2021 is Going to be the Year of Square Enix
It’s no secret that Square Enix is a wildly successful company with several fantastic titles under its belt. Even in 2020, a year fraught with a multitude of video game delays, the company has released some prominent titles. Final Fantasy VII Remake being the most obvious. While earning some controversy from fans for its narrative decisions, the almost seemingly unreal remake boasted stellar reception from critics. Personally speaking, it was easily one of Square Enix’s most potent titles in years.
Trials of Mana was a smaller scaled release, but that was an exceedingly fun romp within a vibrant, colorful world. While the English dub for the ambitious remake was less than stellar, to say the least, the combat and impressive amount of replayability made it yet another solid outing from Square Enix in my eyes. The title even received a recent update adding a slew of difficulty modes and other new content.
Aside from that, 2020 has been a very Kingdom Hearts centric year, which for diehard fans of the series, such as myself, was a welcomed surprise. While there does exist the problematic mobile title Kingdom Hearts Dark Road, there has also been the releases of Kingdom Hearts III Re Mind and Kingdom Hearts Melody of Memory. Both of these were genuinely sublime experiences and amongst the peak of the series, in my opinion.
2021 however, looks like it very well might be even better. There are a plethora of announced titles to be excited for, so let’s take a closer look at these games and see what they can bring to the table:
Bravely Default II
Bravely Default II is the upcoming third (yes, not second) entry in the Bravely series. While Bravely Second: End Layer acted as a direct sequel to the original Bravely Default’s events with its returning setting and cast, Bravely Default II seems like it will be more akin to a new Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest entry. By this, I mean that this title will probably be disconnected from the previous two entries.
Square can always throw a curveball and make this directly connected to the earlier games. Considering the massive plot twists in the original Bravely Default, it wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest. Despite that, this title seems to be its own beast, and interested players should feel no trepidation jumping in, especially with how dedicated the development team seems to be with making this title a fantastic product.
You can check out our breakdown of the most recent trailers in which we analyze and compile the plethora of additions and changes made solely due to the fan reception. Thanks to over 22,000 survey responses, the team addressed the most pressing critiques that players had with the demo launched earlier this year. Needless to say, my faith in this upcoming title is at an all-time high, and I can’t wait to sink my teeth into its prospective, stark combat depth and intriguing, quirky cast.
Bravely Default II is releasing for Nintendo Switch on February 26, 2021, globally. You can also check out our preview of the demo.
NieR Replicant ver.1.22474487139…
We’ll just call this title NieR Replicant because, let’s be honest; no one refers to this title with the numbers intact. NieR Replicant is a remastered, modern retelling of the original NieR Replicant released in Japan 11 years ago. This title did get a release in the west called NieR Gestalt, which was the same, identical game minus that you played as a father instead of a brother. NieR is a bizarre series, but also an incredibly compelling one.
Originally an offshoot of the Drakengard series, NieR has evolved to popularity heights eclipsing the series it originated from. The original NieR Replicant, at least, personally speaking, is far more engaging narrative and character-wise than its sequel, NieR: Automata. The world is fuller of life for one, and the storytelling is far more conventional, albeit still rather unorthodox, but far more easily decipherable and digestible.
The cast members also felt like a connected party compared to Automata, where you were alone with your droid. All of those points are not to say NieR Automata is a lesser game by any means. It’s merely different strokes for different folks, and Automata accomplishes what it sets out to do masterfully. The original NieR just feels more down to earth and relatable in specific ways, which might not be everyone’s preferred blend of tea, but it sure is mine. The one major downside I had with the original NieR Replicant, however, was how clunky and obtuse the combat was. After seeing the gameplay footage of the remaster, though, my excitement has peaked.
Seeing such a formally obscure property grow so heavily brings tears to my eyes. I highly anticipate the release of NieR Replicant for bringing a modernized coating of paint onto a cult classic. If you have not experienced NieR Replicant/Gestalt, this remaster will be the time to do so. All I can advise you to do is to strap on in because a hell of an emotional rollercoaster awaits you.
NieR Replicant ver.1.22474487139… is releasing for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Steam on April 23, 2021.
Balan Wonderworld is an unexpected upcoming platformer from Director Yuji Naka and Character Designer Naoto Ohshima, the lead programmer of the original Sonic the Hedgehog and original designer of Sonic, respectively. This was one of the most shocking game announcements in recent memory. By no means am I a hardcore Sonic fan, but I have dabbled in and enjoyed a few fractions of the series. Balan Wonderworld is depicted as its own unique beast, however.
Boasting a pleasant, brilliantly vivid, and vibrant art style, along with seemingly massive gameplay variety, my eyes are glued to this title. Possibly due to the personal subject matters this game seems to touch upon, the revealed footage of this upcoming platformer positively oozes a sense of magic. This is in no doubt partially due to the creative geniuses at the helm, but the entire team is crafting a beloved, sparkling gem.
Seeing platformers become a revitalized genre over the past few years has been a pleasant experience. Still, I can’t deny my concern that Balan Wonderworld will fall into the stagnant trap of sticking to tried and true traditional gameplay roots instead of embracing creativity. Considering who is at the helm of this project, I do not think it is incredibly likely, but this concern will stubbornly remain until the game releases. While not seeking a reinvention of the wheel, I want Balan Wonderworld to be an at least moderately unique experience that I can vividly reflect on, instead of grouping it with many other platformers that all felt like and did the same things.
Balan Wonderworld is releasing for PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X and Steam on March 26, 2021.
SaGa Frontier Remastered
Ah, SaGa. I will be candid here; I have literally zero history with the SaGa series as a whole, but with how much Square has been pushing this series for revival in the Western market, my interest in diving in has risen considerably. I am always compelled by titles that deviate from established norms, and the SaGa series certainly seems to follow that trend. In particular, the newest confirmed title, SaGa Frontier Remastered, really seems to be advertising non-linearity as one of its primary selling points.
This title was first released on PlayStation in 1997, but honestly speaking, it amazes me how fundamentally this title seemed to be ahead of its time. Having seven protagonists that players can choose from alone ignites a fire of intrigue within me, and the breathtaking art style is enough of a selling point on its own. In addition to all that, there will also be brand new content such as the new protagonist Fuse, new cutscenes, and more. I always ignored the SaGa franchise, not out of contempt, but due to how overwhelming it all was. After seeing the amount of effort going into this remaster, though, I can’t avert my eyes any longer. SaGa Frontier Remastered seems to be truly distinctive, and I eagerly await more information and footage for the upcoming JRPG.
SaGa Frontier Remastered is releasing for PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, PC-via Steam, and iOS and Android devices in Summer 2021.
Final Fantasy XVI…possibly.
Final Fantasy XVI, the jaw-dropping bombshell that came out of nowhere during the PlayStation 5 conference. Now, Final Fantasy and I have been on a slightly bumpy, rocky road this past half-decade. While Final Fantasy VII Remake was an intoxicating, fulfilling experience, Final Fantasy XV and Final Fantasy XIV have not been positive times for me. I, unfortunately, played Final Fantasy XV on release and, to this day, regret it. The Royal version of the title is most certainly a better overall experience, but I can’t erase my time with the launch version as much as I would like to. And as for Final Fantasy XIV, well, my feelings on that game are rather complicated, but needless to say, it was not for me. Final Fantasy XVI, however, definitely seems to be changing things up for the mainline entries of the franchise.
The reveal trailer hooked me instantly. A medieval setting, fast-paced, Devil May Cry like combat, darker, mature tones, the works. It was a rush of a reveal trailer, alright. The medieval context for this title is honestly one of its strongest suits for me. This setting has not felt adequately explored in a single-player, mainline Final Fantasy in what feels like eons. Final Fantasy IX is the last title that effectively explored this setting, so seeing a modern, mainline entry tackle this state of affairs is a delight.
The combat was another central point of hype. It’s no secret how similar the action echoes the speed and impact of Devil May Cry, but I’m honestly all for it. After how boring and mindless Final Fantasy XV felt with its combat, seeing a completely revamped system with this speed level is exhilarating and exciting. The story remains somewhat vague, but recent information drops on the world have revealed it to be truly stunning. Now, there is no confirmed release date of 2021, but I think it’s rather likely to happen. With Yoshi-P’s comments on the game’s development, a 2021 release seems reasonable.
The reveal trailer being in the game’s actual engine and not just CGI shows the level of faith and confidence that the development team has in this product too. It also shows that they feel far enough in the title’s creation to indicate to the general public how worthy they find this title to be. The Final Fantasy XIV influences and team working on this title have many fans enthralled due to how beloved the MMO is. My time with the MMO was quite iffy, but this upcoming game will be its own unique experience, and tying its value to prior, unconnected works is not fair in any sense of the world. I am presently enthused for more news on Final Fantasy XVI, and that is just what is promised for us in 2021.
Final Fantasy XVI has no confirmed release date at the moment. It does, however, have a promised information reveal in 2021. This highly anticipated, next mainline entry in the Final Fantasy series is exclusive to PlayStation 5 for the time being.
NEO: The World Ends With You
Another unexpected bombshell of an announcement. NEO: The World Ends With You, a sequel to the cult classic original title released around 13 years ago. This title’s existence still feels a bit unreal, but it sure as hell exists. This is one of my more hyped up Square titles for the upcoming year. In addition to that classic The World Ends With You flair making itself known via the music and dialogue, there is clearly a different direction being taken here.
The art style is the most marked change, with it being fully 3D now instead of the original 2.5D esque style. While it is indeed quite exciting, I can’t deny that the title looks to be somewhat lacking graphically at the moment. Graphics are rarely ever a dealbreaker for me in any title. That remains the case here, but the footage we have been presented with makes the title look more akin to an early PlayStation 3 era game than a PlayStation 4 one. Oh yeah, this is hitting PlayStation 4 as well as Nintendo Switch.
The confirmation of the former platform shocked many fans, and for good reasons. The original The World Ends With You has always been on Nintendo devices except for the mobile port and relied on touch screen controls. This new entry seems more like a standard JRPG combat wise which is by no means a negative aspect. With the admittedly limited amount of gameplay we have seen, the combat seems to be catering to a more general crowd than its predecessor.
Implementing fast-paced maneuverability and pin usage into a fully 3D plane will bring a whole new dimension to combative mechanics that veterans of the prior game are used to. Aside from the fighting, the character designs also really stand out. They have that classic Tetsuya Nomura appeal, and they have already made their mark in the fandom. Overall, there is still very little we know about this title other than it being another Reaper’s Game. With this and The World Ends With You anime debuting next year, fans certainly have a great deal to look forward to.
NEO: The World Ends With You is releasing for PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch in Summer 2021.
And for now, those are all of the noteworthy Square Enix releases that are either confirmed to release in 2021 or will likely receive a 2021 release window. Note that all of the guaranteed release dates are for the first half of 2021, so who’s to say what Square Enix has planned for the latter half of the year?
There is also the possibility of more news dropping for the ever-elusive Final Fantasy VII Remake Part II, or whatever it will be titled, as well as Kingdom Hearts and Dragon Quest information. There are rumors of Final Fantasy XIV dropping its next expansion next year too. Hell, maybe even Star Ocean will make a comeback! Hahaha…yeah, that’s wishful thinking. 2021 is already shaping up to be an exceedingly substantial year for Square Enix, and if they keep up with this momentum and consistency, it’s hard to imagine the heights they will reach.
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