Square Enix Secret of Mana

My apologies for the relative dearth of content this week; I’ve had some personal issues and most of the other team members have also been kept occupied with their busy lives.

Around OnlySP

I’ll admit, the process of getting OnlySP back up and running to the prolific extent of yesteryears is a little more difficult than I had anticipated. Our news coverage flagged this week, but Gareth managed to get on top of two long-awaited reviews, Oceanhorn and the PS4 edition of Rise of the Tomb Raider. The team has a few more reviews in the hopper for the coming weeks, and we’re slowly organising the preparation and production of our other content, though I still can’t promise when our editorials and commentary will recommence. In an effort to hasten that, however, we aim to acquire two more writers within the next fortnight.

Square-Enix: Dead Dogs and Unsafe Bets

It’s safe to say that Square-Enix has a chequered history. From being synonymous with quality in the earliest days following the merger between Square and Enix and through a long period of questionable output, the Japanese publisher has recently re-emerged as a force to be reckoned with within the gaming industry. Hitman, Rise of the Tomb Raider, and Deus Ex: Mankind Divided have all been awarded with rave reviews; Final Fantasy XV is looking fantastic to most people not blinded by rose-tinted glasses; and the publisher continues to make many of the right moves. The decision to revive NieR under the direction of Platinum Games, for example, taps into a cult following that grew up around Cavia’s delightfully weird original while opening it up to an audience that may be more receptive to it due to Platinum’s (generally) high standards of game design. And let’s not forget about the hotly anticipated Kingdom Hearts III set for release next year. From where I’m sitting, Square-Enix is delivering in a way that few could have imagined only a few years ago, when the bulk of its output consisted of the likes of Final Fantasy XIII-2, Front Mission Evolved, and Mindjack.

But I was still disappointed to find out that United Front Games had planned Sleeping Dogs 2 back in 2013 before the publisher dictated that the team’s efforts would be better directed to the multiplayer-focused Triad Wars. Sleeping Dogs came out of left field, taking many by surprise with how good it felt to play. It was GTA flipped on its head, the emphasis taken away from gunplay and placed firmly on hand-to-hand combat. That’s not to say that it was flawless; like most games that cast the player as a ‘good guy’, ludonarrative dissonance crept into the experience as players were free to hijack cars and commit any number of criminal acts while playing as a police officer. And yet, I can’t help but long for what might have been. The details that emerged this week were fascinating, suggesting a team that knew exactly how to expand on its foundation while drawing on emergent trends within the wider industry. Unfortunately, the writing was probably on the wall following the untimely demise of Triad Wars in January, and United Front closed its doors in October, its last game being unceremoniously removed from Early Access with no fanfare whatsoever. A sad end made sadder by the fact it was hastened by the misguided notions of a publisher that was, at the time, far from the top its game.

Personal Update

As mentioned at the beginning, I’ve had some personal issues this week, and this is neither the time nor the place to air my grievances. Naturally, that cut into my free time, so all I’ve had time for is a quick spin of Planet Coaster and making a start on Haruki Murakami’s Norwegian Wood. Both good from what I’ve experienced so far, but neither enough for me to make a final judgement call.

Let us know what you’ve been up to in the comments below.

Until next Sunday, have a good week, single players.

Damien Lawardorn
Damien Lawardorn is an aspiring novelist, journalist, and essayist. His goal in writing is to inspire readers to engage and think, rather than simply consume and enjoy. With broad interests ranging from literature and video games to fringe science and social movements, his work tends to touch on the unexpected. Damien is the former Editor-in-Chief of OnlySP. More of his work can be found at https://open.abc.net.au/people/21767

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