By Michael Sagoe (Mikedot)
Another year, another New York Comic-Con. It’s an event that gets bigger and bigger each and every year, which is made evident by the extra venues that event officials had to rent out including Madison Square Garden.. Still, the big ‘ol Javits center is still the mega center of NYCC and always will be.
This event started off just like any other with Square Enix having their yearly gaming suite to show off their upcoming titles for this year and next, featuring Hitman 2016: Season 1, Rise of Tomb Raider 20 year celebration edition, Deus Ex Mankind Divided Breach DLC, Valinto Rosso, Ride 2, and of course the RPG collection with Kingdom Hearts 2.8 HD, World of Final Fantasy and Final Fantasy XV.
Jumping straight into the action with Square Enix, I spoke with the lead writer for the HITMAN title and got the details of the next coming episode which is set in Japan. Now when most people think of Japan, they think of hi-tech cities, ninjas, anime and plenty of other things, but what most people don’t think of when it comes to Japan is their snow covered landscapes, more specifically places like Mt. Fuji, which is where Agent 47 will be heading towards next. While no details regarding Agent 47’s next target will be, both the writer and director claims that taking the target down in this episode while taking advantage of the snowy scenery will be a huge highlight compared to other episodes.
Next up we got to try out the Breach game mode that is currently available in Deus Ex: Mankind Divided. While set in a more virtual reality setting, players will assume the role of digital agents and infiltrate various sites and security systems in order to steal and recover precious data or eliminate key targets. While the game maintains most of the gameplay mechanics found in the story mode campaign, Breach mode puts more emphasis on arcade style progression, so real goal here is to rack up points in an attempt to pull off the perfect run, which is something that I could see myself getting into. It’s also multiplayer focused so players are encouraged to run missions multiple times in order to challenge and beat high scores set from other players. While I only spent a small amount of time on the game mode, it was definitely a unique departure from what Deus Ex fans are used to, but still welcoming enough for them to have a go at it.
The games that I spent the most time with this year at Square Enix’s suite was the upcoming console RPGs, starting with Kingdom Hearts 2.8 HD which features an HD release of KH Dream Drop Distance, KH Birth By Sleep Prologue and a movie called KH Chi Back Cover. Now what I was most interested in was the BBY Prologue since this takes place right after the events of Birth By Sleep, with the magic keyblade wielder Aqua still trapped in the realm of Darkness, trying to find her way out. Since Birth by Sleep was the last KH game I ever played and the visuals presented here will be the same visuals presented in the upcoming Kingdom Hearts 3 release, this one peaked my interest the most. Surprisingly, the gameplay here contained a good mix of classic Kingdom Hearts combat along with mechanics taken straight from Birth by Sleep, including style switching and shotlocking, which creates a more engaging combat system overall without relying heavily on QTE counter attacks much like Kingdom Hearts 2 did. While the demo I played didn’t reveal much of Aqua’s story, it sure did intrigue me and kept me wondering how she will escape the dark void she’s trapped in thanks to Terra and Ventus’ dumb antics.
Of course, the main part of the KH 2.8 was still KH Dream Drop Distance, which I got to play through with both Sora and Riku, and very much like the 3DS release that came before it, this entry of KH focuses a lot more on movement and flashy, acrobatic attacks. The core gameplay is still very much what you would expect from a KH game, but the fast, flashy attacks really give the game a bit more of a visceral feel to it. A lot of attacks, or at least the attacks that I was equipped with, could also not be cancelled out and some of which actually had long animations to go with them, so I was forced to commit to a lot of my attacks or suffer taking damage. Of course, with the payoff being a hefty amount of attack power, there’s a nice amount of risk vs. reward.
For those that are looking for more of a twist to the classic Final Fantasy formula, Square-Enix is also making “World of Final Fantasy” which stars two siblings characters (Lann and Reynn) and a white fox creature named Tama who have been traveling the world of Grymoire which connects to various other Final Fantasy game worlds. While the combat and story seems to be a standard fare for anyone that played and enjoyed the turn-based FF titles, what isn’t so standard is the stacking system that lets players stack characters right on top of each other, which allows parties of up to six characters team up while combining stats and abilities.
The last time I played a traditional FF game was Final Fantasy 8, but this game was really easy and simple enough to get into. The stacking mechanic shows a lot of opportunity for neat stat and ability combinations, while the imprison system allowing you to catch the enemies you fight and recruit them for your party gives the game a neat Pokemon-style progression to it. While this game may have not been on my radar before, it certainly is now. All they need to do to make this game perfect (for me) is to give the game an option to punch Tama and Lann in the face whenever they say something stupid.
Last up, the big game that Square Enix has been working on for over a decade: Final Fantasy XV was fully playable on both PS4 and Xbox One hardware. While another delay for the game has been announced, the hype levels for this release are still very much through the roof, and its not very hard to see why, considering the scope and scale of this game is absolutely nuts. Jumping onto the Xbox One version, I quickly learned about Noctis and his way of dealing with foes in battle. While the combat had some similar to combat in Kingdom Hearts, his magic abilities to summon different weapons and warp all over the battlefield really felt engaging and dynamic. After getting through all the training drills, I was more pumped than ever to jump in and experience the world of FFXV.
That is until the first part of Noctis’s journey started off with him and his crew pushing a broken down car down a deserted highway… Because clearly the best way to start off a Final Fantasy game is to insert a frustrating, real life situation which I’m sure most of us that own a car have experienced once or twice.
But in all seriousness, after the car pushing scene and getting to go on your first quest, the game felt like an open playground of adventure. Even though I was given a clear objective in order to advance the plot, there was so many places that begged to be explored. With engaging combat, team skills and the story having such a focus on also being a slice-of-life experience, there’s honestly a lot to love in Final Fantasy XV. The only real issue that I had with this game (as well as KH Birth by Sleep Prologue) was the lock-on system took a bit of getting used to, because of the large density of enemy that get thrown your way with no reliable way to switch between targets.
Overall the Square Enix event was packed with so much to show and tell. They’re really focused on bringing out some quality titles for 2016 into 2017 and it shows. But now with the SE event out of the way, it’s time for focus down on the main event that is NYCC, so check back later as I scout the convention out for any and all gaming goodness.