During the fourth, fifth and sixth generation of gaming consoles, publisher Square were the Gods of the gaming world and the rock-stars of the Japanese-Role-Playing-Game. The sheer quality and quantity of amazing titles they put out, was honestly staggering. In the five-year period of 1997-2002 the amount of iconic video games they gave us, was an embarrassment of riches.
In 2003 Square merged with Japanese company Enix and this was where there seemed to be a change in the way the company operated. Square-Enix did not necessarily start making bad video games, far from it, more so they just started to unnecessarily move away from what made them such a beloved company in the first place. Square-Enix were facing a video game industry that was perhaps moving away from its traditional Japanese base and becoming more Western oriented. In a bid to stay relevant, Square-Enix tried to distance themselves from the traditional J-RPG and focus on more action-oriented, graphically-driven games.
Over the last few years, Square-Enix has made a concerted effort to rectify their mistakes of last generation and really focus on what made them great. Final Fantasy XV looks to be a return to form for the Final Fantasy series, eschewing the linear, corridor design of Final Fantasy XIII for the more open-world design of Final Fantasy games of old.
I have been looking forward to what Square-Enix would reveal at this year’s E3, they publish a number of brilliant Japanese and Western titles, all of them due a new entry in their respective series and with Square-Enix’s resolve to repair their image, I was expecting big things. I have not been disappointed.
Square-Enix opened their E3 press conference with the open-world sandbox title Just Cause 3 made by Swedish based developer Avalanche Studios. Just Cause 2 was one of the sleeper hits of last generation, offering gamers an unrivalled tropical playground to crash jets, tie henchmen to exploding fuel tanks and create anarchy in, in a bid to overthrow an evil dictator, or stop the CIA or… Does anybody remember the plot? My enduring memories of Just Cause 2 are shooting the top off of gas-canisters and then grapple-hooking myself to it and riding it like a rocket ship.
Just Cause 3 looks to deliver the same level of explosion-based madness along with a whole new range of tools for protagonist Rico Rodriguez to use, including a new wing suit that sees players swooping through the skies at break-neck speeds. The shock announcement came that Just Cause 3 would be releasing December 1st 2015 where hopefully it receives enough breathing room between the larger titles in the third and fourth quarter gaming rush.
Square-Enix’s E3 2015 was pleasingly traditional, seeing game developers get on stage and actually talk about their video games, the conference had very little in the way of awkward corporate language or celebrity endorsements, instead, delivering a steady stream of video games with announcements coming directly from the lips of the talented people that make them.
We were again teased with the news of a Final Fantasy VII remake, though the game is obviously in the very early stages of its development, it seems to be visually drawing from the Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children style, and well, it is a Final Fantasy VII remake. What more would you need to know? I just need to know two things. When and how much?
As a timed exclusive, the bulk of what we saw from Rise of the Tomb Raider came during Microsoft’s brilliant press conference but Square-Enix did present some more information here. Judging by everything we have seen at E3, Rise of the Tomb Raider looks to be more of the same. Though many traditionalists were not fans of the 2013 series reboot, it was one of my personal favourite games of 2013 and I actually preferred it to Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception.
The most bizarre part of Square-Enix’s press conference was the announcement of a sequel to the criminally underrated Nier that was announced to be in co-development with Platinum Games Studios. Amidst all of the doom and gloom of games studios closing their doors, it is nice to see Platinum Games starting to gain more exposure and recognition for their prodigious talents.
After operating under the radar for much of last generation it finally seems as though Platinum are being recognised for delivering such consistent quality. Nier was a strange, sombre RPG that released in 2010 to little fanfare and featured an engrossing story that required multiple completions to grasp and had a beautiful soundtrack. The fact that Square-Enix is committing to a sequel, is commendable.
Square-Enix displayed a desire to commit to the J-RPG in general, and I really got a sense that they are headed in the right direction now. I felt that Square-Enix had a renewed pride in their identity as the J-RPG studio of note, even going so far as to announce a new studio the Tokyo RPG Factory who we are told are working on a tentatively titled Project Setsuna.
As expected we saw more of Deus Ex: Mankind Divided a sequel to the surprisingly brilliant 2011 game Deus Ex: Human Revolution. The game looks to be shaping up well, with a plot focussing on a ‘mechanical apartheid’ carrying on the interesting themes of its predecessor whilst continuing to offer game-play that allows more player agency, a direction we know developer Eidos Montreal are keen to go in, following the changes in design decisions for the Director’s Cut of Human Revolution, released in 2012 that saw boss battles changed to allow a greater level of player influence on the game.
The true surprised for me was the announcement of a new Hitman game titled simply Hitman. I love the original Hitman titles with 2006’s Blood Money being the peak of the series, before the disappointing Absolution in 2012. I shall try to remain positive about what looks like a series reboot (why they need one, I do not understand) but I will not get my hopes up until I see more.
We were told that this new title will feature a greater focus on Hitman ‘Contracts’ mode a mode that debuted in Absolution built around an online centric game mode where players designed and complete ‘hits’ online. So long as it does not detract from a story mode full of brilliant set-pieces, I am enthusiastic about an ever-evolving world of Hitman contracts to complete, and the limited time assassinations sound interesting at this stage.
Square-Enix also presented an expected amount of mobile content; a new World of Final Fantasy game that I am told is ‘kawaii’ which I assume is Japanese for ‘something I have no interest in’ and a surprising announcement that Star Ocean 5 will be receiving a Western release, though only for Playstation 4.
Star Ocean 5 looked great, a party based J-RPG that features limited cut scenes, a focus on exploration and a hybrid combat system, sounds brilliant on paper. Combine that with great art design and a desire to hit 60 FPS and it looks like a promising title. Western audiences will reportedly receive the game in 2016, though hopefully Square-Enix drop the sub-title Integrity & Faithlessness so gamers do not go into stores asking for what sounds like a circa late-nineties Mary J. Blige album.
Square-Enix delivered a no-frills E3 2015 press conference, full of games presented by game developers and aimed at video game fans, which is exactly what E3 should be about, brilliant in its simplicity and faultless in its execution. My only disappointment was the lack of any information regarding Sleeping Dogs 2; surely they know that by now, gamers really could use another pork bun in their hands?
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Watch the complete E3 2015 Square Enix press conference below!