Final Fantasy XV Releases On Consoles. Again.
This has been a strange week. Final Fantasy XV has this week been released for the PS4 and Xbox One. Again. We have long speculated that Final Fantasy XV: Pocket Edition was in development for the Nintendo Switch, seeing as the platform is too underpowered to run the console version of the game – but then the game has this week launched on the PS4 and Xbox One, with the Switch version still MIA!
It has been speculated that the Switch version of the game would have been made available directly following on from this week’s Nintendo Direct, but when Japan suffered a severe earthquake this week [press F for Catgirls] the Direct was postponed, and thus the PS4 has received two radically different versions of Final Fantasy XV when the Switch is still yet to receive even one. Nintendonlies are unhappy about this, but they should be careful what they wish for. They are also upset that they are not getting the console version of the game, but, again, they should be careful what they wish for. The newest Nintendonly rallying cry appears to be ‘the Switch can run Doom, and therefore it can run X game’ – and so in this instance they firmly believe that the Switch is capable of running the console version of Final Fantasy XV, when the base Xbox One struggles to run it, and as such they believe that there is a conspiracy between Square Enix and Sony to deny them the version of the game that they want to play. As if Sony could benefit from that years after the game released for the PS4.
Upon initially reading that Final Fantasy XV Pocket Edition had been released for the PS4 one found it obscenely ridiculous that a smartphone version of the game had been released when a technically superior version of the game was already available for purchase. That being said, upon reflection this may actually be the preferable version of the game. Final Fantasy XV is a turgid experience, which gets bogged down with painfully long loading times, an over-reliance on uninteresting sidequests, and an uninspired open world setting which is just a slog to make your way through. By contrast the Pocket Edition has lightning fast loading, has stripped out all sidequests, and the open world is now gone, as the game is all hub locations and dungeons. Even the use of a pulled back isometric camera makes the environments seem that much quicker to navigate. This may very well be the least painful way to experience the story of Final Fantasy XV. That said, why bother?
Kingdom of Amalur Rears Its Ugly Head
From one terrible game that just will not go away to another, this week it has been discovered that THQ Nordic has purchased the Kingdom of Amalur IP rights from 38 Studios. Who knew that 38 Studios was still in a position to sell their assets? One was under the impression that 38 Studios was long gone by this point.
At once this is both a blast from the past, while at the same time not being far enough removed for the comfort of this author. Kingdoms of Amalur was a stain that just kept dragging across the industry, like a worm ridden dog trying to relieve its discomfort on the carpet. The game released as a mediocre Fable clone in a time when there was little competition, so despite it being very lackluster it nonetheless seemed to be everywhere. It also released with one of the more egregious Online Passes, for anyone who remembers those. Most Online Passes would prevent gamers from accessing multiplayer in second hand games, but Kingdom of Amalur‘s Online Pass actually made a chunk of the single player game inaccessible.
The Head of 38 Studios, former sportsball player Curt Schilling, had taken out an enormous loan [backed by the state of Rhode Island] in order to develop Kingdoms of Amalur, while at the same time the studio was also attempting to develop Project Copernicus, an MMO. The brand new IP of Kingdoms of Amalur would go on to sell 1.2 million copies, which is pretty decent for the first entry in a series, yet this was insufficient to make the studio much of the profit, and the concurrent development of an MMO quickly pulled them under. This was only the start though, as for several years Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee fought to try and recoup tax payer’s money back from the failed enterprise of 38 Studios. The story of Amalur is the classic story of biting off more than one can chew. Small studios which over time become large studios know how to operate at this level because of the lessons learned on their way up. Curt Schilling completely bypassed the process of growing his business, as borrowing a huge amount of state-backed money allowed him to just bypass the process and start developing AAA content immediately. It should be no surprise as to why this failed.
This whole mess was a clusterfuck that this author reported on week after week, but at least it finally seemed to be over. But no – this terrible story just keeps limping on! Now THQ Nordic will be making new Amalur games! What is even with THQ Nordic and buying lackluster firesale IP? The company loves to snap up the rights to franchises that are either mediocre or overplayed. Kingdoms of Amalur was unprofitable the first time around, but for some reason THQ Nordic thinks it will be successful this time. Expect more stories on this terrible series anon. Amalur is like the Final Fantasy XV of WRPGS.
The Polymega: Be Careful What You Pre-order
People should never ever pre-commit to buy a new piece of retro console hardware before it is on the market, and thus available for review – it is the height of foolishness. This goes doubly for any piece of hardware that would require $500,000 to be raised in pre-orders for it to even be released! This is the case for the Polymega, and it is the first red flag. Likely the only reason that the Polymega is not heading to Kickstarter is because there has been too many retro hardware dumpster fires there recently.
The Polymega [$250] touts itself as the first clone console to support CD-based retro consoles. Out of the box it supports Sega CD, PC Engine CD, Neo Geo CD, PS1, and just recently it was announced that it would also support Sega Saturn. The Polymega’s compatibility does not stop there, as it features a modular design which is able to accommodate pieces of add-on hardware that the company [Playmaji] refers to elements [$60 ea]. There will be four elements available at launch, each of which add an extra system and sport the requisite control ports for that system. These elements come in NES, SNES, PC Engine, and Genesis varieties. The company also mentions the possibility of supporting the Dreamcast if the funding for system pre-orders reaches a certain level – this is actually the second red flag. The Polymega ships with a combination CD/DVD drive, but Dreamcasts used the obscure GD-ROM storage medium. There have been one or two older PC DVD drives which have been capable of reading GD-ROM discs, but as a general rule DVD drives do not read GD-ROMS; so either the team has planned to make their console Dreamcast capable from the outset, or the company is talking big without actually thinking it through. This author will leave it for readers to decide which of the two this sounds like:
“Sega Dreamcast will be committed to if its reward level goal is reached.”
Pre-orders have just opened for the Polymega, and they got off to an explosive start with the announcement of Saturn support – and already there is a huge amount of customer angst and resentment. For months the Polymega FAQ stated that the system would feature an FPGA processor for accurate game performance, but just prior to going live this was swapped out for a 3.2ghz Intel dualcore processor and emulation. For months the Polymega FAQ promised that the system would support the Super Gameboy along with various flash carts, but just prior to going live the company dropped support for these devices. The reason given for them no longer being supported was because the Polymega was no longer using an FPGA core, and the reason given for the FPGA being taken out was due to the fact that the Saturn emulation required an x86 processor. Given the state of Saturn emulation this comes off as a highly dubious decision, but then the way they have gone about this entire process speaks to the Polymega’s development existing in a state of flux and chaos. This point was made even more emphatically when it was revealed that Playmaji’s Saturn support announcement video used footage from the arcade version of Sega Rally rather than its Saturn port. The company has subsequently declined customer requests to provide footage of the Polymega running Saturn games, so it seems safe to assume that this feature is not even implemented yet.
So Playmaji make a huge splash by announcing Saturn support just prior to pre-orders going live, and a ton of people flocked to give them money, and then later realised that they had just paid money for a system that was now radically different from the one that had been promoted for months. At best Playmaji did not think this through properly, and at worst this was a deliberate bait and switch. The fact that the company needs the pre-order money to even produce the systems suggests that right now the system still only exists as a handcrafted prototype, so there is still a lot that could go wrong in attempting to produce the units en masse. The design of the Polymega is sleek and sexy, and if Playmaji makes good on their promises to the fullest extent then it will be a very desirable piece of kit – but does this sound like an operation that is worthy of consumer trust? Playmaji are behaving just like every shonky grifter that has come before them, and one will not be the least bit surprised at having to report on the Polymega being the latest retro hardware dumpster fire sometime next year. Do not throw money at unproven hardware.