Friday, May 12, 2006

E3 Recap: Square Enix

I didn't know If I was going to write about all the different games I got excited about, some were obvious and some were a surprise. My biggest surprise was that I was excited at all, I felt games have been in kind of a lull with very few "shining" titles coming around on the home consoles. For every Dragon Quest 8, Shadow of the Colossus, and God of War there seemed to be dozens of care-less titles. Now I think with the Wii, DS, and PS3 (and even 360) there is some really neat stuff headed our way for the new HDTV.

But the one company at this years expo that left the biggest impression was definitely Square. They've done something we've all wished for years-- taken the "Final" out of the Final Fantasy series of games and expanded the game worlds of our favorite titles. By Leveraging the incredible casts and stories of previous games, Square somehow rises above "sequelitis" and instead has created compelling gaiden experiences-- side stories that expand on original fiction. Along with Enix and its own Dragon Quest universe, Square pretty much has a lock on the Action RPG genre as far as games I really want to play.

Final Fantasy XII
Of course I'm waiting for this to satisfy my RPG appetite. I loved getting to play Dragon Quest 8 earlier this year, but it's been a really long time between FF games and I want my fix! Actually, DQ8 shipped with a demo of FF12, and I wasn't really that thrilled. They've really changed the combat system and I didn't get into it as much as I thought. There was new areas of the game to play at the show, and it looks like its coming along. I don't know how much more tweaking is involved but I've learned to trust Square in this matter. What can be certain is an epic storyline and beautiful art. The FF12 environment is fully 3D with a free camera, which kinda hit on the poly counts. This was very noticeable when seen playing next to Dirge of Cerebus, which was crazy good looking. Still I'm eagerly waiting for FF12's release.

Dirge of Cerebus
This is an offshoot of FF7, and the main character is that vampiric badass, Vincent Valentine. It's not an RPG, it's more of an action adventure like Devil May Cry. What you notice right away is how sharp it looks-- and it's running on that trusty PS2. The game looks amazing!! It's right up there with God of War as far as graphic quality, but it has the unmistakable flair of Squaresoft art and design. The gameplay was fast-paced, and I'm sure it's alot deeper than the demo was showing but running around as Vincent Valentine and tearing shit up sure was a blast.

Valkyrie Profile 2
The original Valkyrie Profile for the Playstation 1 was known for it's incredible character design and game art. The sequel delivers equally so and offers an update of the unique active combat system. Nothing takes turns, once combat starts you are in it to win it. The FX were awesome and the combat moves were really cool. It's all in a 3D world (the original was 2D) and I gotta say, like Dirge of Cerebus, the game looks awesome for a PS2. I shudder at the thought of what Square has in development for the PS3...

Final Fantasy III
Here was a treat, it's the original FF3, the one they never localized for the US those many years back. Except this time its for the DS and it's been completely remade. It has all new art for the overworld and the character battles are in 3D, not unlike the style the original FF7 spawned. It looks great, sometimes I don't think the DS pushed 3D like the PSP, but it was a perfect match for the style of FF.

Final Fantasy V + VI Advance
Basically continuing the outroll of the original FF games for the Gameboy Advance. With an install base of 800 bajillion, the GBA market is hard to ignore. Throw in updates of the classic FF games in all thier 16-bit glory and it's a nice pair to add to the collection. No doubt the future may see the true FF anthology for the PS3, or maybe 3D upgrades like FF3.

Rocket Slime
Man this is just wild. There was a super elaborate animated introduction played on the big screens that then cut to DS gameplay-- I can hardly describe it. The game is set around the infamous slimes of the Dragon Quest world, and head-to-head combat with huge anthropomorphized tanks. Very cutesy, but it did look fun. I think I can take a pass, but it was just one of those inherently Japanese offerings I had to mention it.

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