It was late in a long day, and late in a long press conference. Waist-deep into the Sony talk, the fourth press conference of the day, listening to men is business suits describe the future of gaming was starting to wear thin. You can only hear terms like “cloud integration” and “next generation technology” so many times before they lose all meaning and become part of a grey, pasty gruel between bombastic, hyper-kinetic game trailers.
Then the Square Enix train came roaring into the Sony station and shook us from our stupor.
We’d heard that Square was going to be at the Sony press conference, but our expectations were muted. After some curious choices as a publisher, the lackluster Final Fantasy XIII (with its complement of iterative spin-offs and sequels), and two online Final Fantasy games out of the last four, the prospect of another entry in one of gaming’s rustiest franchises didn’t really have us jumping out of our seats.
“The fifteenth coming”
And it began quietly enough. Another executive, even if he was young and Japanese, telling us he didn’t have many details to share had our eyelids drooping. But then the trailer started.
At first, it looked like you’d expect a Final Fantasy trailer to look. Gorgeous, cinematic, evocative but vaguely confusing. Two children running hand in hand through a field, some loose talk about spirituality and the human soul.
But then things started to accelerate. The action picked up, and we were treated to sequences of a very Square Enix looking protagonist battling his way through an exploding mansion, through the crumbling architecture of a gorgeous future city, towards a massive Eastern-looking dragon. And gunplay! Shocking, high-energy gunplay interspersed with the massive swords and dazzling magic that are Final Fantasy hallmarks. The craziest part: all this direct-control, action combat looked like gameplay. Not the faintest hint of traditional turn-based systems to be found; this looked more like Vanquish than a Square RPG.
As the trailer faded to black, the logo for Square’s long dormant Final Fantasy Versus XIII materialized, only to shatter into pieces and be replaced with a banner rebranding it as Final Fantasy XV.
But wait, there’s more!
Back to Tetsuya Nomura, the Square Enix exec running their portion of the Sony conference. As though he were conducting his own mini-press conference, Nomura dropped a “one more thing!” announcement and rolled out Square’s other surprise.
From the moment the Disney logo appeared and that earnest voice started speaking, we had a pretty clear idea what we were going to see. After a montage of every Kingdom Hearts game released to date, we were treated to a short teaser that shows returning hero Sora being chased through the streets by a ravening pack of shadow monsters. He dodges to one side, leaps atop the horde to jump to safety, and then springs back at them swinging his trademark keyblade. We’re left with the promise that Kingdom Hearts III is in development and more details will be available in the coming days.
Forget price announcements, blistering commentary targeted at Microsoft, or Bungie’s new game, Square Enix stole the show at the Sony conference and reminded us why we like E3 in the first place: game announcements that prove that we can still be surprised.