Square Enix: Console Titles of E3 2004
Square Enix: Console Titles of E3 2004
by John McCarroll & Stephen Harris - 05/12/04
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Square Enix had a strong showing this year at their press conference, showing titles mainly for the PlayStation 2, a hand full of portable titles, and a CG film follow-up to one of their most popular Final Fantasy games. Opening the conference with the a new business profile featuring the phrases 'Network is Game' and 'Everything Does Game': An ideology that supports anytime, anywhere access to Square Enix's content. This, in fact, has already begun to be implemented within the most recent of Final Fantasy worlds. Let's take a look at the titles showcased at the conference.

Final Fantasy XII
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Square Enix's flagship title, Final Fantasy XII, features the world of Ivalice last visited in Final Fantasy Tactics Advance. In this futuristic setting, a boy named Vaan will embark on adventure to become a Sky Pirate, only to learn that his pursuit of freedom holds more in store than he ever imagined. In the course of his journey he will encounter royalty, rebellion and an enemy unlike any other; a 'Judge' who enforces the laws of the land, but is said to be more of an executioner than an arbiter. FFXII is a graphically impressive game with characters in the same style as Vagrant Story.

Creator Yasumi Matsuno, director of Vagrant Story, will be taking the title in a new direction with a style of Final Fantasy not seen since the Super Nintendo. Nearly all the game will be presented with an entirely new in-game engine, featuring very few FMV sequences. Key staff on-board the project are Art Director Hideo Minaba known for his work on Final Fantasy Tactics and Final Fantasy 6, and Character Designer Aikiko Yoshida from Vagrant Story and Final Fantasy Tactics. The musical gurus Nobuo Uematsu, well known for his work on the Final Fantasy series, and Hitoshi Sakimoto, who contributed to Vagrant Story's musical score, will be responsible for bringing melody to thislatest adventure. With a large portion of the staff having experience with Vagrant Story, it is no surprise that the ambiance of both games is very similar. Final Fantasy XII is set for release sometime in 2005. You can view our preview of the game here.

Final Fantasy XI: Chains of Promathia
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The long-awaited expansion to Square Enix's popular MMORPG Final Fantasy XI: Chains of Promathia was also shown. Although not introducing any new classes, Chains of Promathia brings a lost archipelego, an underground goblin city, and approximately 40 new areas to the already vast world of Vana'diel. Characters will also be able to use new modes of transportation such as rafts to navigate these newly discovered territories.

Chains of Promathia will also include an entirely new storyline expanding upon the original tale told in Final Fantasy XI and Rise of the Zilart. No concrete details were released about the plot, only that players would experience the unfolding of a long forgotten legend. Players can expect more items, equipment, synth recipies and monster types in this upcoming expansion. FFXI: Chains of Promathia is set for a simultaneous release in Japan and the US in Fall of 2004 on PlayStation 2 and Windows-based PCs.

Star Ocean: Till the End of Time
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The much-delayed Star Ocean: Till the End of Time was finally confirmed for an August 2004 release. In addition, the North American version will be the the 2 DVD-ROM Director's Cut recently released in Japan. Some of the extras included in this version include character costume choices and a fully-featured player vs. player fighting mode. There is very little new information on Star Ocean 3, but you can read about the current game's features in our preview. Star Ocean: Till the End of Time is slated for an August release for the PlayStation 2.

Kingdom Hearts II
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Possibly the most awaited game in Square Enix's lineup aside from FFXII was Kingdom Hearts II, sequel to the smash hit original which mixes Disney characters with those from the worlds of Square Enix. The second follows a year after the events of the first with Sora, Donald, and Goofy looking for the missing king Mickey. As they investigate, they discover that the Heartless still exist, and will be backed by a new masked enemy.

New characters on the player's team also include King Mickey as they quest against the Heartless. Kingdom Hearts II's staff is similar to the original. Including Tetsuya Nomura, who returns as director and character designer. Many of Nomura's characters are included in the game from other Square titles he has worked on previously. Kingdom Hearts II North American release date is yet to be announced.

Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories
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Also in the Kingdom Hearts series is the Game Boy Advance game Chain of Memories, which takes place between the two PlayStation 2 titles. Sora, standing at a crossroads, meets a man in the shadows and hears the words, "Ahead lies what you seek... but to claim it, you must lose something dear..." When the man vanishes, only a single path remains; Sora is left not knowing what he will gain in comparison to what he will lose.

Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories incorporates elements not previously used on the GBA. High quality movie sequences are included, as are the now-common card segments seen in many recent games. Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories, featuring the Disney characters of the first titles, is slated for a release in June of 2004.

Full Metal Alchemist and the Broken Angel
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Well-known in Japan for its unique animation style, the anime series Full Metal Alchemist was announced by Square Enix and FUNimation for a domestic DVD release in late 2004, shortly after the series debut on Cartoon Network this October. Also announced for US release was the coinciding game, Full Metal Alchemist and the Broken Angel, an Action-RPG. The battle system of FMA seems to be similar to that of Kingdom Hearts, but more specific details have yet to surface.

As a game based on an anime, storyline is very important in Full Metal Alchemist and the Broken Angel. The main characters, Edward and Alfonse Elric, are alchemists: people with the ability to transform objects into other objects. After the death of their mother, the two brothers attempt a forbidden ceremony to recreate her body and soul. As a consequence of the Law of Alchemy that one must provide something of equal value to gain something else, Alfonse loses his entire body in the exchange, with his soul encased in a suit of armor. Edward, who was slightly luckier, lost his right arm and left leg. Replacing his limbs with Auto-Mail, or mechanical limbs, Ed leaves with his brother Al to return what they have lost - including their mother. FMA is slated for a Spring 2005 release for the PlayStation 2.

Samurai Legend Musashi
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Square Enix's surprise announcement for the show was the introduction of Samurai Legend Musashi, sequel to the PS1 classic Brave Fencer Musashi. Although very little gameplay was shown, Musashi features a similar battle system to the original. Illustrated with graphical style similar to 'Cel' or 'Toon' shading, Musashi's producer Takashi Tokita announced more 'Manga' shading style for Musashi. Tetsuya Nomura, character designer for Kingdom Hearts, will also be lending his talents to create Musashi. Gainax, the animation studio known for Neon Genesis Evangelion will be handling the cut scenes for the game. The soundtrack will feature music from a fiery band known as the Surf Coasters, called by the US Billboard Magazine as "Princes of Pure Guitar." Samurai Legend Musashi will be shipping in the United States this winter for PlayStation 2.

Front Mission 4
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Wanzers, the giant mecha central to the popular series Front Mission make a return for the North American series debut on PS2 with Front Mission 4. Showcasing a combat system similar to the third game in the series, Front Mission 4 adds many new combat features. One primary feature is the 'Linking' system, where multiple units are used in tandem combat, as opposed to the normal 1-on-1 combat seen in normal Strategy RPGs.

The original creator of this late 21st century mechanized combat series, Toshiro Tsuchida, is producing and directing the new game with the aide of Kiyotaka Akaza, who helped program Front Mission 2 & 3. Ko Sato, who also worked on Front Mission 3, returns to bring the new battle system to life. Front Mission 4 is the closest release shown at the conference, slated for a June 11, 2004 release. Please read our preview of the title for more details.

©2004 Square Enix. All Rights Reserved.

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