Updating first post.....
● Square Enix's DKΣ3713 Event Detailed
Find out what's playable at the event you probably can't attend
by John Tanaka
June 18, 2008
Final Fantasy XIII will not be playable at Square Enix's upcoming DKΣ3713 event, a Japanese "private show" event that will give 2,400 lucky fans a sneak peak at the latest games from the RPG giant. Square Enix shared further details on the event today.
Few were actually expecting a playable version of the new PS3 Final Fantasy game to appear seemingly out of nowhere, so this shouldn't come as a surprise. Also on the video-only tract for the event are sister projects Versus XIII and Agito.
Kingdom Hearts will be leaning a bit more on the playable side. Both 358/2 Days, the DS title, and Birth by Sleep, the PSP title, will appear in playable form. This is the second playable appearance for the DS title following last year's Jump Festa event. Coded, the new mobile entry in the series will be video-only.
As for the stragglers, Sigma Harmonics and Final Fantasy Dissidia will be shown in playable form. The 3rd Birthday, a mobile sequel to Parasite Eve, will be video-only, as will Final Fantasy VII Advent Children Complete for Blu-ray.
The DKΣ3713 event will be held on August 2 and August 3 in Tokyo. Admittance is invite-only, with Square Enix set to select from members of its Square Enix Members fan club.
● E3 2008: Square Enix Talks Final Fantasy XIII for Xbox 360
Producer Yoshinori Kitase discusses what the game's newly announced 360 version means for the company and the series.
By Jeremy Parish, 07/14/2008
Yes, Final Fantasy XIII is coming to the Xbox 360. In fact, not only is it coming, but the 360 version is slated for simultaneous American and European launch alongside the PlayStation 3 release. Sony fans no doubt feel betrayed; Microsoft groupies have something to mitigate the bitter banality of the company's E3 press conference. Discussion threads will burn bitterly into the night on forums across the Internet. E3 is smaller this year, but it still offers great conversation pieces.
But is this new twist in the long-running FFXIII saga really surprising? The writing was on the wall at this year's Game Developers Conference when Square Enix announced its multiplatform Crystal Tools development environment. Designed to facilitate the simultaneous creation of games for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 (and Wii, to a lesser extent), Crystal Tools mostly served to paint a clearer picture of the schizophrenic divide between the company's two very different halves. Western-focused games like The Lost Remnant come from the Enix portion of the corporation, which means it's being developed by an external studio on Unreal Engine 3. Crystal Tools appears to have been created exclusively for the use of Square's internal teams, for the creation of games with the self-described "Square style," that elusive mix of cutting-edge technology and beautiful-yet-angst-ridden characters struggling to simultaneously save the world and emote. At the moment, Square's known, internal current-gen projects boil down to FFXIII, its spin-off, and a mysterious massively multiplayer online role-playing game. Coupled with the rising costs of game development and the fact that nothing substantial has been revealed of FFXIII since its debut at E3 2006 more than two years ago, the subtext of Crystal Tools should've been obvious: FFXIII was destined to go multiplatform, if only to cut the company's losses.
Immediately after Microsoft revealed the news of the game's new platform destination, Square Enix's Shinji Hashimoto and Yoshinori Kitase (a corporate executive and FFXIII's producer, respectively) met with the press for a question-and-answer session regarding the game. The actual substance of the press conference was expectedly lacking; Square Enix's intentions for E3 clearly began and ended with announcing the game's move to Xbox 360. New details on things like "gameplay" and "characters" won't appear until the company's big Final Fantasy event next month in Tokyo. Still, the subtext was every bit as enlightening as the details we were given.
Perhaps most notably, FFXIII's move to 360 is exclusively a development for the West. "The Japanese plans for 360 haven't changed," said Hashimoto. "We considered the situation, and we would like to provide the game to as many fans as possible given the spread of the hardware." As the Xbox 360 is extremely popular in the West and practically a nonentity in Japan, the split decision makes sense. Furthermore, the migration to 360 is clearly a recent decision. According to Hashimoto, development has yet to begin in earnest for Microsoft's console. "We're ready to start developing FFXIII for 360," he said. "First, we will complete the game for PS3 in Japan, then begin localization for America and Europe while developing the 360 version simultaneously. The PS3 and 360 versions will be released at the same time outside of Japan ? although, due to language and other conditions, the game may not be released simultaneously across territories."
In short, the series' core market -- Japanese RPG fans, who have a long history of loyalty to Sony platforms -- will be catered to first and foremost. Hashimoto promises the company will do its best to bring the localized versions of the game to market more quickly than previous FF games, which have often taken nine or 10 months to hit the U.S. -- and even longer in Europe. Good intentions notwithstanding, this essentially makes cross-platform development in Crystal Tools a function of localization. It will be interesting to see if Square takes this approach with future releases or if it's simply a side effect of the fairly recent decision to take FFXIII to 360. And Square has yet to determine its plan for other Asian markets, where the console industry lacks the clear-cut distinctions that characterize Japan and the West.
One gets the impression that FFXIII's multiplatform plans are an experiment -- the less charitable might even suspect the company is groping in the dark. Hashimoto freely admitted that he doesn't know how this shared-platform approach will work out. "We want to ask your opinion," he said. "We've just made the announcement [of the 360 version], and now we'll begin to research the market. Further decisions will be made after some research."
The company's in the dark even on technical considerations. "The content will be the same on both platforms," said Kitase. "However, we have yet to determine how many discs will be required for the 360 version. We'll have to consider the differences between formats. Currently the game is being built on PC, where it's actually functional. We're still focusing on making it work on PS3, so it's difficult to know how long the process of taking it to 360 will take."
But don't despair, Final Fantasy fans; the conference wasn't all cautious no-comments and bad news. The move to Crystal Tools seems to be serving a dual purpose; not only will FFXIII be appearing on 360, but the development process has reportedly sped up. "Now that we're developing on a PC base, the pace is going a bit faster," Kitase said. "We haven't introduced new footage of the game, but we should be able to show something new in the near future."
For the time being, though, FFXIII remains nothing more than a very pretty prerendered trailer. With luck, or at least a little more openness on Square's part, we'll have more concrete details to report soon.
● E3 '08: Square: We Discuss The Publishing Powerhouse’s Hardest Hitters
by Game Informer Online
POSTED: 7/23/2008 5:23 PM
Last week during E3 we had a chance to sit in on not one, not two, but three Square Enix roundtable discussions. Each of the intimate chats involved up and coming titles from the publishing powerhouse, including talk about Final Fantasy XIII, Star Ocean 4: The Last Hope, Infinite Undiscovery, and The Last Remnant. Read on to get juicy details about Square’s most anticipated titles – straight from the mouths of those most involved.
Roundtable 1: Final Fantasy XIII
Yoshinori Kitase: Producer, Final Fantasy XIII
Meagan VanBurkleo: Game Informer Online
Joe Juba: Game Informer Magazine
Q: It has been a while since we were last updated on Final Fantasy XII. Can we get a brief introduction to the collection of games?
A: The core of the Final Fantasy XIII series centers on the Fabula Nova crystals – so there is this basic mythology at the center. As you know there are other XIII titles in the works, such as Versus XII, and what each director did with these titles is take this myth that is at the core and create a game based on their own interpretation of this mythology. So for example for XIII director Toriyama gives his interpretation, and for Versus XIII Nomura is the director of that. But all the games are based on the same myth.
Q: Do we know if the games will play the same? Will they have different gameplay styles or simply different stories and characters?
A: Final Fantasy XIII, the game system is going to be based on the command style battle system – an enhanced version of that traditional Final Fantasy mechanic – and for Versus XIII, since as you know Nomura has worked on the Kingdom Hearts series and such, the game will be a bit more action oriented. In this sense, each of the directors of the Final Fantasy XIII titles are given the freedom to create a story and a game style that they like and a story that they want to tell. So there are no set guidelines, and they can all be very different.
Q: Where you at all surprised by the reaction to the announcement that Final Fantasy XIII is coming to the Xbox 360?
A: Well, the press conference had been going on for a while before the announcement finally came, and there was a pretty calm reaction from the audience for most of the titles, so we thought that FFXIII would be taken that way as well. But since everyone reacted so well to it, we were very surprised.
Q: In past generations, we have seen multiple Final Fantasy titles for each console generation. Are we getting to the point where we can maybe only expect one Final Fantasy per console generation?
A: We can’t say for sure how many Final Fantasy titles will come out on this specific platform at this point. It all depends on development. Final Fantasy XIII is taking some time to complete at this moment, so we are creating something for Xbox 360 and PS3. It would be great if we could continue to make games for those platforms as well in the future. Also, the hardware switching from generation to generation is becoming a bit faster. It all depends on the trend at that moment.
Q: With the process becoming more involved, is it becoming more impractical to do console exclusives?
A: It’s not necessarily true that it is impractical; it is more of a title by title basis where teams will think about what is best for that title. There are also many good things that can come out of sticking to one console and using all of the capabilities of that hardware as well – so it is a title by title basis.
Q: So we notice that FFXIII has a female protagonist – something we have not seen since FFX-2 – what was the mindset behind having a female main character?
A: So as you mentioned FFX-2 has female characters in the lead role, but they were part of a spin-off that FFX established – and there were three different female characters. So in that sense, FFXIII is the first time that a single female character is in the lead role. This is something that we decided to do because it is a challenge, because it is the first time, and we have never done so.
Q: What were some of the specific challenges you encountered in having a female lead for the first time?
A: The characters are not totally complete yet, they are still in the developing stages, so we are still in the midst of the challenge. I guess you can say that because the scenario writer is a male, in that sense it is difficult for him to portray a female character. We are also in the midst of voice casting, and a lot of time the voice actor for the character will help to polish and fine-tune the character because although the scenario is written by a male, a female will ultimately be delivering it, and depending on the delivery, the scenario writer may be inspired by the acting, and in that way, the character is completed.
Q: In Monday’s Q&A you differentiated Final Fantasy XIII’s battle system from XII by saying that it is flashier. Can you elaborate on that a bit more, and explain how you want the combat system to feel for the player?
A: As mentioned during the conference, in Final Fantasy XII the battles are seamless, meaning the monsters are actually on the field, and you run into them to go into battle, and in FFX we used the random encounter, and you would jump into a battle scene when the party ran into a monster. So for XIII, we tried to take the best of both systems. The battlefield will have monsters visible, that you can dodge, but the battle scenery will change to a specific scene for the battle. There will be a good transition between the field and the interactive battle scene. That is what you can expect from XIII.
Q: In the trailer we see the images of Lighting jumping around during battle. Can you talk about how those types of mechanics are going to translate into play? How that kinetic feeling is going to be at the players control?
A: As mentioned earlier, when comparing the game to Versus XIII, this won’t be a completely action based game. So in that sense you won’t have complete control over the character when they are jumping around and such. The basic system here is the command system, but it will be an evolved version of that command system, so we are going to try to add movement as you see in the trailer, and try to create an enhanced version, even though it is command, so that it has action to it.
Q: Are any of the FFXIII titles expected to release simultaneously?
A: No, they are not expected to release at the same time.
Q: With Final Fantasy coming to the 360 in North America and Europe, is that a consideration when making the game? The fact that you are making it more global?
A: We have been conscious of creating games for the western market since about Final Fantasy VII, and maybe during the development of VII we were a bit too conscious of that fact. For example, when a character says thank you and bows, we thought that might be too Japanese and not very global, so we took it out. So during the production and development of VII, we were too conscious of that. So during the development of XIII, since the creators are born and raised in Japan, it is kind of natural that their thoughts will transition into the game. They are trying to be a bit more natural, and not as restrictive on their culture when creating games nowadays, and hopefully people worldwide find that trait interesting.
Roundtable 2: Star Ocean 4: The Last Hope & Infinite Undiscovery
Hajime Kojima: Producer, Infinite Undiscovery
Yoshinori Yamagishi: Producer, Star Ocean 4: The Last Hope
Meagan VanBurkleo: Game Informer Online
Mikel Tidwell: RPG Gamer
Q: As far as The Last Hope is concerned, is this a game that if you have not played any of the other Star Ocean titles that you will still be able to pick up and understand?
A: No worries at all. This is actually going to be the story that explains the origin of the Star Ocean world. This is going to take place before the first Star Ocean, so you will have no problem starting from this title.
Q: Can you explain the basic premise of each title for those unfamiliar with them?
A: In the world of Infinite Undiscovery, at the center of the story is the moon instead of the sun as in real life. And in this game world, the moon bestows magical power to the people and they thrive on it. In the story, with the moon in the center, there are foes that chain down the moon to the earth. There is a hero, who is trying to liberate the moon from those chains. He is not the hero (protagonist), the hero is Capell, who is a spitting image of this hero. So this hero and Capell meet, and Capell joins the heroes’ journey to free the moon, and along the way Capell grows as a person.
In the world of Star Ocean, the humans have World War III and they are on the verge of extinction. So as the subtitle says, this is their last hope, and the humans decided to move on to the universe and outer space. After the success of the first warp drive, this is where the world of Star Ocean starts. This is their first voyage into outer space, and they will encounter foes that are looking to cause trouble.
Q: Can you touch on the unique aspects of each battle system?
A: With Infinite Undiscovery, everything happens in the game field. Battles, and searches and events – all of them happen in one seamless field. Seamless and real-time are the key features of this game. On top of that, there is this feature called situational battle, where you will sometimes be running away from your enemies or batting with your enemies while a big tsunami is going to hit you. So even in the same field, situations keep changing, and they are all very flashy and fun to keep playing.
With Star Ocean 4, like in the past Star Ocean titles, you will encounter your enemies and then you will be opening up the battle field and that is where you will fight. We did not go seamless with Star Ocean 4 on purpose, we wanted the battles to be different visually from the event scenes, and this way we can keep versatility to the battles.
Q: These are the first Tri-Ace titles for the 360. What were some of the advantages or surprises for developing on this console?
A: First off, the 360 is a very high performance platform and that allows us to have many characters on the same field, and this would not have happened with older platforms. So in this field, your allies and monsters will be moving around at the same time being controlled with AI, and to control them all at the same time requires a lot of CPI, so I believe this is something we could develop only with the 360.
Q: With Star Ocean, when you have an established series, and you bring it to a new console, are you concerned about how the fans will react?
A: We did not have a particular concern when we changed to the 360, but it was a very new hardware back then when we started development, so we did wonder how popular the system would be worldwide. It turned out to be very popular in the western market, so we were very happy with that.
Q: Because of the popularity of the 360 in the Western market, is Star Ocean 4 geared more towards the western audience than before?
A: You can say that we did think of users around the world during development.
Q: Can you explain were the name Infinite Undiscovery came from?
A: So there is a key feature in this game, which is called search and discovery. You will search for something, and then make an action, and you get the impact of that. A small example is that there is a barrel. You will find it, and then you will destroy it, and it has explosives inside, so you can attack enemies or destroy objects around it by finding that barrel. So just like that you will find something, make an action, and get the impact. We are aware that undiscovery is a made up word, but there are infinite amounts of objects that are undiscovered in the game, so the title kind of represents that.
Roundtable 3: The Last Remnant
Nobuyuki Ueda: Producer, The Last Remnant
Meagan VanBurkleo: Game Informer Online
Erik Brudvig: IGN Xbox
Q: Because Last Remnant is a new IP, can you start by telling us a bit about the world, and explain what role remnants play in the game?
A: So, as you can tell from the title, remnants play a key role in this title. The people in this world don’t know who created these remnants for what reason or when, but they do know that they possess a power. Some of the characters in this game use this power. The game begins with Rush, the main character, living on an island, with no relation to remnants whatsoever, when his sister is kidnapped and he embarks on a journey to find her.
Q: As far as the remnants are concerned, are they used as weapons or to augment powers?
A: There are many different uses for the Remnants. A specific example is with the character David, who appears early on in the story. He uses a weapon-like remnant called the Gaebolg, and this is used much like a gun-shaped weapon. Also, in the city David is from there is a massive remnant that looks like a sword in the middle of the city. There is no specific power mentioned with this remnant, but they do know that around this sword remnant the city thrives, and they have built the city around this power.
Q: Can you describe the battle system of the game for us?
A: The biggest aspect of this game’s battle system is having multiple members of your party fight with multiple enemies. And by multiple we mean groups called unions. In your party you can have up to five members per union, and you can have up to five unions. So controlling all of these members at once is the unique aspect.
Q: So you can control up to 25 characters at a time?
A: We are currently in the final stages of making adjustments to the battle system, and we definitely want to avoid having that set in stone, like if you have 25 characters in your group you are set. We want to make it so that you build unions based on different strengths. Like some unions might have one or two characters that are very strong, some might have five, and you must consider that as part of your strategy. So, they will definitely know soon when the battle system is done exactly how it will play out.
Q: You say you want to use these unions in a strategic way, how would you go about giving out commands? Is this a turn-based game or can you give commands on the fly?
A: So, it is a command RPG, but the difference is that all of these unions, depending on how each union is built of course, have different strategies that are given to them, like a strategy command that is given per union, and the AI will control and act upon these strategies that are given to each union.
Q: What is the basic enemy or foe in Last Remnant?
A: Within the story, there are many characters that become involved with these remnants for different reasons and in different ways. However, all we can say now is that the character you see in the trailer with a white hat and fan in his hand, he will most likely become a foe of some sorts.
Q: I imagine that there are a lot of remnants in the game, is there one particular one that is significant as the last remnant?
A: There is nothing that they have specifically pointed out as the last remnant, because each player who plays the game is going to have a different interpretation of what the last remnant is. There will be many different interpretations.
Q: The trailer brands Last Remnant as a game for the world. How are you developing this game so that it is a RPG that everyone worldwide will appreciate?
A: The hope is of course that everyone internationally will feel like this game was tailored to them, but what we have done specifically is that we have worked closely with their internal localization team and taken that into consideration when building up characters, settings, and everything else involved in the game. And as you have seen in the trailers, the lip-sync actually matches to English because it was recorded first, and the motion capture was done the same way.
Q: A lot of the western RPG’s have been very open in design and give players freedom. Will this game have any of those elements in it?
A: There is definitely a main storyline that the game follows, so the choices that you make in the game will still coincide with the main storyline, but we have created a lot of side stories along side the main story that gives much more depth, and makes it feel like you have much more freedom in the game.
Q: As far as that storyline is concerned, was Last Remnant inspired by any other game, or influenced by mythology or folklore in any way?
A: there is nothing specifically that we drew an inspiration from, but it definitely took the team brainstorming for days and days and days to cook up the setting and characters, and to flesh out the story.
● Why Do Games Go Bad?
by Game Informer Staff
POSTED: 7/28/2008 4:58 PM
It’s one of the most hallowed tales in video game history: A game so bad that hundreds of thousands of copies ended up buried in a desert somewhere in New Mexico. So goes the legend of Atari’s E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, but that’s only half the tale. After the box office success of Steven Spielberg’s film, Atari spent more than $20 million to purchase the rights to make an E.T. video game. Unfortunately, after all the financial haggling, the company had less than six weeks to develop the game to meet its Christmas deadline. The fact that one man – Yar’s Revenge creator Howard Scott Warshaw – developed the game so quickly casts this story in a slightly different light. Good intentions don’t always result in good games, and sometimes the deck is stacked against developers. But why is that? Why is it so difficult to make a good game? We polled experts from across the industry to talk about why good games sometimes go bad.
"The problem isn’t with limited time, it’s with trying to do too much in too little time, or not properly accounting for problems that will arise and eat up your time unexpectedly.
If anything, having to give too many demos, regardless of whether it’s to people inside or outside the organization, has a bigger negative impact on game development than most other single events. You’d think they could be anticipated, known, and scheduled properly, but they never are, and they can drop out of the sky and lay waste to a week of productivity here and there throughout the whole development cycle."
Creative Director, Eidos
"The easy and by-the-book answer is that extreme crunch time comes from not following the plan you made for the time constraints you have, or not making a proper plan for your game with the time constraints you have. Reality is a million times more complicated than a book."
Game Director, IO Interactive
"You would prefer to work on a game until it’s done, but more often than not you’re going to have a scope and a budget that’s one tenth of what you’d like to have. The business reality is that time and budget are driving against you. The most successful people in the industry are those who can understand the business and still remain creative."
Studio Head, Backbone Entertainment
Did you know that places like Wal-Mart and Best Buy actually have a voice in how a game gets made? I bet you didn’t, but it’s true. Do you know how many meetings I have sat in where someone from a retail outlet said they wanted such and such to change in the game in order to get them to put units in their forecast? Too many, and it bothers me. It bugs me to no end that I have to take creative advice from someone who probably plays games once a week because he has to and not because he wants to. It also bugs me that I have to skew my game because marketing doesn’t “get it.” The one time it really pissed me off was when we picked up Psychonauts. A great, great game that got little to no exposure because the marketing team couldn’t get their heads around it and market it right. They didn’t even want us to pick the game up because they didn’t know how to market it. Thankfully, they lost that battle.
Producer, Spark Unlimited
These types of outside influences occur on every project. At some point someone wants a triple jump because that is what the market wants even though the dev team thinks it should only be a double jump because it’s better for gameplay.
Lead Designer, Sanzaru Games
I was doing a product for GBA, and we were three-fourths of the way through production when we showed it at E3. After the show, we got this feedback from the publisher that said, “We’d like to take this pet simulation that you did and make it a platformer.” You couldn’t have picked a more opposite genre from what we had, and we literally had weeks left to make the change. We said, “no” twice, but this was a publisher that had a lot of weight behind them and they came back saying, “Don’t say ‘no’ again.” So in a matter of two weeks we had to entirely recreate our game.
Studio Head, Backbone Entertainment
The biggest challenge there is with licenses is the inability to be agile when it comes to decisions that intersect with the character and presentation. If you want to make a change, and you believe it’s right for the game and the franchise, you still need to go through an approval process before moving forward on the decision.
Creative Director, Eidos
Working on a license is usually a pain in the ass. Nine times out of ten the person you have to work with on the licensor end has no idea how to make a video game or what it takes to make one, much less what makes a game fun. They only care about the license and the “brand” of it all. Usually it’s “We need to get this game out when the movie comes out,” and the developer will ask “Well, when does the movie come out?” and they get “nine months from today” or something idiotic like that.
Producer, Spark Unlimited
It would be great to start the process of making a game at the same time as the movie, but that doesn’t happen. Film has a very different production cycle than games do. The pre-green lighting process is much, much longer. A lot of the time, games are being handled by the movie studio’s product division. They’re sitting alongside the same things as lunchboxes and action figures, and the same people are managing them all.
Development Director, The Collective
I have worked on numerous licensed titles in my career and have found that most of the bad licensed games are created because the publisher or holder of the license wants specific items in the game that don’t work well in an interactive experience. For licensed properties everything must be approved by numerous parties and may take a long time to get the team the information they need to move forward. Imagine creating six months worth of work on a driving engine and then you get the feedback back from the publisher or license holder, “Oh, the main character never drives a car in the movie, so could you take that out?”
Lead Designer, Sanzaru Games
I have never ever had a developer that didn’t put enough time in or not want more time to make a product better.
Dean Martinetti Producer, Spark Unlimited
There are random acts of God. It happens. Life happens. And you do what you can to work around those issues. I lost my father during the alpha phase of a project, and its happened to a partner of mine on another project. I worked as a third party vendor with some people who were down in Florida when a lot of hurricanes were going through and there were days when things just went dark, because no information could get through and everything was down. You have to deal with that stuff. You deal with it as it comes.
Development Director, The Collective
I was at EA during the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989 that closed us for days. I’ve seen small fires, extended power outages, and even a pretty exciting plumbing disaster at Crystal Dynamics, the details of which are best left unmentioned. My mother also passed away while I was making the game Solar Eclipse earlier in my career at Crystal and I abruptly left my team on its own for a week.
Creative Director, Eidos
Here in the Bay Area it rains a lot sometimes, and the roof of our building – it used to be an old engine factory, so it could be better. And once during a big crunch this water started gushing in from the corners of the room and it was getting on computers and all our work. Good creative people grabbed a bunch of tarps and taped them over our heads to make a channel for the water to drain out. During this crunch we were constantly looking over our heads to make sure the tape was holding. It was very stressful. We had nowhere else to go and we had to finish the game.
Studio Head, Backbone Entertainment
I have never ever had a developer that didn’t put enough time in or not want more time to make a product better. Most dev teams work insane hours to get the job done, and 99 percent of the time are really into what they are doing. No one wants to make a bad game; sometimes it just happens and is unavoidable.
Producer, Spark Unlimited
● Final Fantasy Agito XIII, Parasite Eve Set for PSP
Final Fantasy XIII demo coming for PS3.
by John TAnaka
August 1, 2008
The news is already flowing out from Square Enix's DKΣ3713 event in Tokyo today, and both PS3 and PSP owners should take note.
PSP owners now have two new titles to look forward two: Final Fantasy Agito XIII and The 3rd Birthday. Both titles were originally announced for cell phones, but Square Enix confirmed at the event that they'll be coming to the PSP as well. Agito XIII is listed as date TBA with The 3rd Birthday, a sequel to Parasite Eve, planned for 2009.
For PS3 owners, there's no word just yet of new game announcements. But we think news of a Final Fantasy XIII demo is just as good. Square Enix announced that it will bundle a demo version of FFXIII with the Blu-ray release of Final Fantasy VII Advent Children. In addition to a playable version of the first FFXIII series title, the disc will also contain new footage of Versus XIII and Agito XIII.
Advent Children Complete, as the Blu-ray version is called, hits Japan in March 2009. In addition to a standalone release, Square Enix is planning a hardware bundle that combines it (and the FFXIII demo disc) with the PlayStation 3 hardware.
The full Japanese release for FFXIII is officially set for 2009, Square Enix also confirmed for the first time today.
● Infinite Undiscovery Review
Proof that making up words doesn't actually create a better game.
by Hilary Goldstein
August 27, 2008
Hamlet spoke of the "dread of something after death, the undiscovered country." Capell, the main character in Square Enix's nonsensically titled Infinite Undiscovery philosophizes on the meaning of a damsel in distress's promise to do "anything" in order to thank him. Shakespeare wrote about something profound; developer tri-Ace settles for middle school humor. In other words, if you were hoping the fanciful title meant this was going to offer something deeper and more intriguing than what you've experienced in the past 20 years from Japanese RPGs, forget about it. Infinite Undiscovery, while enjoyable, is nothing special.
You play as Capell, a floundering musician who looks a whole heck of a lot like the world's greatest hero, Sigmund. Due to a comedy of errors, Capell is mistaken for Sigmund and dragged into an epic quest to unchain the moon from the world. Yeah, that's right, the moon is in bondage. You certainly don't see that every day. The Order (aka the bad guys in this world), have tossed some heavy-duty chain around the moon in an apparent effort to siphon its power. Sigmund is a chain cutter. And Capell, being mistaken for Sigmund, gets dragged along with a group of resistance fighters to hack down some chains.
The story plays out very linearly, with no branching elements. There are sidequests, but none add to the overall story and amount to little more than time-consuming fetch quests. There are some nice twists and turns in the story along the way that help turn what could have been a somewhat dull adventure into something compelling. Capell is much like Luke Skywalker. He starts out whiny and pretty much never stops. Of course he's destined to save the world, but his development never betrays his underlining whiner persona. And that, oddly enough, makes him more likeable than some of the other rags-to-hero characters.
Along the way, Capell runs into a considerable number of allies. In fact, there are 18 characters you'll be micromanaging during the course of this fairly brief adventure. Capell can only take three other characters into his own personal party, but often you can form two subsidiary parties of four members a piece. These other parties will have their own goals, though your paths may intersect while hacking and slashing through a dungeon. This means that you have to try and keep everyone's armor and weapons as updated as possible, because you can never be sure when one of the 17 other characters will be required to assist Capell or when you'll break out into multiple groups.
And that's where Infinite Undiscovery hits its first big snag. It is a real pain in the ass to have to manage equipment for so many characters. There's no option to have the AI equip the best available armor. And you rarely make enough cash to fully equip everyone under your command.
Because Infinite Undiscovery is only 20-30 hours (depending on how much you love ancillary fetch quests), there's not enough time and story to bring all 18 characters to life. I won't lie, there were characters that popped up in cut-scenes near the end of the game that I didn't even know were on my team, because they were so underutilized in the story. I'm not sure why tri-Ace felt the need to throw so many characters into the mix, but it was a mistake. Six-to-eight characters might have worked.
Infinite Undiscovery utilizes a real-time combat system. This isn't faux real-time or partial real-time or "interactive" real-time -- if you don't want to get your ass handed to you, then you need to press buttons on the controller. It's a two-button combat system with only a handful of combos. Still, it's mindless fun and works for the most part. The rest of your party attacks at their discretion, though you can set broad AI parameters, the most useful of which tends to be "Save MP." While some may wish for full control over the whole party, it is pretty cool to have battles where magic attacks from your party members are raining down unexpectedly amidst your own sword-slashing combos.
You do have some control of your party in certain respects. Infinite Undiscovery allows you to "connect" with another member of your party. When connected, you can order them to perform two pre-set special attacks. This is necessary for some areas, when you need to perform a certain move to get past a puzzle. In combat, it's mostly a novelty. The AI does a good job at fighting, leaving little need to manage specific attacks from any character. Besides, Capell has his own special moves and three-button combos to worry about.
There is one other input for commanding your party in the field. Hit the Y button and you will call for someone to heal the injured. The AI makes the choice between casting a heal spell or using an item in inventory. This works very well, which is good, because healing is a prominent part of combat. There is no block button -- just the ability to parry with a well-timed press of the trigger. Parrying successfully stuns an enemy, but you'll most likely focus on pounding with offense rather than dilly-dallying on defense. Especially since healing is so readily available.
Health tends to only become an issue when your other party members fall in battle, something that generally only happens during boss fights. Opening the menu system doesn't pause the game and you have to search for your health item, select it, then wait on an animation to be healed. This tends to mean death in most boss fights.
And yet, despite many poor design choices, I couldn't help but enjoy the majority of my fight to unchain the moon. That may be because the quest doesn't last long enough for the combat to become too frustrating. I do have to credit tri-Ace for creating the brilliant imagery of the moon wrapped in chains. It lends itself well to a fantasy-RPG story and certainly had me at hello. And while there are many aspects of Infinite Undiscovery that rely on RPG clichés, the magic system is not tied in any way to the four elements. None of this "fire, water, air, earth" stuff that most RPG developers use as a crutch. That certainly is a refreshing change.
An RPG is only partly about combat. There's also the adventure element to consider. The towns in Infinite Undiscovery range from small, single-street hamlets to semi-large cities. There's plenty to wander around in outside of combat and lots of NPCs to speak with, though few ever offer any worthwhile dialogue. In town, you can use your connect action to take one other party member with you. Have the right person in tow when you speak to a villager and you may get a different response or even an item. And some characters have abilities that will help you in your endeavor to fetch items for lazy townsfolk. Rico, for example, can speak with animals. So having him by your side lets you speak to the rats, cats, and dogs of each town -- all of whom lead far more interesting lives than their aimless owners.
Capell has no magic capabilities. To make up for this, he has a flute. Well, a magic flute. Playing different tunes do different things (and even cost MP). The most useful little number reveals hidden items. This is where the "undiscovery" happens. But the flute is greatly underutilized and most of the other songs will rarely (if ever) get used. The flute plays a bit of a role in your exploration of both towns and the vast deserts and forests you'll wander in search of the next battle. Sad news: There are a finite number of things to find in this game.
Square-Enix has a reputation of making great-looking games with phenomenal CG story elements. Don't expect that from Infinite Undiscovery. The traditional CG work is largely absent and the visuals, while certainly passable on Xbox 360, won't drop your jaw. The stars, at least visually, are the nice special effects that fly about from magic and special attacks. This makes for a pretty and almost blinding light show in most battles but also leads to many instances where the framerate slows to a crawl. And as more characters and enemies clash on screen, things tend to get worse. Fortunately, you can play through this, as the majority of slowdown occurs during the animations for moves you've just executed.
The music is a highlight, as there really isn't a bad piece that ever plays in the background. While the score won't be remembered among the greats in Square-Enix history, it's still very good. The voice acting offers only English dubbing, but the majority of characters are at least average in their delivery. There are only a few that truly stink. Oddly, there are some cut-scenes without any dubbing, and these can sometimes occur sandwiched between two dubbed pieces. I'd guess about 80% of the cut-scenes are dubbed, with the rest mysteriously (and seemingly randomly) lacking voices.
You probably shouldn't judge a game by its title, but in all honestly, Infinite Undiscovery tells you everything you need to know. It only half makes sense -- and only when you squint your brain. That is the design approach in a nutshell. Some of the choices tri-Ace made don't make a whole lot of sense, but you can certainly play through some of the gaffes. This isn't a game marred with horrendous bugs or unplayable combat. And it's not boring. It's just misguided. The story is intriguing enough that RPG fanatics should at least give this a rental. Considering it's on the short side for a Square-Enix RPG, you shouldn't have trouble beating it in a week.
● Square Enix-Tecmo Takeover Detailed
Aug 29, 2008 at 7:30 AM - Andrew Burnes
Through a press release Square Enix has revealed full terms and conditions for their proposed Tecmo takeover, in addition to the reasons for their action:
Video games have been globally recognized as a major entertainment genre, and have now become an industry receiving considerable attention in terms of its market size and growth potential. In the meantime, the game industry in Japan is standing at a critical juncture whether it continues to be a center of the video game industry in the world, or not.
TECMO is a group of excellent creators with proven track-record in the global market, which is a precious human resource of Japan. We, however, cannot be optimistic about the future of this significant resource, given the current circumstances surrounding TECMO. We believe that TECMO will be able to make a great leap forward by joining the Square Enix Group, which will provide the group with further growth opportunities as well.
We are planning to position TECMO as a wholly-owned subsidiary of Square Enix Holdings maintaining TECMO’s current organization and brand as in the cases of Square Enix and Taito.
SQUARE ENIX CO., LTD. (the “Company”) announced today that the Company submitted to the board of directors of TECMO, LTD. (Securities Code: 9650, 1st Section of the TSE, “TECMO”) a proposal for basic conditions of acquisition of shares of common stock issued by TECMO (the “TECMO Shares”) through a friendly take over bit (the “TOB”) (the “Proposal”) in order to obtain consent to the TOB by the board of directors of TECMO.
The Proposal was made in order to acquire the TECMO Shares through the TOB, and is subject to obtaining consent by the board of directors of TECMO no later than September 4, 2008. Therefore, please be advised that the Company will NOT acquire the TECMO Shares through the TOB as planned in the Proposal in case that the Company receives no response from TECMO or fails to obtain consent by the board of directors of TECMO to the TOB, by the date. This Notice shall not be construed as solicitation for sales and/or purchase of the TECMO Shares.
1. The reason to submit the Proposal
Video games have been globally recognized as a major entertainment genre, and have now become an industry receiving considerable attention in terms of its market size and growth potential. In the meantime, the game industry in Japan is standing at a critical juncture whether it continues to be a center of the video game industry in the world, or not.
TECMO is a group of excellent creators with proven track-record in the global market, which is a precious human resource of Japan. We, however, cannot be optimistic about the future of this significant resource, given the current circumstances surrounding TECMO.
We believe that TECMO will be able to make a great leap forward by joining the Square Enix Group, which will provide the group with further growth opportunities as well.
We are planning to position TECMO as a wholly-owned subsidiary of Square Enix Holdings maintaining TECMO’s current organization and brand as in the cases of Square Enix and Taito.
2. Major Points of the Proposal
(1) TOB Price: 920 yen per share
Adding a premium of 30%+ to TECMO’s closing stock price as of August 28, 2008 (706 yen).
(2) Number of the TECMO Shares to acquire
Lower Limit: More than half of the outstanding TECMO Shares upon fully-diluted basis (including residual shares subject to stock options).
Upper Limit: None.
(3) Deadline to reply the Proposal: September 4 (Thursday)
If the Company should, by the deadline, receive no response from TECMO, or fail to obtain consent by the board of directors of TECMO to the TOB, the Company will withdraw the Proposal, and will NOT acquire the TECMO Shares through the TOB as planned in the Proposal.
● Square Enix takeover denied, Tecmo goes with Koei
Posted Sep 4th 2008 8:07PM by David Hinkle
It looks like the proposed takeover by Square Enix didn't take, as Tecmo has revealed they'll be merging with Koei. It turns out that this choice provides Tecmo with "a greater chance of boosting corporate value," whch basically means that merging with Koei wouldn't have the company swallowed whole by the huge Square Enix. They can still maintain some identity this way.
Square Enix isn't willing to call it quits, however. Their original buyout offer was for $206 million and they're planning to further investigate the terms of the Koei and Tecmo merger. We guess we'll be hearing more about this in the future.
● Square Enix Tokyo Game Show 2008 Lineup | Different Source
Square Enix has created their website for the upcoming Tokyo Game Show, and has uploaded their show lineup:
The Official Site for The Tokyo Game Show 2008!
[NDS] Snoopy DS: Let's Go Meet Snoopy and His Friends [Playable, Video]
[NDS] Cid and Chocobo's Mysterious Dungeon: Toki Wasure no Meikyuu DS+ [Playable, Video]
[NDS] Valkyrie Profile: Toga wo Seou Mono [Playable, Video]
[NDS] Pingu's WakuWaku Carnival [Playable, Video]
 The Last Remnant
[NDS] Chrono Trigger [Video]
[PSP] Dissidia Final Fantasy [Playable, Video]
[NDS] Chocobo and the Magic Picture Book: The Witch, the Girl, and the Five Heroes [Playable, Video]
[NDS] Dragon Quest IX: Defenders of the Starry Sky [Video]
[NDS] Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days [Playable, Video]
 Star Ocean 4: The Last Hope
[PSP] Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep [Playable, Video]
[PS3] Final Fantasy XIII [Video]
[PS3] Final Fantasy Versus XIII [Video]
[PSP] Final Fantasy Agito XIII [Video]
[PSP] The 3rd Birthday [Video]
 Infinite Undiscovery [Video]
[iPod] Song Summoner: The Unsung Heroes [Video]
[PS2/360/WIN] Final Fantasy XI [Video]
[ARC] Dragon Quest: Monster Battle Road [Playable]
[Blu-ray] Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children Complete [Video]
[MOBILE] Kingdom Hearts Coded [Video]
[MOBILE] Dragon Quest Battle Road Mobile [Playable]
[MOBILE] Itadaki Street Mobile [Playable]
[MOBILE] Final Fantasy IV The After: Tsuki no Kikan [Playable, Video]
● Square Enix Shares Tokyo Game Show Lineup
Final Fantasy XIII and Dragon Quest IX video-only.
by John Tanaka
September 8, 2008
If you were planning on flying down to Japan for October's Tokyo Game Show just to get some hands-on time with Final Fantasy XIII and Dragon Quest IX, you'd better see if your ticket is refundable. While those two titles will be at the show, both will be video-only.
Square Enix revealed this and more via a special TGS 2008 website it opened up today. The site lists the company's game lineup for this year's event.
Here's a look at what will be playable:
* Snoopy DS
* Chocobo Mysterious Dungeon DS+
* Valkyrie Profile DS
* Pingu's Wonderful Carnival
* Dissidia: Final Fantasy
* Chocobo and the Magic Picture Book
* Kingdom Heart 358/2 Days
* Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep
* Dragon Quest Monsters Battle Road
* Dragon Quest Battle Road
* Itadaki Street Mobile
* Final Fantasy IV the After
The video-only list reads as follows:
* Chrono Trigger
* Dragon Quest IX
* Final Fantasy XIII
* Final Fantasy Versus XIII
* Final Fantasy Agito XIII
* The 3rd Birthday
* Infinite Undiscovery
* Song Summoner
* Final Fantasy XI
* Final Fantasy VII Advent Children Complete
* Kingdom Hearts Coded
Outside of these, the site lists Last Remnant, Star Ocean 4, and Ellark (a recently announced mobile title), but does not state if they'll be video-only or playable. For the former two, it's possible that Square Enix is waiting for Microsoft to reveal its lineup, something that happened last year a few days prior to the show.
Square Enix will likely unveil new titles leading up to the October 9 start of the show, so expect some changes to the site in the coming weeks. The big question on everyone's mind is will those changes include playable FFXIII and DQIX.
● Square Enix Making Brainwave Controlled RPG
October 12, 2008
The Tokyo Game Show brought us some suprises this week. Here’s one of the final ’shockers’
NeuroSky, Inc., the leading manufacturer of “wearable” consumer bio-sensors, announced the unveiling of a brainwave-controlled video game at the Tokyo Game Show 2008 in Makuhari, Japan, on October 9 and 10. This exciting and entertaining demonstration is based on a new game concept being jointly developed with Square Enix Co., Ltd. (Square Enix).
The technical demonstration developed with Square Enix operates in conjunction with Windows PC machines and features the NeuroSky commercial headset, MindSet. The recently introduced MindSet is capable of interfacing to a variety of gaming platforms, including PC, console and mobile. It resembles a pair of headphones, with a single electrode contacting the user’s forehead while reading the player’s brainwave information, or EEG data. The headset registers the current state of relaxation or concentration of players, allowing them to perform a variety of actions within the game.
“At Square Enix, we are actively involved in developing a variety of gaming interfaces. I am thrilled to have this opportunity to work with NeuroSky, and apply their advanced sensor technology in this brain-wave controlled game demonstration,” commented Ryutaro Ichimura, Producer at Square Enix. “Although the main purpose of the demo is to test the results of our short development period, I hope it also unlocks new potentials in gaming.”
Stanley Yang, the CEO of NeuroSky, considers the joint development with Square Enix as further validation that brainwave-reading (EEG) technology is rapidly emerging onto the video game scene. “We are delighted to have built such an important partnership with a key industry player to have jointly developed a demonstration based on brainwave-reading technology. The market has been anticipating the introduction of this technology for many years, and the reality of controlling features of a video game through mental control is finally taking root.”
Well that’s just freakin’ cool now isn’t it. Take that, add a set of gloves with accelerometers and force feedback (a la the Wii) and a set of 3D goggles or VR glasses and we’ve got all the game we need at our finger tips. We’re still going to need buttons and joysticks for movement and such but for now it’s a big mental step forward...
● Square Enix President Suggests "Japan Alliance" For Gaming
Wed Oct 22 2008
During the Tokyo Game Show 2008, imperial hot Square Enix boss Yoichi Wada voiced concerns about how the West's gaming industry was surpassing Japan's. In an Nikkei Business article on the Japanese gaming "crisis", Wada further explains his position. The gaming industry in the West is growing faster, and developers and publishers have more capital than their Japanese counterparts.
To remain competitive, Wada says, "Therefore, we should consider some sort of 'Japan Alliance'." More medium to small-sized companies will need to realign — case in point, Tecmo and Koei. "Individuality is important," Wada adds. "It's not forcing everything into a single corporate brand. The ideal is a holding company under which several companies and brands can hang." Though, who would head up this alliance? Square Enix? Wada? He did come up with the idea...
● Square Enix Still Popular In Japan
October 25, 2008
Despite all the negative press that Square Enix have been getting from fans on Western Shores, Japanese gamers don't really seem anywhere near as concerned. Famitsu published a list of Japan's most anticipated games and Square Enix had a staggering 9 games from the list which had 15 titles.
What's even more interesting is that two of the titles are appearing on the 360 (Star Ocean 4 and The Last Remnant), but even though the Xbox 360 still doesn't hold much weight in Japan, it seems to be peaking interest finally.
1. Final Fantasy XIII (PS3, Square Enix)
2. Dragon Quest IX (NDS, Square Enix)
3. Biohazard 5 / Resident Evil 5 (PS3, Capcom)
4. Dragon Quest VI (NDS, Square Enix)
5. Monster Hunter 3 (Wii, Capcom)
6. Chrono Trigger (NDS, Square Enix)
7. The Last Remnant (PS3, Square Enix)
8. Final Fantasy Versus XIII (PS3, Square Enix)
9. Animal Forest (Wii, Nintendo)
10. Dissidia Final Fantasy (PSP, Square Enix)
11. Star Ocean: The Last Hope (X360, Square Enix)
12. Ryuga Gotoku 3 [Yakuza 3] (PS3, Sega)
13. Layton Kyouju to Saigo no Jikan Ryukou (NDS, Level 5)
14. The Last Remnant (X360, Square Enix)
15. White Knight Chronicles: Inishie no Kodou (PS3, Sony)
● Square Enix unveils iPhone title Crystal Defenders
By Frank Caron | Published: October 30, 2008 - 03:13PM CT
For the vast majority of iPhone games, there really isn't much of a hype train prior to release. It's rare that we hear about any iPhone games before they're out. EA's titles, including Spore Origins, would be one example of the contrary. Of course, this is liable to change as higher-profile developers enter the mix, and such is the case with Crystal Defenders, a brand new iPhone game from Square-Enix.
Siliconera caught wind of the new title via popular Japanese gaming magazine Famitsu. Technically, the new iPhone title was originally released as a series of mobile phone games under the moniker Crystal Guardians, which took the famed job classes from Final Fantasy Tactics Advance 2 and used it for a tower defense-style game. All of those games and their 300 plus levels are being rolled into one iPhone game. The game is only scheduled for release in Japan, but the name has been trademarked in North America as well.
The iPhone is an exciting platform for gaming. It's not exactly open-source, but there is enough leeway on the platform for almost anyone to make and release a game. With high-profile developers like EA and Square-Enix jumping on board, the platform will only mature faster: it's an exciting time for mobile gaming.
● Which Square Enix Games Have Been Selling This Year
Posted by Brian Ashcraft at 7:30 PM on November 10, 2008
Square Enix has released its first half results for the financial year ending March 31, 2009. Exciting! While net sales are down, net income is up — in large part due to the strong sales of the DS Dragon Quest V remake and a successful media mix campaign. The company's financial briefing has games sales data for Japan, North America and Europe. The biggest seller is the above mentioned Dragon Quest V, selling 1.150 million copies in Japan alone. The rest of Square Enix's worldwide sales figures for the period dated April 1, 2008 to September 30, 2008:
Crisis Core - Final Fantasy VII - (DS): 620,000
Final Fantasy IV (PSP): 440,000
Infinite Undiscovery (Xbox 360): 410,000
Final Fantasy Tactics A2 (DS): 320,000
Dragon Quest IV (DS): 260,000
The World Ends With You (DS): 160,000
Dragon Quest Swords (Wii): 100,000
Chocobo's Dungeon (Wii): 70,000
Sigma Harmonics (DS): 70,000
Nanashi no Game (DS): 60,000
Front Mission 2089 (DS): 50,000
● Square Enix Releases Final Fantasy VII... Snowboarding?!
Posted by Brian Ashcraft at 9:00 PM on November 10, 2008
Today Japanese mobile phone games are a little better, because today Square Enix is releasing Final Fantasy VII: Snowboarding. Priced at ¥315 ($4.80), the game is available on carrier DoCoMo's FOMA 703i/902i series handsets. The mini-game has three levels of difficulty and one level of awesome. Screw that rumoured FFVII PS3 remake, Square Enix needs to put this snowboarding on the Nintendo DS and pronto! Screens of Cloud snowboarding with balloons on the link. No, really. It's not April First. We already checked several times.
● Square Enix Announces Q1 2009 Lineup Featuring Xbox 360, DS and PSP
Star Ocean, Dragon Quest and Valkyrie Profile all kicking off a new year.
By Andrew Joy 11/11/2008 14:14:15 PST
Despite the praise it receives as a developer of some high quality role-playing games, Square Enix hasn’t exactly established itself as a master of surprises in recent years, instead delivering a stable of sequels from fan-favorite franchises with only a few experiments. Of course, you don’t have to take my word for it – Square Enix today released their schedule for the first quarter of 2009, and there are far from being any new announcements (unless you count a confirmation of North American release for the latest Valkyrie Profile). While the upcoming installments of Final Fantasy didn’t make the list, the assortment of usual suspects does include Star Ocean: Second Evolution (for PlayStation Portable), Star Ocean: The Last Hope (for Xbox 360), Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride and Valkyrie Profile: Covenant of the Plume (both for Nintendo DS). For more information (or release dates) on each of these titles, be sure to check out the official press release below:
LOS ANGELES (November 11, 2008) &mdash Square Enix, Inc., the publisher of Square Enix® interactive entertainment products in North America, announced an updated lineup for the first quarter of 2009 today.
In addition to the previously announced STAR OCEAN®: Second Evolution™ for the PSP® (PlayStation®Portable) system and STAR OCEAN: THE LAST HOPE™ for the Xbox 360® video game and entertainment system from Microsoft, Square Enix revealed that both the remade classic, DRAGON QUEST® V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride™, and the latest entry in the VALKYRIE PROFILE® series, VALKYRIE PROFILE: Covenant of the Plume™, will be primed and ready for Nintendo DS™ owners come 2009.
The countdown begins today for the first offerings of an exciting new year!
STAR OCEAN: Second Evolution
Developer: SQUARE ENIX CO., LTD.
Publisher: Square Enix, Inc.
Platform: PSP system
ESRB: T (Teen)
Ship Date: January 6, 2009
Following the exploits of humankind’s journey across the stars, the STAR OCEAN saga comes to life in the completely remastered STAR OCEAN: Second Evolution, exclusively for the PSP system. Now with a revised game engine, an improved battle system and fully voiced, all-new animated scenes displayed in 16:9 widescreen, players can experience their journey through the rich STAR OCEAN universe like never before.
The official website can be found at http://na.square-enix.com/starocean/.
DRAGON QUEST V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride
Scenario & Game Design: Yuji Horii
Character Design: Akira Toriyama
Music Composer: Koichi Sugiyama
Publisher: Square Enix, Inc.
Platform: Nintendo DS
ESRB: E10+ (Everyone 10 and older)
Ship Date: February 17, 2009
Never before released in North America, this entry in the Zenithia Trilogy follows a journey that transcends three generations. Travel alongside your father on his quest to see the world, grow to set forth on a journey of your own and face life-altering decisions as you continue your family’s legacy. DRAGON QUEST V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride makes its way to Nintendo DS on February 17, 2009.
The official website can be found at http://na.square-enix.com/zenithia/.
STAR OCEAN: THE LAST HOPE
Developer: tri-Ace Inc.
Publisher: Square Enix, Inc.
Platform: Xbox 360
ESRB: Not Yet Rated
Ship Date: March 3, 2009
STAR OCEAN: THE LAST HOPE is the latest entry in the futuristic STAR OCEAN series of RPGs. Science fiction and fantasy meld in this long-awaited continuation of the celebrated franchise from developer tri-Ace Inc.
The official website can be found at http://na.square-enix.com/starocean/.
VALKYRIE PROFILE: Covenant of the Plume
Developer: tri-Ace Inc.
Publisher: Square Enix, Inc.
Platform: Nintendo DS
ESRB: Not Yet Rated
Ship Date: March 17, 2009
Destiny by sinner sought. Tragedy by power wrought. The origins of a cult classic are revealed in VALKYRIE PROFILE: Covenant of the Plume, the third entry in the critically acclaimed VALKYRIE PROFILE series. Development studio tri-Ace returns to craft a gameplay experience that boasts a captivating storyline with ties to Norse mythology and a familiar yet refreshing battle system enhanced with deeper strategic elements. VALKYRIE PROFILE: Covenant of the Plume marks the debut of the series on Nintendo DS with its arrival on March 17, 2009.
The official website can be found at http://na.square-enix.com/vpcp/.
● Square Enix Resurrects Bahamut RPG on Nintendo DS
November 15, 2008
Update - The official trailer has now been released and added to the story below, plus here are some details translated by duckroll of NeoGAF:
The game structure is probably going to be like Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings. It certainly sounds that way. The game will feature over 130 missions, and is entirely mission-based. You control a single character out of seven possible heroes, and in the multi-player mode up to four players can tackle a mission together as different characters. There are main story missions as well as free missions that are optional [and] it looks like you can play any mission you've already unlocked.
Original Story - Square Enix has confirmed what many had already presumed - Blood of Bahamut is indeed a new RPG set to hit the DS exclusively in 2009, with the game's logo and name hinting towards a potential link between this new title and the Japan-only release Bahamut Lagoon from the SNES. There will be two lead protagonists in the new DS outing, one called 'Ibuki' and the other 'Yui'. Both characters live in a fortified city built on the back of a giant who sometimes wakes up, normally during enemy attacks. This leads to the heroes having to fight and defend their city with their lives. Blood of Bahamut will feature a co-operative multiplayer mode that caters for up to four players using local wireless, as opposed to online Wi-Fi. This comes as somewhat of a disappointment for fans seeing Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Echoes of Time's splendid-looking online multiplayer mode, however details are not currently set in stone, with the game set to be presented at the Jump Festa expo that takes place in Japan at the end of this year.
A large scan from the new edition of Shonen Jump magazine can also be seen below, giving a brief glimpse at the game:
Elsewhere in the world of Square Enix, it has been revealed that the company has released a full remake of Hanjuku Hero, the original 1988 NES classic RPG that sadly never made it to the West. The closest the Western world has ever been to receiving a Hanjuku Hero game is with the DS iteration, know here as 'Egg Monster Hero', which actually had an English demo version made to show it off at the first E3 the DS was shown off at. For reasons unknown it was dropped for release, despite selling a healthy 100,000 units in Japan. However, who knows, perhaps this mobile phone remake of the first game, which is even being supervised by the original staff (Takashi Tokita, Kazuhiko Aoki and Nobuo Uematsu), will do what Front Mission 2089: Border of Madness did, and eventually leap from mobile format to DS. Or it might even take the path that many believe Final Fantasy IV: The After will be taking - a WiiWare release in the Western world.
But would you like to see Ganso Hanjuku Hero, complete with its complete overhaul of the gameplay system, graphics and interface, as well as its newly re-balanced combat? What a better way to celebrate the series' 20th anniversary than having the very first game finally released in the West! For now, though, the game is only available on DoCoMo imode phones in Japan for the ridiculously cheap cost of just 525yen (roughly £3.60!).
● Square Enix Venturing Into The US
November 17, 2008
It's been talked about for a while, but it looks like Square Enix are finally putting their money where their mouth is. Earlier this month it was announced that Square Enix would be publishing Supreme Commander 2 and now they've gone one step further by building a development studio stateside.
Gamasutra has reported that they're planning to set up a studio in Los Angeles with the goal of developing new Western-centric IPs and it looks like quite an aggressive move for a company who has been trying to consolidate their finances in recent years.
Will it work? Time will tell.
● The Last Remnant Review
Technical flaws mar, but don't totally destroy, this long and fascinating role-playing game.
By: Kevin VanOrd
Posted Nov 21, 2008 7:31 pm PT
GameSpot Score: 6.5
Pros: A long, epic tale in a fascinating new fantasy world • Fun, uniquely strategic battle system • Gorgeous musical score • Beautiful art design
Cons: Abysmal frame-rate problems • Awful texture pop-in • Combat mechanics can be obtuse • Losing a long battle means having to repeat huge chunks of gameplay
When you first begin The Last Remnant, you'll participate in a battle within moments of inserting the game disc, and chances are that you'll be struck by a glaring issue: The frame rate is awful, and the texture pop-in is shockingly bad. It's an issue you'll never quite get used to, considering that it mars the entirety of the experience. What a shame, because this long and fascinating Japanese role-playing game has a way of getting under your skin. It features a rich, original fantasy world, obviously crafted with great care and artistry, and it tells a strong, politically charged tale that will keep you glued to the screen. Although somewhat flawed, the battle system is fun to play around with, particularly in the second half when enormous armies go head to head in some dramatic, bloody showdowns. Had developer Square Enix not rushed an unfinished product to shelves, The Last Remnant could have been an instant classic. But even if the game isn't what it should have been, RPG fans should take this journey in spite of the game's technical defects.
Rush is a pretty man in a pretty world.
Rush Sykes is the prototypical RPG hero, innocently sulky but totally devoted to his sweet sister Irina. When Irina is kidnapped, Rush hurries to liberate her, but unsurprisingly, it's not the most straightforward of rescues. Rather, Rush finds himself caught in a political struggle centered around powerful magical artifacts called remnants. These objects are both the center of society as well as a great curiosity, heavily researched at the Academy by hosts of scientists, including Rush's own parents. What starts as an upheaval between the pro- and anti-remnant factions explodes into an all-out war when a formidable hulk of a man calling himself the Conqueror appears, apparently able to control any remnant, no matter how large or potent. Political forces clash and hidden powers are unleashed, and though a tenuous peace is eventually achieved, it isn't long before conflict reawakens. The story is epic, even if Rush himself isn't the most interesting leading man. Fortunately, his supporting cast is excellent; the noble David is a charmingly haughty presence, and David's guard Emma makes a strong impression, thanks to some excellent, emphatic voice acting.
Whereas other RPGs tend to center on their protagonist, The Last Remnant eventually focuses on the Conqueror and his secrets. He's a solemn, momentous presence who makes an impact each time he appears, and it's easy to believe that this man may actually be capable of controlling the universe. But though it will take you a good 60 hours or more to unravel all of his secrets, the journey is entertaining, given that The Last Remnant's distinctive fantasy world is so beautifully constructed. Each city you visit is different from the last, yet the overall vision is cohesive, so nothing feels out of place. Landmarks such as the towering, glowing remnant in Elysion are not soon forgotten, and numerous side quests will have you exploring scorching deserts, caves of bubbling lava, and even the land of the dead. Most of these locales are lovely and beautifully lit, the handiwork of a talented team of artists.
It's downright depressing that this inner beauty is so heavily diminished by a totally broken technical framework. The Unreal 3 engine powers The Last Remnant's visuals, but it isn't clear whether the technology wasn't a good fit for the game, or whether the development team simply wasn't capable of using it to manifest its vision. Either way you look at it, the visuals are technically broken, a total embarrassment that intrudes on every single aspect of the gameplay. The frame rate is awful, often pausing for a second or two at a time, and slowing to a crawl anytime anything of significance happens on the screen. This isn't just an annoyance, but a huge detractor to the pace of battles and exploration, which are further broken up by inexplicably long loading times. Cities are divided into tiny areas, and moving from one to the next leads to loading screens that jolt you back to reality every few minutes. Furthermore, though many Unreal 3-powered games suffer from some texture pop-in, you've never seen it to this extent. It can take almost 10 seconds for some textures to load, and that includes everything from ground textures, to character faces, to walls. These drawbacks are somewhat alleviated if you install the game to your hard drive, but it isn't a big enough difference to justify using up such a huge amount of drive space. Either way, we shouldn't have to choose either of these evils.
Once you get a lot of units in the mix, battles are fun and complex.
As bad as these issues are, the game lurking beneath them is outstanding in a variety of ways, starting with the battle system--though you may not see its intricacies at first. Rather than controlling party members during combat, you recruit leaders and soldiers, and group them together into unions of up to five members each. Although each unit has his or her own stats, equipment, and arts (the game's versions of spells and combat skills), you issue union-wide, turn-based commands on the field. Whereas in most RPGs you choose very specific actions, such as casting a particular spell or using a particular item, in The Last Remnant you choose broader commands. These may include healing unions that need it; performing mystic arts (while you can see which arts the units will use, you can't micromanage them on a unit-by-unit basis); or summoning Rush's awe-inspiring, beautifully designed cyclops to assist in battle.
Early in the game, when you don't have a whole lot of unions under your command, you may bemoan the lack of micromanagement that this system entails. The fundamentals are a little confusing too, given that there doesn't always seem to be rhyme or reason to the process that decides which abilities are available to you, and when. Later on, however, you'll have a lot more units under your command, and you'll discover how elaborate battles can become. As units use certain arts, they level up those arts and learn newer ones, all the while improving stats--though it's unclear how some of those stats affect the outcome of your actions. (Units possess such attributes as gluttony; what does that do, anyway?) Thus, grouping units into sensible unions is tantamount, as is grouping them into an appropriate formation. You can get through many standard battles without putting too much thought into these aspects, if you take a lot of side quests and grind your way to power. However, even with a lot of grinding, the biggest battles require care, both before and during combat. As you play, you'll gain a better grasp of your enemies' weaknesses, the pros and cons of each formation, and the best way to develop your individual units through battle commands.
Once you get to the second disc of the Last Remnant's dual DVDs, you'll experience some large, impressive-looking battles. They can also be really challenging, so don't expect to rush to a victory, particularly when dozens of unions are involved. Individual turns can take a while to complete, but you shouldn't just sit back and let them play themselves. The game will throw quick-time events at you that require a rapid button press; performing it correctly may initiate a counterattack, or will improve your units' position in the turn order. This mechanic is nothing new, but it works fine here, though the frame-rate problems are a hindrance because they often disrupt the flow and timing of the event.
Quick-time events will keep you on your toes.
These colossal battles are the highlight of the game, not just because they are impressively dramatic, but also because you can see the effects of your union makeup, formations, and in-battle decisions more clearly than in the smaller ones. A morale bar across the top of the screen adjusts during the constant tug of war, based on whether you are attacking an enemy's flank or rear, what status effects are active, and a number of other factors. Location on the battlefield, attack range, and potency of healing items and arts are among the many other dynamics you'll need to consider as you plan out your turn. This thoughtful preparation makes it all the more heartbreaking when you lose a long, well-planned battle. A significant number of late-game skirmishes take a long time to complete, often stringing several tough encounters together without letting you save your game in between. Considering that formations and union setup can require a bit of trial and error, you might lose an hour of progress the first few times you attempt these colossal battles. Thankfully, the combat is fun and addictive, but given the length of these multipart clashes, there is no legitimate reason not to allow saving between stages. Otherwise, you can save almost anywhere, and the ability to skip cutscenes should you need to replay a section is also a welcome convenience.
Outside of combat, a little scavenger named Mr. Diggs will excavate various raw materials that you encounter in dungeons. Along with the monster parts that you forage, these items can be used to upgrade your equipment or create new weapons and accessories. There's not much to the process, and you can customize only Rush's equipment; other units take care of things on their own, using the items you let them keep in the postbattle screen to upgrade their stuff, or sometimes even going so far as to ask if you will give them an inventory item. Considering that characters develop based on the attacks they perform, there is a lot of flexibility--and intangibility--to party progression. As a result, there is a certain amount of replay value here, if only to see how differently battles can play out if you decide to make Rush concentrate solely on mystic arts, or see what happens when the four-armed Torgal focuses on combat skills.
Pictures of battles look good, because the textures are all there and the game isn't moving.
The Last Remnant sounds mostly spectacular. The voice acting isn't always excellent, though it's hard to fault the actors when they're forced to deliver some of the game's awkward dialogue and odd bits of slang. Everything else is of top quality, particularly the excellent symphonic soundtrack. Even after hundreds and hundreds of encounters, the battle music is always rousing, and the triumphant fanfare after every conflict rivals the best of the genre. Every town has its own theme music, and the melodies are terrific in their own right and flawlessly match the city's unique visual design as well.
You may be inclined to give up on The Last Remnant when you first witness its major graphical flaws, but if you can grow to forgive them, you'll find a fun adventure that will draw you into its finely crafted universe in spite of it all. How unfortunate that such a renowned RPG developer has buried a potential classic under a humiliating technical fiasco.
● Square Enix loves PS3 & Xbox 360 equally - Multi-platform future
Nov 22, 2008
This generation has seen the number of games exclusive to one console take a nosedive. The PS3, Xbox 360, and Wii obviously still have their first party exclusives, and they will continue until we have one universal console (fingers crossed). But third party exclusives are all but over.
Anyone who hasn’t yet been convinced that the vast majority of games in the future will be multi-platform need only to listen to what Square Enix, one of the biggest and most successful Japanese developers, has to say about the subject. A Playstation exclusive developer for many years, this generation has seen the company change its focus markedly.
Both Infinite Undiscovery and Star Ocean: The Last Hope are Square Enix exclusives for the Xbox 360. The former of which has been partially credited with changing the fortunes of the Microsoft console in Japan. The Last Remnant is a multi-platform title, being released on the Xbox 360 this week before PS3 and PC versions follow.
But the biggest coup came in July when Microsoft used the E3 conference to announce that PS3 exclusive Final Fantasy XIII was coming to the Xbox 360. And who can blame Square Enix for wanting to squeeze as many sales out of each carefully constructed game as possible by releasing it on more than one console.
Hiroshi Takai, director of The Last Remnant, recently spoke to VideoGamer and clearly reinforced Square Enix’ commitment to becoming a true multi-platform developer in the future. He said:
If there’s something that a particular platform can do that the game really needs to take advantage of then it may end up being an exclusive title, but otherwise the producers or the development teams don’t have a particular favorite platform, so there isn’t really anything to stop us from just going multi-platform in the future.
The 360 is an easy platform to make games for. The dev environment and the dev kit and everything they’ve released, those were really dev friendly, so it was quite a lot of fun to work on the 360 version from a development point of view.
A few things about this console generation has forced the situation we have at the moment, with most games developers choosing to release big games on more than one console.
First is the fact that all three home consoles can rightly be regarded as successes in their own right, with both the PS3 and Xbox 360 having enough of a consumer base to warrant support. Then there is the cost of developing, distributing, and selling a state-of-the-art videogame these days, which is too much money to risk limiting your market to just one console.
Exclusives will still be with us for a while, especially in the form of the timed exclusive that Microsoft seems to be big fans of at the moment. But the future is definitely multi-platform, and if that’s the case then why not just bite the bullet and collaborate on one universal console to rule them all?
● Square Enix Is Neutral, Doesn't Have A "Favorite Console" | Different Source
Despite all evidence to the contrary, Square-Enix says they have no personal preference when it comes to consoles. Sometimes, it just takes a little longer to get acquainted with one (in this case, the PlayStation 3).
According to Videogamer.com, Square-Enix's Hiroshi Takai reinforced the company's commitment to develop games on multiple platforms, although he did add that creating a game on the Xbox 360 was "easy" and the team "had quite a lot of fun with it." As most of you know, The Last Remnant will first appear on the 360 and then go to the PS3 at a later date. Combine this with the fact that Infinite Undiscovery has already been a 360 exclusive, and that the upcoming Star Ocean: The Last Hope is supposed to be exclusive to Microsoft's console...and it's tough to say the once-loyal PlayStation developer hasn't gravitated in another direction this generation. Remnant, which releases this week on the 360 but still has an unknown PS3 date, is a good example of said gravitation, but Square-Enix maintains their neutrality. Said Takai:
"If there's something that a particular platform can do that the game really needs to take advantage of then it may end up being an exclusive title, but otherwise the producers or the development teams don't have a particular favourite platform, so there isn't really anything to stop us from just going multiplatform in the future."
So there you have it. The only question we have is this- what can the 360 do that the PS3 can't when it comes to the new Star Ocean? The previous quote implies they would only go exclusive if one platform has the edge over another for a particular project, so... Because we get the sneaking suspicion that the 360 has nothing over the PS3 when it comes to making that game; how different is it from something like Final Fantasy Versus XIII, which is a PS3 exclusive? Hmm...
● Square Enix LA Studio Making Downloadable Games
by Blake Ellison Nov 22, 2008 11:41am CST
The new Los Angeles studio of Japanese publisher Square Enix will start by focusing its efforts on downloadable games, according to Square Enix US president John Yamamoto.
"We started the in-house development team a couple of months ago and we're starting with downloadable content because the team is still small," Yamamoto told GamesIndustry. "All formats--Xbox Live, WiiWare, PlayStation Network--are all viable formats for us," he added.
The Los Angeles development team is very small, with "a skeleton crew of only three members." The publisher reportedly wants to boost that team up to 30 inside the next year.
Square Enix's newest studio will also be charged with researching middleware following the commercial and critical success of The Last Remnant, which runs on Epic's Unreal Engine.
"Western middleware is much more advanced compared to Japanese middleware. So we will study and feed back information to Square Enix in Japan," Yamamoto explained.
Yamamoto also commented on Square's westward expansion in the wake of a deal to publish Gas Powered Games' Supreme Commander 2. "We're not only working with Gas Powered Games, we're also contacting multiple studios in England, other European countries, and the US and Canada. We're talking with other studios right now," he said.
● SQUARE ENIX CONFIRMS VALKYRIE PROFILE - NEW DETAILS EMERGE
Nov 24, 2008
Square Enix today confirmed that Valkyrie Profile: Covenant of the Plume will be released across PAL territories in Spring 2009. Time for some more details on the game as well.
Valkyrie Profile: Covenant of the Plume is the next installment in this unique series of titles created by leading RPG developer tri-Ace. Brought for the first time to the Nintendo DS, Valkyrie Profile: Covenant of the Plume follows the story of the young soldier Wylfred, who seeks retaliation against the valkyries since Lenneth took his father's life. Now he waits for an opportunity to strike back just as the future of Midgard is about to be decided in battle once again.
Valkyrie Profile: Covenant of the Plume pushes the limits of the Nintendo DS to its limits in terms of production and game-play whilst delivering an amazing strategic RPG gaming experience. With an innovative tactical battle system, multiple game chapters and game endings, the future of Wylfred and Midgard is truly in the hands of the player
The protagonist is a young soldier, Wylfred, who harbours a hatred for the Valkyries, especially Lenneth Valkyrie, who used his father as an Einharjar when he was ten years old. To seek revenge against the gods, he accepted power from Hel, the Queen of Niflheim, in the form of a black magic feather. In Midgard, however, the two princes of the Kingdom of Artolia are enthralled in a battle for succession to the throne, with neighboring nations Villnore and Crell Monferaigne monitoring the situation, ready to strike at a moment's notice.
* The Feather of Goddess – This is a vital key to how the story progresses and immensely powerful in battle situations - A hugely powerful artefact that causes mass effects to not only battles but the story line also
* Multi-story system – An in-depth mult-story system in defining chapters - The outcome and direction of the story can change dramatically by your individual actions and choices in gamplay and in battle!
* Battle system – Further evolution of the battle system in the VP series! The battle system is now seen via the quarter view, allowing more in-depth attacks and combos combined with dynamic finishing moves and dazzling spells!
* Mutual Assistance system – This system allows allied characters to spontaneously join the battle, enabling you to surround your enemies and attack with maximum effect!
* Active Formation – Upon entering battle the "Active Formation" is formed allowing valuable bonuses for executed set-up formations.
* Audio / Visual experience. – Breath taking graphics and effects that push the technical limits of the DS. Epic cinematic cut scenes and events that create and set the scene and direction of the gameplay and story line.
● Square Enix: 3 new expansions for Final Fantasy XI
Nov 25, 2008
News by Oli Welsh
Square Enix has announced that it's going to be supporting Final Fantasy XI, the massively multiplayer edition in its classic RPG series, with three new expansions.
The expansions will be sold online through a digital distribution service, starting in spring 2009 and "every few months thereafter". Pricing hasn't been confirmed yet.
They've been created by Square veteran Masato Kato, who worked as director and scenario writer on the likes of Chrono Trigger, Xenogears and the original release of FFXI.
The first expansion will be called A Crystalline Prophecy - Ode of Life Bestowing, in which players will "unravel the mysteries" of a giant primordial crystal hanging in the skies above the world.
After that will come A Moogle Kupo d'Etat - Evil in Small Doses. "It all started with an innocent drop of rainwater and a rickety, ramshackle Mog House desperately in need of repairs," says the press release. "Little did anyone suspect that this was only the beginning of a harrowing nightmare unheard of in the annals of moogle-kind."
Finally there's A Shantotto Ascension - The Legend Torn, Her Empire Born, about a mad professor who declares herself ruler of her own empire.
According to Square Enix, Final Fantasy XI still has over half a million active users, which is none too shabby for a six-year-old MMO. It's available for PS2 and Xbox 360 as well as PC.
● Square Enix Feeling Positive About Xbox 360 In Japan
Strong online service and increasing appeal of overseas titles behind jump, producer Shinji Hashimoto says.
By Kat Bailey, 11/26/2008
You might have heard that things are no longer all gloom and doom for the Xbox 360 here in Japan. And fresh off strategically positioning their booth right next to Microsoft's at the Tokyo Game Show, it seems that Square Enix is inclined to agree.
In an Edge Online article analyzing the Xbox 360's resurgence in Japan, Square Enix's Shinji Hashimoto (who has served as a producer on such titles as Crisis Core, Kingdom Hearts 2, and Final Fantasy VIII, among many others) said he expected the Xbox 360 to continue grabbing Japanese market share over the coming months.
"There is a growing interest in Xbox 360 among Japanese users, due to the release of familiar titles, the increasing appeal of overseas titles, and the excellent reputation of the Xbox 360's network services," Hashimoto said.
Hashimoto said Square Enix hopes to leverage the Xbox 360's popularity in America as well as its growing presence in Japan to sell games like Star Ocean 4, Last Remnant and Infinite Undiscovery, all of which were developed with the "global market in mind." Square Enix also hopes that Final Fantasy 13 on the Xbox 360 will do much to help the platform shake its reputation for being friendly to shooters only.
It remains to be seen whether the PlayStation 3 is doomed to the bottom of the Japanese sales charts for the long term, but it does seem clear that the Xbox 360 has at least managed to capture the attention of the average Japanese gamer. Now they just have to keep it.
● Critical Reception: Square Enix's Chrono Trigger
Nov 26, 2008
This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to Square Enix's Nintendo DS remake of Chrono Trigger, which reviews describe as "the ultimate edition of a true classic."
Originally released for the 16-bit Super NES in 1995, Chrono Trigger stood out as one of the best titles in the console's well-regarded RPG lineup. Boasting an intriguing time-travel mechanic and multiple endings, Chrono Trigger remains a cherished classic among many fans of the genre.
Chrono Trigger's only universally acknowledged weakness is one of availability. The Super NES original remains in such high demand that aftermarket prices are prohibitively high, and though the later PlayStation rerelease (as part of the Final Fantasy Chronicles compilation) is more reasonably priced, the port quality fell far below expectations.
An enhanced Nintendo DS port of Chrono Trigger debuts in North America this week to a Metacritic-averaged score of 93 out of 100.
Games Radar's Henry Gilbert scores Chrono Trigger at 10 out of 10. "[Chrono Trigger] took the Super NES as far as it could go, technically speaking, and it has had only one other release since, an admittedly half-baked port to the PSOne," he begins. "But now this not-so-forgotten masterpiece, Chrono Trigger, gets a deserving revival on the DS."
Gilbert claims that Chrono Trigger remains a compelling experience, despite the age of the source material. "The battle system keeps everything fast-paced, with encounters moving seamlessly from exploration to fighting without going to a different screen," he praises. "CT also improves the typical magic system of 16-bit RPGs, with each character having a unique set of spells, or 'techs.' As each character’s skills grow, they become very specialized, and if some team members are used enough in the same party they can gain duo attacks or especially devastating techniques involving the whole party."
The storyline also holds up well, according to Gilbert. "CT’s story is rather diverse and complex, even if a ragtag group of young adults (including the boy next door and a spunky princess) saving the world from the ultimate destroyer doesn't look novel on paper," he writes. "However, the game makes this tired premise new with masterful storytelling and a great translation."
"If you've never played Chrono Trigger, you owe it to yourself to finally give this gaming touchstone a whirl," Gilbert recommends. "And if you have played it before, you can play it again, for no other reason than to see how new it all still feels. We would normally hesitate to give any rerelease such a high score, but this is the ultimate edition of a true classic."
Andrew Pfister at 1UP.com gives Chrono Trigger a grade of A, recalling the game as "one of Square's most beloved RPGs."
Pfister notes disappointment with the previously released PlayStation port, but finds that the DS edition lives up to expectations. "The eventual Chrono Trigger PlayStation rerelease (and other...less savory methods of playing) rolled around, but those experiences were decidedly different -- inferior -- to the real thing," he explains.
"Chrono Trigger for the DS is different, too -- but in a superior way," Pfister continues. "Most of it's familiar: the character designs, the distinct and colorful backdrops of each era, the epic soundtrack, the teamwork-based Tech system -- all of the original fun and charm of the original Super NES Chrono Trigger is preserved, with certain aspects improved."
Pfister finds that many of these improvements boost the experience with added convenience and clarity. "The localization team polished up the script a bit -- with new names for items and techs and more dramatic readings of the more serious moments," he writes. "The touch-screen functions are convenient but ultimately inessential, simply because the game wasn't made with that aspect in mind. What's nice is that the dual-screen setup creates more breathing room in the battlefield for text boxes and spell effects, while it also improves inventory and party management."
"This remake also includes two new dungeon areas -- though it's always nice to have more content, these also seem inessential," Pfister warns. "It's cool to see the Reptites form their own village, but their fetch quests aren't very relevant to the main characters' mission."
Despite noting disappointment with its new content, Pfister finds the Nintendo DS remake of Chrono Trigger succeeds as a definitive, widely available version of a Super NES classic. "For fans, the reason to pick up Chrono Trigger is simply because it's available, intact, and enhanced," he concludes. "For newcomers, it's because the game has easily withstood the test of time."
Over at GameSpot, Lark Anderson rates Chrono Trigger at 8.5 out of 10. "The Nintendo DS rerelease includes new areas to explore, an all-new ending that better ties into its sequel, Chrono Cross, and all of the additions of its PS1 predecessor (minus loading issues), making it the definitive edition of Chrono Trigger," he says.
Anderson finds that despite the 13-year gap between the original release and the Nintendo DS remake, Chrono Trigger's storyline remains entertaining throughout. "From beginning to ending (all 14 of them!)," he writes, "Chrono Trigger offers a deeply satisfying combination of storytelling and character development that few games have managed to top, and that even the most stone-hearted will find emotionally stirring."
The time-travel elements provide ample narrative depth, according to Anderson. "Any decision you make can have world-changing--and often not immediately noticeable--effects on the future," he explains. "For example, your every deed at the Millennial Fair in the very beginning of the game may potentially come back to haunt you not long afterward. This cause-and-effect gameplay forces you to consider the short- and long-term consequences of your actions, and is also used to great effect in completing side quests."
"Chrono Trigger is a fantastic synthesis of excellent storytelling, game design, music, and gameplay that has withstood the test of time and should be considered required playing for any fan of role-playing games," Anderson notes in conclusion. "Though its extra content is hit or miss and it's essentially a direct port of a game released 13 years ago, the DS version is easily the definitive edition of this masterpiece, regardless of whether Chrono Trigger is one of those games you've only ever heard of before or you're a dedicated fan who has played through it dozens of times."
● Square Enix Reveals Four Last Remnant DLC Packs
Four DLC packs coming in December, and would you believe that three will be free?
By Kris Pigna, 11/26/2008
Square Enix has quite a bit more content in store for their latest RPG, The Last Remnant, with four downloadable packs planned for release in December. Shockingly, three of them will actually be free of charge. Yes, free DLC. What wonders never cease?
The first two packs, both free, will hit on December 1, with the third pack (which will cost 100 Microsoft Points) following on December 15, and the last (free) pack on December 22. There is one small catch, though -- all these dates are for Xbox Live Gold members only, as Silver members will have to wait a week later to download each release (December 8 for the first two, 15 for the third, and 29 for the last). Details for all four DLC releases follow:
Challenge Pack 1: "Purgatory's Sins" -- Level up your game with this pack of ultra-challenging guild tasks. Adequate game progression is necessary.
"The Key of Ancient Ruins" -- Unlock the gates to the Ancient Ruins with this key, and discover what mysteries lie within its crumbling depths.
"March to War Set" -- Three special unlockable formations (Scatterswarm, Goblet, and Catapult) that will boost your tactical strength during battle.
Challenge Pack 2: "The Price of Lies" -- Add this pack of the most difficult guild tasks yet. Adequate game progression is necessary.
Of course, whether you want to pick up The Last Remnant in the first place remains debatable, so be sure to check out our review to find out if Square Enix's latest epic is worth your time.
● Square Enix: ‘FFXIII on 360 is not a betrayal’
Ben Parfitt Nov 28 2008, 10:23am
Insists that multi-format approach will not be detrimental to the quality of the product
Japanese publisher and developer Square Enix has yet again defended its decision to go multi-platform with its upcoming RPG Final Fantasy XIII, whilst admitting that it would have liked to have got its title to the market sooner.
In July Square Enix announced that its hugely anticipated sequel would for the first time not be exclusive to PlayStation at launch, and would simultaneously arrive on Xbox 360. Bringing its title to more gamers is obviously good news for the industry, but this didn’t quell the inevitable internet fanboy rage.
Speaking to Kikizo, the publisher’s corporate director Shinji Hashimoto said of the decision: “I'd rather they not think of this as a betrayal or disappointment. It's not like we're cancelling or delaying the PS3 version at all. It's more of an added bonus for 360 fans. We won't be putting them at a disadvantage in any way.”
Final Fantasy series producer Yoshinori Kitase added: “I'd like to add I think that maybe because it's going multiplatform that some fans are worried about the game's scope being reduced to fit onto both consoles.
“The fact is, the PS3 version is what's in development right now, and the team is working to specialise that version to the very best of the PS3's abilities. After that, we'll do the 360 port and optimize it to that particular hardware. There will be no decrease in quality as a result of the game appearing across two platforms.”
Hashimoto went on to admit that the firm would have ideally liked to get its title to the market sooner than it has done: “We would have loved to have had it ready sooner for the console, but with the development of new hardware, it's become more and more complicated to develop software. The process has become far more time-consuming.”
● Square Enix Bringing FF Crystal Chronicles: Echoes of Time to North America
Monday December 1, 2008, 8:15 am EST
LOS ANGELES, Dec. 1 /PRNewswire/ -- Square Enix, Inc., the publisher of Square Enix® interactive entertainment products in North America, announced today that FINAL FANTASY® CRYSTAL CHRONICLES®: Echoes of Time(TM) will be released for both Wii(TM) and Nintendo DS(TM) in Spring 2009.
Players can choose to play alone or with friends, whenever and however they like in FINAL FANTASY CRYSTAL CHRONICLES: Echoes of Time. Arriving simultaneously on both Wii and DS, this latest entry in the FINAL FANTASY CRYSTAL CHRONICLES series introduces a new concept in multiplayer gaming, enabling users of either Nintendo platform to adventure alongside each other for the first time.
Maintaining the intuitive control scheme of FINAL FANTASY CRYSTAL CHRONICLES: Ring of Fates® and enhancing the gameplay experience with an integrated system that allows players to switch between the single and multiplayer modes in-game, FINAL FANTASY CRYSTAL CHRONICLES: Echoes of Time is set to take multiplayer gaming to new heights as it brings together Wii and DS users from around the world next spring.
A triumphant return from a monster-infested forest marks the completion of the 16-year-old hero's coming-of-age ceremony. However, the hero's joy is short-lived as a young village girl is found to be afflicted by a mysterious illness known as "crystal sickness." Determined to obtain the cure, the hero steps out of the secluded village for the first time, only to discover a world in which crystals are merely artifacts of the past and no longer exist ...
-- Play anytime, anywhere with anyone! Multiplayer connectivity reaches new heights in FINAL FANTASY CRYSTAL CHRONICLES: Echoes of Time, where players can team up or compete with friends and players around the world!
-- The intuitive control scheme introduced in FINAL FANTASY CRYSTAL CHRONICLES: Ring of Fates returns, now adapted to Wii for double the action
-- Players can switch between single and multiplayer modes within the gameworld itself, giving them two great gaming options in one integrated experience
-- A personalized hero can be generated from a choice of the four familiar races of the series; Clavats, Lilties, Selkies or Yukes. Players joining from the Wii can also introduce their Miis to the world of FINAL FANTASY CRYSTAL CHRONICLES
-- Create and customize materials, armor and equipment for characters with tailored appearances and abilities - no two heroes will be the same!
-- A vast selection of quests provides hours of fun, even after completion of the main adventure
FINAL FANTASY CRYSTAL CHRONICLES: Echoes of Time is rated E10+ (Everyone 10 and older). Please visit the Entertainment Software Rating Board website at www.esrb.org for more information about ratings. The official website can be found at http://na.square-enix.com/ffcceot
About Square Enix Co., Ltd. and Square Enix, Inc.
Square Enix Co., Ltd. (Square Enix), with headquarters in Tokyo, Japan, develops, publishes and distributes entertainment content including interactive entertainment software and publications in Asia, North America, and Europe. Square Enix brings two of Japan's best-selling franchises - FINAL FANTASY, which has sold over 85 million units worldwide, and DRAGON QUEST®, which has sold over 46 million units worldwide - under one roof. Square Enix is one of the most influential providers of digital entertainment content in the world and continues to push the boundaries of creativity and innovation.
Square Enix, Inc. is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Square Enix Holdings Co., Ltd. with offices in Los Angeles, California. It handles operations in North America, including development, localization, marketing and publishing of Square Enix titles. More information on Square Enix can be found on the Internet at http://www.square-enix.com
● Square Enix Announces Jump Festa 2009 Lineup
By Tom Goldman
Jump Festa 2009 will be taking place in Japan on December 20, 2008. This week, Square Enix announced which of its titles would be present at the show, and in what form. Playable games will be:
* Dragon Quest IX (DS)
* Dragon Quest Monster Battle Road II (Arcade)
* Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days (DS)
* Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep (PSP)
* Kingdom Hearts: Coded (Mobile)
* Kingdom Hearts Mobile (Mobile)
Titles shown only in movie form will be:
* Lost Winds (Wii)
* Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Echoes of Time (DS and Wii)
* Star Ocean: The Last Hope (Xbox 360)
* Blood of Bahamut (DS)
* Final Fantasy XIII (PS3)
* Final Fantasy Versus XIII (PS3)
* Final Fantasy Agito XIII (PSP)
* Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children Complete (an updated Blu-Ray version of Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children)
* Parasite Eve: The 3rd Birthday (PSP)
* Final Fantasy IV: The After (Mobile)
* Dragon Quest Battle Road Moblie (Mobile)
* Romancing SaGa (Mobile)
* Crystal Defenders (iPhone 3G/iPod touch)
* Dissidia: Final Fantasy (PSP)
* Mahou no Ehon: Majo to Shoujo to Gonin no Yuusha (DS)
* Chrono Trigger DS (DS)
* The Last Remnant (Xbox 360)
* Cid to Chocobo no Fushigina Dungeon Toki Wasure no Meikyu DS+ (DS)
* Pingu no Waku Waku Carnival! (DS)
* Snoopy DS: Snoopy to Chuugen Taichi ni Ei ni Iku! (DS)
Jump Festa 2009 is the most likely site for Square Enix to show Final Fantasy XIII's gameplay, as promised before the end of 2008 by Tetsuya Nomura. However, the game will not be playable itself and only in movie form according to Square Enix's Jump Festa 2009 game announcement website.
● Kingdom Hearts Re:Chain of Memories
When Square Enix re-releases RPG games, they often tread a fine line between creating thoughtful remakes or hatred-inspiring rehashes.
Dec 3, 2008
When Square Enix re-releases RPG games, they often tread a fine line between creating thoughtful remakes or hatred-inspiring rehashes. I'm happy to report that Kingdom Hearts Re:Chain of Memories, a PS2 port of a GBA game, falls in the former category — it's a worthy addition to the much beloved franchise as well as a compelling choice for diehard fans as it sheds some much needed light on events from past entries in the Kingdom Hearts franchise. Series noobs, however, might find themselves a little lost in the intricate plot that Kingdom Hearts has spawned thus far.
(Not) A Whole New World
At first glance, Chain of Memories looks a lot like the first Kingdom Hearts, but don't let its aesthetic overhaul fool you. One of the biggest differences between the two is the way the Disney-themed levels are mapped for Sora and company to explore. This time around, each stage is made up of a series of rooms connected through an overworld grid known as Castle Oblivion. The game's battles are still played out in real time as in past KH games but are treated with a card deck scheme, allowing you to choose separate cards for certain attacks and tactics, constantly switching out your cards in order to build the most effective deck for each encounter. Back-tracking through the Castle is also a cinch: defeated enemies don't respawn after their defeat, allowing you to take the time to level grind and explore secret rooms you may have missed the first time around.
Still, it's obvious that Chain of Memories didn't get as much polish as it could have. New cutscenes, while nice to look at, are sparse and mostly absent of voice acting, and the graphics aren't anywhere near the special effects madness that was present in Kingdom Hearts II. However, my biggest gripe with Chain of Memories was the frustrating lack of a coherent battle camera. Even though it can be manually adjusted with the analog stick, trying to do so while playing attention to hordes of Heartless and your card deck is a downright hassle. If Square Enix more or less fixed the rampant camera issues in Kingdom Hearts II, why couldn't they have spent some time programming those corrections into this release?
King of Hearts, Ace of Keyblades
Even so, the schizophrenic camera may be the least of your worries in Chain of Memories. Even on the easiest difficulty, this game offers a good challenge. At the other end of the scale, it's one the hardest action RPGs you'll ever play. Enemies will often appear in groups, and dodging in real time while choosing the right counter cards takes a fair bit of concentration. Personally, I feel like it's a HUGE step up from the lazy "hit the X button, rinse, repeat" combat of the original Kingdom Hearts. Building decks gets very addictive early on in the game, and with so many cards to collect there was a part of me that wanted to repeat certain areas just for the loot.
Even though it's not a wholly fresh experience, Kingdom Hearts: Re:Chain of Memories is definitely worth a try, especially if you didn't play the original GBA release. There's hours of gameplay in this title (even after beating it once) and the challenge alone should keep things interesting for both hardcore and casual gamers alike. With the series third instalment still a ways off and 2006's sequel a fleeting memory, Chain of Memories may be just what ailing Kingdom Heart addicts need to tide them over until the next release.
● Square Enix Battles Warner for Eidos
Dec 4, 2008
Japanese powerhouse publisher, Square Enix, has shown a clear interest in Eidos - potentially putting it in conflict with Warner Brothers in an acquisition war.
Square's president, Yoichi Wada, has visited Eidos's IO Studio - the Danish developer behind the Hitman series - and is reportedly set to head to the UK shortly to talk about an acquisition.
This comes from industry gaming bible, MCV, which says that it also understands Warner Brothers to be interested in purchasing Eidos.
Square has made a lot of noise about becoming more global in its outlook recently. Recently the publisher announced a 'strategic partnership' with US developer Gas Powered Games which will see it publish Supreme Commander 2.
Warner Brothers, meanwhile, already owns a 16% share in Eidos. The US company and Eidos recently got a little cosier when it was agreed that a "standstill" arrangement would be ended, enabling Warners to own a stake of up to 30% in the company prior to the previous arrangement's end.
With its existing stake, Warners would have to spend around $30 million (£20.6 million) to get a majority share in Eidos and $80 million (£54.8 million) for total control. Given the two companies' existing relationship and Warner's interest in expanding its presence in the games industry, the two companies would make natural bedfellows.
That said, Square could gain a lot from a purchase. While it has had Western success with the Final Fantasy series, its publishing line-up is still very Japan-centric. Gaining properties such as Tomb Raider and Hitman would give it a strong footing in the Western market. Alternatively, Square could just be interested in picking at Eidos, acquiring particular assets such as IO Studio.
Elsewhere, it has been rumoured that Electronic Arts and Ubisoft are both interested in Eidos.
This comes hot on the heels that Eidos publishing's holding company, SCi, is seeking to change its name to Eidos.
Eidos, for its part, has had a tumultuous year. It's seen massive international re-structuring, management shake-ups and rocky finances (including plummeting share prices and quadrupled losses).
● Square Enix to Publish Persona 4, Disgaea 3, Disgaea DS, and Rhapsody DS in Europe
Sat, Dec 6, 2008
Good news for RPG fans in Europe: Square Enix has announced via their holiday newsletter that they’re publishing several (non-Square) cult favorites in Europe next year.
To start things off, in spring 2009 Square Enix is releasing Atlus’ Persona 4, the game I just called one of the best RPGs of the decade. So if you live over in Europe, you’ll be able to play it soon enough. (Assuming you didn’t already order an import it, that is.)
The other newly announced titles will be three of Nippon Ichi’s games: Disgaea 3: Absence of Justice, Disgaea DS, and Rhapsody DS. While I didn’t really care for Rhapsody at all, the Disgaea series has long been one of my favorites. The DS port is basically identical to the PSP release (which is only a slight modification of the original PS2 release), but if you haven’t played the series yet it’s a nice way to be introduced to it. Disgaea 3, meanwhile, is probably the best (overall) of the three titles, so it’s nice to finally see a Europe release looming.