E3 Coverage: Square Enix

E3 Coverage: Square Enix

Written by Charlie Sinhaseni on 5/21/2004 for
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This marks the second year that the Japanese conglomerate has made an appearance at the show and apparently the company has learned from last year’s mistakes. Instead of trying to succeed on the basis of the Final Fantasy franchise the company has expanded its horizons and in the process, even decided to bring back an old favorite.

Remember Brave Fencer Musashi? Well he’s back and he’s got an interestedly new look. He was redesigned by famed Final Fantasy artist Tetsuya Nomura and it really shows. Musashi looks just gorgeous in his cel-shaded state, featuring plenty of nice details in both the characters and the environments. Everything looks appropriately flashy and should exude the trademark Squaresoft flair.

Tetsuya Nomura's brushstrokes are all over this title.

Like before the game is a hack’n’slasher at its core. The build that Square showed us seemed to run on a modified version of the Kingdom Hearts engine. It featured many of the same elements and animations as before, including the clunky camera system. Perhaps this was just a placeholder to show the attendees what the designers had in store for the game. With the producer of the famed Chrono Trigger and Parasite Eve franchises behind the helm, the product looks to be in great hands.Final Fantasy XII

When you’ve sold millions of copies and satisfied millions of fans you can be forgiven for putting the word “Final” into the title and following it with a double-digit roman numeral. Without question the Final Fantasy franchise is one of the most beloved series of all-time and Square looks to continue the tradition with its twelvth iteration. From the looks of things this looks to be the most engulfing and polished title to date.

All of the trademarks are here so you diehard fans can breathe easy now. The E3 build featured chocobos, oddly costumed NPCs and a boyish little hero with spikey hair. Although the game takes place in the same world as the Final Fantasy Tactics franchise the designers were adamant to point out that the two had no relation to each other. So don’t expect to see any characters from Tactics in your ranks because you’ll be hugely disappointed.

Pre-rendered cutscenes like these will be less common in this installment.

Final Fantasy X really pushed the graphical capabilities of the PS2 so one might wonder where the game has to go in terms of visuals. Square examined the same dilemma and decided to commit themselves to developing the prettiest game that the PS2 has ever seen. To do this they decided to cut down on the pre-rendered cutscenes in order to focus on engine rendered scenes. Many of the scenes were shot with motion captured actors while the more intricate animations were hand drawn by some of the company’s most talented animators. It doesn’t seem like a big difference but we’ll tell you now, the changes are huge. You can see the emotion on the characters’ faces while watching them gesturing the feelings with their hands. It’s pretty amazing and is pretty much on the same level as a Metal Gear Solid 2.

Probably the largest change comes in the form of the combat system. The lead designer played copious amounts of Final XI and a number of other MMORPGs. As he spent time with the games he looked for flaws in the systems and found ways in which he could improve and build upon them; the end result is Final XII’s free roaming system. It’s still turn-based but it falls into the more traditional RPG mold as opposed to the console mold of before. Basically you give commands to your characters and move around freely on the battlefield, when it’s their turn to hit they attack. It’s your basic BioWare combat system but with a much quicker pace.

Square has the potential to turn the RPG on its head once again when it releases Final Fantasy XII on the PS2. Call us fanboys but we’re genuinely excited to see what these boys have up their sleeves.

Awhile back the pre-rendered movie sector of Squaresoft developed a tech demo that showed off its artists talents. A few years later Tetsuya Nomura has decided to dust off that old demo and turn it into a full-fledged movie based on one of gaming’s most beloved franchises.

Advent Children stars a mature and older Cloud. Two years removed from the events of Final Fantasy VII, a tragic event forces the spikey-haired hero to pick up his blade once again. Developers and writers are keeping mum about said incident but ensure us that it’s life changing for Cloud. Throughout the course of the film you’ll encounter a number of characters from FFVII including Barett and Tifa as they help Cloud on his quest. Very little has been revealed about the actual film itself including the run time or the potential voice actors for the characters.

A couple of familiar faces are along for the ride.
Right now there are plans to release the movie in DVD format and in UMD format for use with the upcoming Sony PlayStation Portable. A price point hasn’t been reached yet due to the PSP being in its development stages, but the developers hope that both formats will be comparably priced in order to keep the market balanced. Again, the developers are tight-lipped about the title but we’ll have more information as the official word comes down the pipeline.

This is another title that Square is currently being tight-lipped about. Many of you have probably noticed that Sora’s costume in the screenshots for the sequel is black while his outfit was white in the original. Like the tale of Advent Children, the developers are keeping mum about the events that lead up to this. What we do know is that the game will once again take gamers onto a quest into some of Disney’s most beloved properties.

Hey Donald, watch where you're sticking that thing

I asked Nomaru about the process in which the lands were selected in crafted. Through a translator he responded that the chosen titles were his personal favorites and that he crafted them as if he were an actual Disney animator. He watched the movies over and over and tried to get into the minds of the animators as they were developing the scenes, then he took that insight and used it to develop lands that were true to their Disney originals. What you saw in the original Kingdom Hearts was a labor of love and the same should remain true for its sequel.

As for Final Fantasy characters, Tetsuya confirmed that there will be at least five characters from the series but has chosen to keep them secret for the time being. He’s also taken a vow of silence when it comes to unveiling the new Disney worlds that will appear in the game.

The Japanese have a penchant for teetering on the brink of the absurd and Full Metal Alchemist is a testament to this. Based on the multi-million selling manga of the same name, this PS2 exclusive title features the same characters as the book while taking place between the 8th and 9th books of the series. This will give fans of the series more insight on their favorite protagonists as well as some of their favorite antagonists. We’ve been assured that players will see plenty of some of the game’s lesser known villains.

As for the game itself it’s a 3rd person slasher in the same vein as Square’s own Drakengard. It seems like the designers built it upon similar technology while adding in an entirely new coat of paint. Instead of drab and gothic environments players will be treated to bright and vibrant visuals similar to those found in the mangas.

As with the series the main draw will be the Alchemy system which allows players to utilize objects in various ways. In an example we were on top of a hill overlooking a group of enemies below. In most games you would probably charge headfirst and hack the baddies until they vaporize into the ether. FMA looks to change this by giving you multiple ways to approach the situation. Instead of hacking the same button over and over again you can pick up nearby rocks and roll them down the hell to decimate your opponents. With the Alchemy system players will be challenged to find new and creative ways to dispatch their foes instead of resorting to the old ways of yesterday.

Overall FMA is already gaining a huge amount of critical acclaim in Japan. We'll find out in a few months if American audiences will give it the same sort of reception.

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.

About Author

Gaming has been a part of my life for as long as I could remember. I can still recall many a lost nights spent playing Gyromite with that stupid robot contraption for the old NES. While I'm not as old as the rest of the crew around these parts, I still have a solid understanding of the heritage and the history of the video gaming industry.

It's funny, when I see other people reference games like Doom as "old-school" I almost begin to cringe. I bet that half of these supposed "old-school" gamers don't even remember classic games like Rise of the Triad and Commander Keen. How about Halloween Harry? Does anyone even remember the term "shareware" anymore? If you want to know "old-school" just talk to John. He'll tell you all about his favorite Atari game, Custer's Revenge.

It's okay though, ignorance is bliss and what the kids don't know won't hurt them. I'll just simply smile and nod the next time someone tells me that the best entry in the Final Fantasy franchise was Final Fantasy VII.

When I'm not playing games I'm usually busy sleeping through classes at a boring college in Southern Oregon. My current hobbies are: writing songs for punk rock bands that never quite make it, and teasing Bart about... well just teasing Bart in general. I swear the material writes itself when you're around this guy. He gives new meaning to the term "moving punching bag."

As for games, I enjoy all types except those long-winded turn-based strategy games. I send those games to my good pal Tyler, I hear he has a thing for those games that none of us actually have the time to play.

When I'm not busy plowing through a massive pile of video games I spend all of my time trying to keep my cute little girl fed. She eats a ton but damn she's so hot. Does anyone understand the Asian girl weight principal? Like they'll clean out your fridge yet still weigh less than 110 pounds.

Currently I'm playing: THUG, True Crime, Prince of Persia, Project Gotham 2 and Beyond Good & Evil. View Profile

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