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A Link to the Past: Chrono Trigger

Chrono Trigger, released today on Virtual Console, is perhaps the most perfect game in existence. In light of the fact that some people may be playing it for the first time, this piece contains no spoilers. At all. That’s how perfect it is: I don’t want to ruin it for those unfortunates of you who’ve never played it.

It was developed by the second Dream Team, and they might have had more density of talent than the original 1992 American Basketball edition. I mean, Christ, look at the people who worked on this game: Hironobu Sakaguchi, creator of Final Fantasy; Yuji Horii, creator of Dragon Quest; Akira Toriyama, artist behind Dragon Ball. And that’s just the stars. These three guys are Jordan, Magic, and Charles Barkley. The story made Masato Kato, who would go on to write Xenogears. Yasunori Mitsuda’s career began by scoring the game, and when he got sick Nobou Uematsu replaced him; together, they assembled perhaps the most memorable score in gaming. The game was directed by FFVI, VII, and VIII director Yoshinori Kitase, FFIV lead designer Takashi Tokita, and Akihiko Matsui, who designed the battles in that game. The end of the proverbial bench was Tetsuya Takahashi, who’d done graphics on pretty much every Squaresoft SNES game, as well as Yusuke Naora, who went on to do art direction in pretty much every Squaresoft PSOne game, and Baten Kaitos director Yasuyuki Honne. The last guy on the bench, Chrono Trigger’s Brian Scalabrine? Why, that would be Kingdom Hearts creator and modern FF character designer Tetsuya Nomura.

Read that paragraph again. I can’t even imagine a similar crew from Western game developers of any era. It’s too ludicrous to imagine. Hell, just Sakaguchi and Horii together would be like Valve and Epic making a game together. It’s absolutely bonkers.

And the game they made? Perfect. Still ahead of its time. When I play Chrono Trigger today, for the dozenth time, it does things that modern RPGs don’t do. If Final Fantasy VII is the triumphant king of the Japanese RPG, then Chrono Trigger is its benevolent queen.
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Some brief thoughts on Final Fantasies

Yes, I know, I said no news here, but I am a liar! A big fat, possibly Greek liar (yes, I went there. It’s early enough in the morning to go there). But you know what? Final Fantasy deserves an exception because I love making fun of Final Fantasy. It’s just so ludicrous that it deserves brutal mocking, and BRUTAL MOCKING I CAN PROVIDE. Or, kind of provide. And it’s hard to spoil anything when the whole thing is in Japanese, a language I definitely do not speak.

So, the news of the day was the release of trailers for every one of Square Enix’s identical action RPG products. If you want the trailers, I’ve linked them under the cut. I don’t really care to give Square Enix promotion, but I figure making fun of their games balances out any promotional concern. Your level of snark for the day is determined by the header picture which means we’re about at Snark Code Orange. Because I dug up the Final Fantasy movie in all your collective minds.

The big* announcement**, of course***, was Final Fantasy XIII-2. It is, affectionately, a game that shouldn’t exist. It’s probably spawned out of the fact that they made so much extra, useless content for Final Fantasy XIII, and in good Japanese tradition they couldn’t just throw it out. This game has the least trailer support (literally, half the trailer is the ending of XIII, which I pretty much called four hours in, down to the setting), and honestly doesn’t inspire confidence. Then again, it would require a fair amount of work to make me interested in anything with Final Fantasy XIII attached.

Square Enix then spent 12 minutes trying really hard to make me interested in things with Final Fantasy XIII attached. Read the rest of this entry

Final Fantasy XIV Trailer from TGS 2010: Orgy of Wow

Setting aside personal opinions regarding the last handful of titles in the Final Fantasy series as well as the direction the series has taken since the Square-Enix merger, I boldly endorse Final Fantasy XIV.  The second incarnation of an FFMMO is upon us. And god damn, if the opening cinematic doesn’t make the Final Fantasy girl inside you scream with delight, there may be something clinically wrong with you.

The typical fruity colours and lame-looking character models of FFXIII, XII, and X are gone, featuring instead a much more medieval style art direction. Gone as well are the gimmicky features of recent characters. In other words, Final Fantasy has finally grown up.

Here’s to hoping this kind of art direction to take precedence in the next single player title in the franchise.

The game will be out at the end of this month exclusively for PS3 and PC.

Dungeon Siege 3 sure looks like a game

You know, Dungeon Siege 3 could work, I said. Obsidian, developers of lots of bug heavy but brilliantly storied adventures, have been put in a position where they’re developing a game that doesn’t require a lot of technical flourish, and that allows for an emphasis on storytelling and systems, which they’re good at.

So, yes, I know, the trailer looks a bit shit. But before you come in here and shout, “But Tom! The trailer looks a bit shit!” think of this: the graphics, the presentation, these look better than Obsidian’s ever pulled off. If they can get the story, and the mechanics, to function brilliantly and with complexity, and this will be a fantastic game.

And hell, at least it comes out before Diablo 3, which means it can scratch that ever-present party-based action rpg itch. Or, at least, I always have it. Maybe I should get some sort of cream or salve for that, though.

Final Fantasy XIV Open Beta starting August 31st

It’s hard to muster up a lot of enthusiasm for Final Fantasy XIV, Square Enix’s newest foray into the world of the massively multiplayer. On one hand, it sure is pretty. And everything I’ve read about it has been pretty interesting; it’s got some pretty cool leveling mechanics, supposedly. On the other hand, how am I supposed to invest in this game when Guild Wars 2 and The Secret World are on the horizon? You know, a game that reinvents the MMO wheel, and a game that takes place in a Lovecraftian world where all conspiracy theories are true? Oh, and with Everquest 2 and Lord of the Rings Online, very similar games in terms of theme and quality, rapidly approaching free to play status? Pretty is good, but pretty doesn’t quite cut it anymore.

But Square Enix is still trying, and you can try their game before it hits shelves by playing in the open beta. The open beta which starts in a couple days, August 31st at 19:00 PST (that’s 7 PM, for those of you averse to military time). I plan to give it a go, in any event. It might not have the innovative chops of its western peers, but should be a good time.

Or a horrible, life-consuming time. Fuck if I know. And if the above trailer tells us anything, it’s that it’ll probably have some really awkward music.


Review: Dragon Quest IX

I’ve been sitting on this review for a while now. Not because I have many strong feelings about Dragon Quest, IX in particular, but because it’s a game that is so flabbergastingly difficult to discuss.

It’s the Level 5 problem: how the fuck do you review a game that is entirely, patently unfun, but that I played for thirty five hours and couldn’t wait to go back to. Sure, I gave up at that point, but let’s not get ahead of the plot.

You want me to sum it up in a rating, though, so you don’t have to read philosophical rambling? Fine. Dragon Quest IX is an MMO that is played by yourself.
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Tactics Ogre PSP remake incoming

Today is apparently Strategy RPG Day, and with that we have leaked news from Famitsu that the mother of all SRPGs, Tactics Ogre, is being remade for the PSP.

Never heard of it? Well, that’s sad. Tactics Ogre, sequel to Ogre Battle, was a SNES strategy RPG, developed by Quest, and worked on by such people as Yasumi Matsuno (man behind, among other things, Final Fantasy Tactics, Vagrant Story, and the good bits of Final Fantasy XII), Hitoshi Sakimoto, and Masaharu Iwata. The remake is adding additional old school Square Enix talent to the pool, with Hiroshi Minagawa set to direct, and Akihiko Yoshida and Tsubasa Masao, character designers on Final Fantasy Tactics and Zone of the Enders, respectively, set to design the people. So I would not be misleading to say this is a star-studded remake.

Really, we have no information on this besides that it is a thing that’s happening. However, it gives me the chance to encourage you to play, in some fashion, either the SNES or PSOne version of Tactics Ogre, because it’s a truly fantastic game and it’s unlikely Final Fantasy Tactics or Disgaea or anything would exist without its success.

Source: Destructoid

Obsidian to Develop a Chrono Trigger Sequel?

Some days, you see a bit of news that makes you think, “Wow, that’s awesome.” And other days you see news that makes you throw up a little in your mouth.

Well, yesterday’s news that Obsidian was in talks to develop a Chrono Trigger sequel? It made me do both.

And you know what? When you think about it, it’s not the worst idea in the world. Well, yes it is. But hear me out (and considering the internet’s vehement negative reaction, I doubt many people will), mostly because Squenix hasn’t said anything about it and it would take Dungeon Siege 3 becoming the best selling game ever for this to happen. So this is all idle speculation.

Feargus Urquhart, one of Obsidian’s head honchos and man involved in both the original Fallouts, was the one who brought this rumor to light with Siliconera, in a “this is the game we’d like to make, if you gave us any of your licenses, oh great Square Enix!” And it’s not far fetched: Square wants to get into the development of “western” games, as evidenced by the MMOs and the recently released Nier, so it’s not an absurd conversation.

On how it would work, Nathan Chapman, also fine fellow with Obsidian, said, “I think we’re going with Chrono Trigger because it has elements of a Western RPG. It’s more open, it’s still mostly linear, but there are parts you can explore more. There are lots of differences, like you can beat Lavos at different parts of the game and you get different endings based on that. There are obvious answers like dialogue trees and all of that good stuff. The seeds are there for that kind of development.” This probably makes it sound a lot more likely than it is.

An Obsidian developed Chrono game (let’s just call it Chrono Break) would be interesting for a lot of reasons. There are two directions it could go in: it could be a western RPG with a Japanese aesthetic, or it could be a monstrosity like Sonic: The Dark Brotherhood, with which Bioware took the good bits of Western RPGs, threw them out, and made a generic, awful JRPG. Let’s assume they went the former direction.

Of course, it would be difficult to make a direct sequel to Chrono Trigger, least of all because it already has one: Chrono Cross, which produced a hilarious and convoluted “present” in the Chrono universe*. However, let’s assume Obsidian could work that out. That’s the one element I have faith in them in: their plots have always been fantastic (until they run out of money, at least).
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The Square Enix You Once Knew is Changing

You see, SE knows it’s getting old and antiquated. They know they need to do something in the face of all these new fangled changes that are happening to the tech/media/entertainment industry at large. Square Enix Chief Executive Yoichi Wada tells Forbes all about Square’s new direction, where he admits that “Two things are clear: The distribution channels will change and the revenue model will change.”

So, what does Square Enix propose to do in the wake of these changes? Wada posed an example where, a game like Final Fantasy would be sold through digital distribution in $5 installments. Furthermore Wada reveals that his desire is to see the huge profit margins that companies like NCSoft, who make money selling virtual items in free-to-play games, enjoy. If Farmville can do it, why not Square Enix? Of course, this approach seems completely antithetical to what Final Fantasies are all about (or have become): huge production values and level of detail that you often only see in Hollywood blockbusters. To counter this, Wada says that the level of polish is in the eye of the beholder.

It gets worse. Wada says that “some element of multiplayer or social gaming will be incorporated into each title Square Enix produces, even titles that have traditionally been single-player.” It seems that the folks at Square Enix have been doing more of their “research” which concluded that games do not need storylines, this time concluding that games need to be multiplayer to be succesful. So, could we be seeing a multiplayer Final Fantasy sometime in the future? Who knows. Don’t be surprised when it hits, though. And if Final Fantasy 13 is any indicator, we’ll see that in spite of adhering to current “trends,” Square Enix will completely miss the point of what multiplayer is supposed to be all about. Hell, it doesn’t sound like they even have the judgement to realize that multiplayer should not be incorporated into every game.

“Frankly, the people who excelled at creating game software about 10 years ago are really not good at making multiplayer games,” Wada says. “We are striving to change the old culture, and as a part of such effort we are trying to bring in fresh blood.”

Eh. Some would argue that the Square Enix they once knew died a long, long time ago.

Dungeon Siege 3 Announced

Some days, you get a piece of news that is unintentionally hilarious. Like really any episode of 24. Today, we had the bombshell (lol) that Obsidian (okay) and Square Enix (huh?) were developing a sequel to PC Diablo-alike stalwart Dungeon Siege.

Just think about all those aspects together. Square Enix making a western RPG. Obsidian making a Diablo clone. Dungeon Siege, which was moderately successful at launch but whose sequels, especially Space Siege, flopped harder than a pair of flip flops on a Dolphin (spot the subtle dig!), getting a new sequel from a major company.

Then I thought about it, thought long and hard, and by god if this isn’t the best idea since someone put cookie dough in ice cream.
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