What we want from the new entries in Square Enix’s biggest franchises

Square Enix has been on quite the roll in the last few years, with Final Fantasy XV originally feeling like something that was never going to release, but then performing really well despite its various issues. MMORPG Final Fantasy XIV has continued to go from strength to strength. More recently Dragon Quest XI absolutely knocked it out of the park, showing us that polished turn-based combat still has a place in our fast-paced video game world. And finally, FFVII Remake, one of the most eagerly awaited video games of all time, showed up — and my God, did it deliver. 

Now, here we are in 2022 eagerly awaiting the next games from Square Enix. There are four main titles that I want to talk about specifically: Final Fantasy XVI, Kingdom Hearts IV, Dragon Quest XII, and Final Fantasy VII Remake Part 2. I’m a fan of all these franchises, so I want to give my thoughts and personal wishlists for each of them. Let’s go!

Square Enix: Final Fantasy XVI

Final Fantasy XVI

Let’s start with FFXVI, the game I think we’ll be seeing first out of this list. We talked a bit about the game when it was first revealed in 2020, but we haven’t really seen much more of it since then. Even though Square Enix said we were going to hear something more about FFXVI before the end of 2021, COVID-related delays put paid to that, as they did for so many other developers worldwide. 

What we know so far is that it looks as though the game takes place in quite a gritty, dark medieval setting, which is quite different from what we’re used to with the Final Fantasy franchise outside of spinoffs like Stranger of Paradise. Summons, or Eikons as they are called in the trailer (perhaps a callback to what the Imperials call them in FFXIV?) look to play a massive role in the story.

One thing that looks interesting about the summons in FFXVI, from what we can determine so far anyway, is that it looks as if the summons themselves choose people to bestow their powers upon. They’re not like character classes or pieces of materia; they appear to be bound to the characters themselves, and this has the potential to make the story very interesting.

We know from the trailer that the game is going to use action-RPG style combat, as the series has done in FFXV, FFVII Remake and Stranger of Paradise. As much as I really enjoy this style of combat — particularly its FFVII Remake implementation — I hope XVI’s combat does something to differentiate itself a bit. We can see from the trailers that the summons grant the main character a variety of different powers, so I really hope these are abilities we’ll be able to switch between and use on the fly.

Square Enix: Kingdom Hearts IV

Kingdom Hearts IV

Oh God, how do I navigate this minefield of a series without pissing off at least a decent portion of the fanbase — a fanbase I would consider myself maybe, almost, part of?

Let’s get this out the way: I’m going to say up front that Kingdom Hearts frustrates me to no end, and it’s mainly due to its unnecessarily convoluted way of telling its story. When I played the first two games back in secondary school, I thought I could at least somewhat explain what the story of the series was. Now, though? Zero percent chance I could tell you anything other than the main character’s name and the fact that there are Disney characters in it sometimes.

I loved those first two games. I thought they were creative as hell, albeit completely insane, but my God they were so much fun — and Kingdom Hearts II just improved on everything that was good about the first game.

Then we play the big ol’ waiting game for KHIII and we’re met with a game that feels like it came out just a couple of years after KHII. The combat was just more of the same, which was fine, but they decided to add in these special attacks which just made everything very easy. Mainly though, the voice acting still felt like something from the PS2 era, with its awkward pauses in conversation.

So what would I like to see moving forward? Well, first off let me point toward Trent’s piece regarding the most recent trailer. He definitely seems to be a bigger fan of the franchise than I, and he makes some great points about the game and what appears to be its new aesthetic. For me though, I quite liked what I saw from this first glimpse: the lack of massive shoes, the more realistic look, the way the game moved. As someone who is a bigger fan of the Final Fantasy and Square Enix stuff as opposed to the Disney parts, I’m excited to see where this goes. 

Square Enix: Dragon Quest XII

Dragon Quest XII

So for the last two titles, it’s a bit of a guessing game as to which one we’re going to see first. We’ve seen nothing but a title card for Dragon Quest XII, and we’re yet to see anything regarding FFVII Remake Part 2. As such, it’s fair to say that we’ll be focusing a bit more on the “wishlist” side of things for these two!

For me, Dragon Quest XI was something I just thought I would give a try thinking it wasn’t going to be a game for me, but then it became my Game of the Year for 2017. Always give things a try; you’ll often surprise yourself.

It had such a beautifully well-refined turn-based combat system, and in a similar way to Persona 5, proved that there is still a place for combat like this in modern gaming. The story, meanwhile, was filled with twists, turns, and emotional ups and downs. The characters were all extremely distinctive, likeable and memorable. But what really impressed me most was the way the game “ended”, and the choice you were then presented with. Those who have beaten it know what I’m talking about.

Dragon Quest XII claims to have a “darker” storyline, which immediately has me excited, as my only real hesitation towards picking up XI back in 2017 was the fact that I thought the game looked a little too bright and jolly. (Spot the Dragon Quest newbie – Ed.) Considering some of the story beats from XI, the fact that XII is going to be darker has me very excited.

The only piece of information we have about DQXII is that the combat system is going to change, but they didn’t specify or give any details as to what they meant by this. I personally hope that they keep it turn-based but add something entirely new to it to spice it up — or maybe create some hybrid-type combat system with elements of both turn-based and real-time. 

Square Enix: Final Fantasy VII Remake

Final Fantasy VII Remake Part 2

We arrive at the big one, for me anyway; the original Final Fantasy VII is my favourite game of all time, and I’m a big fan of Remake’s first part. So while we haven’t seen anything on Part 2 specifically, we can pull a lot from not only the first game but Intergrade as well.

To dive straight in, similar to the way that Yuffie is becoming more of a canon character as opposed to the optional one that she was from the original game, I hope Vincent is canon as well. I doubt that making these characters optional is even a thought in the developer’s minds at this point, but I just want to make it clear that I want everyone to experience these characters, rather than just those who knew the “secrets” of acquiring them in the original. 

We know that Part 2 is leaving Midgar, which means we’re going to be seeing a whole lot more of the world of Gaia. This begs the question of whether we’re going to be seeing a transition into something more open world a la Final Fantasy XV.

I’m split on this one because while I think that open world FFVII could be interesting, I think that open world is something that needs to be perfectly implemented in order to not feel lacking. There are so many risks you can run into with the world feeling empty, repetitive or exhaustingly large, so an approach similar to Xenoblade Chronicles, where the world is split into manageable MMO-style “zones”, could be a nice middle ground. 

Finally, the combat. I think that Intergrade gave us a big hint at where we’re headed with the battle mechanics of the game. The main hint is the ‘Synergise’ function — I wrote about this in more detail here — but it’s my hope this system will be something that’s usable across the entire party in the sequel. Just thinking about Cloud and Tifa synergising (other than that night under the Highwind), with Cloud launching Tifa off his Buster Sword and Tifa rocketing towards an enemy for big damage… ooh, it gives me goosebumps.

What would you like to see from these big-name releases in Square Enix’s biggest franchises? Let us know down in the comments, via the usual social channels or send us a letter for the Rice Digital Friday Letters Page!

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Conor Evans
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