Following the announcement of both Final Fantasy XV and Kingdom Hearts III at Sony’s press conference on Monday night, Square Enix held a private press event to provide further details on the future of both series.
We had a chance to see it for ourselves, and over the course of an hour were treated to the company’s plans for their first foray into the next generation of games and game platforms.
The presentation kicked off with a brief montage of several key titles – FFXIV, X|X-2 HD, XV, LRFFXIII, and KHIII. Following that, incoming CEO Yosuke Matsuda took the stage to kick things off – first by expressing his enthusiasm at being able to work with Disney again and his wish to create a game that can live up to fan expectation. Matsuda also touched on Final Fantasy – confirming both Lightning Returns and FFX|X-2 HD for this fiscal year, as well as the company’s desire to reassert how wonderful the FF brand is.
From now, they plan to stand strong and push forward in a more active way.
Following Matsuda’s lead, Naoki Yoshida took the stage to talk about Final Fantasy XIV. Launching worldwide this August on PC and PlayStation 3, he began his segment by rolling a new trailer – The Crystal’s Call. Composed of entirely in-game footage, Yoshida reminded us that yes – this is a MMO. The dramatic, movie style trailer (which has been posted online as of this writing) further confirmed Sony’s announcement of a PS4 version of the title, which will be launching sometime in 2014.
According to Yoshida, although XIV is a MMO, it still contains the heart and soul of the series. Not only is the PC version special, but also the PS3 version – so much so that he believes with confidence XIV will be the highest quality MMO on the platform. For those attending E3, both versions are playable on the show floor.
With the PS4 version, the team sees it as an opportunity to reach even more users. Of course, the PS4 version will also be cross platform, with data transfer available from PC and PS3. They’re currently working with Sony for a smooth transition of the product.
Now onto Final Fantasy XV – the reveal trailer from Sony’s conference began to roll on screen. Shinji Hashimoto took the stage shortly after to thank everyone for their continued support of the FF series and the XV announcement. After the initial reveal he was so excited he couldn’t even sleep that night! He exclaims that it’s such a joy to finally be able to announce the fifteenth chapter in the series.
With the talk of next generation platforms, Hashimoto explained that XV’s development has been shifted to a DirectX 11 environment which makes it easy to port to similar environments. In addition to PlayStation 4, the game will be ported to Xbox One.
An all new trailer was then shown – all in-game and a work in progress. The familiar Shimomura theme starts to play as Noctis battles a massive behemoth. The scene from the original E3 trailer is now being rendered in real time as a circle of weapons reflect bullets from armored soldiers. Numbers appear above enemies as you deal damage – a Final Fantasy staple promised by Nomura years back. Combat seemed much evolved from the 2011 trailer – including hints of stealth and underwater interaction. With the trailer’s end, Hashimoto promises it’s progressing to a more powerful and beautiful – although neglected to share any release time frame.
Next up, Yoshinori Kitase took the stage to talk up Final Fantasy X|X-2 HD and Lightning Returns. Another trailer – Kitase promises that old and new fans alike will enjoy the new life that is being breathed into this title. With Lightning Returns, Kitase says development has been extremely challenging. With the game consisting of action-packed gameplay and a sprawling world, he says it’s the ultimate FF for the current generation of platforms.
Following another look at the LRFFXIII E3 trailer, Hashimoto returned to the stage – this time to discuss Kingdom Hearts III and its debut video. Matsuda then took the stand to share his excitement for the title as a fan and the introduction of Co-President of Disney Interactive John Pleasants to further detail today’s announcements.
With sales of over 19 million units, Kingdom Hearts is a most important franchise to Disney. With KHIII, a mature Sora will take to adventure across new Disney worlds with familiar friends Mickey, Donald and Goofy – as well as striving to deliver world-class gameplay and story to fans around the world. Hashimoto then returned to the stage again to share the announcement of Kingdom Hearts III not only coming to PlayStation 4, but also to Xbox One – a first for Microsoft platforms.
Ending the presentation was a bit of Q&A with Hashimoto, who offered attendees to quiz him on nearly anything XV, KH or otherwise.
To start, Hashimoto confirmed that both XV and KHIII will release on both platforms in Japan. When asked about potential sequels to XV – similar to what has happened with FFXIII – he explained that “more information will come” and that the XV universe is large with many stories to be told. Regarding XV proper, development is advancing forward, although the Sony trailer contained a great deal of CG.
The main development staff has not changed very much since the development of the PS3 version – in fact many have been added instead. Hashimoto was playing Versus XIII on PS3, and he felt the difference when he played the first PS4 based tests.
On the question of whether or not the game deserves to be a mainline title based on its mechanics, Hashimoto explains that each entry tends to be different anyway so this time they wanted to move ahead with an action-based system. However, this doesn’t determine what future titles will be – the next mainline title may very well be a more traditional RPG. That said, Hashimoto eagerly anticipates fan feedback on the less RPG and more action focused gameplay. He believes there is a future for both action-based and command-based RPGs, but the action style is definitely more fitting for XV’s design – it seems a lot of people are concerned about the game not being an RPG. The Final Fantasy series is always evolving and they view the switch to action in this title as positive move.
When asked if Hashimoto had anything to say to PlayStation gamers about the inclusion of an Xbox One version, he reminded us that XI and XIII had already appeared on Microsoft platforms. This is the first time they’ve decided to do a simultaneous announcement so he hopes people will understand.
Given the already lengthy development, another attendee asked how the team will keep Nomura on track this time. Hashimoto laughed, saying that while Nomura is key there are many other supporting staff who will keep the game on schedule.
Another question on female characters and why the game is so male focused – to which Hashimoto says he’ll pass the feedback on for.
In terms of other platforms, a PC version has not been decided even though Square Enix is always actively looking into PC development. Right now the only FF for PC will be XIV. As for the PS4 and Xbox One versions, Hashimoto promises to share more information later on whether or not both versions will be launching simultaneously.
Hashimoto also reiterated that Agni’s Philosophy is not a game – it’s a tech demo for Luminous Engine. That engine will powering FFXV.
On Kingdom Hearts as a series, there are currently no plans to offer the HD collections on Xbox. Hashimoto suggests that those fans who haven’t played the originals or PS3 versions to perhaps catch themselves up on the story in other ways. The game is being developed by Square Enix’s Osaka studio – who previously worked on Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep, Dream Drop Distance as well as the HD remasters. As far as new worlds go – the team has expressed interest in the past about bringing Pixar titles into the fold, however, Hashimoto is currently not at liberty to speak about that yet.
Quite a lot to soak in in just an hour, but there you have it!