When one thinks of Square Enix games, the mind goes immediately to Final Fantasy, Hitman and Tomb Raider - big in size and big on drama. But over the last few months, the publisher has released out three games for the 3DS which really emphasise a fun factor sometimes missing from their more serious titles.
Heroes of Ruin, Theatrhythm: Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance compress a lot of great gameplay into small and energetic bundles. And with the imminent arrival of the 3DS XL... well, those bundles aren't quite so small any more. In fact, Square Enix were so keen to show these games off on the larger screen of the 3DS XL that a community event was put together recently in London, inviting local 3DS gamers to come along, try them out and play together, via social media and other fan-connections. We got the invitation, too, and were keen to see just what an event like this - and the games themselves - would have in store.
There was something of an eclectic mix of people in attendance, with younger female making up a big part of that mix, and all becoming fast friends by the sounds of the chatter that we picked up on - and admittedly joined in with. Well, when you hear someone say they've caught all but nine Pokémon, that's a conversation you want to be part of!
Indeed, there was a great sense of community there - people trading tales, as well as all sorts of items in StreetPass (which also led to the odd jealous comment about the headgear of people's Miis...), and even though there was a lot of playing individually, there was a real sense that these people were playing together. A great atmosphere all round.
Many gamers brought their own 3DS consoles to simply join the fun, but there were plenty of 3DS and 3DS XL units set-up to try out Square Enix's recent output. The nature of the event meant that a full session on each game wasn't going to happen, so we, like the other players, simply dabbled, dipping in and out of each one and seeing just how they looked on the 3DS XL.
First up was Heroes of Ruin, a game which would really benefit from getting really stuck in. The first 'proper' RPG to come to the 3DS really suited the larger screen of the 3DS XL, especially when three of us decided to quest together. There was almost no sense of clutter or chaos when all of us were on-screen and fighting foes together. The pace of the game really flew on multiplayer, which made a later single-player attempt seem to drag a little as a result. The use of the lower touchscreen as your ever-present map was an obvious addition to the genre and became second nature as the game progressed - and provided a hint at how great games of this ilk will be on the Wii U.
To find out more about Heroes of Ruin, check out our full review
Next up was Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance, the latest part of the shouldn't-work-but-does Disney/Japanese RPG hybrid series. The thing that really stood out was the use of 3D in the environments your adventures took place in - there was a real sense of depth as you made your way through corridors, round corners and up and down stairs, and the colours and graphics pop from the screen, especially on the 3DS XL. It made great use of both screens for everything from special attacks using the stylus, to inter-level animal rearing using the cameras for a fun AR experience.If we had a criticism, it was that this was game that really didn't benefit from the dip in-dip out gameplay that this session dictated.
To find out more about Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance, check out our full review
Finally, we got our hands on Theatrhythm: Final Fantasy, the 25th Anniversary rhythm game based on the epic music of the Final Fantasy series. And what a treat! This was just, plain and simply, lots of fun and perilously addictive in the way that only great mini-games are! The gameplay is simple to pick-up and so fun you don't mind that there's not really that much variation, and the graphics are on the right side of cute. Throw out your cynicism and pick-up your stylus, because this will become your new guilty pleasure, especially if you're a fan of the series. Of the three games, this was the one that really didn't matter if you played on the 3DS or 3DS XL - it was equally fun on both!
To find out more about Theatrhythm: Final Fantasy, check out our Editor's Choice selection
All in all, this was a fun few hours. We got to try out some great new games and a great new handheld alongside some faithful and enthusiastic 3DS gamers, and a great time was had by all. If you ever get invited to an event like this, don't hesitate to RSVP "yes"!