2017 has been a big year for video games, one of the best in recent memory with hit after hit coming. It also turned out to be a strong year for Square Enix. They celebrated a monumental 30-year anniversary for the Final Fantasy franchise, with a few titles releasing throughout the year. At the same time, a few fan favorites came back for another round.
Things started off strong for Kingdom Hearts fans with the release of Kingdom Hearts 2.8: Final Chapter Prologue. While it isn’t exactly a completely new game, there was a brand new experience included in this package with Fragmented Passage, essentially a demo for Kingdom Hearts III that details Aqua’s journey through the darkness, and gave fans a taste of some new gameplay along with acting as a tease for what the series will feel like in Unreal Engine 4. Of There was also the full remastered version of Dream Drop Distance, originally released on 3DS. It may not be Kingdom Hearts III, but 2.8 was at least something to tide over fans patiently waiting for the next entry.
March is when Square Enix really struck gold, releasing NieR: Automata which scored lots of critical acclaim including a 5/5 from us, and has gone on to be one of the best games of the entire year. Considering the original NieR was incredibly niche, it’s amazing to think that Automata has now sold over 2 million copies, an impressive feat for any game. To go along with that success, the game’s director Yoko Taro has become a bit of a celebrity with gamers, mostly for his eccentricity. The man is known for wearing an Emil head in almost every appearance he makes. And he also wants to make an adult video… so there’s that too. NieR: Automata’s success is Square Enix’s crowning achievement of the year and was a GOTY contender for us, and others outlets as well.
June and July brought new life to two big Final Fantasy titles, first with the Stormblood expansion for Final Fantasy XIV. Stormblood brought players to a brand new region, with a host of new content and jobs, as well as making crucial updates to old jobs. We loved Stormblood, saying it had a story to rival even the best of the entire Final Fantasy series. FFXIV wasn’t the only game that got an update though, as we also saw Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age, a phenomenal remake of one of the series’ more divisive entries. The summer also saw the release of a fan favorite, Final Fantasy IX, on the PlayStation 4.
Although we didn’t see a release here in the US yet, Square Enix also hit huge success with the release of Dragon Quest XI in Japan. In just two days the game sold over two million copies just in Japan, a staggering achievement. There’s no firm release date yet, but we know that Dragon Quest XI is scheduled for 2018 in North America, with a Switch version arriving for all regions sometime next year as well.
While Square Enix had a really strong first half of the year, the second half was a little slower by comparison, although still came out strong. We got a brand new season of Life is Strange with Before the Storm, which feels right at home with the original series, and expands on Chloe’s character well. Square did manage to put out all three episodes of the series by the end of the year, a smart move that doesn’t leave fans waiting long between episodes. Besides that, however, we’ve really only gotten new content for Final Fantasy XV with Episode Prompto, Monster of the Deep, Comrades, and Episode Ignis. The latter is the strongest of all of those, and Episode Ignis is easily one of the best pieces of content added onto XV. It’s impressive to see so much content coming to XV a year out, especially the a full-fledged VR game. Despite not releasing another Final Fantasy title in the second half of 2017, they managed to keep discussion on the series by updating their latest entry.
Even so, looking back on the last year Square Enix has certainly had at least a good one. The big pieces like NieR: Automata and Stormblood are backed up by a handful of smaller ones sprinkled throughout like I Am Setsuna on Switch, Spelunker Party, and Star Ocean: The Last Hope 4K Remaster.
2017 was a pretty tough year for Square Enix to top. So the question is: can they? In short, yes, if they manage to actually keep to the release dates and windows that they’ve set.
There’s a lot planned for 2018, and considering Square Enix’s track record of pushing things back, like with Final Fantasy XV and the still up-in-the-air Kingdom Hearts III, it doesn’t inspire total faith. The year does start out strong, however, with two games in January: Lost Sphear and Dissidia Final Fantasy NT. The former of which is releasing on the Switch, a nice boost for a system that isn’t exactly flooded with JRPGs at the moment.
The Switch also has another potential hit with Project Octopath Traveler, a nostalgic throwback to classic JRPGs. Of course, the release of Dragon Quest XI in the west is a big one for the company, especially if they can put out the Switch version in 2018 as well. The year could be big for Dragon Quest in general as we see Dragon Quest Builders hit the Switch in February. We’re still waiting on Dragon Quest Heroes II for Switch, and Dragon Quest Builders 2 has a 2018 release window. Square is clearly all-in on supporting the Switch, and if the little system continues to thrive, they could really stand to succeed from it.
On top of all that, we have the second season of Life is Strange, the Avengers project, and the new Tomb Raider that could all potentially make an appearance next year, but all of those are still a big if. The two big titles that could really make 2018 for Square Enix, however, are Left Alive and Kingdom Hearts III. Left Alive drew a lot of interest when it was announced at Tokyo Game Show this year, as it’s a huge change for the Front Mission series, and the initial details that Square Enix has given us certainly sound similar to Metal Gear Solid. Left Alive could end up going head-to-head with Konami’s Metal Gear Survive, as they both match that traditional Metal Gear style of gameplay, albeit with a few changes. It’ll be interesting to see if Square Enix tries to appeal to Metal Gear fans, or markets Left Alive more as a Front Mission game.
The big question for next year is how Kingdom Hearts III, easily one of the most awaited titles of the entire year, will fare. Square Enix is planning on releasing the game in 2018, but it isn’t hard to imagine it getting pushed out yet again. We still haven’t seen a whole lot of the game outside of a handful of trailers, and after all these years the fact that Square can’t nail down a release date still doesn’t inspire confidence. Not releasing Kingdom Hearts III next year would be a huge disappointment to fans, especially since they’ve been building to it with all these remastered collections.
Outside of the things we know about, Square said recently that 2018 would be a big year for the Final Fantasy franchise, teasing multiple new titles. What this means is hard to say, realistically these could be mobile games and one big title, or a handheld title and a console title. In that regard, we’ll just have to wait and see what happens. Keep in mind, however, that we do also have even more content coming to Final Fantasy XV throughout the year, including Episode Ardyn.
Square Enix’s 2018 certainly looks like it has the potential to blow away their 2017, they just need to actually hit their beats and release schedules. NieR: Automata, Stormblood, and Before the Storm all made splashes this year. It’s strange to think that two of the company’s biggest games this year were NieR and Life is Strange, and it could show the addition of two new and diverse series to Squares’ already strong lineup of franchises.