Final Fantasy Versus XIII Resurfaces as Final Fantasy XV
Caspius.com has long been tipping Final Fantasy Versus XIII‘s rebranding as Final Fantasy XV for next generation consoles, and this week’s E3 has seen this prediction borne out as fact. Not as accurate was the Caspius.com prediction that Final Fantasy XV would remain a Sony exclusive. This prediction was based on insider information that Sony were assisting with the game’s development; Sony’s assistance, if indeed there was any at all, must have been extremely marginal in nature, as the game has also been confirmed for Xbone release.
Final Fantasy XV‘s reintroduction at Sony’s press conference was an occasion for much excitement. The game itself looks beautiful, with an attention to detail to environmental modelling rarely found outside of games developed by Naughty Dog. The game does a good job of justifying its upgrade to a next generation title, with a tempest of visual effects swirling around the battlefield at all times, and the Leviathan fight quite simply must be seen in order to be believed.
In all, the game appears to be quite polished, mature, and fully-featured. One of the most initially exciting aspects of Square Enix’s E3 presentation was the reveal of Kingdom Hearts III subsequent to Final Fantasy XV. This was because Tetsuya Nomura has frequently stated that production of Kingdom Hearts III would not begin until Final Fantasy Versus XIII neared completion, as the Kingdom Hearts team is responsible for Final Fantasy Verses XIII‘s development – this looked to seemingly indicate that Final Fantasy XV was nearing completion. This excitement was quickly doused however, when Square Enix announced the following morning that Kingdom Hearts III would be developed by the B-team responsible for 2010’s mediocre Birth by Sleep. This means that once again there is no ETA on the game’s release, as there was no predicted launch window mentioned during the game’s showing.
As for Kingdom Hearts III, one would not expect it any time soon – Square Enix is notorious for announcing games well before they are ready to do so, and this looks to be no exception. By Nomura’s own admission:
“Since the release of Kingdom Hearts II, I believe that many fans were feeling impatient due to our continuous releases of spin-off titles, so we decided to announce it at the same time as Final Fantasy XV. However, looking at the current development status, I think we may have announced it a little too early.”
In Square Enix parlance “a little too early” means greater than seven years from release.
Xbox One Only Works in One Country
Last week Microsoft’s Craig Davidson boldly claimed that “We will kill Sony at E3“, and nothing could have been further from the truth. In all fairness Microsoft probably did have a slightly better showing of third party exclusives – but not may of them looked very interesting. The Microsoft exclusive to garner the most attention, Titanfall [360, Xbone, PC], is a grey-brown borefest created by the guys behind Call of Duty; so nothing new there. Capcom have served up another exclusive helping of Dead Rising, but the Keiji Inafune magic is long gone, as the game is just a grey-brown zombie game which, by Capcom’s own admission, is seeking to court Call of Duty players. The only Xbone third party exclusives which looked to have any real promise were Remedy’s Quantum Break and Sweary 65’s episodic adventure game D4. While this may provide Xbone with a notional edge over PS4, it is more than neutered by much weaker showings in terms of first party and indy titles – with only Halo 5 and Forza 5 being worth a mention.
Xbone’s E3 showing has also seen the uncovering of many details pertaining to the console itself – none of which cast it in a particularly flattering light. Anything which could have gone wrong for Xbone this week did, starting with a fairly staggering pricepoint: $499. This week several anonymous Caspius.com sources confirmed to us that Gamestop employees had received specific instruction that they were not to recomend the purchase of an Xbone to their customers, and that in the event of a customer wishing to purchase Microsoft’s console, they were to try and convince them to buy a PS4 instead; this coincides with reports that Gamestop has stated that they are willing to buy every PS4 console that Sony can manufacture this year. This perhaps explains why Microsoft has announced this week that they will open 605 Microsoft stores inside of Best Buy stores within the North American region; 500 of which will be located in the US, and 105 in Canada. This seems like the sort of move that an out-of-touch manufacturer pursues when not too many retail stores are overly interested in stocking their lackluster products.
But nothing has been more injurious to the Xbone throughout this E3 than Microsoft’s own ham-fisted attempts at PR. When asked what he would like to say to Xbox fans unable to meet the internet requirements of Microsoft’s DRM disaster-box, Don “Alf” Mattrick stated:
“Fortunately we have a product for people who aren’t able to get some form of connectivity. It’s called Xbox 360, if you have zero access to the internet, that is an offline device.”
Let them eat cake indeed! Similarly, it has come to light that an Xbone console will only be functional within the IP range of a supported country [of which there are significantly fewer than the supported launch territories for the 360]. This means that importing an Xbone console and games from a foreign market simply will not work, and that people will not be able to take their Xbone consoles with them when traveling in foreign lands, as the console will not be able to connect to authentication servers. When asked by Twitter-user Gregor Ivesic about what these IP restrictions will mean for travelling Xboners, Xbox Support 2 helpfully stated:
“You’ll be able to play when you return home. I travel with an Xbox 360 for road gaming.”
It stands to be said that Xbox Support 1 did not fare much better at articulating the virtues of the Xbone. When Twitter-user Mark Doherty queried them on what would happen should an Xboner have their XBL account banned for poor conduct, Xbox Support 1 replied:
“If your account is banned, you also forfeit the licenses to any games that have licenses tied to it as listed in the ToU.”
Thus, should an Xboner be found guilty of conduct unbecoming, it is goodbye games library – a prospect which is at any rate immanent, owing to the inbuilt redundancy of Xbone games once the servers are switched off. It also stands to be said that not all accounts are banned for legitimate reasons, as the process could not be any less transparent and accountable if it were administered by Barrack Obama himself.
Finally, it has come to light that Microsoft had all of their E3 demos running on Windows 7 PCs with Nvidia GTX 700 series GPUs. It is not uncommon for trade-show demos to be run from PC development kits which are made to mimic the capabilities of the console they are purported to represent – but the Xbone runs on Windows 8 kernel with an AMD graphics chip, meaning that Microsoft were not even trying to mimic the performance profile of their Xbone!
Sony Wins E3 Handily
After Microsoft’s complete bollocksing of the Xbone all that Sony needed to do in order to come out smelling of roses was to not fuck it all up – one is happy to report that Sony went beyond the call of duty in this regard. Sony’s announcement that their PS4 console would not be subject to the same shitty DRM and used game restrictions as the Xbone lent an atmosphere of festival celebration to the remainder of this year’s E3 proceedings. In an inspired move Shuhei Yoshida even appeared in a Youtube video detailing the process involved in lending a PS4 title to a friend [a transaction which is as simple as handing over the game, and being thanked for it]. Sony’s support of the used game industry gave jaded gamers a reason to once again regard the eighth console generation with hope instead of bitterness, but the real cherry on top of the presentation was when it was announced that the console would be available for $399, a full $100 cheaper than Microsoft’s failbox. Caspius.com readers will also not be terribly surprised to learn that Sony’s PS4 is once again region-free, which contrasts wonderfully with the Xbone’s complete inability to function outside of one’s domestic boarders. In short, PS4 is the obvious choice for gamers who want to game, and who care about gaming.
In terms of games, the PS4 did not feature much in the way of surprising corporate third party exclusives [the only one of note being Final Fantasy XIV], yet boasted a metric fuckton of interesting indy titles. In terms of Sony exclusives Jonathan Blow’s The Witness is probably still the title to watch, but Compulsion Games’ visually striking platformer Contrast, and Supergiant Games’ highly anticipated turn-based strategy title Transistor are definitely shaping up as titles to own. In terms of first party software Killzone: Shadow Fall, Infamous: Second Son, and Knack continue to look like promising affairs. Infamous: Second Son in particular showcased footage which looked nothing short of spectacular, making it a launch-window title to pay attention to. Finally, a completely new PS4 announcement was made in the form of Ready at Dawn’s The Order: 1886, a game which looks to combine Victorian England, steampunk technology, and Arthurian references with good old fashioned monster slaying. The game looks quite promising in terms setting, but any actual gameplay was not in evidence at the Sony conference, and so the title remains very much an unknown quantity. Interestingly, two of the four first party franchises underpinning the PS4 are completely new IP, which contrasts very nicely with the predictable first party offerings of rival consoles.
Nintendo Did Not Manage to Turn the Ship Around
Nintendo were this week in the paradoxical position of showcasing the most recognisably enjoyable exclusive titles of any of the three console manufacturers, yet nevertheless being seen to come up woefully short. Due to the flagging fortunes and scant library of the Wii U, Nintendo really needed to unveil at least one piece of software capable of surprising and intriguing gamers. Nintendo regularly recycles their existing IP, which is OK, but in order to wrest back Wii U sales momentum they really needed to bring a fresh and exciting interpretation to the existing IP [think Mario 64, Mario Galaxy, Metroid Prime]. Instead what Nintendo unveiled was a bunch of Wii U franchise games which were heavily based on their 3DS counterparts. Mario 3D World and Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze are, at a glance, visually indistinguishable from their 3DS/Wii counterparts, Super Smash Bros. and Mario Kart 8 are utterly known quantities and will not be available until mid-2014, while Wind Waker HD is just a GameCube HD port. Monolithsoft’s X still looks quite lovely and is due for release in 2014, while the next proper installment of Zelda will no doubt be spectacular, but is probably several years away from actual release. The Wii U has a finite window of opportunity in which to turn around its fortunes. It needs games which are both novel and delightful, and the games that Nintendo showcased will not get the job done. Given that Nintendo’s E3 showing featured many games which will not even see release until 2014, one can only conclude that they have nothing on the immediate horizon capable of saving the Wii U. Mario and Donkey Kong do look very nice though.