oday’s opening of the Tokyo Game Show opened up with a bang with the Square-Enix Press Conference. While we knew some of the titles prior to this, some we knew very little about, or just have seen scans of screenshots that appeared in recent Famitsu or Jump Japanese magazines. The veil has been lifted, and there were some big surprises.
Opening the conference was Square-Enix President and CEO Yoichi Wada, and began with an overview of the Japanese video game market. Wada stated that while the perception that the market has been over saturated with games, that was not the case, and the Japanese market is a vigorously growing market. Wada believes there’s great potential for growth. In the western video game market, the growth has been even bigger, and is overshadowing the growth in the Japanese market three fold. Wada also said that game software sales fluctuates with new hardware announcements, and for the rest of this year, and next year, the amount of quality software on the horizon will drive the industry forward.
The Square Enix Team Thank All Attending Their Event
Wada thinks that in the case of Square-Enix, the amount of online games will increase. They don’t plan to focus all of their games online, but they’re interested in supporting the gamers who want network games. This week Final Fantasy XI simultaneous user numbers reached in upwards of 170,000 users, which could be attributed to this week’s release of the expansion pack, Chains of Promathia.
Here's a run down of the major titles and announcements from the press conference. To view the screens for each game, simply click on the link.
Kingdom Hearts II, Kingdom Hearts: Chain Of Memories
Square-Enix Senior Vice President Shinji Hasimoto then took the stage after a short video trailer of the two upcoming Kingdom Hearts titles, and while very little new information was mentioned, some interesting things that have been speculated online have been answered. First off, Chain of Memories will be released in Japan on November 11th, 2004 for the price of 5980 yen. The game will be 256Mb, and the video contained in this game pak must be seen to be believed. The video is so high quality, at times during the video presentation I felt like I was watching a CG movie that would be found on PlayStation 2.
Promotionally speaking, Chain Of Memories will have it’s own trading card game from Tomy, and will also be bundled with a special edition Game Boy Advance SP.
New details on Kingdom Hearts II was scarce, and Kingdom Hearts II still does not have a concrete release date in Japan or North America. While the game is playable on the show floor for the first time, no new details about the game were revealed.
Dragon Quest 8
Japan finally gets what they’ve been waiting for a long time – a real release date for the highly anticipated Dragon Quest 8. Dragon Quest 8 will launch on November 27th in Japan, at the steep price of 9,240 yen. There has yet to be an announcement of a US date. The trailer showed the games new cel-shaded look, and from the looks of it, the four years of development time for Dragon Quest 8 has been beneficial. The environments seem absolutely massive, and according to Game Designer Uji Hori, you can seemingly walk forever in the game. They are so large in fact that it will take players a full day to walk and reach the outside wall of the castle. The focus of Dragon Quest 8 was to create a very large adventure.
Dragon Quest 8 will feature many new monsters, and this time around players can use the scout ability after they defeat monsters, and summon monsters to join your team.
Final Fantasy & Dragon Quest In Itadaki Street Special
RPG fans have been clamoring for a melding of the Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy universes, but probably not in this vein. The characters will meet in a board game of sorts. While looking slightly more mature than a Mario Party title, Itagaki Street special is said to be an extremely interesting and often humorous game. In the trailer shown, there seems to be a very large amount of characters from each universe to choose from. In this 4-player game players will be spoken to by the characters, which we’re assuming a lot of the humor will come from. The game will be released sometime this Winter in Japan, and as of yet there’s no release date for North America or Europe.
Soft Boiled Hero 4/Egg Monster Hero
This presentation out of all of them was the most humorous. They had a movie demonstration which featured the Square-Enix offices getting a mysterious phone tip about these two new games in development. They met secretly and got to view a video tape which showed the gameplay of the PS2 title, Soft Boiled Hero 4. Soft Boiled Hero 4 is more of an RPG said to be focusing on variety and fun, and is targeting more of an all ages group.
In the development of this game, they want to try new things to revitalize the RPG genre. The party battles will feature huge 100 vs 100 character battles, and will now contain modern weapons such as tanks. Soft Boiled Hero 4 will be released sometime in Q4 2004.
Egg Monster Hero is the upcoming DS game, and the crowd was asked to repeat the phrase, “Touch and Scratch” (which they didn’t because in general, Japanese crowds are rather subdued at such events). By touching different parts of the monsters with the stylus, depending on exactly where you touch the monsters will evoke different attacks. Scratching the monster will have something to do with the battles themselves. There will be 12 vs 12 monster battles on the screen at the same time. Egg Monster Hero will be released for the Nintendo DS this Spring in Japan, and will be shown in playable form at the Nintendo World Touch DS tour that will be taking place in Japan beginning in October.
A new game from Tri-Ace, the makers of Star Ocean series and Valkyrie Profile comes a “new fantasy RPG.” And extremely cinematic RPG, the game is setting out to represent the feelings that are brought about in a network game. Radiata Story is stated to make your character feel like your friend, and you will actually converse with them. There are going to be over 300 characters in the world, and over 150 will battle along side with the player. Radiata Story will feature real time battles, and link battles. The game will not just focus on the hardcore RPG gamers, and will be sort of a “light RPG,” and should be suited for gamers of all types. Radiata Story will be released in Japan in the Spring of 2005.
Romancing Saga: Minstrel Song
The Saga series returns with an intriguing new art style which borders on a psudeo-3D Viewtiful Joe look that uses light, shadows, and actually the absence of art to convey what’s happening in the environment. Square-Enix feels that they might have left fans of the series behind, and want this to be the masterpiece of the series. Minstrel Song will have a very easy to play concept so they can reach as many players as possible. With this game they want to revitalize the series. Minstrel Song will be released in Japan sometime in 2005.
Compilation of FFVII
Granted Final Fantasy VII Advent Children, and Before Crisis two parts of this compilation, but the real surprise of today’s press conference was the unveiling of Final Fantasy VII: Dirge Of Cerebus.
Dirge of Cerebus is a first and third person shooter featuring Vincent as the main character. Yes, you heard us correct – a shooter! The game is the actual starting point in the story of Final Fantasy VII, and Square-Enix decided to use Vincent, since the fans of the series have held him just as popular as Cloud. The game is in the process of final development, but no release date was given for any region.
The trailer lasted for than a minute, and began with sort of fire tornadoes ripping though the heart of Shinra. The scene quickly cuts to Vincent picking off robotic guards with a pistol almost in a Devil May Cry-ish style. We then witness a quick shot of Cait Sith, who looks like he’s shrunk and lost quite a bit of weight. Then the action jumped back to Vincent who drops down off a ledge, gliding through the air with the help of his cape. Vincent then mows down a couple more baddies with a machine gun type weapon, and drops a few more with a sniper rifle, which demonstrated the first person view. The atmosphere is very dark. The trailer ends, jaws drop, and we hope for some clue into a release date. No dice. All we get is a “Work In Progress.”
In fact, that’s basically the theme of the Compilation of FFVII, outside of Before Crisis. Before Crisis’s service begins today, and the service will be offered for one year, with monthly content roll outs. Originally the service was to be free until the end of August, but due to release problems, Before Crisis will be free until November. After that, gamers will be charged the small fee of 525 yen to play.
As far as Advent Children is concerned, the movie will be released sometime by the end of 2004 in Japan on DVD and UMD, but no official date was revealed. Release dates for the rest of the world have yet to be announced.