Kingdom Hearts II is Getting HD-ified for PS3
Gangling Goof Troop! Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 has barely had time to get cold on the shelf before this announcement dropped on our laps. Square Enix has confirmed the second major act in the Disney/Final Fantasy mash-up (why is that still ridiculous to say aloud after all these years?) is receiving a high-definition polish and being re-released as Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 Remix exclusively for the PlayStation 3.
The disc includes Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix – a reformulated edition of the sequel previously unavailable on Western shores – and Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep Final Mix, which was a PSP exclusive prequel to the original Kingdom Hearts but focuses on characters featured in Kingdom Hearts II. So, basically, Kingdom Hearts because Kingdom Hearts when Kingdom Hearts.
Additionally, the HD set also features every cinematic from the Nintendo DS title Kingdom Hearts Re:coded, newly treated in that there HD you kids go so bonkers over. KH HD 2.5 Remix is launching globally in 2014. Two back to back re-releases could signify that Square Enix is hinting at its fans that it needs funding for Kingdom Hearts III, meaning that not purchasing it is the same as destroying dreams.
Put your eyes on the first official trailer hereabouts!
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The House of Mouse Has Closed LucasArts
Since Disney’s buyout of all things Lucas last Fall – including such assests as Star Wars, Indiana Jones, the likeness of young Richard Dreyfuss circa American Graffiti (I’m guessing) – the merger has been nothing but high-fives and ass slaps…
Except for poor LucasArts. LucasFilm’s game publishing division has overseen not just the Star Wars license since 1982, but has made several hefty contributions to the gaming ‘verse in the form of The Secret of Monkey Island and Maniac Mansion games, greatly shaping the point n’ click adventure genre. Today, Disney announced it has let go LucasArts’ staff and effectively closed the once mighty studio. Disney intends on keeping the studio’s name only, using the brand on future, licensed out games (likely Star Wars titles) to external developers.
The official byline regarding LucasArts’ death follows: “We’ve decided to shift LucasArts from an internal development to a licensing model, minimizing the company’s risk while achieving a broader portfolio of quality Star Wars games.”
Star Wars 1313 (above) and Star Wars: First Assault, the former a high-profile next-gen action game that Disney requested to be put on hold and the ladder being an unrevealed (yet still leaked) precursor to Battlefront III, are, according to Disney, to be possibly licensed out for completion, but sources close to LucasArts reported to Kotaku those two are as good as cancelled.
LucasArts, despite some moderate success this generation (i.e. the first Force Unleashed), have been circling the drain for quite a while, even before the merger. Mismanagement, constantly shifting company leads, financial disappointments (cue The Old Republic), and the use of external developers as a crutch instead of their in-house team all spelled “TROUBLE” in bright, yellow Star Wars-font. Pair that with Disney’s outspoken disinterest in funding big, expensive games over cheaper, safer bets, the outlook for LucasArts was Grim Fandango.
Still, I can’t help but mourn the loss of the time weathered giant. Shadows of the Empire, Rogue Squadron, that terrible Jedi Power Battles game that my friends hated playing with me – their Star Wars titles alone brought hundreds of hours of happy distraction throughout my life, from childhood to adulthood.
You’re going to hear “May the Force be with you” until you vomit. I won’t commit such fuckery. Instead, I just want to say thank you, LucasArts, and good luck.
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LucasArts’ Star Wars FPS Could Pave the Path for Battlefront III — So Long As Disney Force Pulls Its Head Out of Its Ass
Disney’s acquisition of George Lucas’ empire and everything Star Wars is heralding a bright new era for fans of the films. A new sequel trilogy featuring the return of old heroes Luke, Leia, and Han is being developed under the auspicious lens of genre film’s golden boy, J.J. Abrams. Self-contained feature lengths that could potentially flesh out fan favorite characters are even being optioned. Disney and Star Wars seems like a match made in Cloud City…
Unless we’re talking about the franchise’s video game front. LucasArts, the in-house studio which has overseen every single Star Wars game since 1982, has received the unwanted privilege of experiencing Disney’s dark side. After announcing their intention to move Star Wars away from big budget console games and into the more lucrative mobile phone market, LucasArts’ existing projects were thrown into question.
Star Wars 1313, for instance, was loudly rumored to have frozen production despite an impressive showing of the next-gen title at last year’s E3. Today, Kotaku caught wind of another title under LucasArts’ wing called Star Wars: First Assault has also had its future cast into doubt. In First Assault’s case, its potential cancellation could have dire consequences for gamers. Namely, Star Wars: Battlefront III will never see the light of day (for real this time).
First Assault may not seem to have much in common with Battlefront at a glance. The downloadable FPS doesn’t feature massive land and space battles nor does it include controllable vehicles — a Battlefront hallmark. It does, however, revolve around eight-on-eight competitive multiplayer bouts pitting rebels and stormtroopers against each other in famous locales from series lore; warring factions being the bread and butter of the Battlefront saga.
The source willing to speak with Kotaku on the studio’s troubled times assures us First Assault serves as a prelude to Battlefront III and is proof positive that the Unreal Engine can handle such a huge endeavor (Side note: Despite having been worked on by several developers, Free Radical included, LucasArts’ latest attempt to get Battlefront III on its feet utilizes completely new assets, according to the source).
The Wampa-kicker here is that First Assault is nearly finished (the company wanted to launch a closed beta last September), yet LucasArts isn’t even sure Disney will want to release it. New hires and gaming related announcements have been put on hold thanks to the buy-out, leaving LucasArts to chug away at development on its titles without assurance their efforts aren’t for nothing. The source says the studio is “bleeding talent” awaiting their overlord’s final word — good or bad.
Unfortunately for LucasArts, they’re unable to freely share their work with the public and rally support for fear of pissing off Disney. This leak, however, is an opportunity for the light side of the force to prevail. “Fans should tell Disney/Lucas loud and clear,” said Kotaku’s source, “They don’t want shitty titles from random developers…I believe that if Disney/Lucas lets LucasArts die, it means the death of Star Wars as a storied game franchise is right behind it.”
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Obsidian is Itching to Make Another Star Wars RPG
Though Bioware takes credit for ushering the mountain-sized mythology of Star Wars into the choice-driven, action-RPG domain with the original Knights of the Old Republic, you’ll be hard pressed to find a gamer in this galaxy willing to downplay the Force-radiating brilliance of Obsidian’s 2004 sequel, The Sith Lords (even despite that pesky lack of an ending).
Shy of a decade later, Obsidian is dead set on returning to Star Wars with an idea for an RPG that CEO Feargus Urquhart is confident enough to place within the company’s “top three pitches” for a game. But unlike Bioware’s The Old Republic and their own Sith Lords, Obsidian wants the game’s backdrop to fit snugly somewhere within, but separate from, the film saga’s chronology.
“We pitched a between-Episode III and Episode IV game [to LucasArts],“ Urquhart said to online PC scribes Rock Paper Shotgun. "We think that time frame is super interesting. It’s the fall of the Republic, the extermination of the Jedi, it’s Obi-Wan going off and making sure Luke is okay. You have the Sith, but you have the extermination of all Force users except for very, very few. So it was an interesting time to set a game, and you know, Chris Avellone [Knights of the Old Republic II, Fallout: New Vegas] came up with a really cool story.”
There’s just the one highly publicized snag: the new boss in town, family-friendly overlord Disney, made firm its position to move the franchise away from consoles and focus on the handheld and mobile markets (take a moment to cringe). “It changes things a lot, but you know, we’re gonna push on it,” said Urquhart, noting that after pitching the project to LucasArts, Obsidian received very immediate, very encouraging response.
All that’s stopping Obsidian from delivering us another dose of Star Wars RPG excellence, according to Urquhart, is one conversation with Disney. Here’s to hoping it’s a goddamn good one.
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THE RULE OF TWO: Disney Acquires Star Wars
New Film Trilogy Announced and the Franchise’s Gaming Future Discussed
Fellow nerds, I come to you with big fucking news today. It has been announced that family-friendly empire, The Walt Disney Company, has acquired Lucasfilm Ltd. to the tune of $4.05 billion. The acquisition means Disney effectively owns all of the company’s assets – be it film production (including renown FX shop Industrial Light & Magic), merchandising rights, Harrison Ford’s gallstones, you name it. As such, the entire property of Star Wars now belongs to Disney.
And Disney wasted no time in revealing their plans for the franchise, making it a point to announce that Star Wars Episode VII is set to release by 2015. Yes, a full-fledged sequel to the first two trilogies is in the works. What’s more, Disney intends on producing and distributing Episodes VIII and IX every other year afterwards while leaving the door open for further installments. Your eyes and capacity for comprehension do not deceive you, friends. Sweet Anakin’s ghost, we’re getting another trilogy.
Insight on the acquisition from George “The Beard” Lucas himself:
“For the past 35 years, one of my greatest pleasures has been to see Star Wars passed from one generation to the next. It’s now time for me to pass Star Wars on to a new generation of filmmakers. I’ve always believed that Star Wars could live beyond me, and I thought it was important to set up the transition during my lifetime.“
Like Disney’s buyout of Marvel, Lucasfilms’ day-to-day – headed by Kathleen Kennedy – will remain largely the same. Similarly, all projects in development before the acquisition also continue unaffected. On the gaming front that means LucasArts’ next-gen action title, Star Wars 1313, is still well under way (along with the rumored Star Wars: Frontline Assault).
Going forward, though, Disney CEO Bob Iger admitted that future game development would unfortunately focus more on the mobile/social gaming market rather than on consoles. However, Iger does hint that he wishes to be opportunistic with console iterations, contracting third-parties to handle development duties when the need arises. That may not sound too promising for console owners, but with three new feature films looking to expand the already storied mythos even more…Give it some time. The games are sure to come.
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