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Square Enix E3 2019: The Good, the bad, and the etc.

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Square Enix. Say that name to many people, and they’ll likely expect an E3 presentation full of JRPGs like Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts. Hey, they’d not be far off the mark with that assumption, but could Square Enix prove this year that they had enough additional material to deserve our attention for a whole presentation? Read on to discover the good, the bad, and the rest.

The Good

It may have been based off the huge caveat that actually hearing and seeing something about a game announced four years ago counts as good on a pretty big technicality, but basically everything about FFVII was fantastic. Except the special edition nonsense. But everything else was fantastic. From the enthusiasm of the people working on the game to the adoration and amazement from the fans in the audience, everything Square Enix had to show and say blew the roof off the auditorium.

Stop! Stop! It’s already dead!

Rightly so, too. The brilliant implementation of the ATB system as an aside to the real-time action looks set to break ground in terms of modern JRPG combat. It’s an ingenious idea that keeps things feeling modern and exciting, but does nothing to betray the formula that makes the game such a classic. Being able to almost pause the action while selecting magic and items is brilliant, and the option to set shortcuts for players who want all-out action is an ingenious catch-all solution. It was gorgeous, too — full of insane lighting, fluid animation, and breathtaking character models. It was exhilarating, it was faithful, and it was arguably the best game shown at all of E3.

The Bad

Sticking influencers all over a trailer of a game as they pretend to be massively enthused and completely engrossed in a game is my kryptonite. Isn’t it enough that everyone on stage and in the audience is a corporate shill? Do I have to watch people faking phoned-in reactions in place of just seeing Life is Strange 2 in action? I don’t think I’ve ever been sold on a game based on how someone I’ve never met has reacted to it at an emotional level — why would I be? Sure, if I can see someone genuinely having fun then my interest will be piqued, but this modern obsession with disingenuous ‘people react’ content is exhausting. It happens every year, it’s panned by people every year, and nobody ever learns their lesson.

OH MY GOD! I can’t believe he fell from about 5 foot up and was totally fine anyway!

The Cold Shoulder

“Just the son I wanted to see,” says the father to Life is Strange 2’s protagonist, as his other son sits staring at him from across the table. That’s a form of abuse!

That WTF head turn from the poor little mite. Breaks my heart.

The Realisation

It certainly wasn’t a slow realisation that Squenix is remastering and porting EVERYTHING right now, was it? Hey, if you’re an old school JRPG fan then I imagine you had a complete and total meltdown during the middle of the presentation. We have Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles coming to PS4, Switch, and mobile, Octopath Traveler coming to Steam, Last Remnant Remastered available on Switch right now, Romancing Saga 3 and SaGa Scarlet Grace Ambitions remastered for PS4 and Switch, AND Final Fantasy VIII remastered on PS4 and Switch,

At long last you can play a second version of FFVIII on Switch. Finally, right?!

Hell, they’ve even demastered Dragon Quest XI on Switch to give us two ways to play the game in both modern and SNES-style visuals.

The Headache

I wish the guy in Dying Light 2 would stop doing forward rolls. I’m trying to eat lunch here!

Guuuuhh…I just threw up in my mouth a little bit

The Unappreciated

Turns out JRPG fanboys and fangirls don’t really have much reverence for Bulletstorm, and they’re not really that bothered about shooters at all. It’s a shame, really, because Bulletstorm is awesome to the max, and because Outriders seems pretty promising.

I have nothing funny to say about this. Looks interesting. That’s it.

It’s also a shame for Square (although I don’t feel that sorry for them), because with this, Life is Strange 2, Avengers, Final Fantasy VII, Battalion 1944, and Dying Light 2, they had a really eclectic selection of games. It’s just that nobody in the audience cared much for anything that wasn’t a JRPG.

The True Believers

Sweet Stan Lee’s ghost, this was unexpected! The ultimate True Believer would be smiling down on the reaction to this bad boy. There were some very excited Crystal Dynamics employees on stage and some very surprised nerds in the crowd, all joined in mutual marking out over Cap, Tony Stark, Hulk, Black Widow and Thor tearing it up in a very impressive trailer.

Goooooooal!

So soon after Endgame smashed up the box office, this was a very smart move, and the game seemingly has a lot more going for it on top of good timing. A solid developer, a stellar voice cast, as well as a focus on action, storytelling, single player, and co-op — it sounds too good to be true, but I think it’s in good hands.

The Feel

Ooooh no. They said the thing. They said we’re going to feel like superheroes. Dunkey’s going to have a field day.

The Sad State of Affairs

Yes, it has come to this. Obviously the fact that new heroes in Marvel’s Avengers will be added at no extra cost is a good thing — of course it is — but I’m pretty unashamed to sound like an old, curmudgeonly son of gun (because I am one) when I say that this really did used to be expected in the main game on the disc or cart itself. Granted, one of the highlights of Nintendo’s presentation was the announcement of new characters we are going to have to pay for, and people went mad for that (myself included), so we have to keep things in perspective here. It’s a good thing that one company isn’t going to charge for adding to their game later on, but we shouldn’t have to cheer about that, because it is so far from the current norm.

Your flashy cut up jacket doesn’t fool me! I’m not clapping basic expectations!

What was undeniably worse was that the audience also cheered early beta access and exclusive content for PlayStation owners. Not only is platform exclusivity nothing to be impressed about (why would you, the consumer, care that another person can’t have what you have just because they don’t have the correct console?), but it was patently obvious throughout this presentation that Xbox means jack schvitz to Square Enix. Either every single person in the crowd is a PlayStation owner or, I don’t know, they’re all plants or employees.

The Verdict

Look, you’ve got to be a big JRPG fan to get the most out of Square Enix’s presentations, but if you know that going in and then you’re still treated to a WWII FPS, a zombie game, a new Life is Strange, and a superhero game on top of the JRPG overload, then you’re likely a very happy bunny right now. The presentation was bookended smartly with the really long-awaited Final Fantasy VII remake and a shock Avengers title — arguably the most anticipated game and the biggest surprise announcement of the whole shebang in one presentation.

This guy gets it. I’m not sure what it is, but he gets that.

Yes, there were a lot of remasters and ports, but while this isn’t overly exciting for the average Joe, hardcore fans are being catered for, and Square Enix delivered equally on the retro and modern front with some style here. Reaction to Marvel’s Avengers game seems to be tentative optimism at this point, but it’s certainly the kind of game I want to play. There were no live services, no battle royale games, no microtransactions, and only one mobile game, so I chalk that up as a successful hour’s work.

8/10 would assemble again

Crotchety Englishman who spends hundreds of pounds on video game tattoos and Amiibo in equally wallet-crippling measure. Likes grammar a lot, but not as much as he likes ranting about the latest gaming news in his weekly column.

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