13 Jun Square Enix’s Conference at E3 2019
E3 is always one of my favorite weeks of the year. While the giant video game conference is slowly moving towards obsolescence, it’s great to have dedicated time to celebrate video games. This year is a little awkward though. Sony has ducked out of E3 because they didn’t have enough new material to show, but I expect there to be a Sony conference later this year to show off the PS5. Some of the wind has been taken out of the E3 sails, but there are a few companies ready to rumble. This year I’ve only really invested time into Square and Nintendo. I’m a total fanboy of both companies and both have the most intriguing suite of games releasing over the course of the next year or so.
Final Fantasy VII: Remake
Square Enix, shall we? The conference started with a lovely image of the start screen from Final Fantasy VII to celebrate the long anticipated remake of the game that essentially made Square a household name. The 22 year old masterpiece was put front and center again with a complete and total overhaul. The FF7 remake is looking QUITE good and I’m going to just…let the trailer speak for itself.
Yep, that’s amazing. I love the updated character models and it’s great to finally see Tifa Lockheart in action. Fans have been calling for that since day 1 and the modernization of her design pays tribute to the original without being overly ridiculous. Cloud, Barret, and Aeris continue to look great. I’m really happy they decided to NOT go with the Advent Children look, though anyone who plays Smash Bros. with me knows how much I appreciate Fashionable Male Cloud.
Square went on to say that FF7’s remake will span multiple “games” and that the first of these games (which is 2 blu ray of content, sheesh!) will just be the Midgar section. Since the main story FF7 runs about 40 hours , Midgar probably represents anywhere from 20-25% of the game’s main narrative. So this remake will most likely span 3-5 games over the course of what I can only predict is 35-40 years. I’m joking….JOKING…but I mean this remake has been in development for quite some time, just ask anyone who’s followed it’s cycle.
The mix of action combat with the ability to slow gameplay with a tactical mode will help to appease old fans while inviting new players to the series. While I think tactical mode will ultimately get boring and too disruptive, it should work out best in giant boss fights where the player needs to take a second to breathe.
Square showed off the first boss fight with the Guard Scorpion and it looked intense. I’m ready to get back to Midgar in 2020 as this remake feels like it’s a high school reunion where everyone is more attractive and successful than they were in HS. So yeah…a true fantasy game.
Moving on, Square went on to show off some other games that will not reach the monumental popularity of Final Fantasy VII, but there are some diamonds in the rough.
Dragon Quest Builders 11 and Dragon Quest Builders 2
I became a big Dragon Quest fan later in life. I got into the series with DQ8 and then went back and played a bunch of the earlier titles. I was obsessed with DQ7 on 3DS to the point of restarting it every so often. Dragon quest is a franchise that has such a great, comfortable, “sleepy” feel to it that I’ll always enjoy. To me DQ feels like a lazy weekday in summer with sunlight coming through the window and the air conditioner is on at just the right frequency. It’s wonderful. I’m happy that we’re getting some more information about this year’s DQ offerings.
Dragon Quest 11 launched 3 days before Spider-Man last year. If I had not just finished another lengthy JRPG in Octopath Traveler, I may have sat down with DQ11 for longer. Spidey won my heart and my time. I tried to get back into DQ11, but with rumors of an eventual Switch version I decided to hold off. My patience has been rewarded! Dragon Quest 11 is launching on switch this fall with an orchestrated soundtrack and a 16-bit mode, which looks amazing! This conference didn’t show off too much more, but gave us a release date of September 27, which is very soon. If you’re interested in the series, reach out to me and I’ll give you some history.
Dragon Quest Builders 2 expands upon the first game in a reasonable matter. This Minecraft-meets-Dragon Quest follow up should deliver the same amount of fun and creativity that its predecessor brought to the table. I played the first DQB on Switch last year and really enjoyed my time with it. I’m going to wait on the sequel. It comes out just a week before Ultimate Alliance 3, which will dominate my July. DQB2 should be a fun summer game to play and If you’re interested there’s a DQB1 demo on Switch that’s a lot of fun!
I think this is the 3rd time I’ve seen Oninaki at some kind of press conference. This is the next game from Square’s Tokyo RPG Factory, a team dedicated to creating nostalgic JRPG experiences that call back to the 16 and 32 bit eras of games. TRPGF’s first two attempts were lukewarm, even though I enjoyed my time with I am Setsuna in 2016. Their second game Lost Sphear was forgettable. I was turned off by the demo and never bought it at full release. Both games were a bit of a celebration of Chrono Trigger without out the grandiose scale or success. Oninaki is based upon the premise of death and reincarnation, freeing the souls of the dead so that they can move on to the next life. That’s at least what I think the concept is…I could be totally wrong here. This game looks to fill the isometric action JRPG hole that TRPGF has yet to tackle. I’m intrigued by this game, but since their track record isn’t amazing I may wait on this one. If you jump in at launch, let me know how it is.
Romancing SaGa 3 and SaGa: Scarlet Grace
Square quickly announced that these two games are coming to the United States for the first time ever! The SaGa games are a bit of a JRPG blindspot for me. I remember liking SaGa Frontier on the PS1 when I first played it in 2016, but the entire series is filled with obtuse systems and wonky character progression. That’s all due to series director, Akitoshi Kawazu, who loves to create RPG mechanics that are sometimes mind-numbingly uncomfortable to grasp. Kawazu famously designed Final Fantasy II (the japanese version) and it’s my least favorite FF game from a mechanics standpoint. SaGa is not my series based on my history with its director, but that doesn’t mean these games coming to the US isn’t significant! I would much rather see these two games launch stateside than not as it’s the best possible situation for all gamers, especially those of us who want more JRPGs to get localized. I love the 16-bit pixel art of Romancing SaGa 3 and how much the design reminds me of the SNES Final Fantasy games. The UI looks a little ugly, but I think fans will look past that to finally play through this game since it’s release in 1995.
Scarlet Grace looks to be something for the most dedicated fans to the series. I’m not super interested in this game as it looks like a mediocre PS2 RPG that I won’t be investing my time into. If you’re a die hard SaGa fan, you’ll hopefully enjoy it.
Avengers was slated to be Square Enix’s big moment. Finally after 2+ years we’ll get to see their Avengers game in action. As a big Marvel comic, movie, and game fan I was beyond excited. While I was turned off by some rumors of this game being a Destiny-like with Avengers, I was ready to see what Crystal Dynamics (Tomb Raider) could do with this license. Take a look at the trailer…
Earth’s Mightiest Heroes look a little weird, don’t they? This is most likely magnified by what I can only attribute to cultural familiarity with the film versions of these characters. The photo-realistic look for the Avengers can be an issue for Crystal Dynamics and maybe they should have gone with a more stylized approach. As the Internet jested, this looks like they found their stunt doubles.
While no actual gameplay was shown, there are shots in the trailer that look as though the game is in action. These brief glimpses of what I predict to be gameplay look like it will be a competent 3D action game.
Avengers has been shown to be a combination of single-player and online co-op. A lot of people will be excited to take the role as one of their favorite Avengers and play with friends online, but I’m most excited for single-player. I’m one of those lonely gamer types that likes to play alone away from other humans or the internet.
Square boasted that Avengers will not contain lootboxes, pay to win schemes, and that all additional characters and areas will be free to download. That’s nice, but when and where will the microtransactions come in? I suspect that players of Avengers will spend all their money on cool costumes and play superhero dress up, whether it be: Grey Hulk, Silver Centurion Iron Man, or US Agent Cap. I know I’d spend money to make that happen…
PS4 will get some exclusive content which I suspect will be Spider-Man, due to his relationship with Sony? Right? Hank Pym makes an appearance as well, so we may see a little Ant-Man further down the line. It’s certainly a huge undertaking to create all of these characters with completely different and unique powersets. A most impressive and ambitious venture. I think his Even if the character models feel a little weird, when Avengers releases in May of 2020 get ready for true believers to be hooked.
Square’s conference was solid. It’s hard to not have a winning year when you finally give the Final Fantasy VII remake a release date AND it surpasses any expectations. FFVII may be my best-in-show as of right now as it hit me right in the nostalgia bones. Seeing those characters in a modern context was so strangely refreshing. It should appear old, stale, and outdated, but FFVII feels rejuvenated. I got a very similar feeling from the FFVII remake that I had when I played the Resident Evil 2 remake earlier this year. Remakes work best for me when they pay tribute to the original but figure out how to modernize the game where it counts. Square had a great show and I’m happy they’ve recovered since the FFXIII days. Here’s to a great 2020.
Overall Grade: B+/A- (A nice 89.5)