Square Enix wasted a console generation, but it's not too late for redemption
- Posted February 14th, 2013 at 14:05 EDT by Kyle Prahl
- 28 Comments
For Japanese RPG veterans Square Enix, this console generation has been utterly divisive. To use a word as noncommittal as "divisive" feels like I'm selling the legendary developer short, but it's absolutely true. Final Fantasy XIII was a hold-your-hand romp through a confusing plot with unlikable characters. Final Fantasy XIII-2 gave players more creative reign but saddled them with a plot one reviewer called "borderline insulting." While the studio trudges onward with yet another installment in this ham-fisted narrative arc, a vocal majority of Square fans young and old cry out for change.
Between false hopes raised, never-ending development cycles, and frustrating silences, this is not the Square we once knew.
This is not the Square that redefined and popularized an entire genre with a single release. This is not the Square that pumped out dozens of classic PlayStation RPGs year after year. This is not the Square that took creative risks during the PS2's heyday, but backed every experiment with rock-solid gameplay and storytelling. No, today's Square Enix is almost unrecognizable; a facade of "excellence" that only masks ignorance. Where is Kingdom Hearts III? Where is Final Fantasy Versus XIII? Where is Final Fantasy X HD, revealed at Tokyo Game Show 2011 and given nary a word since?
For these reasons and more, I can't help but feel that Square Enix development has effectively wasted a console generation. (The same probably shouldn't be said for the publishing arm, which has scored relative hits like Deus Ex: Human Revolution and the upcoming Tomb Raider reboot.) The last six years have only served to transform my opinion of the studio from adoration to disdain. But it's not too late. I firmly believe that the forthcoming generation of consoles - set to begin on February 20, with the PlayStation 4's reveal - presents Square's best chance for redemption.
It all starts with a back-to-basics approach that puts consumer needs ahead of Square's experimental desires. I'm all for new ideas, but Square needs to actively listen to the vocal majority and understand exactly why many gamers couldn't get behind the Final Fantasy XIII trilogy. Was it the ultra-linear environments of XIII? The non-sensical, deus ex machina-ridden plot of XIII-2? Everyone has different tastes, but unearthing a consensus on what went wrong with these releases shouldn't be difficult.
Of course, lessons learned mean nothing without the proper application. Square wowed us at E3 2012 with the gorgeous Agni's Philosophy tech demo, so why not start with the demo's environments and atmosphere as artistic building blocks for Final Fantasy XV? A neo-medieval world of courts, lords, poverty, and fugitives both hearkens back to simpler (better) times and presents an opportunity for critique of modern class systems and wealth distribution. Ambitious? Sure! Preachy? Perhaps. Either way, it's loads simpler than the fal'Cie nonsense of XIII and its obtuse sequel, which gave us worlds that were anything BUT likable or relatable.
Rumors abound that the oft-delayed Final Fantasy Versus XIII is actually being rebranded for release on PlayStation 4. At this point, I'm all for it. Just knowing that Square has a plan for this game is comforting, and what little we've seen of Versus' modern setting and Kingdom Hearts-inspired gameplay looks promising. There's another good reason for Versus to get on the development fast track - much of the original team behind Kingdom Hearts and Kingdom Hearts II are committed to the project. While recent handheld entries have admittedly been quite good, it's flabbergasting that this insanely popular series effectively skipped a console generation and hasn't received a proper console sequel in seven years.
These last seven years have left me pining for more than Kingdom Hearts III, though. Maybe E3 2006's Final Fantasy VII tech demo doomed Square Enix to infamy, but I'd be remiss to not mention the positive impact that revisiting past franchise titles could have on the company's fortunes (and profits). It's simple - fans demand it, and a business should strive to meet such passionate consumer desire. Nostalgic gamers are somewhat divided on which entries deserve a remake, but I don't think Square could go wrong by tossing VI through IX into a hat and blindly picking one. However, remake development is contingent on Square actually finishing Final Fantasy ... (continued on next page)
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- 10:42pm EST - February 14th, 2013
@TheDunk I will stop you there and say the following: FFXIII is the worst. I'm so happy that I paid less than $20 for that game because I waited over 1 year to play it. And I'll go beyond that, I did buy XIII-2 for $14! I hope it's better because I haven't played it yet. I have played every single player FF game, from 1 all the way to XIII. I had the fat PS2 and bought all of the PS1 games, and since I have the original PS3 I even bought FF6. It's simple, compare to the old ones FFXIII was a clear step down in quality of story and gameplay. I also didn't like XII so since X, heck even X-2 Squeenix has dissapointed me. I hope XIII-VS sees the light of day to see if Squeenix redeems themselves. And as I have said in this forums before, they could also show PS users some love by making another DragonQuest. DQ VIII was an amazing game and we didn't get IX which I read was pretty good too.
- 3:41am EST - February 15th, 2013
@20 why would you say because someone doesn't like a game that they never played or understood it? I played and beat the game and was disappointed. I wasn't even going to complete the game because I hated it so much but did anyway. Worst game in FF series? I believe so. I won't touch anything to do with that "world". SE DID waste a generation and if you ask me have a lot to answer to right now
Arimax | Netherlord
- 6:27am EST - February 15th, 2013
Yeah no lie by the time I got to grand pulse I was disinterested characters were not engaging to me, and they just weren't that great. The only ones I was ok with Vanille, Sazh, and Fang why because their stories were more fleshed out and interesting.
Snow and Hope got on my nerves very badly one trying to be a badass and the other was whining all the way up till Grand Pulse lol.
Yeah for the record most people saying FFXIII is bad have played the game and again even for $20 it's still not good I still feel like I wasted lots of money, but I've played worse like Star Ocean 4 International now that one is worse then FFXIII it terms of story and characters.
Kajeto | Sora__87
- 8:28am EST - February 15th, 2013
There's a reason why XIII and XIII-2 were some of the most traded in games this gen, you couldn't go into a game store without seeing them dominate the shelves. Gamers were blinded by the brand name, the once illustrious promise of what Final Fantasy meant.
This has all changed now, and hopefully people will vote with their wallets and Square will realise their mistakes.
While i didn't hate XIII, it was a far cry from the quality i'd come to expect from such a developer. XIII-2 was an insult to the brand, two of the most unlikeable characters i've ever had the misfortune of playing as, a boring plot, dull worlds and just terrible all around atmosphere really struck me, it was like i was next to Squares death bed.
They need to buck up next-gen because the brand name has been damaged, and gamers will no longer spend blindly when they now know Square aren't the creative force they once were.
- 9:50am EST - February 15th, 2013
and don't forget the obvously rushed "Infinte undiscovery" and "last remnant", these games were extremely rushed because Microsoft wanted them on the market too soon to cash some money and the result is a mess
Arimax | Netherlord
- 11:30am EST - February 15th, 2013
Yeah can't forget those the only game from SE(don't even think they made it, but it was published by them) that I found even goo is Deus Ex: Human Revolution(Personally it may go down as one of my favs this gen).
- 12:40pm EST - February 15th, 2013
I couldn't agree more! Square Enix had so many opportunities but blew it! However, I've been saying this for years. For some reason Japanese game developers take way to long to make games and hardly ever deliver on the promises they make. Its an insult and a slap in the face to loyal and hardcore fans. Like this article said, the sad part is that they wasted the PS3 and what its capable of. And like so many other 3rd-party developers, they didn't stay loyal to their core fans in terms of what console the games came out on. Example: Kingdom Hearts started on PS2 but many of its sequels came out on non-Sony consoles. Developers shouldn't force gamers to jump console manufactures in order to keep up!
Arimax | Netherlord
- 3:55pm EST - February 15th, 2013
We're not even going to talk about Kingdom Hearts that series has stumbled. In fact I'm a member also at KHinsider.com they get into many a heated discussion if or not the series is even good still, or what not. Trust me if you join or even just look on that site it will give you a different outlook on Kingdom Hearts as a series.