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Hands-on preview of Square Enix’s Dive In service – TGS

By Janelle | September 18, 2014 at 1:39 pm

Square Enix recently announced a service for streaming games from its back catalogue for play on tablets and smartphones, called Dive In. The service will launch on October 9 in Japan with Final Fantasy VII, Final Fantasy XIII and Season of Mystery: The Cherry Blossom Murders available for rent at varying prices. Dive In was available to demo on the TGS show floor, with both Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy XIII queued up and ready to go, so I attempted to test both.

Unfortunately, the devices I tested on didn’t have any save data, so there wasn’t any choice but to start from the beginning. For Final Fantasy XIII, this was a problem, because Final Fantasy XIII takes a long time to get going; the meat of its battle system, Paradigm Shifting, doesn’t appear for the first few hours, so testing out what the game would be like to really play was impossible. The slice of the beginning of the game wasn’t promising, though.

Button presses seemed a bit sluggish, requiring a couple firm jabs, and the onscreen controller didn’t seem to be reconfigurable. There were a few options regarding controller visibility, but button position or sensitivity seemed fixed. Final Fantasy XIII‘s battle system relies heavily on timing, so trouble with the input could be very bad news for players looking to spend a lot of time playing XIII with Dive In.

After a short time, I moved on to Final Fantasy VII, which promptly assaulted my eardrums. Volume settings vary widely between the two games, and Dive In doesn’t have any kind of master volume option. (This being the show floor, the demo tablets were in special cases, so a volume button wasn’t available.)

Final Fantasy VII didn’t fare much better than XIII, where the onscreen inputs were concerned. It seemed difficult, if not impossible to run diagonally, meaning navigating Cloud around NPCs and barriers was a pain. Worse, the directional buttons were very sensitive to repeat input: tapping the button once was tricky, and holding down the button resulted in too many rapid button presses, which made menus and even the name selection screen difficult to navigate.

Perhaps the worst part was that Final Fantasy VII was presented as-is, with no adaptations for touch screens, and no minor quality-of-life improvements that make modern games more playable than their earlier-generation counterparts. It was still necessary to hold down a button to run, for example, and while doing that on a controller was pesky, doing that on a touchscreen with finicky controls was absolutely frustrating.

It’s a very bold move for Square Enix to move into the streaming game market, and the company has a solid library to draw from, but for seasoned players who want a smooth gaming experience, Dive In’s touchscreen controller and lack of configuration could make it a hard sell.

Topics: Final Fantasy VII, Final Fantasy XIII, Previews, Tokyo Game Show, Tokyo Game Show 2014