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Square Enix Vancouver Showcase

This past week we had the opportunity to head down to a local event put on by the PR team behind all Square Enix’s recent and upcoming releases. We only had a short time to play through everything (2 hours) but we went hands-on with as much as humanly possible!

Below are some shots of the event, along with thoughts (previews) of the titles that were available to us and we had the most time (and fun!) with:

Flame x Blaze (MOBA)

When we arrived at the event there was a bit of an overlap with another group wrapping up their time (we were early, and there were scheduled appointments). That meant that most the consoles were already taken, so to kill time and get started sooner I moved over to the mobile station which was, thankfully, open at the time.

Flame x Blaze - Gameplay

Square Enix was showing off a fair number of titles and unfortunately, I couldn’t get through them all, so I jumped in with what was the most interesting to me for a mobile game: Flame x Blaze, a mobile MOBA game that pitches 10-minute epic MOBA battles on your smartphone.

Admittedly it was the art that sold me on jumping in, not the concept. The art is beautiful and fits the platform perfectly. The 3D animated characters and the arenas, monsters, and set-pieces were pretty enough, but the splash art, character design in 2D and menus were absolutely eye-catching.

Jumping into the game I found rather easy to get the hold of quickly. Veteran MOBA players will immediately understand what they’re doing and where they are going. It’s point-and-click to move your character with a series of your abilities highlighted along the bottom of the screen. Where the game deviates from traditional MOBA though (other than the shorter game time being an average of about 10 minutes) is the fact that you’re building up your power to increase the attack power of a beast on your side that attacks in the final moments of combat; like the console release of Gigantic.

Flame x Blaze - Finale

Also, the map design is entirely its own concept: There’s only one lane. The top of the map serves as the standard lane phase, while the remainder of the map (the lower half) serves as the jungle where you will hunt mobs to build up your army and your firepower.

Flame x Blaze - Map

Easy, rewarding, cute, pretty, and interesting are all descriptions I could give the game and apparently there’s a bit of a following of the title already in Japan (it’ll see a release here in NA sometime this Summer). However, for the die-hard fans of the MOBA genre, the idea of a “casual” game might not be the selling point that Enix is looking for in NA.

Personally, I found the game interesting and playing against some other people at the showcase was a good bit of fun, but I could never see myself playing it long term/regularly.

Kingdom Hearts (Multiplayer)

My second title at the showcase was another mobile title and one that I’ve had some experience with previously: Kingdom Hearts Unchained.

If you’ve played (or are currently playing) the title you know it’s a pretty straightforward action/scroller that takes place in the world of Kingdom Hearts and serves as a fun enough distraction while riding the bus or train.

In the initial release of the title, there was a bit of online play in that you could choose partners to accompany you in your battles, they were not live players but rather avatars of real players that would assist you in combat.

The main feature they were showcasing at the event was the concept of true multiplayer.

Honestly, I would not have too much fun with this on my own, but the PR that was on site and playing with me sold it. If you can get a couple friends together in the same room and talk some shit while running a 6-man raid in-game… there’s definitely a charm to this thing.

The combat is incredibly simple, feeling more like Fruit Ninja than a true Kingdom Hearts experience with all the repetitive tapping and swiping… but when you’re accountable to your friends’ survival you can find yourself invested in even the most simplistic of gameplay. Multiplayer was the right step for this mobile title.

Dragon Quest Heroes II

Moving over to the consoles, I immediately jumped on to the upcoming release of Dragon Quest Heroes II. Dragon Quest is a franchise I’ve enjoyed for a long while and originally got into because of my love of series animator Akira Toriyama. Admittedly, though, I never spent time with the first in Heroes series and went in blind.

Dragon Quest Heroes II - Event Shot

Dragon Quest Heroes is a little more action/slasher than the core series JRPG that I’m used to, but the animations are still as pretty as ever. One thing that I’ll always say about the artwork of Akira Toriyama is that it translates beautifully over into 3D (when done right, which this game does).

In practice, the title is a little more like the Dynasty Warriors series. You’ll come up across massive hordes of enemies and must hack-and-slash your way to victory.

That being said, the gameplay is a whole lot better than what I’ve got out of the last few titles in the Dynasty Warriors franchise. Even the Nintendo attempt focusing around the Hyrule Warriors was a stark letdown in gameplay compared to the look and feel of Dragon Quest Heroes II.

Dragon Quest Heroes II - Slime Gear

What I found most impressive is how fluid the combat is beyond the standard “light” and “heavy” attacks. Not only is there a magic system in the game, and plenty of combo options between those two basic attacks (which can be held down or pressed to vary their motion) but there are a few “ultimate attacks” you can learn once you’ve filled up the appropriate meter by slaying through the minions.

Everything about the game feels and looks great and though my time with the title was short, it was enough to have me itching for more! Thankfully we’re not too far out, as it will be launching at near the end of next month.

Final Fantasy XV: Episode Gladiolus DLC

Last, but of course not least, was the DLC for Final Fantasy XV. Following the brute in King Noctus’ crew, Gladiolus, the DLC is kind of a side-plot for the main story that is told entirely from the point of view of Gladiolus.

Final Fantasy XV - Gladiolus - Event

What’s interesting about the DLC is how it changes the combat systems of the core game. While the original game was a deep intricate web of learning, planning, adjusting gear, building magic, and attacking with your group in the right way to maximize damage the DLC offers something of a palate cleanser in that Gladiolus doesn’t have multiple weapons, backup, or magic.

Instead you kind of just smash your way through the story using your trademark broadsword and several improvised weapons (like tearing down a column and swinging cement).

Unfortunately, this was a timed demo and I only got to see 30 minutes of the game (encompassing a single dungeon run). It was a lot of fun and felt like a good break to the main story, but I can’t give it a proper run-down quite yet.

Final Fantasy - Gladiolus - Event

Some of the early impressions I’ve read though cite the DLC as short and flat. Perhaps they didn’t appreciate the “dumbing down” of the combat as much as I did. For me, it felt like a good way to mix things up: going from the combat mastermind that pauses the fight 30 times per round to plot out the next course of action to the lumbering brute that solves every problem with a heavy swing of way too much iron.

Final Fantasy XV - Gladiolus - Swing

As mentioned, there were a few other titles on display, including the Kingdom Hearts repack that includes pretty much every damned Kingdom Hearts title ever released across all platforms (save for the mobile title). Nier: Automata was there as well, but again that has already seen release and our time was limited.

The main take away is that this was an awesome opportunity for the Vancouver media to get hands on time with some major Square Enix titles. We’re hoping this quickly becomes a trend and other game publishers, like Square Enix, show a little love to our city-by-the-sea.