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Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Square Enix @ E3 2015 Roundup - The Past is in the Past

It's been almost a decade since Square Enix last claimed its own stage at E3--interestingly enough, to unveil a certain Final Fantasy game that we still haven't seen release to this day, aside from its demo form, Episode Duscae. That game wasn't at E3 this year, which we knew going in--we'll have to wait for Gamescom for that. So with one of their longest in-development titles a guaranteed no-show, what else could Square Enix have in store for gamers to warrant reserving their own time slot? Quite a bit, actually. The legendary Japan-based publisher and developer has had a few rough years in the recent past, but from the looks of it that's all behind them, now.

Just Cause 3

While it hasn't been the biggest gaming franchise ever, Just Cause actually has a pretty decent history built up behind it at this point. The first game was an early release for last-gen consoles, and the sequel released in 2010 still has an active fan community today. Because of this, Square Enix has committed to longer term official support for Just Cause 3. And how is the game? In a word, it's crazy. You may tire of seeing the phrase 'open-world' thrown around at a convention like E3, but the fact is, building a solid open-world game is one of the most challenging feats a developer can take on. Just Cause 3's fictional island of Medici has over 400 square miles to explore, ranging over a variety of climates and terrain, not to mention in-air and under water. There are tons of vehicles, tons of crazy gadgets (the grappling hook in particular is an instant runaway hit), and a crazy story of one man versus an entire army. It would take less time to describe what can't be done in the game than what can, so if open-world games are your thing, find out for yourself when the game hits December 1 for PC, PS4, and Xbox One.

NieR 'New Project'

Success of one game isn't always the primary motivator for the production of a sequel. Such is the case with NieR 'New Project', which is admittedly by its developers a passion project, and a gift to the cult following NieR achieved following its release to mixed reception 5 years ago as a spinoff of the Drakengard series. Now, Drakengard doesn't have the greatest reputation for quality, and the original NieR was no exception, but this time around Platinum Games is at the helm for NieR 'New Project', with just the directors of the original on-board to oversee development and ensure it maintains the spirit of its predecessors. Not much could be revealed about the game itself as it is still in very early development, but more info is slated to come later in Fall of this year.

Rise of the Tomb Raider

Following an impressive demo at Microsoft's Xbox E3 event, Rise of the Tomb Raider made a second appearance at Square Enix's own conference, and with behind-the-scenes footage not shown by Microsoft. Most of the footage was dedicated to showing off the incredible amount of detail being put into Lara Croft herself, from scars that have carried over from the last game to environmental effects like dirt and snow that accumulate over time. To put it in perspective, while the Definitive Edition of the last Tomb Raider already looked pretty good, compared to Rise of the Tomb Raider, it already feels outdated. Some might argue that games aren't about the graphics, and while I'd tend to agree with them, there's no denying that making the most human-looking character possible goes great lengths towards helping the player feel what they feel and experience what they experience. Lara's last adventure was a pretty incredible one--her next will hit Xbox One and Xbox 360 on November 10.

Lara Croft Go

Looking a bit like Monument Valley meets Tomb Raider Underworld, Lara Croft Go is an upcoming mobile game from Square Enix Montreal designed to 'distill adventure' down to its core. Built in the same spirit as Hitman Go, this Tomb Raider spinoff is meant to be simple to play, but challenging and satisfying to complete. No release date was given other than 'soon', so if you like puzzles (and if you're a Tomb Raider fan, you probably do) keep an eye out on the Google Play Store and Apple App Store for this one to drop.

Final Fantasy VII Remake

Nothing can recreate the moment when Final Fantasy VII's remake was announced at Sony's E3 press conference. Even The Last Guardian couldn't compete with the sheer shock and joy of fans who so long begged for an HD remake of Final Fantasy VII and yet had given up all hope of ever having their wish come true. While Square Enix had nothing more to add to that trailer, they did promise to unveil more information this winter. For now the game is only targeting the PS4, however it was implied that other platforms would come later. If you can't wait until then for your Final Fantasy VII fix, the original game is still coming to PS4 and iOS this winter as well--likely just in time for Square Enix to give us proper details on the remake.

Kingdom Hearts Unchained Key

Kingdom Hearts has a thing for always jumping board new platforms, so leaving mobile devices out wouldn't do for long. For that there is Kingdom Hearts Unchained Key, a 2D tie-in game to Kingdom Hearts III in a similar visual style to the Theatrhythm Final Fantasy games. But a rhythm game Unchained Key is not--rather, it appears to be a full-sized Kingdom Hearts adventure, scaled down to work on low-powered devices. We got our first glimpse of the game in Japan a while ago, and now it's in development for the States as well.

Kingdom Hearts III

With FFXV predestined not to show at E3 this year, that left Square Enix's most-anticipated title being Kingdom Hearts III. This year we got actual gameplay footage--prerecorded, however--and it looks impressive indeed. It's still Kingdom Hearts to its core, with plenty of familiar friends and enemies and even a few revisited locations, but all looking much better than we've ever seen it before, considering Kingdom Hearts skipped the PS3 aside from a handful ports from older platforms. Not many Disney properties were shown, perhaps due to licensing complications, but this mashup of Final Fantasy and Disney characters looks fit to be the biggest and most exciting yet. No release date was given, but Kingdom Hearts III will hit PS4 and Xbox One when it is ready.

World of Final Fantasy

When World of Final Fantasy showed up at Sony's E3 press conference, it was difficult to discern what exactly the game was. Seeing the same trailer doesn't really make it any clearer, either. It's a Final Fantasy game in chibi form, and it's in development first for PS4 and PS Vita, implying other platforms may be added post-launch. At the Square Enix conference, we learned that World of Final Fantasy is an entirely new universe designed to be playable by both children and adults, something that's easy to learn but challenging to master.


Continuing the recent string of series reboots comes Hitman--not Hitman with a subtitle or a number, just a new story following Agent 47 'in his prime'. Taking advantage of modern gaming hardware, Hitman is an open world 'sandbox'-style game somewhat like a modern-day Assassin's Creed. But don't let that description give you the wrong idea. Stealth in Hitman will require more than just a hood. The choice is left up to you, but if you want to get the job done right, you'll have to explore a variety of means to take out your target. The game will reward you for it as well, leveling up your character in different skills and assassination techniques as you use them. The new Hitman will hit PC, PS4, Xbox One December 8.

Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness

As it stands, the PlayStation 4 isn't the JRPG haven its predecessor is. But that's about to change, in large part thanks to Square Enix. Joining the likes of Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts is a new Star Ocean game, and it's coming to the west next year. Star Ocean may not be the most well-known series outside of Japan but it has a dedicated fanbase, and bringing Integrity and Faithlessness overseas when there's not a lot of competition may be just what Star Ocean needs to attract a following of new fans. Square Enix had some prerecorded gameplay for us at E3 this year, and the game looks like a fantastic take on old JRPG mechanics meeting modern storytelling and visuals. It's coming in 2016 for the PS3 and PS4, but that PS3 port may wind up exclusive to Japan.

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided

Deus Ex: Human Revolution was something of an E3 surprise several years ago, and it just went on being a pleasant surprise right up to release. The fact that it's getting a sequel is significantly less surprising, but no less exciting. In many ways last-gen consoles weren't really able to keep up with the first game's vision, and now Deus Ex: Humanity Divided feels right at home on more recent gaming hardware. A pre-recorded gameplay trailer showed off just how much more detailed the new game is, not only in its appearance but also in mechanics. From the looks of things players will have access to a whole range of new augmentations, and this time around the developers have confirmed you will be able to play the entire game without killing anyone, if stealth is your thing. If not, that's fine too--go in guns (and augs) blazing, and it will become a satisfying action title. The story sounds like a deep and interesting continuation of the last game as well, so you'll definitely want to catch Deus Ex: Humanity Divided when if releases at some point next year for the PC, PS4, and Xbox One. If you just can't wait, pre-orders are open now.

Final Fantasy Portal App

Last and, yes, probably least, Square Enix had a little bonus to announce for Final Fantasy fans: a codex/news sort of app for Android and iOS smartphones containing all the latest information on Final Fantasy titles, plus a little game of its own: Triple Triad, which you may recall was a mini-game in Final Fantasy VIII. The app is coming this summer and will be free to download, though it will support in-app purchases to buy in-app currency (yes, really) which can be used to unlock goodies like wallpapers. You can, of course, just rack up the necessary points yourself by simply using the app, reading articles, and playing Triple Triad.