SHINJUKU--Square Enix is going to be busy over the coming months--it has six new titles coming, including Chocobo's Dungeon: Toki Wasure No Meikyuu for the Wii, along with The Last Remnant for the PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360, and two Star Oceans for the PlayStation Portable. The company announced the new games at a press conference at its corporate headquarters in Tokyo's Shinjuku district today. The event, attended by more than 100 members of the worldwide press, was timed to precede the Square Enix Party to be held at the Makuhari Messe this weekend. There, the Japanese publisher will be inviting the public to check out its current titles and get sneak peeks at upcoming games.
After Square Enix president and CEO Yoichi Wada's introductions, producers rotated onto the stage in turn to discuss their titles. First up was Star Ocean producer Yoshinori Yamagishi, who discussed the trio of titles from the popular sci-fi role-playing game franchise. Following a video that offered a historical tour of the three previous entries in the long-running franchise, Yamagishi revealed two new titles, Star Ocean: The First Departure and Star Ocean: The Second Evolution. The games are PSP remakes of the first two Star Oceans, featuring redone graphics that mix 2D and 3D elements, voice acting, and new cinematics that include animation from well-known Japanese animation house Studio IG. In addition, the games will feature new content that includes new playable characters.
Finally, Yamagishi noted that a brand-new entry in the series, Star Ocean 4, is currently in joint development between Square and longtime series developer Tri-Ace. Specific information on the release date and platforms is set to be announced in the near future.
Following the Star Ocean presentation, producer Shinji Hashimoto took the stage to discuss the series of titles featuring the beloved chocobos. Hashimoto offered a quick update on the recently released Chocobo Tales for the Nintendo DS, noting that following its release in Japan and the US, Square Enix has decided to release the game in Europe as well. However, the bigger news of the day was the announcement of a new Wii title, the tentatively named Chocobo's Dungeon: Toki Wasure No Meikyuu (or, roughly translated, The Dungeon of Forgotten Time). The game's producer, Yuki Yokoyama, showed a trailer of the game featuring fly-throughs of various environments, which included familiar faces from the previous Chocobo Dungeon title running on the game engine. The lovable yellow bird was seen walking around town, napping on a dock, hanging out on a swing, and having tea at a café. The footage perked up when the camera focused on a clock tower with a loudly clanging bell. The diminutive bird was then seen being teleported away, fighting his way through a dungeon, leveling up, and generally trying to stay alive in a hostile environment.
Yokoyama noted that the Chocobo's Dungeon series was celebrating its 10th anniversary and that the game would include elements that should be familiar to Final Fantasy fans. He also pointed out that the game would be more than just a dungeon hack-and-slash game. While there wasn't a great deal of information given out, the game is set in a world called Vil, a land of forgotten time where people have lost their memories. The lost memories will figure into gameplay, as you will see them appear on the game field as glittering objects. He also stated that the game would include something special for fans of Chocobo Tales.
The next speaker, executive producer Akitoshi Kawazu, focused on the two upcoming Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles titles. First up was Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Ring of Fates for the DS. The game builds on the template set by the original GameCube game--which Kawazu noted had sold 1.3 million units worldwide. The gamer will follow the adventures of fraternal twins, named Yuri and Charinka, who set out to look for a crystal with hidden truths. Before segueing to a trailer, Kawazu pointed out that it would be addressing user feedback on the gameplay from the first game.
As such, the single-player game will let you guide the twins to learn the secret behind the crystal. The pair is joined by an alchemist and a magic teacher. Given the popularity of the multiplayer component in the original game, Ring of Fates will support the DS's communication feature for its multiplayer. The multiplayer mode will let players fight against up to four friends or work cooperatively to complete quests. The trailer shown for the game mixed CG and in-game footage, giving a good display of the game's art style, which was similar to the stylized character design seen in the GameCube game, albeit lower resolution. A montage of footage showed a variety of different environments, boss battles, puzzles, and platforming touches that seemed to back up the claims of expanded gameplay. The end of the trailer faded out on the game's Japanese release date, 8/23/2007.
The update on Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers was decidedly thinner, with director Toshiyuki Itahana taking the stage and mentioning that the trailer that was about to be shown was all footage taken from the Wii's in-game engine. The brief trailer kicked off with a close-up of a massive green crystal that then cut to various action shots of the game's hero, a dirty-blonde goggle-wearing youth with sassy J-Pop hair. The fast-paced action showed off traditional FF elements such as air ships, which gave the visuals a much more action-oriented feel. The hero was seen floating and flying through the air, battling foes with powerful magic blasts. Other footage showed him running through a city square.
The next game to be discussed was an update of a familiar title for Japanese and American fans, Final Fantasy XII International Zodiac Job System. The game follows Square's now time-honored tradition of releasing the North American version of games back to Japan with added enhancements. Director Horoyuki Ito offered an overview of the game, which is essentially an enhanced version of the North American game released late last year that features English audio, a 16x9 widescreen mode, and a new Zodiac job system that now features 12 new license boards, making it possible to specialize characters to a much greater degree than before. For example, it will be possible to specialize as a red mage. The battle system is also being enhanced, a beta version of which will be playable at the Square Enix festival this weekend. Finally, the game is set to include a secret DVD that is based on the Limited Edition bonus disc released in North America. The game is set to ship in Japan on August 9.
Wada closed the conference by taking the stage and introducing an original property from Square Enix that the company hopes will start a brand-new franchise that will serve as the cornerstone of their global franchises. The new game, called The Last Remnant, is being developed for next-gen platforms and targeted at Japanese and US audiences. Wada introduced producer Nobuyuki Ueda, who is helming the game, and , in lieu of showing off a trailer, he walked those in attendance through gameplay footage. The Unreal Engine-powered game, slated for a simultaneous release on both the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, is being crafted by a new generation of Square talent who are said to be bringing fresh ideas to the project. Ueda's portion of the presentation showed off the stunning in-game visuals and cinematic flair. He also offered a bit of information on the game's plot, which revolves around battles to control powerful ancient relics called remnants. During the demo, we saw two remnants: a massive sword and an equally huge dragon, both of which served as centerpieces to two of the towns that were shown off.
Following the overview of the visuals, Ueda called out Hiroshi Takai, director of the game's battle system, who showed off the game's unique combat system. The system appears to be a departure from the traditional system's seen in Square's Final Fantasy games. It doesn't revolve around random encounters and instead throws you into combat as you walk into enemies. The battles in The Last Remnant let you take control of groups of combatants whose numbers can grow over the course of a fight as morale ebbs and flows. During combat, the camera zooms in and out of clashes, in some cases asking for button prompts that, if missed, cause trouble during the fight. When backed into a corner, enemies can apparently summon reinforcements, increasing their morale and eroding yours as well as expanding the number of combatants dramatically. During the demo, a medium-sized clash of mobs took an epic turn when the enemy force got reinforcements, which included a massive dragon. Main character Rush Sykes (GameSpot thinks that's his name, an English translation of his name was unavailable at the time of this writing), countered by summoning his own reinforcements, which included a massive, screen-filling clockwork Cyclops. One feature Takai was keen to point out was the game's dynamic soundtrack, which changes over the course of the battle to reflect how things are going.
Following the presentation of The Last Remnant, the conference wound down and those in attendance were encouraged to attend this weekend's Square Enix Festival, which is set to feature playable versions of some of the titles shown today as well as stage shows that will reveal new information. Check back for GameSpot's coverage this weekend.