E3: Square Enix – Our impressions

Our thoughts of Square Enix`s E3 showing

This year’s Square Enix conference needed to be a big one. The past few years have been a little on the underwhelming side, with a lot of carrot-dangling teasers and very little in terms of juicy game announcements or content. Yes there was Shadow of the Tomb Raider & Kingdom Hearts 3 last year, but there are two titles that have been teased for years now, the Final Fantasy VII remake and the Marvel Avengers game… Good news folks, this year we got a LOT more on both, as well as some other treats!

To kick off the conference, we saw that age-old Final Fantasy VII starting screen of Cloud’s Buster Sword the ‘NEW GAME’ and ‘Continue?’ options which the crowd naturally cheered for, and then the words ‘Remake?’ appeared and the cheers became so loud I took my earphones out (it’s 2am at this point!) We were then treated to the remake version of the game’s opening cutscene & title reveal… that’s how you get the crowd excited!

Producer of the Final Fantasy remake, Yoshinori Kitase then addressed the audience, thanked them for their “support and PATIENCE” over the years as well as announcing that there will be 2 Blu-ray discs worth of gameplay content… That’s a lot of gameplay! They did also confirm what I was expecting/fearing though, that there will be multiple games in this “project”. Perhaps it’s just me but I really did not want an episodic Final Fantasy game!

Thankfully Product Marketing Senior Manager, Neil Pabon then came out to talk us through some kick-ass gameplay so to take away any sour taste in the audience’ mouths and boy did it do just that by introducing the FF7 remake version of the Final Fantasy classic ATB gauge.

After an extended look at the first Boss Battle from the game (you know what I am talking about!), the stage filled up a little more with the introduction of Final Fantasy VII remake Director, Tetsuya Nomura. There was a tender moment seeing Yoshinori & Tetsuya talking about how happy they are to be working together again on FF7, more apologies for how long it took to get the game to where it, and the announcement of a playable demo at the Square Enix booth (which definitely made me turn a shade of green with envy!)

They ended their stint on the stage by dropping the extended trailer, with the biggest cheer coming from the reveal of everyone’s favourite character… TIFA!! Oh and let’s not forget THAT scene at the end, with Cloud & Sephiroth’s first dialogue! As expected, after all that teasing, there was the mega-pricey pre-order announcements.

So yes, there was (as we expected) a lot of Final Fantasy VII remake coverage, and you’d be forgiven for thinking that’s all there was to announce but fear not Xbox gamers there are some things for you to look forward to…

Following up the bumper FF7 push was a trailer for Life is Strange 2, and a reminder of all of the emotions that comes with this harrowing/humbling game series! Having YouTube influencers commentating over the trailer really gave viewers an idea of the kind of emotional rollercoaster the game takes you on. Something for Xbox players here at last!

We then went into a bit of a trailer montage here, starting with you guessed it, another Final Fantasy remaster. This time it’s Crystal Chronicles, coming to PS4, Switch and mobile… sorry Xbox gamers!

Following straight on was Octopath Traveler, another JRPG following 8 different characters, each on their own journey with beautiful JRPG graphics and everything you could want from a turn-based RPG… the problem is that this trailer was an announcement that the game was going to PC… Sorry Xbox gamers!

Next up was another remaster, this time of a classic Square Enix game, The Last Remnant. I was very excited to see this, with all of the enhanced visuals and unique combat system, only to be once again hit with the “Available tonight on Nintendo Switch”… Sorry Xbox gamers! The original is on Xbox 360, but not backwards compatible, sadly!

Next, another Square Enix franchise favourite… Dragon Quest Builders 2. Essentially it looks like world builder of Minecraft, set in the realm and RPG style of Dragon Quest which actually looks like a lot of fun. That is until we saw the launch date and platform support, PS4 exclusive… Sorry Xbox gamers!

Another trailer, another Dragon Quest game, this time it was Dragon Quest XI making it’s way over to the Nintendo Switch… Sorry Xbox gamers!

A great trailer followed for the Square Enix Collective showcase, which reminded us all of the amazing work that this side of Square Enix does with Indie developers. Take a look back and remind yourselves of the games you’ve played that have been supported by the Square Enix Collective! The trailer ends with the 2020 game announcement, Circuit Superstars which looks like a fun racing game, and great news… It’s coming to Xbox!!!

We then go from racing to WW2, with Battalion 1944, a classic FPS multiplayer where you see a lot of combat gameplay, similar to any other WW2 game if I am honest. I won’t know what makes the game unique however as it is a PC game available on Steam… Sorry Xbox gamers!

Something very different next, and something I didn’t realise I needed in my life until I saw it, Square Enix Music! Now you can listen to all of those classic Final Fantasy soundtracks (only Final Fantasy for now from the looks of things!) on any streaming platform, so enjoy that!

Back to games, and we were then treated to a visual spectacle of a trailer for the Kingdom Hearts 3 DLC Re-Mind that is dropping at the end of the year. Not a lot to go off in terms of a narrative, a lot of faces some recognisable to not so, but something for everyone there at least.

After 15 minutes of wondering if we were ever going to see another human on the stage, we finally cut back to Naoki Yoshida, the Producer & Director for Final Fantasy XIV, who came out to tell the audience and viewers about the 3rd expansion pack, Shadowbringers which launches next month. I was a little surprised to learn that FFXIV is 6 years old, and it is pulling in more active players than ever before, so congratulations has to go the dev. team here for keeping players interested! New character classes and races were announced, and they admitted that they were there to keep Final Fantasy fans entertained “at least until March 3rd 2020” I wonder what comes out then… Oh and sorry Xbox gamers, no announcement of an Xbox version!

Next up was a personal highlight, and one of my most anticipated games of the last few years, another look at Dying Light 2. The second instalment, following up from the original 2015 zombie invasion meets parkour RPG, it looks more sinister, more frantic, more intense and more immersive than its predecessor, and I for one cannot wait to get my hands on it!

It wouldn’t be a Square Enix conference without a few JRPGs to announce, and the next trailer showcased two classic JRPG games becoming available in the West for the first time. First is Romancing Saga 3 which ticks every box for a JRPG that fans will love; second is SaGa Scarlet Grace Ambitions, which also looks like a lot of fun, with more of a Dragon Quest visual style, where you again create your own hero. The 2nd looks more tactical in its combat stylings where the first is classic turn-based, yet both highlight that the choices you make influence the game, so plenty of fun to be had here. Well half the fun to be had for Xbox gamers, Romancing Saga 3 is coming to Xbox One, SaGa Scarlet Grace is not… Sorry Xbox gamers!

It wouldn’t be Square Enix without a hefty amount of Final Fantasy and so we went back to the franchise, and an exciting announcement for those who played Final Fantasy Brave Exvius! A new game, titled War of the Visions, Brave Exvius that is expanding on the original, with the two titles labelled “the pillars for the growing world of Lapis”. A very different gameplay style from Brave Exvius, one more reminiscent of Final Fantasy Tactics, but certainly captures that Final Fantasy feeling. Smartphone only though… sorry Xbox gamers!

We all love a good surprise at these shows, and an hour into the conference, Square Enix dropped one on us with a trailer for a new title, Outriders, produced alongside People can Fly studios. Labelled on the website as a “drop-in-drop-out co-op shooter set in an original, dark and desperate sci-fi universe”, it is a promising looking game set for release next summer, and great news it’s coming to Xbox!!

We heard from People can Fly Studio Head, Sebastian Wojciechowski (who kindly reminded me that 4am in Poland at the time meaning 3am in the UK!), who reminded us all that People can Fly were the studio behind Bulletstorm & Gears of War Judgement, and gave us a great little insight into their growth as a studio!

Back to the trailers, and another JRPG titled Oninaki. A darker looking action RPG that focuses around the ideas of reincarnation and the fear of death… There are lost souls to be set free from their past lives and sent onto the next by the Watchers, and this story follows one such Watcher… Available on PS4, Switch and PC… Sorry Xbox gamers!

Well then we were given another unexpected treat, for all of the hype about Final Fantasy 7’s remake, let’s not forget the next game in the franchise… Final Fantasy 8! The remaster announcement that sent a huge cheer through the room, especially when “coming 2019” was shown, and more good news everyone, it’s coming to Xbox!

And then, with 20 minutes to go… the other moment that everyone had really been waiting for. The first in-game gameplay trailer of the mysterious Marvel Avengers game, and damn does it look good! High-speed action, constant tension building, blended with that Marvel humour we have all come to love… what more could you ask for?! I am still very intrigued to see how you will play the campaign co-op as it seemed more linear from the footage we saw, however with Crystal Dynamics, Marvel Games, Eidos Montreal AND Square Enix all involved… I have no doubt it will be awesome!

Post- trailer, Crystal Dynamics’ Creative Director Shaun Escayg & Bill Rosemann VP & Creative Director, Marvel Games took to the stage to cover the game’s narrative in more depth. What is great is that Marvel Games have given Crystal Dynamics the creative freedom to create their own vision of the classic Avengers characters, along with an original narrative! There’s a great video where we get to meet the voice actors of the 5 avengers, sat together and discussing the opportunity they were privileged to receive and the challenges they faced with their character portrayals. We then went straight into a tense cinematic between Bruce Banner and Tony Stark… There’s trouble a-brewing!

After cutting the tension with a knife for a moment, we saw Scot Amos, Head of Studio at Crystal Dynamics & Meagan Marie Crystal Dynamics’ Senior Community & Social Media Manager take to the stage to discuss post-launch content… which is shaping up to be incredible! The narrative will span multiple years through DLC, the roster will expand with new heroes added post-launch, and the most welcome news of all… it will be included at no extra cost, along with no random loot-boxes, or no pay-to-win options! This was met with arguably the loudest cheer of the evening, and rightfully so.

But that’s where my evening (morning!) then soured a little, whilst the game is coming out on PS4, Xbox One, Stadia & PC, they are partnering with PlayStation to bring extra offers like early Beta and other unique benefits “to be announced”… they also invited people to their booth to play the gameplay demo which I am sure was queued out of the exhibition hall! Anyway sour notes aside, the game drops on May 15th 2020, and I look forward to saving the world with you all!

So there you have it, a bumper albeit mostly predictable conference from Square Enix. There were a couple of surprises, and the content that people have been waiting years for is finally nearing release, so I think Square Enix can be very pleased with themselves! And why was Sony not there, because most of the titles from Square Enix are PlayStation favoured or exclusive so they didn’t need to be… Sorry Xbox gamers!

Written by Matt Rushton

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