The least negative way to describe Square Enix’s E3 conference this year is “bizarre”. Disappointing, underwhelming, and short are common evaluations if you glance at Twitter or live chat replays of any of the streams covering it, and it’s easy to see why. Square Enix did not reveal anything about the long anticipated “Avengers Project”, or their controversial, hype-generating remake of Final Fantasy VII, one of the most beloved video games of all time. The conference was a compilation of trailers for other upcoming games, with no talking or physical presentation on the stage, similar to a Nintendo Direct. In any case, there were still some decent reveals, especially the announcement of Just Cause 4.

KINGDOM HEARTS III
Most notable were the new trailers for the long awaited Kingdom Hearts III. A series famous for incorporating Disney film settings and characters into its game worlds, this entry will catch up on a lot of the newer movies released after its last main game, continuing the story from where it left off. This new trailer revealed the inclusion of Frozen and Ratatouille, showcasing gameplay in an icy Arendelle. We get  interactions with Elsa, Ana, Kristoff and of course, Olaf; as well as a likely minigame of Remy puppeting Sora to cook. More action from previously revealed new worlds of Toy Story, Monsters Inc., Big Hero 6, Wreck-it Ralph and Tangled was shown, and cutscene clips, teasing the saving of Roxas, and the corruption of Aqua by Xehanort. A trailer in the later PS4 conference showed off a revamped Pirates of the Caribbean world, and appearances by Kairi and Axel. This segment was a substantial boost to the over 5 year hype rollercoaster of Kingdom Hearts III, and fans of the series have some decent food for thought. Kingdom Hearts III now has a confirmed release date of January 29 2019 for Xbox One and PS4 (January 25 in Japan) and ‘could’ be released on PC and Switch later.

SHADOW OF THE TOMB RAIDER
Shadow of the Tomb Raider got the most airtime of SE’s games this year, with a new story trailer and a seven minute gameplay reveal. It can be summed up with a simple saying; “it’s more of the same”. More tombs, more stealth combat, more action-packed setpieces. Oh, and 360 degree water. If you’re into Tomb Raider, then it’s good news, although there has been fan reaction that not enough has changed between this game and the last one. Story-wise, Croft is racing to stop an evil organisation from using Mayan artefacts to cause an apocalypse. Long time fans will note that Lara seems a lot more ruthless, murdering goon after goon with some brutality; this game will be the conclusion of Lara’s trilogy spanning arc of personal growth, turning her into a battle-hardened… tomb raider, with few qualms over killing. On the gameplay front some fans have disliked this change; the reboot trilogy focuses too much on combat for some, and not enough on tomb puzzles and exploration. There has been speculation and suggestion, however, that Shadow of the Tomb Raider will allow players to adjust the difficulties of the various aspects, including puzzles. Shadow of the Tomb Raider releases for PC, PS4 and Xbox One on September 14 2018.

JUST CAUSE 4
The new trailer for Just Cause 4 was a spectacular reveal for many, confirming leaks a week prior to E3 of the game’s existence, and showing off the kind of high octane action and insanity that the series became famous for. The game takes ‘destruction and physics simulation to a whole new level’ with the advent of its extreme weather mechanic, spawning tornadoes, thunderstorms, sandstorms and more which affect the open world, uprooting trees, collapsing bridges and so on, creating a highly destructible environment. The trailer explains that all facets of the game have been refined, from improved vehicle handling, to a customisable grappling hook, to better enemy AI for a greater combat challenge. The new game world is marketed as being bigger and more filled with life, history and intrigue than ever before, and it’ll all be powered by Avalanche Studio’s brand new Apex Engine. Over the top destruction is nothing new to the open world genre, but historically Just Cause has been able to keep things fresh and avoid redundancy, unlike some of its competitors. This trailer did an excellent job of laying out what should expected from the game and what will be different from before, unlike some other parts of the show. With a release date of December 4 2018 for PS4, Xbox One and PC, Just Cause fans have a reason to be excited.

All in all, the show went by in a flash, but there were enough reveals to get a lot of people hyped, especially on the fronts of Kingdom Hearts III and Just Cause 4. This year’s Square Enix show wasn’t great, but it wasn’t really bad either, although more was definitely expected by everyone who watched.

Image: Kingdom Hearts 3 – Square Enix / Disney

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