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Wednesday, March 6, 2013

I Really Miss Old Square and Enix

Square. Enix. Once these two companies were separate. Not only that, they were rivals. In fact Enix's Dragon Quest actually eclipsed Square's Final Fantasy series in Japan for years. In 2003, Square and Enix merged to form Square Enix and many believe things have never been the same for either side of the company since the merger. I'm gonna have to say that I do agree with the many.

Square Enix are primarily known for the two aforementioned franchises, Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest. These days, said franchise are the bulk of what we see from Square Enix with plenty of Kingdom Hearts spin offs thrown in for good (?) measure. Hey, I love Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest but I'd love to see a return to the days where these weren't the only RPGs we saw from the company. Heck, I'd love to see games other than RPGs come from Square Enix. Alright so they do release the Tomb Raider, Thief and Hitman games, but Square Enix is far from being the risk takers that they were before merging.

Rad Racer, a game that isn't an RPG and
was made by Square. Nobuo Uematsu even
did the music. Has your mind been blown?

In the 16-bit and even 32-bit days, Square had plenty of RPGs that didn't consist of those two F words. There was the Busido Blade fighting series. Brave Fencer Musashi was a fun actio/RPG that sadly only saw a single sequel. Just about everyone already knows of the greatness that is Chono Trigger. I've only played the first one, but Tobal No.1 was Heck, a few years ago, even the Parasite Eve series was given a third game in it's series in the PSP's The Third Birthday. Even before Final Fantasy, there was Rad Racer, an exceptionally good OutRun clone.

Soul Blazer, one of the numerous action/RPGs
on the SNES from Enix. 
Between all the titles Square released in 1998, you
may have missed out on Brave Fencer Musashi.

Enix gave us Soul Blazer, ActRaiser and ActRaiser 2, Illusion of Gaia, and Terranigma, a splended Japan-only action/RPG that desperately needs to be available to a wider audience.

Now I know a lot of these games from the days of old weren't developed by Square or Enix. Dragon Quest, Enix's cash cow franchise was originally developed by Chunsoft and Enix was the publisher but they owned all rights to the game. I'm a firm believer in giving due respect to developers, but props have to be given to the publishers as well. Remember, if a company publishes a game and it bombs in sales, this can put a serious dent in the possibilities of said game seeing further installments. It's unfortunate, but it's the way a lot of publishers think and work. It's far easier to stick with big name franchises that guarantee cash flow than take a risk on series that are nowhere near as popular.

Depending on who you ask, Final Fantasy XIII
is either another fine entry in the series or the
final nail in the coffin. 

Ironically, if Square didn't take a risk, Square Enix wouldn't be the company it is today. Maybe it was because they didn't have too much to lose at that point, but Square placed everything on Final Fantasy when it originally released more than two decades ago and the payoff was huge. On the flip side, Driving Emotion Type-S and The Bouncer, were pretty much failures. I suspect Square Enix's new management from the higher ups and a result of the past flops are the reason we see less experimentation from the company and Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest as the two most prolific titles. Dragon Quest, from what I hear has continued to be a consistently good series while many argue that the Final Fantasy mainline brand is going down the toilet. I haven't played a main Final Fantasy since Final Fantasy X so I can't give personal opinions about the series beyond that point. However, I do like that the series always strives to be different. If little was done to change the formula of each Final Fantasy, the series would probably be accused of refusing to evolve. Players may dislike the current direction the series has taken, but one thing is clear: the games are certainly not the same old same old.

Square Enix has a HUGE catalog of gaming franchises but currently, they seem content with relying on their two big guns. Will we ever see the likes of a new ActRaiser, Tobal, Bushido Blade or some new IPs from Square Enix? I want to say yes and that anything is possible. I mean, the company did publish, Sleeping Dogs, much to my surprise. But the harsh truth is, Square Enix is a different company from what Square and Enix was. Different manage, the closing of a number of studios and they are far less ballsy than they used to be. I don't hate Square Enix. Far from it. But I just may have to accept the fact that the Square and Enix that I knew is gone for good and may never be coming back.


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Chalgyr Vokel said...

A lot of fair points - though I found myself growing more nostalgic than anything reading and looking at the images you included - having played a lot of these games.

Brave Fencer Musashi - that was a great game, wasn't it?

I actually enjoyed FF XIII and XIII-2 quite a bit, but I know I'm in the minority compared to a lot of people. It seems like Square Enix has been trying some new things - finally getting into DLC, expanding into the iOS space, things like that, but their core Final Fantasy games have been struggling with some audiences for awhile now, unfortunately.