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Though GameSpot managed to spill the beans mere hours before Square Enix’s Uncovered: Final Fantasy XV event in Los Angeles last night, spoiling the upcoming title’s release date in a since-removed YouTube video, they certainly didn’t manage to ruin all the surprises. Square Enix’s social media accounts had promised that fans of the long-running Final Fantasy saga should tune in regardless, promising they’d be missing out if they didn’t watch. And, as it turns out, they were absolutely spot on, as Uncovered featured a bevy of reveals, announcements and surprises, the first of which was Hironobu Sakaguchi, the father of Final Fantasy, opening the show.

Taking the stage to rapturous applause, Sakaguchi-san talked about how he views the series as his child, and much like a child, a parent often wonders whether they are on the right path or not – a not so veiled reference to the franchise’s recent struggles that sent some ripples of laughter through the 6,000-strong audience, and set a playful, self-assured tone for the rest of the night. Though he hasn’t been involved with Final Fantasy for quite some time now, leaving Square Enix over a decade ago, he spoke about how he had a chance to sit down with Final Fantasy XV director Hajime Tabata, who told him that he planned to take the series back to its ‘challenger’ roots. This reassured Sakaguchi, who had always thought of Final Fantasy as something that always sought out new challenges, and it certainly looks like that’s what the team are hoping to do with Final Fantasy XV.

The main takeaway from Uncovered is that Square Enix seem to be incredibly bullish about Final Fantasy XV‘s chances at recapturing the public’s imagination. They’re going all out with this property, treating fans to a lavish event streamed around the world, with Final Fantasy royalty in the house – as well as Sakaguchi-san, long-standing series artist Yoshitaka Amano, FFXV composer Yoko Shimomura and director Hajime Tabata were all in attendance. Last night’s event wasn’t just to generate hype for the new game, which we now know will be launching worldwide on September 30th (yes, this year); it was also to announce that Final Fantasy XV will be accompanied by its very own compilation of expanded material. Years after Final Fantasy VII’s release, with its legacy already assured, Square Enix began the Compilation of Final Fantasy VII. With Final Fantasy XV, they’re establishing it as its very own metaseries right now.

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In an astonishing display of confidence, last night Square Enix, via presenters Greg Miller and Tim Gettys of Kinda Funny Games, announced that Final Fantasy XV will be getting a five-part anime prequel series, a feature-length CG movie, and a mobile app minigame. They’re going all-in with this, turning Final Fantasy XV into a complete cross-media sub-franchise of its own, so let’s talk about each of those in a bit more detail. Brotherhood, the anime prequel, stars the game’s four main characters – Noctis, Ignis, Gladio and Prompto – and serves as a direct prequel to the game, promising to elaborate on the history and bonds between our heroes. Made by A-1 Pictures, the animation house behind the likes of Sword Art Online, the five episodes will be free to watch on Square Enix’s YouTube page, and the first one is already available to watch now. I’ll be writing about that in more depth in a separate piece.

Kingsglaive is the name of the CG movie, a feature-length film in the vein of 2005’s Final Fantasy VII sequel Advent Children, and it focuses on the characters of Noctis’ father King Regis of Lucis, Noctis’ betrothed, Lunafreya Nox Fleuret, and the soldier Nyx, a member of the titular Kingsglaive, an elite unit commanded by King Regis as they try to push back Niflheim’s imperial army. In another show of confidence, the film will feature an all-star cast, with Sean Bean, Lena Headey and Aaron Paul starring as Regis, Luna and Nyx respectively, though it’s not yet clear whether these same actors will reprise their roles in the game itself (or whether Nyx will even appear in-game). It certainly doesn’t seem to be the case, going by the game’s latest trailer, in which Regis sports an American accent, but time will tell. Kingsglaive will be available to stream and download worldwide sometime this year, and you can see the trailer below.

And then there’s Justice Monsters Five, a minigame that appears and is playable within Final Fantasy XV. Existing within the game’s fiction – we see our heroes excitedly come across a table in a diner – Justice Monsters Five appears to be some kind of pinball/battling hybrid featuring iconic Final Fantasy monsters. Leading up to its unveiling, names like Tetra Master, Triple Triad, Blitzball and Chocobo Racing were bandied about, so we can assume that Justice Monsters Five will be the main minigame in Final Fantasy XV. But it won’t just exist inside the game of course, as it will be coming to iOS, Android and Windows 10 as a standalone app, so you can get your Justice Monsters Five fix on the go.

While there was quite a focus on the supplemental, expanded universe content during the Uncovered event, that’s not to say we didn’t get a good look at the game itself. Viewers were treated to a few short gameplay clips featuring things such as chocobo riding (chocobos can jump, glide, and even drift around corners), and driving in the party’s car, the Regalia. Of course, an open world game with driving wouldn’t be complete without radio stations, and Final Fantasy XV doesn’t disappoint here, offering a selection of classic Final Fantasy songs from across the franchise’s entire history to cruise along to – we heard short snippets of the overworld theme from the first Final Fantasy game, as well as Sunleth Waterscape from XIII. As a huge fan of Final Fantasy music this is something that will make me very happy indeed, and I can imagine driving around the world for hours just listening and humming along to some classic FF tunes.

While driving around, we also see a car stopped at the side of the road, its occupants trying to flag down help, and it’s suggested that this is an example of some of the side content we’ll be seeing in the full game. Following that was a short clip of the party in battle, mostly showing off stuff that you’ll be familiar with if you played Episode Duscae last spring, with the addition of a short look at magic as we see Noctis manage to scare off an enormous Behemoth by casting Blizzara. Then we’re treated to a brief glimpse of an absolutely titanic Titan, and at this point it’s worth remembering that the summons in this game are going to be insane. We also saw a clip showcasing some of the beautiful, sprawling environments that we’ll be visiting throughout the world of Final Fantasy XV, including our first in-game look at the gorgeous, Venice-inspired city of Altissia. Final Fantasy XV has long been billed as “a Fantasy based on Reality’, but fans of the fantastical need not worry that the game will appear mundane; there seems to be plenty of fantastical elements and environments in there to justify the name, and you can see the clip shown last night below, courtesy of Youtuber YongYea. Honestly, it’s worth watching for the music alone, which is stunningly beautiful.

Before our final surprise of the night, there was time for a couple more announcements. First heard in the opening trailer, the theme song for Final Fantasy XV is a lush, orchestral reimagining of Ben E. King’s Stand by Me, performed by Florence and the Machine. I must admit that I thought it sounded incredibly out of place when it suddenly began, halfway through that trailer, even if does seem like an obvious song choice for a story about four friends heading out on an uncertain journey. But I think it’s going to grow on me. Florence Welch’s powerful vocal performance certainly sells the emotion of the piece, and as the trailer goes on it seems to fit more and more. If Square Enix must insist on this kind of thing, at least it’s a much better choice than Leona Lewis’ My Hands was for Final Fantasy XIII.

Perhaps most exciting of all, however, was the announcement of a new demo. This one isn’t tied to a purchase, unlike the Episode Duscae demo that accompanied Final Fantasy Type-0 HD last year, so it’s available for everyone to try on both PS4 and Xbox One. Titled the ‘Platinum Demo’, it begins with a strange premise; you control kid Noctis as he journeys through a dream, guided by Carbuncle as he makes his way to the royal citadel, armed only with a toy sword and a squeaky hammer. It sounds odd, but the good thing is you don’t have to wait to find out just how weird it is, as the demo is live on both storefronts right now. I haven’t yet had a chance to play it myself, so, like with the Brotherhood anime, I’ll be writing up some impressions, complete with video, a little later, much like I did last year with Episode Duscae.

And so we were coming to the end of the Uncovered event, with Director Hajime Tabata taking to the stage to announce the release date that we all already knew. This didn’t mean the stream ended without a surprise, however; Tabata had recently teased that the team had determined how to include airship travel in the game, a core FF motif that has been essentially missing from the last few main series titles that fans really want back. At the very end of an epic, extended trailer, we see the party’s flash car sprout wings and take to the skies. If I’m being honest, I found it to be a little goofy, as the car begins to transform and a pair of wings fold out before it rather quickly takes off. Hopefully it’s just one method of transport – the same trailer shows the boys speeding across the water in a yacht, for instance.

Still, the thought of driving, boating and flying around this massive world is tantalising, and with all of last night’s announcements still ringing in the ears, today is a good day to be a Final Fantasy fan. Square Enix seem hugely confident about the prospects of this long-in-development epic and its chances at winning back the limelight and returning to the enormous, world-conquering franchise it used to be. And I for one cannot wait to dive right in and experience it. I’ll have to wait until September of course, but what’s another six months when you’ve been dreaming of it for ten years?

See the epic extended trailer for Final Fantasy XV, complete with flying transformer car, below.

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sastartWe’ve been waiting a little over a month, but it’s finally arrived. Yes, Halo: Spartan Assault is here! The game appeared on the Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 stores a little after midnight last night, so I managed to try out a handful of missions. I chose to get the game on my Surface RT to enjoy it on a larger screen.

For those that haven’t been paying attention, Spartan Assault is a Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8-exclusive top-down twin-stick shooter in the vein of Robotron – that is, you control your character’s movement with your left stick (well, thumb) and weapon direction and firing with your right. That’s not all there is to it though; this being a Halo game, you also have access to melee attacks and grenades (I’ve seen frags and sticky plasma ‘nades so far) which are activated by buttons around the edge of the screen. Spartan Assault also contains all the usual Halo weaponry, and you also carry two guns at once as in the full console FPS titles, with the ability to swap with defeated enemies or pick up new weaponry you find along the way. The game also features Halo 4-style loadouts and the series’ trademark skulls:

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The weapons I’ve used so far (including the iconic pistol and MA5 rifle) are all instantly recognisable from their console counterparts, right down to their sound effects, and it’s nice to see that the pistol is typically overpowered here too. If that’s not enough, you can of course climb into Covenant Shade turrets or use their UNSC equivalents where you find them to cut the enemy to ribbons in seconds.

Spartan Assault also features a large selection of Halo vehicles, with one early mission giving you a Covenant Wraith and tasking you with taking out a handful of their anti-air variants, and another requiring extraction by Hornet. Covenant dropships are a constant presence on the battlefield (with the old Spirit ‘tuning forks’ returning again), dropping off more enemies for you to take down, and I’d be surprised if I go too long without a Warthog making an appearance.

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The game is set between Halos 3 and 4 and intends to illuminate a bit of the backstory concerning Halo 4 supporting character Spartan Commander Sarah Palmer (ably voiced by the wonderful Jennifer Hale in that game) – she of “Crimson” fame. It takes the form of a combat simulator hosted by Roland, the AI of the UNSC Infinity, who is using it as a Spartan training exercise – by studying Palmer’s past victories, he hopes to increase their tactical awareness for the future. Spartan Assault offers 25 missions across five chapters (with the promise of more levels to come in the form of updates), and it certainly nails the look and feel of a Halo game; not only does it look and play very nicely, the music is of a typically high standard and includes plenty of familiar themes and motifs. This may be a mobile spin-off, but it’s definitely still a Halo game.

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Halo: Spartan Assault is available now for Windows 8 (£4.99) and Windows Phone 8 (£5.49). The Windows 8 version will play across any machines running the OS, whether Pro or RT – indeed, I bought it on my Surface RT, then downloaded it on my laptop at no extra charge. The WP8 version is for 1GB RAM devices only at this time, and is unfortunately a separate purchase, but your saves and progress will carry across all versions of the game. Controller support will be coming to the Windows 8 version in August, as will a version for 512MB RAM WP8 devices.

Screenshots taken directly from my Surface RT


I don’t usually post about mobile games, but this one’s got me very excited; a mobile title in the new Crimson Dragon universe is coming to WP7 next Wednesday. For those not in the know, Crimson Dragon is a forthcoming XBLA Kinect title directed by Sega’s Team Andromeda alumni Yukio Futatsugi, and it’s a spiritual successor to the cult favourite Panzer Dragoon series – a series of which I am a massive, massive fan.

I’ve been patiently waiting for more news on Crimson Dragon for some time and none has been forthcoming. Indeed, it was delayed for unspecified reasons shortly before its original Japanese release date of June 13th came and went, making me wonder whether we’d see the game at all. This surprise announcement gives me hope we’ll soon hear more about it.

Getting back to the news at hand, the mobile game, imaginatively subtitled Side Story, is a sidescrolling shooter set on the planet Draco. You play as Sana, pilot of a dragon named White Reaver, and you’re on a mission to investigate a mysterious plight called Crimsonscale Disease.  Your dragon is upgradable, a feature first seen in Panzer Zwei, and the original series’ iconic lock-on laser makes a welcome return too.

The game goes live on the Windows Phone Marketplace next Wednesday (September 12th), but no price has yet been announced. Either way, count me in.

Hironobu Sakaguchi, creator of the massive, influential jRPG series Final Fantasy, has taken to Twitter to share a screenshot of his new game.

The Mistwalker founder is not working on a new epic RPG, though. Instead, his current project is a mobile surfing platform game called Party Wave.

Sakaguchi has previously announced that he was working on three titles for iOS devices, and Party Wave was inspired by his love of surfing. I can’t say I’m not disappointed that the creator of one of my favourite franchises is now making iPhone games, but he’s not alone, as other high-profile industry developers have taken to working on non-traditional forms of gaming; most recently Peter Molyneux, who left Lionhead for social gaming outfit 22cans.

Mistwalker’s latest title, Wii RPG The Last Story, is still sitting untouched on my shelf.  Hopefully by the time I get around to it, its creator will be looking to get back to what he does best.