The Second Half of 2016 - The Awakened Giant
At the end of last year I wrote a prediction piece. It’s something that we all tend to do. Speculate what could be for the next year in games. I proposed that it could be the year of Nintendo. Not too long ago Nintendo was the company that brought console gaming squarely to the mainstream with the launch of the Wii. Never before had most grandmothers cared what Grand Theft Auto you were playing but they did love themselves some Wii Sports. Nintendo shipped in excess of 100 million units worldwide. That’s a staggering number.
Oh how the mighty have fallen. Nintendo clearly took a calculated but unfortunate misstep with the WiiU. While Nintendo continues to make great first party games in support of the WiiU it has only managed to ship upwards of 10 million units worldwide. Nintendo has clearly moved on to focus on the NX which is noticeably absent at this year's E3. We know when it is coming out, March 2017, but we know precious little else. While speculation has run wild on what it could be it’s hard to say with any degree of certainty what it truly is. To Nintendo’s credit they have managed to keep tighter lipped on the NX than Sony or Microsoft were able to do with the Neo and Scorption respectively.
It turns out that I would have been much more accurate declaring this year of the Awakened Giant. That giant would be Square Enix. Not since the days of the Super Nintendo can I remember Square, (at the time being published in the west as Squaresoft) having a line up this strong.
Square has been quiet on the RPG front for the first half of this year releasing only one new game, Final Fantasy Explorers for the 3DS. This was an enjoyable title that paid fanservice to the Final Fantasy franchise while borrowing the monster hunter style of adventure games to make a title that felt at home on the 3DS. You can read our full review here. They also ported a few of their older titles to new devices for the first time but I wouldn’t really say they moved the needle much. Final Fantasy XI made its way to iOS, Andriod, and PC; while Adventures of Mana was given new life on iOS and Android. Kingdom Hearts Unchained X also made its way to Android, and iOS. Again, good news for fans old and new of those games but nothing Earth shattering.
All of that is about to change in the next 6 months.
Starting later this month Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness will release on the PS4. Star Ocean is a scifi jRPG that is heavily focused on character development and storytelling. In the past people have complained about just how long these games take to finish. To combat that problem developer tri-Ace cut down on the critical path to the main story so players could finish sooner than usual. As one might expect this has been met with a bit of a backlash in the east. Once again proving you can’t win for trying. Regardless I’m excited for this title. It looks great and it’s nice to play a scifi heavy RPG once in awhile. Especially having just spent so much time with high fantasy games like the Witcher.
Next up is Deus Ex: Mankind Divided. This one isn’t an RPG but like most genres these days is learning to incorporate RPGesque systems to help spice up the gameplay and character development. If you haven’t seen the live action trailer for this it’s a must see. It really paints a picture of how easy it is to prey on people’s fears and use them to subjugate another class of person. It’s a smart political statement on today’s society. “We can be politically correct, or we can be foolish.” You can watch it here. Fair warning, it’s graphic.
The crown jewel of releases this year and the game that has spent the last 10 years in the making is FFXV in addition to having their own active time battle report from E3 they also participated in Microsoft’s and Sony’s conferences.
Final Fantasy XV Director Hajime Tabata and Senior Product Marketing Manager Mathew Kishimoto took to the stage during the Microsoft presentation and demonstrated the Trial of Titan. This was a special demo put together for E3. During this demo we saw Noctis and company fight against Titan while at the same time a third enemy faction the empire of Niflheim became ensnared in the dust up.
During the Playstation Experience demo it was revealed that Final Fantasy will have a PSVR component referred to as the Final Fantasy XV VR Experience. In this portion of the game you will play as Prompto. One of Noctis’s childhood friends and companion. He is the one that is blonde and wields the pistols.
If new age jRPGs aren’t your thing you are in luck. Tokyo RPG Factory, Square Enix’s newest studio (that we know of) has a throwback RPG due out soon. I am Setsuna is a narrative driven RPG that plays a lot like the classic Chrono Trigger. I am Setsuna uses a similar Active Time Battle System and technique system, know as techs, that allow for party combo attacks that have great effect.
Dragon Quest builders is due out in October and when I first read about it I was completely uninterested. Since then I have watched a few streams of gameplay and have really pulled a 180 on my feelings. This game is a block builder with a central narrative that drives gameplay. This title seeks to merge the best of both the sandbox builder and the narrative driven RPG complete with quests and character development. While I don’t predict this one to be a smash hit I am interested to see how the finished product turns out.
World of Final Fantasy is a new game in the Final Fantasy franchise. Seriously this is a lot of new Final Fantasy games we have received this year. This game has a more lighthearted look with a focus on capturing monsters and using them in your party. This game is intended to be a launching off point for people both new and familiar with the Final Fantasy franchise. I think this is the 2016 version of Final Fantasy Mystic Quest.
In addition to these new games we will also see a number of ports and HD remakes come to the 3DS and PS4 later this year. Games we will get on the 3DS Dragon Quest VII: Fragments of the Forgotten Past, Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King. On the PS4 we will get Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8. There is a chance we might even see the first episode of Final Fantasy VII remake but I’m more inclined to believe that won’t happen until 2017. We should find out more this week though.
As you can see Square Enix has a pretty solid lineup for the rest of this year. Fans of jRPGs should rejoice. You will have plenty of quality titles to keep you happy for months to come. While I’m sure the Legend of Zelda WiiU will have one heck of a show this week I doubt it will be enough to legitimize Nintendo’s claim to 2016. Square Enix on the other hand? They may deliver the knockout blow this week.