Square Enix may not have had the best conference at E3 this year, but for fans of the bizarre and awkward it was possibly the most entertaining of all. There were enough flubbed lines that it seemed like the script had been written ten minutes before the conference, and they risked boos from the audience with an extended teasing of Kingdom Hearts III. Moreover, some of Square Enix’s biggest announcements had already come the day before; their presentation for the Final Fantasy VII remake was simply to play the exact same trailer they had shown at the Sony conference. Yet, despite it all, Square Enix pulled out a few surprises and brought back one of their biggest franchises in a huge way. They showed off a solid lineup of projects that scoff at the notion that Japanese games are dead. Besides, they gave us that wonderful showing from Yoko Taro and his creepy moon mask.
Just Cause 3
The third entry in the wildly manic Just Cause franchise got an impressive trailer this year, showing off the extreme mobility and explosive action the series is known for. The Just Cause games have always provided players with big, open sandboxes in which to live out all their action movie fantasies, and Just Cause 3 seems to follow that path. There was plenty of footage of protagonist Rico Rodriguez using his trusty grappling hook to do more mundane things like quickly leap around environments and yank enemies off of ledges, but players can also get more creative, like using the grapple to tether cars to a plane as it’s taking off. In addition, players will have a large arsenal of weapons and gadgets like the wingsuit, which lets you fly. By the end of the trailer, one gets the impression that Rico is no longer a mercenary, but something close to Superman.
Kingdom Hearts III
After years of waiting, Kingdom Hearts fans finally got footage from the next main installment in the series. Of course, they had to endure a few final minutes of teasing from a Square Enix representative. It seems like it was worth the wait, however. The trailer showed off a lot of combat and the game looks gorgeous. In keeping with series tradition, players control protagonist Sora and his companions Donald and Goofy to battle through hordes of quirky enemies. There were a number of dramatic effects shown of in the trailer, including Sora riding what appears to be the train from the Disneyworld Main Street Electrical Parade.
In keeping with Kingdom Hearts tradition, audiences were also treated to cryptic scenes of dialogue between two presumably important characters as they play pseudo-chess. What does it all mean? Unfortunately, the wait to find out will probably be long. Square Enix did not give a release date, but merely stated the game is “Now in development.”
Kingdom Hearts Unchained χ
Because one Kingdom Hearts game is never enough, Square Enix preceded their KHIII trailer by announcing that Kingdom Hearts Unchained χ will be coming to North America on Android and iOS. The game uses 2-D pastel graphics with chibi character designs that evoke some of Square Enix’s softer titles like Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles. Square Enix also stated that Unchained will tie into the story of Kingdom Hearts III, so fans with a hunger for all Kingdom Hearts lore should look to pick this up.
Nier New Project
Adding to their already full plate, Platinum games announced they are making a sequel to Nier, the swan song of Japanese developer Cavia. Released in 2010 for Xbox 360 and PS3, Nier was a bizarre action-adventure game in which players fight a variety of strange monsters. The footage shown for the sequel, only referred to as Nier New Project didn’t give any examples of gameplay, showing only some haunting footage of a lush, post-apocalyptic world and a mysterious woman with a sword. Given Platinum’s history, however, it is likely the game will involve hyperkinetic action and no shortage of insane set pieces. No release date was given, but Square Enix promised more information will be coming Fall 2015.
One of the more refreshing trends in the industry is the interest from bigger companies in supporting indie developers. Microsoft and Sony have both developed a large focus in this area with their respective ID@Xbox and Indie Games programs. Now, it seems Square Enix has decided to join the fray with the “Square Enix Collective.” The program allows small developers to get design feedback and promotional support from Square Enix while maintaining creative control of their projects. The program seems to focus on fan feedback, taking advantage of crowdfunding campaigns to gather capital for projects deemed worthy.
Lara Croft Go
Following on the success of last year’s Hitman Go, which reimagined the Hitman franchise as a turn-based mobile game, Square Enix announced that Tomb Raider would be getting the mobile treatment next. Lara Croft Go will find the heroine (decked out in her iconic outfit from before the reboot) exploring a lush cel-shaded world. The trailer didn’t reveal much about gameplay, but it seems to be a turn-based adventure with an emphasis on solving puzzles. As for enemies, there was at least one glimpse of what appeared to be a very large dragon, but no indication of whether there will be any combat.
The long-running Hitman series is primed for its biggest iteration yet, with the plainly-titled Hitman. The series has always presented players with assassination missions that are essentially elaborate puzzles emphasizing creative planning and quick decision-making. The new game seems to be expanding its scope, promising an ever-growing open world in which new challenges will appear over time. Some assassination targets will only be available for a limited time, and apparently these targets can be eliminated by other players from around the world. The exact details of the expanding content and multiplayer nature remain a mystery, but expect to hear more in the coming months. Hitman is scheduled for release December 8, 2015.
Final Fantasy VII
Even with a leak of the remake surfacing a few days before E3, Square Enix’s announcement that the fan-favorite JRPG, Final Fantasy VII, was met with cries of joy across the internet when the official reveal trailer first premiered at Sony’s E3 2015 press conference. Square Enix took a moment during their own presser to give a second look at the trailer, and tell fans that more information would be coming soon — specifically this winter. Following the conference, producer Tetsuya Nomura did assure fans of the original that, despite this new art direction, the more lighthearted, goofy moments in the original’s story would remain intact. Excitement following the announcement has been feverish, and Square Enix’s stocks saw a generous increase. It would seem the world is eager for the return of Cloud and friends.
While at this time, a release date is anyone’s guess, we’re happy the game is finally forthcoming.
World of Final Fantasy
Square Enix’s long running Final Fantasy series is famous for its complex storyline and deep RPG mechanics. As such, Final Fantasy has always held a reputation as a “hardcore” franchise. Square Enix wants to bring the Final Fantasy experience to new audiences — specifically younger audiences — with its newly announced World of Final Fantasy. Square Enix wants parents to share this new game with their children and is tailoring the aesthetics and gameplay to suit a wider audience. While gameplay and story details were limited, the art style features iconic final fantasy characters and monsters. A monster wrangling mechanic will be a part of the game as well, but beyond that not much is known.
World of Final Fantasy will launch on PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita in 2016.
Rise of the Tomb Raider
A battered, distraught Lara Croft will make her return in Rise of the Tomb Raider, the sequel to 2013’s wildly successful series reboot, Tomb Raider. Picking up in the aftermath of Lara’s previous ill-fated adventure, Rise of the Tomb Raider will deal with the mental toil of Lara’s post-traumatic stress regarding the loss of her friends, and the actions she had to take in order to survive during the events of the previous game. Players will guide Lara through ancient ruins and dire situations, as she struggles to find a new sense of purpose in life.
From gameplay footage, we know that Rise of the Tomb Raider will once again incorporate cinematic moments into exploration-based platforming, much like the previous game. We’re excited to see what new mysteries adventures are in store for Lara Croft this holiday.
Rise of the Tomb Raider launches on Xbox One and Xbox 360 November 15, 2015, and will come to PlayStation 4 and PC at a later, undisclosed date.
The Hitman franchise is expanding its appstore influence with a new title, Hitman: Sniper. This new, first-person game puts players in the role of Agent 47, tasking them with spotting, tracking, and ultimately eliminating a number of high-priority targets with the use of a sniper rifle. The more efficiently the player completes contracts, the more money they’ll earn, which can be applied to gun upgrades like better scopes, and new abilities such as steadier aim — giving a bit of depth to the touch-based game.
The game is available now on the appstore for $4.99.
Square Enix announced Triad Wars, the free-to-play follow up to the open-world action game, Sleeping Dogs. The game focuses on the inter-gang conflicts of Hong Kong and features the exact same world map as Sleeping Dogs. Players will engage in the same martial arts-style combat as Sleeping Dogs, and complete objectives to expand your gang’s controlled territory. The game will feature asynchronous multiplayer elements, with the actions the player take within their games affecting the game world of other players.
Exactly how Triad Wars is tied to Sleeping Dogs is unclear. Similarly, exactly how the free-to-play aspects and asynchronous multiplayer with affects gameplay have not yet been fully detailed. However, the game is now in closed beta, with a release date set for later in 2015, so more information is sure to surface soon.
Triad Wars is currently in beta, and is set for full release later this year.
Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness
The latest entry in the Star Ocean franchise will be coming to PS4 in 2016. Star Ocean is a long-running series of sci-fi RPGs originally produced by Enix back in the 90s. Players typically control a cast of colorful characters and explore fantastical worlds. The Star Ocean games have always differentiated themselves from other JRPGs by focusing on real time combat, and Integrity and Faithlessness seems to be no exception. Indeed, the Square Enix representative presenting the game stated their goal is to ensure that I&F defies typical conventions of Japanese games, pointing out the larger roster of characters and greater emphasis on combat.
Dragon Quest Heroes
Tecmo-Koei’s Dynasty Warriors franchise has proven to be exceedingly flexible, as they have recently been making games that incorporate entirely different franchises. In addition to Hyrule Warriors, a DW game featuring characters from Nintendo’s Legend of Zelda series, Tecmo recently released Dragon Quest Heroes, in which players control characters from various Dragon Quest titles as they hack and slash through hordes of enemies. Square Enix announced the game will be coming to North America October 16, and will come in both a standard edition and a collector’s edition.
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided
The latest entry in the Deus Ex franchise has a lot of expectations to live up to. While Human Revolution was a great success, there were some criticisms about forced combat for boss battles, a problem that runs counter to the series’ aims of allowing players great freedom in how to progress. The developers have promised that Mankind Divided will allow for the creative decision-making Deus Ex is known for, however there was very little of that evident in the trailer shown.
The E3 trailer showed off the beautiful cyberpunk aesthetic of the game, with a world defined by soft yellow lighting and mechanical devices that emphasize function over form. Most of the action shown involved combat, which may be distressing for players hoping to make their way through the game via dialogue and manipulation. This is likely just an example of marketing designed to appeal to a mass audience, though. For now, one can only trust in Eidos Montreal to follow through on their promises.
Life is Strange
Dontnod Entertainment’s episodic adventure did not get much time in the press conference, merely a brief showing as part of their montage of miscellaneous games. That is probably on account of the fact that the first three episodes of the game have already come out, so there’s not much need for publicity. Still, it was a good reminder that the game exists.
An interactive adventure game, Life is Strange revolves around the protagonist’s ability to rewind time, allowing players to reshape events in the narrative as they progress. The game has also received a lot of critical praise for putting female protagonists at the heart of the story, a welcome trend in today’s industry. A release date for the next episode has not been announced, but it will presumably arrive sometime in 2015.
Final Fantasy Portal App
As part of their increasing forays into mobile, Square Enix announced the Final Fantasy Portal App. Coming Summer 2015, Square Enix promises the app will be a comprehensive source of info for fans of the Final Fantasy universe. It appears that Triple Triad, the collectible card game from Final Fantasy VIII, will be playable as part of the app, and will involve connectivity with Final Fantasy XV. Users will apparently be able to earn points by using the app, although what these points will be used for is unclear at this point.
Square Enix closed out their show by announcing not only a new studio, but also the first game they’re developing. The studio is Tokyo RPG Factory, created with the goal of producing the type of traditional JRPGs that Square has been known for over the years. Their first game is known for the time being as Project Setsuna. Whether that will be the final title remains to be seen; Square Enix provided little information about the project other than some concept art and a release window of 2016.