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Square Enix E3 2003 Retrospective
June 16, 2003

Commentary by the SH staff

The hustle of the largest gaming convention the world recedes, and the hoopla over titles such as Half Life 2, Halo 2, Gran Turismo 4 and Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater cools off slightly; certainly, these were the most interesting titles at the show. But while the giants were busy unveiling sequels to existing franchises, other companies were doing their best to come up with fresh ideas. Nintendo was arguably one of those trying the hardest, bandying about terms like "innovation" and "connectivity" and... Pac-Man.

Of course, our favourite RPG producing superstars, Square Enix, were still around - though not in the awesome capacity that you'd expect if they had revealed, say, a new title in the Final Fantasy series. Considering the company chose not to release any information about Final Fantasy XII (now confirmed for late 2003 release in Japan) nor any confirmation of a new Chrono game, their show at the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles may have seemed lacklustre. But it wasn't - even if the high profile titles were missing.

Look a little bit closer and you'll see several key projects being brought into the spotlight here. We are, of course, referring to the new Square Enix titles for Nintendo systems - three in total. With Sword of Mana, Brownie Brown gets down and dirty to remake the original Final Fantasy Adventure in a more Seiken Densetsu 3 kind of way. The other Game Boy Advance project, Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, might give gamers what they longed for - another game in the Final Fantasy Tactics "franchise," albeit with a somewhat dodgy scenario. And last but not least, The Game Designers Studio's severely impressive Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles, which sees the Nintendo Gamecube finally take the connectivity idea to a level above that of a mere gimmick, emphasizing multiplayer communication by using the GBA as a controller.

Naturally, the Nintendo titles weren't all Square Enix were displaying - the undoubtedly popular direct sequel to Final Fantasy X, Final Fantasy X-2, drew a significant amount of attention (and not just for the scantily clad females). With a North American release only half a year away, fans of the series may be getting impatient as even this title is indicative of Squenix's efforts to resist overreliance on tired ideas within its series and consistently come up with something new. Another example of Squenix's efforts would then, of course, be Final Fantasy XI, which, as we all know by now, is the company's MMORPG - coming to North America early next year, with beta testing starting this summer. And as if that weren't enough, the immaculately scored, stylistically unique UNLIMITED: SaGa is on its way as well in July, although the initial impressions of the title don't exactly promise much.

So the Nintendo difference is set for Square Enix, and the new PS2 titles aren't exactly like anything we've seen before. But what else is there?

Considering that Squaresoft and Enix merged in April this year, the Enix projects at E3 are left unaccounted for in this retrospective. And while those titles too are certainly noteworthy - Star Ocean: Till the End of Time and Drakengard were definitely too interesting just to ignore - they don't currently fall within the scope of Square Haven's coverage.

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