Square Enix knows their audience

SSCN3809Many people were quick to anoint Sony as the winner of the battle of the E3 press conferences.  Nintendo opted out, and Microsoft tried to redefine what it means to own a game in the next gen world.  Sony was quick to point out that they weren’t interested in changing ownership definitions or much of anything else.  Luckily, they had a slew of games that many of their fans have long been clamoring for.  That’s where Square Enix stepped in, “Kingdom Hearts” and “Final Fantasy” HD remakes and new chapters in both series for home consoles.  In the case of “Kingdom Hearts III,” fans have been asking for this title for about seven years.

Besides the “Final Fantasy” and “Kingdom Hearts” offerings which are clearly what their core fan base is clamoring for, Square Enix is also reviving “Thief.”  The stealth series first made its appearance 15 years ago on the PC, but it did make an appearance on the original Xbox in 2004.  The dark period piece puts players in the role of Garret, the Master Thief in a city on the brink of chaos under an oppressive baron.  The theater demo was impressive and will be available on Microsoft’s Xbox One and Sony’s Playstation 4, as well as PC in 2014.

DSCN4003Square Enix clearly has to play to their base, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t willing to try new things.  Clearly a contender for the most exciting new property is Square’s “Murdered: Soul Suspect.”  It would be easy to dismiss the title as yet another “Resident Evil” mimicking survival horror entry.  Developed by “Quantum Conundrum” makers, Airtight Games, “Murdered” is looks more like a reimagining of classic adventure games with some “L.A. Noire” and “The Darkness” elements.  The theater demo started off with the detective Ronan O’Connor telling a suspect to step away from the body in the street.  There is no response, but a moment later, after firing several shots into the body, the hooded figure gets up and walks straight through Ronan.  The bullets tear through him.  It was his own lifeless body in the street.  The rest of the demo was part cop drama part supernatural weirdness, but certainly compelling.

While many publishers are content with the status quo in mobile gaming, Square Enix deserves some credit for pushing mobile gaming forward with original properties.  Of course the pricing model for the mobile releases of their “Final Fantasy” series does warrant some scrutiny, though if you consider the cost per hour of entertainment provided, it could be seen as a bargain.  Playable on the show floor, an all new entry in the series, “Deus Ex: The Fall” is a story driven action-RPG with impressive graphics and gameplay.  Except for the headphones plugged into the iPad, the controls were also exceptional.

The year ahead looks pretty good for Square Enix and their fans.  The conclusion to Lightning’s story in “Final Fantasy XIII” is coming this fall with “Lightning Returns.”  “Kingdom Hearts III” along with “murdered” and “Thief” a little further off, but the “Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 Remix” is also due out in the fall soon to be followed by the “Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster.”  The “Deus Ex: Human Revolution – Director’s Cut” for the current home consoles should also be out soon.

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