Wherein Square Enix Make an Announcement Concerning Final Fantasy XIII
No, Square Enix did not announce the continuation of Lightning’s saga via the medium of radio drama (yet), but they did announce the next best thing, unveiling the ridiculously named Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII. The title looks to be a massive departure from previous entries in the series, with the established battle system being pretty much scrapped in favour of an Action RPG battle system replete with realtime blocking. Despite this, it is said that the game still notionally maintains at least some semblance of an ATB system, though it will feature no menus, as attacks and magic can now be mapped to buttons. In continuing its shift into Action RPG territory, Lightning will be the game’s only playable character, with the supporting cast relegated to the role of NPCs, one presumes. Accompanying this change in battle system is a corresponding change in design philosophy, with Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII moving to adopt an open world as seen in popular RPGs such as Skyrim.
In terms of setting, the game will take place in an all new world known as Navus Partus, which exists many hundreds of years after the locations seen in the previous games. The world consists of four large islands, each one connected by a monorail. All of this is then surrounded by a blue lagoon, which eventually gives way to a sheer descent into stark nothingness, creating the impression that the world is to exist beyond the confines of normal time and space. In fitting with this end-of-the-world setting, the game is also set to feature a doomsday clock which allots players thirteen days (presumably not timed on a 1:1 scale) to save the world as it counts down to the end of humanity. Time can additionally be spent when using special moves and extended by solving storyline events. If a player runs out of time they may find themselves forced to restart their game, making the time mechanic somewhat reminiscent of the system used in Breath of Fire V: Dragon Quarter.
Despite indication that Square Enix were looking to change-up the formula of their latest offering in the Final Fantasy XIII series, one was truly surprised by the extent of the bold (or reactive) changes made to the formula, and look forward to seeing how it plays out for the existing audience. This move is not without its own inherent risks, as many Final Fantasy XIII fanboys have already displayed their vocal disdain for the less drastic changes made to the series formula with the release of Final Fantasy XIII-2, meaning that Square Enix risk turning away their existing audience while being somewhat unlikely to attract lapsed players of the series. That said, gamers who have stuck with the series up to this point are passing unlikely to quit it now, so it is not unreasonable to expect Final Fantasy XIII-2 levels of performance from the game at retail.
Square Enix Botch the Launch of Final Fantasy: Dimensions
Much has been made this week of the ridiculous pricing structure that Square Enix have adopted for the iOS release of Final Fantasy: Dimensions, which will run punters upwards of $29 for access to the complete experience. As if this was not a significant enough burden for a cheaply made phone game to carry, the launch of Final Fantasy: Dimensions saw the application made available with a bug which prevents users from paying to access further chapters of the game, forcing many to endure a day or more of waiting while a revision of the software was rushed to Apple’s iOS store-front.
Significantly, this delay constitutes something of a forced cool-down period for early adopters (read: the majority of people who were anticipating the game) when Square Enix was likely relying upon this group’s proclivity toward making impulse purchases in the immediate afterglow of the game’s opening sequence. Allow these people to put down the experience for long enough and they will begin to question whether it is truly worth their thirty dollars to pick it back up again, especially when the game exhibits all the worst aspects of flash-game production values.
While Square Enix should rightly be flogged for launching Final Fantasy: Dimensions at this price-point, and while one sincerely hopes that this hiccup is enough to allow the sheep to see through the wolf’s ploy, one thing must nevertheless be said in Square Enix’s favour on this issue: at least they have had enough confidence in their product to provide a representative sample gratis. Prospective customers are given a warts-and-all slice of the game completely free of charge, and thus consumers cannot complain about being duped into paying top-dollar for a low-quality game – anyone who ponies up the cash for Fianl Fantasy: Dimensions walks into this noose willingly.
Sony Botches the American Launch of PSOne Classics on PSVita
The release of PSOne classics on Sony’s Vita platform always should have been a slam-dunk for the company, and to be fair this is exactly what it was for the European arm of the company which launched with dozens of quality games to amuse and delight their users, yet the American launch did not fare so well. Sony of America in their calculating hubris launched with a mere nine titles, stymieing the availability of PSOne titles in order to artificially bolster their system’s dwindling release schedule on PSN in the coming months. After the vocal user outcry directed toward Sony, the company was forced to make an impromptu update to the available titles on PSN, more than doubling the number of PSOne downloads, yet oddly managing to do so while adding very little of value to users. Case and point, the initial offering saw the release of Arc the Lad, while the update saw the release of Arc the Lad II, which is perhaps not quite the diversity that people were looking for in their demand for a larger selection.
As of writing, there are over one hundred PSOne Classics which are compatible with the PSVita, and which may be transferred to the system by a very round-about method involving the use of the PS3 to transfer a game’s download ‘bubble’ to the PSVita. Understandably, this method involves quite a bit of unnecessary effort on the part of users, which is a completely unacceptable burden to foist upon the system’s early adopters who have paid a high price to support the system as it makes its initial struggles to be brought up to speed. Moreover, even this work-around remains completely unavailable to users who lack a PS3, leaving them SOL, to quote the vernacular. European users have access to over half of their compatible downloads, including heavy-hitters such as: Vagrant Story, Resident Evil 1-3, Metal Gear Solid, and Soul Reaver. Meanwhile the luckless holders of US Vita accounts are left to suffer through a second-string launch catalogue of PSOne ‘Classics’.