Revealed during the Marvel Games panel at New York Comic-Con, Kamala Khan is indeed the voice narrating the original trailer, and she’s much more than that as well. In the latest trailer for the game we see her confronting Bruce Banner and Tony Stark with evidence that could prove the tragic events from the game’s opening were a setup.
Not only does the character, voiced wonderfully by actor and singer Sandra Saad, urge the team to reform, she’s also a playable character. See her in action in the new trailer below.
It’s about damn time Ms. Marvel gets her due. I call dibs on playing her when Avengers launches on May 15, 2020. While we wait, here’s some behind-the-scenes.
Toys and CollectiblesAction figures, statues, exclusives, and other merchandise. Beware: if you look here, you’re probably going to spend some money afterwards.
We live in a truly incredible time for action figures—whether you’re wanting to spend a couple hundred bucks or even just twenty, you can get well articulated, highly detailed recreations of some of your favourite characters from all sorts of shows, movies, comics, and games. But it means we also get this: amazingly intentionally old toys.
It looks beautiful, rendering beloved characters like Cloud, Tifa, Barrett, and Aeris (Aerith? Who’s Aerith? No one’s Aerith, not here, in my heart, goddammit Square-Enix) with the power of modern gaming graphics in a level of fidelity they’ve never been seen in before. Not even really in Advent Children, that CG movie that was bad except for that maybetwo fight scenes and we shouldn’t talk about it!
But anyway, they also had these action figures on display, where Cloud, Tifa, Barrett, Aeris, and all their friends and foes from the original game look exactly like the blocky, polygonal chibi blobs they looked like outside of battle in the original PlayStation game.
And I need them immediately.
There were no details about how and when fans either in or out of Japan will be able to get the figures—the accompanying placard implies they could even, much to the chagrin of my wallet, be blind-box items, with a mystery character teased for the set.
But I just…need to know how and when. I’ll import, I’ll do whatever. I need these chunky, blocky looking action figures on my desk, revelling in the majesty of the original Playstation’s attempts to bend polygonal 3D gaming to its limited technological will. They only have blurry eyes for faces! There’s enough sharp angles to send a mathematician into a headspin! They don’t even have hands! And I love them. They’re ugly and they’re perfect.
I never really understood the current fascination with retro action figures—why pay modern, premium pricing for a toy designed to look deliberately crappy? Turns out, I just need catering to my ‘90s kid childhood to realise what ‘80s kids have known for a while.
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In what should surprise absolutely no one, Final Fantasy VII Remake is drawing long lines at the Tokyo Game Show. I think people in Japan might be excited about this game. Call it a hunch!
Today is the first public date for the 2019 Tokyo Game Show. As soon as the general public started being let in, many attendees started making a beeline to either the Sony booth or the Square Enix to play the upcoming FFVII Remake.
At around 9:40 am, the end of the line at the Square Enix booth looked like this:
Sony had cut off the FFVII Remake line by 10 am, along with several other titles. The red stickers say that the demo sessions have ended for the day.
Square Enix, which had a significantly larger FFVII Remake set up with more demo stations, didn’t cut off the line until to sometime around 10:10 am or around thereafter.
Even the wait to take photos with Cloud’s Hardy-Daytona motorcycle is long. Square Enix passing out tickets for folks to come back later so they don’t have to stand in line for extended periods of time.
This is me going out on a limb, but I think people in Japan are excited about Final Fantasy VII Remake.
Shadowbringers, the latest expansion to Final Fantasy XIV, released two months ago, and I cannot begin to fathom the amount of time I have spent in the worlds of Eorzea and Norvrandt. Shadowbringers is one of Final Fantasy’s finest stories, buoyed by powerful music and sweeping gameplay changes that make job classes sleek and enjoyable. If you’re gonna expand a massive role-playing game, this is how you do it.
Final Fantasy XIV is a slow burn, having had one of the strangest redemption arcs in recent memory. Initially released in 2010, it was met with disastrous response as clumsy and slow systems failed to grab player attention. It was a ponderous beast in the vein of its predecessor Final Fantasy XI, which released eight years prior into a very different ecosystem. After World of Warcraft’s release in 2004, the pace of online role-playing games moved to something faster. Final Fantasy XIV couldn’t keep up and so, under the direction of former Dragon Quest team member Naoki Yoshida, Final Fantasy XIV was rebranded into Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn. Even that took time to find itself, slowly establishing an identity through its first two expansions, Heavensward and Stormblood. With the release of Shadowbringers, that growth is arguably complete. This is one of the most well-made, confident, and enjoyable Final Fantasy experiences that can be had today.
Shadowbringers takes players away from the world they’ve previously known, Eorzea. The player character is pulled into a parallel world called Norvrandt. Also called the First, Norvrandt is one of the many “reflections” of Eorzea. It takes familiar features and remixes them into a more mystical and fantastic form. Ravaged by a cataclysmic “Flood of Light” nearly a century ago, it is a world of perpetual day where creatures called Sin Eaters wander the land to feast upon the populace. The player is drawn to this world by a mysterious ally in order to slay the Sin Eaters and, in solving the plight of Norvrandt, prevent a cosmological catastrophe that threatens the multiverse. Doing so sends them on a quest to reassemble their scattered allies and face powerful beings called Lightwardens. All the while, a scheming villain accompanies them, providing insight into a grand and tragic history, the revelation of which shatters all previous beliefs about how the world of Final Fantasy XIV worked.
Thanks to the supervision and writing of scenario lead Natsuko Ishikawa, Shadowbringers is one of the most enthralling Final Fantasy stories written. Within its sweeping framework, Shadowbringers manages to tackle themes of parenthood, death, apocalypse, and more. Shadowbringers is a concept of a world after the end. Scattered pockets of civilization fight to restore life to normal. Meanwhile, the decadent city of Eulmore employs a caste system that rigidly holds on to wealth and plutocracy. It is a nation of hoarders locked behind guarded walls, led by a petulant child of a man. And while Shadowbringers stumbles with Eulmore, veering into unflattering commentaries about fat bodies as an all-too-reductive shorthand for greed, its baseline social critique remains evocative. Even after the end, the wealthy will seek to continue their comfort. Or consider the late-game revelation of a time before known history where a utopian republic of mages once ruled, crafting marvels with a powerful creation magic until the day that a strange natural force warped their creative impulses into an uncontrollable deluge of beasts and fire. In these moments, Shadowbringers’ story rises to capture very real and powerful sentiments.
From time to time, Shadowbringers’ story loses track of itself. For example, wading through the dull relationships of a mining town or spending multiple hours constructing a massive golem were painful. This padding is the narrative’s one significant flaw. The story takes place over the course of the 70-80 level range and offers a variety of dungeons and boss fights. These high-quality challenges help offset the moments where the narrative comes to a screeching halt, making it far easier to push through to the game’s spectacular finale. In those final moments, I watched strangers pause in the middle of awe-inspiring dungeons and felt my heart race as we faced the final boss before anyone knew what the fight mechanics were.
The expansion brings new systems and job classes that enrich the experience. Chief among these is the Trust System, which allows players to enter story dungeons alongside computer-controlled companions instead of other players. Your companions have unique dialogue and behaviors that bring charm to encounters, and their availability throughout the main campaign means that even solo players are able to engage with content more easily. The system falls apart in the post-game, resetting your companions’ levels and forcing you to grind out dungeons in order to power them up, but for the duration of the main story, it does exactly what it sets out to do.
The Trust System comes alongside sweeping changes to job classes that removed skills and reworked how many classes function for simplicity’s sake. The overly complex Summoner class, whose attack “rotation” took minutes to summon their most powerful minions, can bring out the big guns faster and now summon a powerful Phoenix to light foes ablaze. The White Mage, whose unique “lilly gauge” previously did little more than allow them to cast spells faster, can now be used for powerful healing and attack spells. As a result, many classes are more enjoyable to play and easier for new players to learn.
It’s not all good news, though. In removing complexity, there’s been some loss of job identity. In particular, tank classes—defensive roles focused on absorbing damage from enemies—lack some of what made each unique. The Astrologian class, whose magical cards once gave a variety of effects, now use them exclusively to increase their team’s attack power. Shadowbringers’ changes have made things easier to understand and play, but not without some sacrifices.
Breathing additional life into the play experience are the expansion’s two exclusive job classes: the Dancer and the Gunbreaker. Dancers are damage dealers who can also buff their allies with a variety of defense- and attack-boosting spells. It is a complicated class whose nuances take some time to master. Attacks trigger random “procs” that allow Dancers to execute attack combos. These combos, in turn, have a chance to grant a resource that can be spent on additional attacks. All the while, it is possible to dance and trigger a sort of rhythm game where hitting the right buttons increases the potency of your buffs. The Dancer brings a welcome complexity to Final Fantasy XIV, even if it sometimes feels at odds with Shadowbringers’ beginner-friendly mindset. It is dynamic, asking players to pay close attention, but its randomness holds it back from time to time.
Gunbreakers are a tank class. Wielding iconic gunblades, they have a furious playstyle that revolves around lengthy combo sequences. At lower levels, Gunbreakers feel woefully inadequate. They do not have the powerful healing spells of their Paladin peers or the exciting defensive mechanics of gritty Dark Knight comrades in arms. As they level, gaining access to more attacks, the class start to find itself. Playing as a Gunbreaker is a fun and aggressive process later on, but the aggression comes at a cost. This class cannot hold ground for too long, relying on healers. In spite of this, Gunbreaker is consistently exciting to play. Like Dancer, its flaws add more charm than difficulty.
Shadowbringers’ endgame content is limited at the moment, but what exists ranks among some of the most interesting encounters you can have. The expansion introduces the Eden raid tier. With four fights currently available, a team of eight players can face off against tough enemies for the highest-quality loot. The monsters are designed by Final Fantasy veteran Tetsuya Nomura, taking inspiration from Final Fantasy VIII’s various summons while also offering hardcore remixes of old Final Fantasy XIV bosses. The Eden raid fights have a playful sense of difficulty, enough to challenge skilled players and dazzle with spellbinding attacks. In addition to these raids, the dubiously named “savage” variants of story bosses bring never-before-seen mechanics and culminate in a terrific challenge that only the most organized groups will pass. Their luster has worn as the weeks have passed, but Eden started strong and will continue to grow with new fights. A larger, 24-player series of raids influenced by Nier: Automata and created in cooperation with director Yoko Taro will be arriving within the next month.
Under all of this—the story, the revamped gameplay, the difficult endgame challenges—is Shadowbringers’ secret weapon: its music. Composer Masayoshi Soken’s pieces have always run the gamut from traditional fantasy marches to intense industrial rock. Grand battles against ice gods started with powerful piano laments before breaking into pop rock. Muted battle marches exploded into operatic triumph. Shadowbringers continues this tradition but ups the ante considerably. Soken’s score is a lightning strike, bold and beautiful throughout. Releasing yesterday on iTunes, the soundtrack surpassed artists like Lana Del Rey on the popularity charts. There’s good reason for this; Soken has come into his own to stand proudly besides series composers like Nobuo Uematsu and Masashi Hamauzu. Shadowbringers’ highest highs and dramatic lows would not be the same without Soken’s powerful scores.
Shadowbringers is a fantastic experience by any metric. That it triumphs within the complicated frame of an online RPG feels almost miraculous. I spent weeks of my life immersed in Eorzea before Shadowbringers and gladly continued after its launch. I have made fantastic friends and formed connections with some of the most important people I’ve known. I’ve embarked on countless adventures, learned the intricacies of numerous jobs. I found a community, a world of vibrancy that brought renewed color to my life. Shadowbringers’ story is triumphant, the artistry inspiring. There are rough patches—pacing woes and overzealous changes to beloved jobs—but Shadowbringers rises above those stumblings. It cements Final Fantasy XIV’s place within the series alongside cherished titles like Final Fantasy VII, and it marks the absolute redemption of an initially troubled game.
Blink and you’ll miss some of the brand new additions to Final Fantasy VII for the remake, as showcased in this new trailer that Square Enix put out in honor of the Tokyo Game Show this week.
Among other things, there’s a new boss fight with Reno, some sort of dart minigame, a brand new member of SOLDIER, a bike sequence with the NPC members of Avalanche, QTE pull-ups, a President Shinra hologram, and summons for Ifrit and Shiva, both of whom are obtained way after Midgar in the original version of Final Fantasy VII. (This remake, the first installment in what will be a larger series, takes place entirely in Midgar.)
FFVII Remake comes out on March 3, 2020. It will, we now know, include Cloud wearing a dress.
Kotaku Game DiaryDaily thoughts from a Kotaku staffer about a game we’re playing.
I vividly remember when Final Fantasy VIII came out in February 1999. I coveted it for months but didn’t get it until October for my 11th birthday. It was my first Japanese role-playing game ever. I struggled desperately just to get through its opening moments of tutorials and text walls and Y2K CD-Rom-ass menus. I was waiting for a fight where I had to run around and throw grenades into tanks.Ultimately, I resigned to give up and just watch my older brother play, leaving JRPGs untouched for years thereafter. Revisiting Final Fantasy VIII as an adult, after years of recovering with other role-playing games, has been revitalizing: It’s actually fun this time.
When the remaster was announced, I had to prepare myself to revisit some old trauma. In addition to not being able to get through its opening hours, I accidentally deleted my older brother’s save off the memory card one night after he’d just gotten to the third of four discs. So this game is cursed not just for me but for the whole Tamayo family. He never picked up the game again.
I distinctly remember spending way too long in the first testing sequence where mercenary Squall acquires the Guardian force Ifrit, a fire beast, by successfully battling him alongside his instructor Quistis. I could not figure out how to manage the menus and the rhythm of the battle. In little-kid time, this took me days to figure out. I then moved on to the first actual field mission, where I stopped and left the original for good.
In the time since, I’ve played dozens of other role-playing games, including other games in the Final Fantasy series. I racked up a lot of experience leading up to the moment this morning when I reached the same place I gave up as a kid. I reached the field mission, put my Switch to sleep, and got off at my subway stop. I was able to complete all this in under an hour of grown-man time.
The feeling of returning to this game and actually understanding how to flow through it is incredible. It’s like I’m finally able to get a tiny bit of closure. And honestly, the fast-forward feature is helping a lot. Finally getting what used to be such an impossible game for me and finishing something I started 20 years ago is empowering. Plus, we’ve got cloud saves now, so maybe I’ll pick up a copy for my brother too.
Square Enix studio Luminous Productions has unveiled a new tech demo called “Back Stage” that shows how it uses ray-tracing tech. The demo is rendered in real-time.
Luminous Productions was established last year and staffed with former Final Fantasy XV staff. The game’s director Hajime Tabata initially headed up the studio. He has since left Square Enix.
As Siliconera points out, this tech demo shows off next-gen possibilities for its in-house Luminous Engine. Here, the real-time ray tracing shows the character’s face and emotions reflected in a realistic way that simply isn’t possible in previous real-time rending tech.
This demo is a look at the real-time rendering of the future.
Kotaku Game DiaryDaily thoughts from a Kotaku staffer about a game we’re playing.
Ever since my friend and Kotaku comrade in arms Tim Rogers reviewed Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age last year with glowing praise, I’ve been trying desperately to play it. The combat is snappy, the world is gorgeous, and the prospect of a sweeping story excites me. But every time I play, I stop. It’s the music. Dragon Quest XI has terrible music.
Much has been made of Dragon Quest XI’s decision to use MIDI music for its original release, which is what I’m currently trying to play. The synthesized quality offers a sense of nostalgia but is harsh on the ears by modern standards. I’m glad the upcoming Nintendo Switch definitive edition will use fully orchestrated music, but that’s not the core issue I’m struggling with. I’d be able to endure low-quality music if the compositions excited me. Dragon Quest XI’s music has failed to excite me so far. While the main theme is adventurous, everything else (at least in the early sections I’ve played) fails to live up to the promise of that theme.
Dragon Quest XI’s music is composed by Koichi Sugiyama, who has written the series’ music since the original Dragon Quest released in 1986. Sugiyama is a controversial figure, owing largely to comments he’s made over the years including denying that the Nanking Massacre happened during the Second Sino-Japanese War and dismissing the need for LGBTQ education in Japanese schools. It’s led to some reappraisal of his reputation over the last few years, but what’s making pissing me right now (even if the other stuff is shitty) are Dragon Quest XI’s compositions, which grate on my ears.
The worst offender is the game’s battle theme, which bursts to life with synthesized brass instruments. It’s easy to hear the old-school inspirations, but in execution, it’s outdated, overblown, and irritating. I just want to battle Slimes and learn cool magic, but the prospect of entering battle makes me seize up a little. It’s a bad fight theme, y’all, and I want nothing to do with it in MIDI or orchestral form. Having such a common and unavoidable theme be this bad is a huge hurdle.
It’s not like I can’t endure a bad theme if a game is good enough. Suikoden III is one of my favorite JRPGs, and its music is some of the most bland and forgettable stuff ever. Dragon Quest XI’s music is honestly better! But games like Octopath Traveler and my favorite game of all time, Skies of Arcadia, lift up their combat with rousing musical themes. My current game of the year, Final Fantasy XIV: Shadowbringers rises to soaring heights thanks to composer Masayoshi Soken’s work. By comparison, Dragon Quest XI is held down.
I make it a personal point of pride to finish basically everything I play, the current exceptions being Alan Wake, Watch Dogs, and Horizon: Zero Dawn. Whether it’s simply soldiering on or lowering the music volume so I don’t have to deal with it, I’ll eventually continue Dragon Quest XI. —But wow, I wasn’t expecting to struggle so much with what I am sure is an astounding RPG because of its music. I hope I can push my annoyance to the side and enjoy the rest of the adventure.
When I first played the demo for Oninaki, an action role-playing game out tomorrow from Lost Sphear and I Am Setsuna creators Tokyo RPG Factory, I was optimistic. The gameplay wasn’t particularly captivating, but the story seemed unique and dark enough for me to push through the repetitive combat. Unfortunately, by the time I finished Oninaki’s story of faith, religion, and the afterlife, it just felt soulless.
Oninaki tells the story of Kagachi, a brooding young man who is a Watcher, a person tasked with helping lingering souls of the dead address their remnant concerns. He does this by going “beyond the Veil” into a kind of purgatory, an alternate dimension overlapping with the real world. Where spirits go after that is unclear to start, but the people of his society believe in the power of reincarnation. What is clear is that souls who linger beyond the Veil for too long become vicious monsters called the Fallen. Partnered with powerful souls called Daemons that offer a variety of combat styles, Kagachi fights the Fallen to protect those in the living world.
Oninaki has a lot of weighty material, but it relies too much on tedious expository moments and monotonous side stories to really hit home. A couple’s son isn’t ready to pass on yet and may turn into a monster; as part of his duties, Kagachi offers to send them beyond the Veil with him. A cult called the Ark of Hope leads a mass suicide among its followers, leaving the Watchers to deal with their lingering souls and find the leader before he can do more harm.
Kagachi, jaded by the world of the Watchers and the precepts undergirding it, does his duty with a mechanical, almost heartless determination. Talking to the townsfolk reveals interesting tidbits about the world: Some are worried that fewer children have been born of late; some buy love charms that guarantee they will reunite with their lovers in the next life. It should be a compelling exploration of faith, fear, and fanaticism, but it falls short.
Moments that could be touching are dumped on you over the span of a few text boxes rather than delved into deeply. It’s a shame, because some of the ways relationships are tested by the bounds of death show promise. “You musn’t grieve,” one character is told when her infant sister dies, for the dead will worry about living loved ones who haven’t moved on and fail to pass on properly. The tension between grief and piety shines at times but is painted with too broad a brush to say anything truly insightful about the costs or benefits of faith.
Kagachi meets a young girl named Linne in his travels, and the two of them search to learn the nature of a dangerous, mysterious being called the Night Devil. The tenderness between Kagachi and Linne is a welcome change of pace but feels rushed and unearned. The story’s twists are bogged down in a slow penultimate chapter that takes the player through a series of tedious expository revelations. The few choices you can make through the game feel inconsequential, and I found myself not really caring that much about learning the difference between multiple possible endings. Oninaki’s story of death and rebirth is what drew me in, but I was so utterly exhausted by the time I got to its end that I just wanted my life back.
The hack-and-slash gameplay lacks needed variety, requiring you to fight through hordes of enemies to reach various objectives. Acquiring new Daemons offers Kagachi new fighting styles, and each has its own skill tree featuring passive abilities and usable skills that can be unlocked. For example, there’s Zaav, a spear-wielding former knight who was faced with the hard choice to murder a child he once protected, and Dia, a gun-toting noble who constantly felt out of place in her world of airs and intrigue. Kagachi can use powerful jump attacks with Zaav and ranged beam attacks with Dia.
Some Daemons, though, feel borderline useless relative to others; one Daemon’s shielding ability, for example, scarcely makes up for his slow speed. You can customize each Daemon’s weapons and skills, but it felt like it made little difference against the enemies and never livened up the sluggish, slightly brainless combat. Even the game’s highest difficulty, Maniac, didn’t make combat exciting; if anything, it made the sponginess of some enemies and the tedium of rarely having to form new strategies all the more obvious. There’s only so much you can fight palette-swapped forms of old enemies before you stop caring about the rare new enemy that appears.
Just about every area of Oninaki looks lush but feels empty. For each, there is a real-world version of the map and a version beyond the Veil that you can switch between at any time; these worlds are geographically identical but feature different enemies and color palettes. Most Veil areas start with Kagachi stricken by “Veil Blindness,” which renders him unable to fight, see, or interact with his surroundings and vulnerable to a one-hit kill. To remove the blindness, the player must find an enemy—usually just a larger or tankier version of a normal enemy—called the “Sight Stealer.” After that, the Veil Blindness fades, and… sometimes that matters. Sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes you can open up a new path, or find treasure, or find a lost soul who will give you a sidequest, but with the exception of cases where you need to be beyond the Veil to progress, the backtracking isn’t worth it. Exploring these areas rarely provides any real dimension. There are consistently several extra hordes of mooks to fight, but it feels like they’re just there to fill space.
Ultimately, Oninaki comes out of the gate promising, but it doesn’t truly capitalize on its dark themes or religious introspection. The ultimate truths revealed about Oninaki’s world and characters were never enough to really make me feel like cutting through enemy after enemy after enemy was worth it. It’s unfortunate—there are a lot of genuinely cool ideas here, but none of them really makes the game special.