Crisis Core: Final Fantasy 7 and Harvestella lead an onslaught of fall games from Square Enix

Wracked with pandemic manufacturing problems — and perhaps, a gradual transition to more sustainable ways of working — the video game industry is in the grip of a product drought. After a barren summer, we’re facing a meager release schedule through fall and into the end of the year, with a handful of major titles and platform exclusives that often grace the season. By all accounts, late 2022 is a quiet time for video games.

But no one told Square Enix.

The respected Japanese publisher has one stack Calendar release. From mid-September to mid-December, it will release no less than 9 games – and at most 12, if you count the PC version of Triangle Strategythe Life is strange Arcadia Bay Collection on Switch, and the synopsis-remake-strange thing on mobile Final Fantasy 7 Ever Crisisis supposed to go into beta testing this year.

There are no major releases in this lineup, but there are quite a few remakes and re-releases, as well as some spin-offs and less genre testing. But you can’t call it modesty either; there’s ambition and breadth here, as well as difficulty length, at full – most of these games offer some sort of variation on the JRPG pattern and don’t mind about slow builds or long runtimes.

Together, the games paint a picture of a publisher giving up its attempt to be a global, after selling its western studios and properties like Deus Ex and Tomb Raider for the Embracer Group, and take on its Japanese identity as it rides on a wave of anime popularity and a platform of JRPG content on Switch and Steam. Not long ago, many of these games would never have made it to the West, let alone the daily global releases.

At a recent event in London, decorated with fake cherry trees and a Japanese snack bar, Square Enix offered this line to play, with a few exceptions: Romancing SaGa Minstrel Song and a more hotly anticipated remake of a classic tactical RPG, Tactics Ogre: Reborn. While the JRPGs are particularly unsuitable for sampling during the half-hour demos on the show floor, I’ve tried most of them. Here’s what I found.

Chronicles of DioField

Miniature view of combat units amassing on the steps of a temple in The DioField Chronicle

Image: Lancarse / Square Enix

Perhaps the most exciting genre experiment Square Enix has to offer, Chronicles of DioField features a traditional tactical RPG format illustrated with Goblin Tactics and removed the move grid and turn-based action, leaving a more single player game League of Legends or a slimmer hero-focused real-time strategy game. It’s busy in a good way, but the storytelling is solid and the mission center seems to have been made on a tight budget. I previewed it in more detail from last month’s demo.

Chronicles of DioField Now out on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Windows PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X.

Valkyrie Elysium

An armored Valkyrie stands in an impressive medieval hall in the Valkyrie Elysium

Image: Soleil / Square Enix

Probably the most immediately fun game in demo form, Valkyrie Elysium is the loose successor to the Valkyrie Profile series – loosely because it transforms the Norse mythology-inspired rope from a hybrid platform RPG into an action RPG with an emphasis on smooth action, Bayonetta style. The name of the game is to keep your valkyrie’s combo going while summoning einherjar – the souls of dead warriors waiting for Ragnarok – to aid you and exploit the enemy’s elemental weakness. It’s a sparse production rife with blank scenes, but it works well where it’s worth it.

Valkyrie Elysium will be released on September 29 on PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5, with the latter on Windows PC on November 11.

Nier: Automata – The end of the YoRHa version

A small humanoid in the foreground, carrying a sword, faces a giant, rusty robot

Image: PlatinumGames / Square Enix

Undoubtedly the best game of this copious number of releases, but also the most famous, is Yoko Taro’s Switch release and Platinum’s 2017 cult hit. Only the game in mobile form is a joy, and this version captures the attention of game fans with its exclusive outfits and complete approach to content.

Nier: Automata – The end of the YoRHa version will be released on October 6 on Nintendo Switch.

Star Ocean: Force

Characters run through a lush meadow with stone spiers and a colorful starscape behind them in Star Ocean: The Divine Force

Image: tri-Ace / Square Enix

Fewer reboots Valkyrie Elysium, the sixth Star Ocean game that co-exists with all its predecessors – and shares the same developer, tri-Ace. It continues the sci-fi RPG series’ drifting into action territory, with huge, open environments to explore and lots of heights to boot. There’s a gimmick and a pretty cool one: DUMA, a hovering droid that assists all four party members by providing an aerial space for both exploration and combat. “Blindside” surprise attacks and DUMA-powered Vanguard attacks provide a compelling emphasis on position in battle. The game is nice enough, too, but don’t get too hung up on the motionless faces of PS3-era characters, or get too hung up on listening to meaningless dialogue (“It’s just semi-feng shui!”).

Star Ocean: Force will be released on October 27 on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Windows PC, Xbox One and Xbox Series X.


In a hazy, colorless landscape, a figure looks up at the fiery red crystal form of Seaslight in Harvestella

Image: Square Enix

Unlike the delicate mix of styles like Chronicles of DioField, Harvestella no brains, Frankenstein’s monster approach to the mashup genre: What if we combined these two together? Harvestella is a farmer life simulation at home and an action RPG abroad, with the two game lines linked in obvious but satisfying ways (going out into monster-infested fields to get your farm equipment, etc.), it’s surprisingly lush, and naturally, it’s surprisingly dense. In HarvestellaIn the world of the world, the natural cycle of the four seasons is interrupted by a deadly moment known as the Quietus, caused by dust from Seaslight, a large, translucent crystal that dominates the landscape. The man-made creatures known as Omen are somehow related. The main character is an amnesiac caught in the middle of it all.

Harvestella doesn’t seem like a complicated example for either genre, but it just works – the two flavors go together like salt and caramel. Looks like it’s a good bet to stand out from the crowd The current wave of sim farming.

Harvestella will be released on November 4th on Nintendo Switch and Windows PC.

Dragon Quest Treasure

Mia and Erik, two young heroes with blue hair, stand in front of the huge open chest, with golden light pouring out from it.

Image: Tose / Square Enix

I’m a bit reluctant to pass judgment on a brief demo of a lighthearted JRPG that’s obviously struggling to introduce itself slowly to younger players – but Dragon Quest Treasure does not seem to be up to the standards of Dragon Quest 11 (which is a prequel that looks, about Erik and Mia’s childhood) or very charming Dragon Quest Builders and its sequel. Developed by outsourcing expert Tose, it’s like a lead-free and charmless attempt to conjure up a colorful, all-ages, treasure-hunting adventure that’s on the margins of the world. Dragon Quest legend. It suffers from the worst examples of symptoms that have, to varying degrees, affected all of the games here: piles of archival text, jarring transitions between story and game and unmotivated stuttering. Maybe it will be better later?

Dragon Quest Treasure will be released on December 9 on Nintendo Switch.

Crisis Core: Final Fantasy 7 Reunion

Sparks fly as Zack launches a sword attack on enemies in Crisis Core: Final Fantasy 7 Reunion

Image: Tose / Square Enix

Given the Final Fantasy franchise and, judging by the slick presentation, the relatively lavish budget, this is probably Square Enix’s biggest bet of the season. But it’s also one of the weirdest. Is a remake of the 2007 PlayStation Portable game – a prequel to Final Fantasy 7 from a SOLDIER operative’s point of view – it polishes its humble origins with slick graphics, handsome character models, and full voice acting. But structurally, it can’t hide those origins. It’s still a narrow, scripted action RPG set in tightly constrained environments; there’s a fade and jump to a battle arena every time you enter combat, and the pre-rendered sequences are noticeably lo-fi. In those sense, it is very dated. But in the 2007 setting, the battle itself is ahead of its time – at least in the Final Fantasy series, in the way it puts the player in immediate command of a plethora of iconic spells and abilities. freely and well-arranged. action game. It’s Final Fantasy’s past and future in a contradictory package.

Crisis Core: Final Fantasy 7 Reunion will be released on December 13 on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Windows PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X.

Such an unusual pile of releases from a single publisher could be just a matter of scheduling. It could be a publisher reasserting and redefining its identity after selling off its Western affiliate. Or, in similar cases, it could be proof that Square Enix is ​​buffering its global schedule with what were once niche, Japan-only products, now they’re not. What else is there to offer?

None of that is as consequential for Square Enix’s future as major 2023 releases like Forspoken and Final Fantasy 16 will. But it shows a publisher doing what many competitors, especially Western ones, are not doing at the moment. It’s not unusual to rewrite and rewrite past hits to keep brands alive, but placing lots of small bets – as opposed to one or two huge bets – certainly is. Square Enix is ​​providing both external and internal development teams with modest budgets for a variety of purposes, such as testing and creating initial new properties (Harvestella and DioField), brand extension (Dragon Quest Treasure), mid-range series maintenance in long-term operation (Star Ocean) or the revival of inactive ones (Valkyrie Elysium).

It’s no surprise that the early tests here are the hottest games, but the bigger picture is one of publishers willing to keep small but fervent fan bases happy. The lesson from the slow success of Capcom’s Monster Hunter and Sega’s Like a Dragon (aka the Yakuza) is that this can pay off in the long run. And in the short term? At least, thanks to Square Enix, we’ve got something to play with this winter.

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