Hello you beautiful misfits. My name’s Matt and we’ve come at last my final video covering 2015’s E3 conferences, with the Square Enix conference. Although a better description of it would be “The Square-Enix E3 conference call with the board of investors.”
Yep, don’t expect any Bethesda-style swearing, Ubisoft song-and-dance numbers or Sony shenmue Kickstarter announcements. This presentation was about as staid and formal as you could get outside of a Japanese corporate boardroom. After an all-too-brief opening montage of explosions courtesy of Just Cause 3, CEO of Square Enix America and Europe Phil Rogers then came on stage to open the proceedings by talking about the the “journey” Square-Enix had been on in the runup to this event. Seriously, he actually used the word “journey.”
[“I’d like to take a moment or two to talk about the journey we’ve been on at Square Enix.”]
What’s all this about a “journey”? Is this a conference or an AA meeting? The rest of his speech was the usual corporate guff you might expect at, say, an investors pitch.
[“Unique in the industry in terms of the variety and depths of the experiences we create.”]
Fortunately this part was mercifully brief and Phil soon made way for Roland Lesterlin of Avalanche, seen here resembling a low budget imitation of a post-rehab Jesse Pinkman from Breaking Bad. Roland talked a bit about some new gameplay features like a wingsuit, multiple grapple lines and other such things, before wisely deciding to just show instead of tell. Which he did with a new trailer, sculpted from one of Michael Bay’s Wet Dreams.
Albeit a trailer with an annoying voice-over slapped on top of it, droning on about the deep and meaningful story of Rico Rodriguez returning to his mother’s meditteranean island homeland to depose another brutal dictator. Look, Mr Narrator, I’ll find out the story if and when I play it, okay? Just let me watch Rico using cars suspended from helicopters on grapple lines as wrecking balls and blowing shit up with unlimited C4. That’s all I’m here for.
After that glorious montage of fiery mayhem came Yosuke Saito, who was introduced to the audience as director of …Business Division VI.”
My god. Could you possibly have a more sterile name for a company department than “Business Division Six”? That’s the kind of deliberately bland-yet-also-slightly menacing name you give to an illegal cyberpunk death squad, so nobody thinks to ask too many questions about it.
They even spell it using Roman numerals! The most sinister form that numbers can take!
Mr Saito is perhaps best known to actual flesh-and-blood people, and not corporate robots with a bank vault for a heart, as the producer of Dragon Quest X and NieR. That last one being especially relevant because he was here to announce a sequel to NieR developed in conjunction with Platinum Games, called “NieR – Something something.” Because according to Mr Saito “the subtitle still very much a secret.” Square-Enix are officially calling it “NieR – New Project” for now, but it absolutely isn’t called NieR 2 because literally reasons.
And if you even think about calling it NieR 2, you can expect a strong response from Business Division VI. Y’see?! Bland, yet also slightly menacing!
As for the game itself, well, all they had to show of it was some concept art run through a Sony Vegas TV Scanline filter and 15 seconds of CGI, with the promise of more information this coming Autumn. After which Mr Saito made way for the game’s director, Yoko Taro, who had a bit of trouble getting up onto the stage because his head was a giant grinning moon.
Well, you had my curiosity. Now you have my attention!
There it is everybody: the crowning achievement of the Square Enix conference. A moment played so straight it was just sublime. Yoko Taro didn’t even do or say anything else deliberately wacky! He just explained how he felt the quality of the game was virtually guaranteed because of all the talent working on it, and promised to do his best. He even questioned why he was there in the first place.
[“It feels like really I don’t have anything to do here.”]
Oh no Mr Taro. Believe me, you needed to be here!
Alas all good things must come to an end, as Yoko “Moon Head” Taro had to make way for Brian Horton of Crystal Dynamics, here to talk about Tomb Raider. And show us Tomb Raider too, namely the exact same footage we saw at the Microsoft conference minus that mountain-climbing gameplay bit. Instead of that we got a behind the scenes look at Crystal Dynamics working on the game, which consisted mostly of people working at desks, motion capture and lots of talk about “pores.”
Along with eyebrow raising statements like this one:
[“WHEN SHE GETS INTO A FIGHT, SHE CAN GET DIRTY”]
I’m sorry, she can get what?
See, now I’m picturing Rise of the Tomb Raider with the subtitle “Lara Gets Dirty.” Yeah, let’s move on shall we?
And what better way to kill any sort of arousal, physical or mental, than to hear someone talk about smartphone games. Ah, but before you sigh yourself comatose, it’s a new game from the team behind “Hitman GO.” A turn-based strategy interpretation of Hitman for smartphones and tablets that was generally quite well received. This time they’re applying those same turn-based mechanics to Tomb Raider with Lara Croft GO: Lara Gets Dirty. Shit! Sorry. It’s just called “Lara Croft GO.”
Unlike Hitman GO however, it’s not immediately obvious as to how Tomb Raider: GO plays based on the trailer they showed. Watch any footage of Hitman GO and the premise is obvious: you navigate a board on a turn-by-turn basis, taking out guards and getting to the exit without yourself being knocked off the board. The footage they showed of Tomb Raider: GO meanwhile…just looks like a slow isometric version of Tomb Raider.
We were then assailed by a montage of Final Fantasy XIV Heavensward…or Heaven’s Ward, or Heaven Swaaaaaaard or however it’s fucking pronounced, along with Life is Strange and DragonQuest Heroes, set to the the world’s most annoying music track. We then arrived at the part that nearly everybody watching this of their own free will – not me, obviously, I HAVE to do this – had tuned in for: news about the Kingdom Hearts series. Presented by Shinji Hashimoto, Kingdom Hearts series Executive Producer, who said some stuff here I didn’t understand because the interpreter forgot to do his BLOODY JOB! And I kind of need him to that job because I don’t speak Japanese!
The only Japanese I know is “Konichiwa”, “Sayonara” and “Kore wa pen desu.” Although I could still technically have a conversation with that. It would just be very short and one-sided.
Fortunately I didn’t miss much. All Hashimoto did was introduce the trailer for the Final Fantasy 7 remake we’d already seen at the Sony conference.
The interpreter eventually returned from wanking into a sink, or whatever it was he was doing that wasn’t his sodding job, just in time to blurt out “Kingdom Hearts.”
Whereupon the crowd came to life, whooping and clapping in excitement for the footage they were about to see…of a Kingdom Hearts spinoff game for smartphones, called Kingdom Hearts: Unchained Key. Mmmmm, I love the smell of disappointment in the morning. Smells like…schadenfreude. And oh that subdued applause afterwards. Mmmm! Such palpable dismay! Oh it was SO delicious. The fans got what they wanted eventually, but only after this video bit from two people at Disney. Greg Coleman, VP of worldwide marketing and franchise management:
Oooh “franchise management.” There’s another bland-yet-menacing euphemism for you. How many death warrants have you signed, Greg?
Along with Roy Connely, producer of that newest Disney princess movie kids just can’t get enough of…
Tangled?! Didn’t that come quite a while ago? Hold, lemme check IMDB TWO THOUSAND AND TEN?! When was this segment filmed?
Anyhow, Kingdom Hearts 3. It starts off with gibberish about Keyblade Wars and “Lost Masters” before we see Sora, Donald and Goofy beating up Heartless with the power of friendship while riding a magic train. Yep, that’s all very much Kingdom Hearts. And the release date is…”Now in development?”
So what the fuck have you been doing for the past five years?! Besides pissing money away on Final Fantasy XIII.
After that came World of Final Fantasy and Hitman, both of which we’d already seen at previous conferences. Are you detecting a pattern yet? Followed by Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness, the latest in the long running Star Ocean series of JRPGS that I know sod-all about, presented by Suichi Kobayashi. You know for a JRPG supposedly set among the stars, these characters sure seem to spend a lot of time in medieval-looking towns.
After that was Deus Ex: Mankind Divided presented by Mary DeMarle and David Anfossi of Eidos-Montreal. Now we’re talking! Mary explained how the game was set two years after Human Revolution and augmented people are now treated as second-class citizens, before she dropped that whole line about “Mechanical Apartheid” which got so many Etymologically-challenged people’s trousers in a twist.
We then got some footage, which was mostly cinematic w ith the odd snippet of gameplay sprinkled in. And by gameplay I mean mostly firefights and explosions, and nothing whatsoever about the stealth, exploration, conversations and other things I like most in a Deus Ex game.
Closing the proceedings was Square Enix President Yosuke Matsuda, minus the interpreter, to talk briefly about the Final Fantasy Portal app: a Final Fantasy news app basically, and a new RPG project from a new Square Enix Studio. This new RPG project currently goes by the title “Project Setsuna” and the new studio developing it is called…”Tokyo RPG Factory.” Which is possibly the most boringly functional name for a studio I’ve ever heard. Not bland-yet-sinister, just…functional. Like calling a UK mobile developer “The Brighton Shovelware Assembly Line.”
Regarding the game itself, it’s just concept art with some tinkly piano music right now, but it’s planned for a global release sometime in 2016. Apparently. Fuck knows how they’ll hit that deadline if this is all they have right now.
And with that the show was over, with everyone being called back on stage to clap repeatedly to that bloody annoying music track they played throughout the conference. And they keep clapping. They have to for obscure ettiquette reasons. All clapping and clapping and clapping and- okay so Shinji Hashimoto doesn’t clap. Maybe he’s got a note from his mum that says he doesn’t have to. But everyone else has to keep on clapping, until eventually people start getting tired of clapping and take a break. Because they’re weak.
Not Yoko Taro though! No. He just doesn’t stop. Almost like he isn’t human. But that’s ridiculous of course
In conclusion, this was basically a shareholder presentation adapted for a live studio audience.
Everything had an air of being aimed at investors and other businessy types, rather than the people in the audience or watching online. It was all very stiff, formal and matter of fact, so that even Square Enix’s western studios seemed oddly subdued.
Another problem was that we’d already seen most of the games on show in other conferences. Final Fantasy VII could’ve made this conference something approaching a real E3 showstealer if it had made its debut here, instead of at the Sony show. If anything seeing it “revealed” again just blunted its impact.
The only real heavy hitter Square had was Kingdom Hearts 3, and that simply wasn’t enough to carry a whole show on. Even Just Cause 3, as impressive as it is, wasn’t as effective because we already knew about it five months ago. Overall while the Square Enix conference wasn’t excrutiating like huge chunks of the EA conference, it was stiff, awkward and uncomfortable. A bit like going for a coffee with a Puritan relative who quietly disapproves of your entire lifestyle, but really needs you to give them some money.
Anyway that’s it for the Pixel Burn E3 Blitzkrieg 2015. My heartiest congratulations and thanks to all of you who stuck with me during this little…experiment. Next week things should hopefully be back to business as usual, looking at the more important, interesting or irritating things to have happened in the week’s gaming news
Aw shit, I’ve still got that bloody awful music in my head. I think I’m ge????????tt??????i??????n???????g????? ??????a???? ?????m??i??g??r?????a?????i??n?????e??…