Square Enix Trolls Snoob
A good number of publishers within the game industry appear to have finally come to the realisation that the month-long news lull leading up to E3 is actually an awesome time to release gaming news, as it guarantees a certain degree of enthusiast [ahem] penetration. This year, with the exception of one week, the news cycle has actually remained pretty lively. There probably was not the same volume of AAA publisher news being reported, yet for the most part there seems to have been roughly the same number of genuinely interesting news stories which have surfaced in the run-up to the world’s biggest gaming trade show. Probably the most salient story to hit the presses this week was an announcement that effects this author perhaps a little more than most. Why is this? Because one held off on beginning a new playthrough of Final Fantasy XII for months in the expectation that a HD re-release would be announced, only to become dispirited in the likelihood of this ever happening, leading one to sink a bunch of hours into the vanilla PS2 game literally three days before Square Enix announced Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age for 2017. Bastards!!
Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age is a remaster of 2007’s Final Fantasy XII: International Zodiac Job System, a Japan-only enhanced version of the game which took some of the improvements made for the international release of the game, and then added extra Japan-only improvements on top of those. The Zodiac Age is now adding improvements on top of these improvements, so the hope is that this will constitute the definitive Final Fantasy XII experience. Final Fantasy XII is often viewed as a game that was a little before its time, so hopefully this re-release provides it with a second opportunity to shine. The remaster promises to release with full 1080p visuals, obviously, with retouched backdrops, character models, and cutscenes. The game’s graphics already look remarkably good when emulated at 1080p, so a proper remastering will likely look phenomenal. Square Enix also plans to rerecord the game’s music, and include higher quality voice samples – all presented in a 7.1 surround mix. Square Enix rerecorded soundtracks are often a hit-or-miss kind of proposition, yet, much like the PS4 re-release of Final Fantasy X, gamers will be able to select which version of the soundtrack they choose to play with, so more options never hurt anybody. As for the voice samples, that is good news indeed. The original voice acting was of a phenomenally good standard, yet it had been so compressed that much of it sounded as though it had been recorded using a tin can, so any improvement on this end is appreciated. On top of this the remaster will also include trophies and autosaving in order to be modern, because these are features that modern games have. It is the done thing.
The above mentioned improvements are only the tip of the iceberg as far as Western players are concerned, as Final Fantasy XII: International Zodiac Job System featured a host of improvements that the Western market will be unfamiliar with. The Zodiac re-release features controllable espers and guest characters, such as lyin’ Ted Cruz. Additionally, the game did away with mana use for Quickenings, as the way that Quickening use would completely wipeout the player’s MP bar served as a huge disincentive to using Quickenings. Another convenience feature added to the game was turbo mode, which allows players to run at double speed by holding down L1. Then of course there is the inclusion of the Zodiac Job System, for which the game gets its name. There are now twelve different License Boards which correspond to twelve different jobs, these in turn correspond to the twelve different zodiac symbols – hence the name. Finally, like any good definitive version Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age will feature a new game plus mode, along with a new game minus mode for masochists. The new game minus mode will prevent players from leveling up in order to provide some additional challenge for autists.
Square Enix Leads a Six Month Unprecedented Onslaught of JRPGs
In 2016 Square Enix is gearing up to unleash a Western market JRPG onslaught the likes of which has never before been seen [at least in numerical terms]. The occasion for this sudden acknowledgement came with the announced release dates for World of Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts II.8 over the past week. On the 28th of this month [June] Square Enix will be publishing Star Ocean 5, this is to be followed by I Am Setsuna on July 19, Final Fantasy XV on September 30, World of Final Fantasy on October 25, and Kingdom Hearts II.8 some time in December. On top of this Square Enix still have Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age to come some time in 2017, and gamers are also eagerly awaiting other non-Square Enix heavy hitters like Persona 5. As someone who is almost autistically absorbed with industry minutia it is often very easy to lose sight of the bigger picture by focusing on all the moving parts, yet given the opportunity to stand back and appreciate what Square Enix have put into place it is hard not to be impressed. One would have to go back to Squaresoft’s heyday on the PS1 to see this kind of output from the studio, and even then one cannot recall a time when they published five JRPGs within the space of six months. It is practically a JRPG renaissance! The closest comparison that this author could make is that Square Enix’s 2016 plans are like the Squaresoft Summer of Adventure on steroids, only without all the self-aggrandising fanfare. In fact in absence of Square Enix’s own fanfare one shall supply his own: so welcome valued reader to Square Enix’s 2016 Semester of Summoning!
To put the significance of this in another light – Square Enix has not released a proper original console RPG which features an ATB battle system in the last sixteen years, and now it is releasing two of them [I Am Setsuna and World of Final Fantasy] within three months of each other. Sure this ignores Square Enix games which used highly modified variations on the ATB system like Final Fantasy XII and Final Fantasy XIII, but since these games differed from the classical ATB in feel [XII] and function [XIII] the claim still broadly holds true. Of course pointing out that this kind of line-up of five largish budget JRPGs is unprecedented for Square Enix [and a renaissance of sorts] is not the same as saying that all [or even most] of these games will be good or enjoyable. That being said, there is enough diversity on offer here that most JRPG fans should be able to find at least one thing here that they can appreciate.
Finally, there is one further point of interest to be made. Along with supplying the final release dates for their 2016 JRPG line-up, Square Enix also saw fit to release an English language E3 trailer for World of Final Fantasy which proved to be very enlightening for anyone who is curious about the direction of Final Fantasy VII Remake. The trailer itself looks fantastic, with loads of pretty visuals and story content. It is a genuine joy to watch adorable chibi versions of iconic Final Fantasy characters as they speak self-serious lines of dialogue that have been voice acted as faithfully as though they were editing room offcuts of the games from which they were originally derived. From the trailer it is pretty obvious the the voice talent for Final Fantasy X‘s Tidus and Yuna reprise their roles, as does Ali Hillis who voiced Lightning in Final Fantasy XIII. This is a pretty big point, as it probably means that World of Final Fantasy will offer gamers their first substantial sampling of the voice talent and vocal direction which has been chosen for Final Fantasy VII Remake. Additionally, the trailer also clearly features Shelke from Dirge of Cerberus. This is important because Shelke is such a minor character that she would not have been included in World of Final Fantasy if not for the fact that Tetsuya Nomura has decided to ruin Final Fantasy VII Remake by giving prominent roles to mediocre extended universe characters. At any rate, one would not be surprised if World of Final Fantasy turned out to be one of the better games from Square Enix’s Semester of Summoning!
French Socialists Look to Prevent Creation of Sexy Games
As if video games did not already face enough adversity from both SJW activism along with SJWs infiltrating and subsequently pozzing game companies, now we also have entire socialist governments weighing up whether their radfem agenda will be better served by brandishing the carrot or the stick. Video games are not an artform, but sometimes things might actually be a little easier if they were regarded as such. For one thing it might be a tad easier to put up an effective defense of them against any ill-intentioned busybody with a mind for a little flagrant meddling and manipulation. Games might not be art, but they are nonetheless a medium through which culture is conveyed and is thereby able to replicate itself. It is for this reason that leftists/socialists/Marxists/etc have long sought to seize control of this delivery point of cultural reproduction, just as they have done to government, education, and comic books. In many cases the tools which governments employ to pursue such ends will be indirect in nature and utilised with discretion, yet very occasionally an individual within government will be brazen enough to unashamedly go full retard in full view of the world – one such individual appears to be Axelle Lemaire.
Axelle Lemaire is currently serving as secretary of state in France’s socialist government, and it appears that she has set her sights on neutering video games as the mark she wishes to leave upon society. Previously she sought to deny industry tax credits to the production of any game responsible for ‘degrading the image of women’ – a concept that is as one-dimensional as it is nebulous. She was forced to drop this proposal earlier in the year in the face of industry opposition – meaning that publishers would close their French studios – yet this week it was revealed that Lemaire has new plans afoot. Now she wishes for games that ‘incite sexism’ to be awarded with an 18+ rating by the PEGI under the category of ‘discrimination’ – a heading which until now has been reserved for games which incite hatred of ethnic groups. If possible games which ‘incite sexism’ is even more nebulous a term than games responsible for ‘degrading the image of women’, since ‘sexism’, as opposed to ‘misogyny’, is neither good nor ill in its connotations. Regardless, the threat of an 18+ rating appears to be no laughing matter, as it prevents games from being advertised on prime time television. That said, seeing as the PEGI is a pan European censorship body, one is quite unsure as to precisely what capacity Lemaire has to alter the way that games are rated in Europe.