project Prelude Rune. It's been three-quarters of a year since we last heard anything significant in terms of news from the studio, too. Since then, Hideo Baba left Square Enix entirely, as it appears that I missed last month. That's usually not a good sign for a studio that has yet to produce a game, and it appears that is true here, too.
As of yesterday, all social media accounts for Studio Istolia were closed down, and as much evidence of the original trailers as Squenix could was purged from the internet. Apparently the Studio Istolia website had been redirecting users back to the main Square Enix site since around the time Baba left the studio and the company. Square Enix have yet to comment officially on this change, but the logical conclusion is that the studio and game are both now dead.
Update: Square Enix have confirmed that the studio has been shuttered.
Source: Siliconera, GamesIndustry
The next round of dates for Distant Worlds and A New World were announced late last week, carrying us largely through the fall for the former and into early 2020 for the latter. It's been since January and November respectively since we got new show information, so some of these new dates might be up your alley. For Distant Worlds:
- Seattle, September 11 and 12
- Austin, October 4
- Oklahoma City, October 5
- Quebec City, November 23
- Kansas City, January 17, 2020
I'd also missed that ANW released a second album of recordings at the start of the year. I saw a tweet the other day mentioning that the album would also be appearing on streaming services soon, but I don't yet see it on my Spotify. Keep your eyes out if you've read this far.
Source: Distant Worlds, A New World
Square Enix announced last week that for the first time ever, an official symphonic concert dedicated to the soundtrack of Final Fantasy VII will premiere in Los Angeles. The date will be June 9, a couple days before this year's E3 kicks off, and it will play at the Dolby Theatre at 6pm for one show.
The concert will include over a hundred live musicians conducted by Arnie Roth, with new arrangements and a new HD video presentation to be played as the concert goes. Tickets are on sale now and range from $77.77 (ha!) to $139.
The timing of doing an all-FF7 concert just before E3 is interesting, with the remake in the works. One might take this to mean that there will be some real information on the remake at E3 this year, in which case we've got just a month or so left to wait.
Source: Gematsu, WildFaery
Still speculative, but it was reported today that the body responsible for age-rating games in South Korea (known as the Game Rating and Administration Committee of Korea) has given a rating for PCs for Octopath Traveler, the Square Enix Switch RPG. The publisher of record is Bandai Namco, who according to Gematsu regularly act as the Korean-locale publisher for Square Enix games.
There is always the chance that this could be an erroneous listing, but typically news such as this from a game ratings board is always followed by an official announcement or an actual release of a game. Given further that the game was originally developed in Unreal Engine, a PC port seems like an obvious next step as well. Keep your eyes out for more news soon.