All of Your Childhood Is Belong to Mobile!
FML! The PS1 was a JRPG behemoth – we have Final Fantasy VII to thank for that. Final Fantasy VII did not appear until January of 1997 (September for America) however, and it was far slimmer pickings for PlayStation owners over the course of 1995 and 1996. Arc the Lad was one of the first JRPGs to be released for the PS1 in June 1995, though hilariously it would go on to be one of the last JRPGs released for PS1 in North America in April 2002 – two years after the PS2 was already on the market.
Over the course of the PS1’s life Sony would release three entries in the series, and so this series was very much part of the JRPG landscape in Japan, even if it did get mostly overlooked in the West. The games were an interesting hybrid of traditional JRPG structure mixed with tactical RPG combat, and the first two entries were developed by G-Craft, the developer responsible for the first two entries in the Front Mission series, who would go on to become Squaresoft’s sixth development division (PDD6) following a merger. The developer is not particularly important here, other than to demonstrate the pedigree of the franchise.
This week Sony announced that they were bringing back the Arc the Lad series with the release of Arc the Lad R – for smartphones! Not for PS4, not for Vita, but for bleeding smartphones! This has come hot on the heels of Sony’s April announcement that Wild Arms would now be a smartphone property! Wild Arms was also an early PS1 JRPG, releasing during December 1996, and this game did receive a timely localisation, releasing in America months ahead of Final Fantasy VII. Sony have even managed to get the original series game designer and scenario writer Akifumi Kaneko to return for Wild Arms: Million Memories – a fucking mobile phone game!
And Sony’s games are in good company it would seem, as less than two weeks ago it was announced that Langrisser would now be a mobile phone franchise! This one cannot be blamed on Sony. Langrisser goes back even further than Sony’s duo of PS1 franchises, with Warsong releasing on the Genesis back in 1991! It might be tempting to think that we are going through a JRPG renaissance, and in many ways we are – with 2017 seeing the release of Xenoblade Chronicles 2, Ys VIII, Nier: Automata, and Persona 5; and then 2018 seeing the release of Octopath Traveler and Dragon Quest XI. That being said, these are incredibly bleak times for some very important JRPG series of the early to mid 1990s.
Final Fantasy VII Is Now an Action Game!
Talking about bleak times for mid 1990s JRPGs, Final Fantasy VII Remake! This trainwreck just goes from bad to worse. Final Fantasy VII was a beautiful gem of a game, and was pretty much the sole reason that JRPGs even took off in the West. It is also pretty much the only reason that Final Fantasy is still a big brand despite releasing several mediocre mainline entries in the series, along with a multitude of downright terrible spin-off entries in the series. It is for this reason that Final Fantasy VII deserves better.
When we began covering the Final Fantasy VII Remake, it did not get off to the the most auspicious of starts, with Tetsuya Nomura not even realising that he was the director for months until he one day saw himself listed as such on an internal Square Enix document. Mere days after the project was publicly announced people found out that it would be broken into episodic content! From there Square Enix farmed out the project to CyberConnect2, the makers of .Hack, who worked on the game for a full two years until Square Enix one day decided that all of their development work was too poor to be used, and so everything developed up to that point was thrown into the trash so they could start again from scratch. Just this year Square Enix was still filling key design roles, and yet we are somehow expected to believe that these multiple Final Fantasy VII games will see release on the PS4 when the PS5 is likely to be on the market in 2020.
Square Enix has posted a new job listing this week. The fact that Square Enix is filling another position is of no great importance here. This time they are just looking for a visual effects artist, so having this role vacant presumably does not hold up too many other people from doing their jobs, especially if the team has multiple visual effects artists. No, the importance of this job listing is that it enables us to see that Square Enix has dropped all pretenses, and now refers to Final Fantasy VII as an ‘action game’. Previously Square Enix has described Final Fantasy VII Remake as variously an action RPG or an RPG with action elements – but this is the first time that Square Enix has completely dropped the RPG tag, and simply referred to it as an action game!
“a position that will carry the core of Final Fantasy VII Remake that is being remade as an action game”
It is possible that one is reading too closely into the wording of a listing that could have been written by any Square Enix employee – but the more news that leaks out of this project, the less this author is digging it. The fact that Square Enix are internally talking about Final Fantasy VII as an action game is a very troubling development indeed.
Code Name: Fallen Woman
This week a leak has appeared from a credible Microsoft source that their next generation console is being developed under the code name ‘Scarlett’ – a word synonymous with gross moral indecency. Apparently the next Xbox platform is being developed as two vastly different SKUs. Microsoft still has not given up on the cloud it would seem. One SKU will be a conventional basic bitch games console, but the other one, code named ‘Scarlett Cloud’, will be little more than a streaming box. It will be super ironic if the Final Fantasy VII Remake ends up coming out on the next generation Xbox.
Apparently the Scarlett Cloud will perform a limited amount of image and collision detection processing locally, yet the bulk of the game will be streamed remotely from the cloud. Because of this local processing the Scarlett Cloud will be more expensive than one might think, yet it will still be significantly cheaper than a legit next generation console. What Microsoft are essentially doing here is developing a shell console to do what Playstation Now already does.
Microsoft is banking on Xboners being so keen on upgrading to the next generation of consoles that they will buy a streaming box if they cannot afford a proper console. Here is the thing though, game development is so slow these days that the transition between generation 7 and generation 8 consoles lasted well over a year, and so the next generation changeover will presumably take just as long, giving people more than enough time to save for a new console. Why would an Xboner settle for upgrading to a streaming box when they could just buy the same games for their existing Xbox One?
This does not really have any strategic benefit either, as Sony are able to achieve exactly the same thing by simply making PS5 games available on Playstation Now, making them available to PC and PS4 owners. They could take to the E3 stage and tell the audience that they already own a PS5, and then announce that existing Playstation Now customers already have have everything they need to start playing PS5 games – without having to a buy streaming shell console. This is unlikely to be of much strategic value though, as Sony likely already knows that streaming games from a remote server is not a particularly popular way to play vidya.