News from June 2012
Square Enix CEO, Yoichi Wada, has told shareholders that the company won't be remaking Final Fantasy VII until such time as the franchise produces a new installment which surpasses the fan favourite. This statement was made hand-in-hand with the admission that recent Final Fantasy games have been inferior and that a remake at this point would imply that the franchise is finished. It's open to debate whether or not any Final Fantasy game has passed this benchmark to date, but it appears Wada certainly doesn't think so.
It remains to be seen whether this strengthens or weakens the recent rumours of a PC re-release, as reported previously, but one thing is for certain - we won't be seeing a full remake any time soon.
Source: Den of Geek, Andriasang
Website NowGamer reports today that a Square Enix-owned Final Fantasy VII PC website implies that a new Final Fantasy VII release for PC might be coming soon.
The page, which was taken down and now exists only in Google cache (keep clicking "cancel" to eventually see the content), implies that this new game has some new features. Achievements will be added, and the game will also include the ability to save games to the cloud - or is that Cloud? Finally, if you want to enjoy the game again without having to grind through it, it appears that this version of the game will even include a "character booster" that will allow you to edit your savegame to make grinding unnecessary.
Is this a real thing? We don't know yet, unfortunately. If it is, though, for the low price listed ($7.99 US!), I'd be up for owning a new version of this game.
While not affiliated with Distant Worlds, the Zellerbach Hall in Berkley, California will be hosting a special, one-night-only concert of symphonic music from Final Fantasy XI on 22 September 2012. Conductor Arnie Roth will take a bit a time away from his Distant Worlds duties to conduct the specially-formed, seventy-member orchestra, and Naoshi Mizuta and Kumi Tanioka (two of the composers for FFXI) will also be in attendance.
Tickets are on sale now, and start at $50, ranging all the way up to $150 for VIP access to the guests and special photo opportunities. Anyone who attends will also get an in-game code to get a special item within Final Fantasy XI, the "Maestro's Baton."
Source: Zellerbach Hall
As we've reported before, 2012 marks the 25th anniversary of Final Fantasy games dating back to the original release in Japan in 1987. The Distant Worlds concert tour is marking the occasion with "official" dates for a commemorative concert, and this week they announced the only North American date for this special show: 7 December, in Chicago.
This show will have a specially designed program, with new videos and even a small museum of sorts in the lobby for all ticketholders. There's only one show, with no matinee or follow-up performance (at least, not yet!), so if you're interested, get in line for the 26 June presale to make sure you get your tickets!
Source: Distant Worlds
E3's gone away for another year, and as Squenix were largely cut out of the biggest, most-televised events this year, it's time to roll up the news for all of you Square Enix fans visiting CoN. The company showed a large number of games in their booth, as usual, with a great many slated to come out quite soon. Hitman, Tomb Raider, and Sleeping Dogs (you know, the "Dogs" game that falls right behind Watch Dogs and Nintendogs in terms of name recognition) appeared in the booth, as well as soon-to-be-released Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance and Theatrhythm: Final Fantasy.
Quantum Conundrum made a big splash, with its release date just a couple weeks away. I think this game was under a lot of peoples' radars, even though the game came from Kim Swift, one of the minds behind the original Portal; the puzzle play reminds me quite a bit of Portal, though the art aesthetic is a bit more Team Fortress, if you're extending the Valve analogy. With its large number of platforms and puzzle-based gaming, it really looks like it could be a mainstream hit - indeed, I've seen coverage of it not only in the gaming media but also already in more pop-culture media such as Entertainment Weekly. Check out the newest trailer, released just before E3, to get a better feel for what's going on and exactly how you might be jumping from dimension to dimension to clear a level.
Speaking of trailers, Squenix cut a new one for Theatrhythm for E3 as well. If you want to watch, make sure to view it full-screen to understand a little bit more about how the gameplay works, as it's really hard to see at the standard size. Then, enjoy the music, as it clearly remains the biggest draw for the title, but also check out more footage of all the different types of game play that make up the game, some of which I had yet to see at much length. There's also a good interview with the game's project manager, which sheds some light on the way the game was designed and where it fits in to the Final Fantasy 25th Anniversary theme.
In fact, just check out all of the Square Enix content from E3. There are a ton more interviews there with Squenix personnel about their upcoming games, and I haven't even had time to watch them all myself. While you're there, you can even sign up to win a moogle-and-magenta PS3 or Xbox 360. Maybe you can check out the special cakes Squenix had at their invite-only E3 event.
Square Enix also wasted no time with more news from Japan even as E3 wound down. andriasang has reported in just the last few days, such as a new Transformers-esque racing and battle arcade game that will also be ported to 3DS, a teaser for a new Final Fantasy III release on PSP, and a third demo for Bravely Default Flying Fairy, introducing the battle and job systems.
Finally, surprise! There's another Distant Worlds concert this summer! A couple weeks ago, Dallas was added to this year's slate of shows. The show is this week, but tickets are still available, possibly including VIP tickets that get you in to meet guest vocalist Susan Calloway and Squenix composer Masashi Hamauzu. Free up your Friday night, Texans.
Source: Square Enix Blog, andriasang
Nintendo last night had their second major press conference of E3, this time focusing solely on upcoming games for the Nintendo 3DS. I'd expected something a little faster-moving, showing a huge number of games, but Nintendo took a slower, more methodical approach, instead going into significant detail on a smaller selection of games that are coming up very soon.
Most of the games there looked pretty good, speaking as someone who doesn't have a 3DS and doesn't follow it much. The fall-release Castlevania: Lords of Shadow sequel looked like it had polished camera work, and the vibrant Epic Mickey sidescrolling platformer also looked sharp, though the action seemed slow-paced in its demo. For RPG players, Nintendo showed the new Paper Mario, which uses as its conceit a collectable sticker book to control battle and other interactions with the world, and to me it looked like a pretty fun game.
Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance came up next, and led with a trailer that really made it obvious that it would use a lot of the 3D capabilities of the system; some on-rails flying and coaster sequences look made specifically to have some pop-out features. The game will also support Street Pass, AR cards, and the Circle Pad Pro. The game will have quicktime attacks, as well as touchscreen input for "Reality Shift" attacks. The release date is still the end of July for North America, and a DLC demo will be available "soon."
One more game got an extended preview, Scribblenauts Unlimited, and then the conference shifted into a quick-cut video of other upcoming third-party games, including Lego Batman 2, a Transformers game licensed from the movies, a Rabbids game, and Squenix' own Heroes of Ruin, which also has a demo coming this summer.
The conference moved on to talk about the Nintendo e-store, and how it will connect to the new versions of Pokemon Black and White that are soon to be released, and then the whole thing wound up with more demo of New Super Mario Bros. 2, followed by the curtain falling. Not sure that this blew my mind, but it was nice to finally see one of the big three give more than a couple seconds to Square Enix. Seems a pretty far cry from just a few years ago, doesn't it?
Source: Nintendo E3 Portal
As mentioned several months ago, the team at Square Enix have been working on a new game engine to power their games of the next or next-next generation. Dubbed "Luminous," the engine purports real-time photorealistic rendering and even a developmental cost savings, making it potentially a competitor to the ubiquitous offerings from Epic, currently at work on the fourth generation of the Unreal engine.
At E3 this year, the engine appeared again, this time with the capability to show a "game" running within the engine. The game itself is not a real game, but instead a real-time tech demo, called "Agni's Philosophy;" however, assuming that this is legitimate in-engine work and not pre-rendered (it must be legit, or else Squenix will be branded utter charlatans), it looks simply amazing. The particle effects alone sell it, and the realistic facial animations, dynamic lighting, and the blazing fast focus-shift just look gorgeous.
Will it mean anything for games? No way to know yet. It's still a tech demo. I'm sure the hand-wringing has already begun, though.
Source: Kotaku, Agni's Philosophy Site
Nintendo had a typically strong opening to their press conference at E3 this year, relying again on the charisma of Miyamoto and a more clever opening than the other two. After that, though, was it really all that entertaining? The company showed a lot of new games coming for the WiiU console, a great many of them launch titles, but if you were expecting something with the energy and buzz of the pre-Wii-launch E3, it just wasn't going to happen.
If you thought the Wii was gimmicky, you'll certainly feel the same about the WiiU. If you thought the Wii was aimed more at families and especially children, you'll probably have the same reaction again. If you have thought that Nintendo just wasn't pushing the third parties enough, you might well be right again, even though Ubisoft showed up (again!) with nine games in development for the new console.
If you're into the product that Nintendo has been putting out for most of the last decade, you probably liked what you saw. The games looked casual- and family-friendly, and the gimmick of the WiiU controller looked like it was going to get used in some pretty interesting ways. Bottom line, though, if you weren't already mostly sold on the idea of the WiiU, I don't think today's conference was going to do anything to push you over the edge. And if you wanted to see 3DS stuff, such as Square Enix' forthcoming games? That has to wait until tomorrow, when Nintendo has planned a standalone conference to speak solely about the 3DS. Dream Drop Distance did managed to sneak in a 15-second clip into today's show, but it was hardly packed with information.
That does it for the big three this year. I can't pick a winner, all three felt a bit lacking in energy to me. Any thoughts?
I didn't write this news post last night for a few reasons: one, I wasn't able to focus on it very well. Two, I had a baby to put to bed because of how late Sony started in my time zone. Three, and maybe this was just because I don't own any current Sony devices, but it just wasn't very exciting, continuing the trend set earlier by Microsoft.
After introducing Kaz Hirai, in the crowd this year as the new leader of all of Sony, the company led with Beyond, a game from the makers of Heavy Rain that looked and sounded very much like Heavy Rain, distinguishable mainly by the new game having Ellen Page drop the f-bomb in the trailer. The next big game shown in detail was PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale, the Vita/PS3 cross-play game that looks like Smash Bros. with a sketchier roster of characters. After that came a break where Jack Tretton talked for a while about why Sony's online offering is the best.
It was then back to the sequels; Ubisoft came in to show a new Vita game taking place around colonial New Orleans, with a new female Assassin, and the new ship-based battles available in the full AC3. Then there was FarCry 3 with four-player co-op, and after a long segment showing a J.K. Rowling-penned Move game, right back into the sequels with yet another God of War. The last new game wrapped up the keynote, with a gameplay demo of The Last of Us, which, good as it looked, still seems a lot like a "Nathan Drake in Zombie Apocalypse."
Did Sony have a better showing than Microsoft? It's hard to say. I tend to think that they both kind of just followed the same template as last year, and that's understandable given that this is probably the last E3 where their current consoles are the big news. Nintendo's going to be asking everyone to buy the new hardware, so the counterpoint offered by the other two is to talk about how great their new software is. It makes sense, but it's not exactly compelling.
Oh, and continuing the theme again - no mention of anything from Square Enix in this keynote. Nintendo will almost surely show Theatrhythm and Kingdom Hearts 3D today, but we'll probably need to do some more digging on our own to get the best information, and we'll be doing that soon as well.
You're here at the Caves of Narshe. You're reading this hoping for some RPG news. You're not getting it. Microsoft came out and just like last year, they had very little to offer other than games for the "core" and the opportunity to shove Kinect down our throats.
Now, don't get me wrong. Obviously there is a huge market for both of these things, or else they wouldn't keep showing up over and over again at E3. However, virtually every game that Microsoft showed was a sequel to a juggernaut franchise - Call of Duty, Gears of War, Forza. Of course, too, Halo. The Kinect offerings included the typical casual games and some content elaborating on how this year's EA Sports offerings will be more Kinect-enabled.
The big push beyond that this year has nothing to do with gaming at all. It was all about media, and all of the new video and audio that Xbox will be able to send to you, working towards meeting Microsoft's stated goal of becoming more than a gaming console. There was also an extensive demo of Microsoft's Smart Glass technology, intended to make your mobile and console devices interact with each other quickly on the fly to enhance the consumption of a variety of different content, be it games, TV, or movies, and also to potentially emulate the tablet interaction of the WiiU controller. All of these things have been expected, but it just seems to this author more and more like unless you're into console FPS or over-the-shoulder shooters, Microsoft really just doesn't care if you want their console.
That said, this has to be considered a pretty successful E3 keynote for Microsoft. Their talking points are all going to be very, very good for business. What doesn't appeal to me or (I assume) a lot of our readers here still appeals to a ton of folks. I just wish there were a little more to be really excited about.
Oh, and for Square Enix fans? There was one thing to look at, from Eidos: a new gameplay trailer of the Tomb Raider reboot. It looked pretty much just like last year, just with new scenery in which Lara gets beaten up thoroughly.
Am I being too hard on Microsoft, who announced that they were the biggest console company in the world as of this year? You tell me.