20 Jan

Armor? Check. Sword? Check. Pants? .....Pants?!

Fresh off MAGFest and disheartened by my return to the daily grind, I was not in any mood this Tuesday to receive the announcement of Final Fantasy XIII-2.  For the first time I was honestly frustrated to hear about a new entry in what was once my favorite video game series.  I’m tired of spinoffs that are nothing but cheap cash-ins, tired of empty promises from Square Enix, and tired of Final Fantasy.  Square Enix has drastically increased the rate at which they produce new games, and their IP’s have only suffered for it.  They need to look to their past, their present, their competitors, and their fans and reassess their strategy.

Rewind back to 1997.  Square was in its prime, with Final Fantasy VII selling 2.3 million copies within three days of its Japanese release.  From 1997-1999, Square released around ten games per year in the United States.  This stunning body of PSX titles included Brave Fencer Musashi, Chrono Cross, Parasite Eve, and Xenogears.  The three PSX entries of Square’s flagship Final Fantasy franchise saw at least 16 months between releases, and each met with critical and commercial success.  While the PSX saw several offshoots of the Final Fantasy series, including the critically acclaimed Final Fantasy Tactics and Chocobo’s Dungeon, they were held separately from the series proper and were handled by different development teams at Square.

Good idea, poor marketing.

Contrast that with Square’s lineup from 2010, which included six Final Fantasy titles.  This included two numbered Final Fantasy titles from the main series (XIII and XIV), two ports of previous games to a new platform (I and II on the iPhone), one compilation (the complete XI), and one spinoff title (The 4 Heroes of Light).  Apart from the Final Fantasy series, Square Enix released 18 games (including multi-console releases).  Conversely, Square Enix’s competitors Rockstar, Blizzard, and BioWare released four, two and five titles respectively (again counting multi-console releases).  Square Enix is much larger than any of these companies, but the quality of its titles has only suffered as Square Enix has grown.

Hope pretty much sums it up.

Nothing I’ve said so far has been shocking or new.  I know I haven’t really enjoyed a Final Fantasy game since Final Fantasy X.  I know the talking heads of the gaming industry have become skeptical of Square Enix’s choices with the series.  But until I spoke with the gamers at MAGFest I didn’t know just how bad things really were.  Elder-Geek editor-in-chief Randy Yasenchak  and I spoke with many of the con-goers on and off camera, asking them two questions: which game series would they want to see retired and which series would they like to see brought back.  An alarmingly large percentage of the people I spoke with said they would like to see an end to Final Fantasy.  These people didn’t just parrot the criticisms of gaming journalists, but rather brought up valid points and expressed personal feelings of disappointment with the series.  Square Enix has alienated its core fan base, and it has to work hard to get them back.

You changed the world once. You can do it again.

Square Enix can no longer afford to split its attention between several Final Fantasy titles.  Sales figures as well as critical and fan response do not favor parallel development of spinoffs.  Nobody liked Dirge of Cerberus or Crisis Core, and while The 4 Heroes of Light has met with some acclaim it has yet to sell half a million copies worldwide.  Final Fantasy XIII-2 is simply the last straw.  We’ve seen this before with FFX-2:  a strong female lead is Flanderized into scantily-clad eye candy and sent out on a superfluous new quest which besmirched the good name of the original (and I LIKED Final Fantasy X way more than XIII, so I don’t hold out much hope for XIII-2).  This has to stop.  Square Enix has to take their most talented people, put them all on one project, and keep them there until it’s done.  No more parallel development, no more shuffling of leadership like they did with Final Fantasy XII, and no more crappy spinoffs.  I want more than anything to see Final Fantasy put back on track, but it’s hard to hold out hope when all I have to look forward to are rushed sequels, online games which are buggy and broken, and throwbacks to the glory days complete with all the frustrations of outdated SNES-era RPG’s.  Therefore I ask Square Enix to repeat what they did 24 years ago with the original Final Fantasy: assemble their dream team and change the world for the better.

38 thoughts on “Square Enix Must Be Stopped”

  1. Whoa, someone’s angry!

    I’ll admit, I’ve fallen out of the whole Final Fantasy thing myself. Part of it is a combination of growing up, and not having time for deep RPG type games these days. The last FF game I truly enjoyed was probably FFX (well I guess I actually enjoyed X-2 enough, despite it being really high on the cheese ball scale), and I gave up halfway through 12 and have only played an hour of 13. That said, I don’t really think Square Enix needs to be stopped.

    I think one thing a lot of people don’t see is that Final Fantasy isn’t a series any more, it’s become a brand. Much like how Nintendo has taken Mario and have built a culture around the character outside of his mainline games (which apparently he has TWO mainline series now that 2D and 3D Mario co-exist), SE has taken the world/ideas of Final Fantasy and build a brand around it. So sure, there may have been 80 Final Fantasy release this year, but only one of them was a mainline FF entry (I don’t really count 11 and 14 as mainline FF games) and it was the first mainline FF since 2006, so enough time has passed.

    While at the moment I’m personally not interested in XIII-2, from a business perspective it makes complete sense. It’s no secret that XIII went through a brutal development cycle (much like XII before it) and SE probably took a pretty large hit in their bottom line as the game was delayed multiple times. Making use of all of their assets, in much the way they did with X-2, will hopefully recoup costs. Plus, if it’s anything like X-2, it’ll at least find an identity of its own. Because rag on X-2 all you’d like, at least they took time to think of a completely new battle system.

    SE doesn’t have the luxury of simply taking their sweet time making mainline FF games anymore and ignoring the brand as a whole. The landscape has changed for them over the years as development costs rise. Personally, I’d just like to see them stay in business and not be bought out by some other company. Whatever it takes I guess.

    Also, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that nearly everyone in the MAGFest video that said they were tired of Final Fantasy will still continue to buy Final Fantasy games.

    And probably bitch about them later. :)

  2. Really SE just needs to stop with all the porting. FFXIII may not have been great, but I can see it for what it is, a game about surviving a holocaust (the Purge) so naturally hanging around a town isn’t ideal. Now I hold hopes that XIII-2 will be more what people expect in an RPG by having an open world and towns to explore by what happens in the end of the game (also Lightning kinda has more clothes in the sequel, well armor, but still).

    The problem with SE is their management. With the disaster that is XIV they are restructuring their teams and management to produce quality content once again. This is evidenced by statements of their CEO, and well by their stock price (they took a hit from XIII’s reception, and a major hit from XIV).

    As far as spin-offs go, there are the good and the bad. The Chrystal Chronicle titles are good, as you can have 4 player co-op (although the AI is super stupid, so humans are preferred) and it is a real time action title. Titles like Dirge of Cerberus and Crisis Core are not favored as well because of how SE changed the game mechanics.

    Really all I am trying to say is that, give SE one last shot with their mainline FF series, as they are changing how they do business. Besides, they are publishing a lot of other stuff than just Final Fantasy titles year after year.

    1. IMHO, we’ve already given Square at least 5 last chances (X-2, XI, XII, XIII, and XIV). And as I said in my post below, I think it is the people, not the corporate trademark, that deserve another chance. In this case, those people are Sakaguchi and Uematsu, among others. SE will never be able to re-assemble the Dream Team, and change the world as they did before, because people like Sakaguchi left Square for a reason, and don’t want to return. Mistwalker on the other hand….well I can hope at least, can’t I?

  3. I guess I’m the only one that liked Crises Core (I like Dungeon Crawlers, currently replaying .Hack).

    The problem with Square Enix is not Final Fantasy. You can ignore the numbers of final fantasy, since each numbered title is a brand new adventure with a brand new system with a brand new world.

    The problem is the Square Enix developers. They have a really hard time making top teir RPGs any more, especially the kind that the fans want to play.
    Front Mission is a great example. The Front Mission series has been SRPG gameplay with a cool futuristic military story. So what would be the worst thing to do to the series’s fans… create a clone of Armored Core in the form of Front Mission Evolved.

    They just dont get it. The only thing that is saving SquareEnix from completely flopping is dwindling numbers of devoted fans, the great titles that came from Eidos, and the publics hope that Square might actually be able to get back to their old form.

    I’ve already given up hope, FFXIII was the final staw for me. I’ve moved onto Atlus and Majesco (still not a fan of NIS).

    1. I knew I would get flack over Crisis Core as soon as I wrote it, but I stand by my statement :)

      I haven’t given up on Square Enix yet, I’m just afraid of what they’ve become. They’ve gone from a small, extremely focused and talented development house to a production conglomerate bent on devouring small development houses and IP’s. Sure some of those developers release good titles, but that has little to do with Square Enix. The games developed by the in-house teams at Square Enix have steadily increased in number and decreased in quality. I don’t really care about all those IP’s, but they’re dragging down FINAL FANTASY here. I’m not just bitching because I’m butthurt that FF13 wasn’t the best game ever, I’m bitching because my favorite IP is dying a slow and painful death. Nobody wants to see that.

    2. Squenix lost its mojo doesn’t sound like a good enough excuse. To me, it’s what Justin says, Squenix doesn’t care about their old fanbase as much as they like the huge pool of people shaped moneybags that is the non-hardcore market today. That means, not only making stuff more dumb and streamlined and simple but also making more of it. It’s not just Final Fantasy, as you point out:

      Parasite Eve -> TPS
      Front Mission -> TPS

      Oh and if you’re the only one that liked Crisis Core, i guess i’m the only one that likes XII. Probably the most obvious of reasons that i’m not qualified to make an opinion (why isn’t there a verb for “making an opinion” in english?) about Final Fantasy.

      1. I enjoyed FFXII, mainly because I could play it one handed using the gambit system, allowing me to:
        -Eat Cereal
        -Work on Homework
        -Surf the Web
        -Play Pingpong
        -Other stuff

        I love to multitask!

          1. But you don’t actually have to pay any attention… you just run at an enemy and your characters will do the rest. It sort of reminds me of the quick battle system in Persona 4.

          2. Grinding in games never requires attention. I just mash the attack command until somebody dies. I liked the automatic-speedy combat in Persona 3 because it allowed me to “skip” the grinding and i liked the gambit system because it felt like very, very, very high level AI programming.

            Offtopic: for some reason, i can give myself thumbs up or down, which is pretty sad if you ask me.

      2. “why isn’t there a verb for “making an opinion” in english?”

        Opine /ōˈpīn/ – Verb – Hold or state an opinion.

  4. You mad bro
    if you hate the game the simply dont play it. Let them milk the money off people who are willing to play it. It’s not like square is forcing you to play the damn game.

  5. I agree that Square should hold off on the remakes, let’s not forget that fans put them on the path of milking all their franchises when they begged them for spinoffs sequels movies related to ff7. After a while, the potential profits became too huge to ignore.

    Now fans want to back peddle? Sorry, you can’t have it both ways.

    Second Point.

    Everyone loved Crisis Core, this article needs to get that straight at least. CC succeeds where DoC failed in every way.

    I honestly have no problem with cash ins as long as they’re quality.

    1. Ha! Fair point about the fans. Most have been calling for sequels and spin offs for years. Now that we have what we asked for, we want things to go back the way they were.

      Careful what you wish for, I guess.

      Personally, I thought Crisis Core was pretty bad. I think they should have made THAT the CGI movie and not Advent Children. Advent Children (while beautiful to look at) was a horrible film.

        1. Advent Children really rang home the fact that FF7’s characters are atrociously bad. I believe there is a scene somewhere along 5 minutes long dedicated to Cloud moaning about all the responsibility that’s been thrust onto him that he feels he can’t handle. YOU carry around a huge freaking sword and defeated the one winged angel, I think you’re good Cloud!

      1. Yeah, Advent Children was never going to win an Oscar. They need to hire new writers over at Square (asap). The film was fan service. If there were awards for fan service, that movie would have brought home the gold in every category. To the film’s credit, it makes less apologies about what it’s aiming for than Hollywood action films. For a lot of people, myself included, seeing these classic characters in a movie compensated for the lack of a coherent script.

        1. I wonder if it would have been a better idea to test the waters a bit and only do a 30 minute video instead of a full-length action film? People would have been able to see their favorites in glorious HD and they’d probably risk less with a less-than-favorable storyline.

          1. That sounds wise, though i’ll never get the point of the “HD experience”. No need for a meaningful story but something at least interesting like 300 can’t be that hard to accomplish.

      2. I actually bought Crisis Core from you Randy, along with The World Ends With You for about $30 a few years back. I never got around to playing TWEWY and I only spent about one hour with CC and never touched it again. Sorry :( The main character Zach annoyed me ever so slightly.

  6. Nah. I aim to do the same by auctioning them off on Ebay soon. The poor little guys have been just rotting on shelf for sometime now yearning for a family to cherish them after our years of neglect. Ok so maybe it is a little sad…

      1. Ha, probably not. Although earning something is better than nothing. Having them complete with case & instructions in a “like new” condition should be worth a few extra pennies at least.

  7. “Square Enix has to take their most talented people, put them all on one project”

    Well, the problem is, their most talented people are gone. The do have some talented CGI artists from a technical perspective, but hi-tech with little substance is precisely Square’s problem. The creator of the Final Fantasy series, Hironobu Sakaguchi, left the company after FF IX (hmmm, seems to coincide with when Square’s games started sucking). Mitsuda (music composer for Chrono Trigger, Xenogears) hasn’t worked with the Square in ages to my knowledge. Uematsu (FF music composer) has stayed on board for many projects but interestingly enough not FF XIII. He IS, however, doing the music for the Last Story.

    The good news, of course, is that Sakaguchi started his own company, Mistwalker. He, along with Uematsu, is working on the next true entry in the FF series, he just doesn’t own the IP to that name so he changed Final to Last and Fantasy to Story. That’s where my money will be going, and I think this time around the FF fanboys might surprise us and NOT buy the crap that will be FF XIII-2, and save their money for Last Story. The ones in Japan, who actually know Sakaguchi’s name, at least will likely know better.

    Lastly, to the poster who claims Square will succeed cuz they are chasing the profits of the “casual market,” I have a question. How many casual gamers play 60+ hour RPGs? Need empirical evidence? Square recently admitted FF XIV was more or less a failure, and they were kinda riding on its success. As a result they marked down their profit expectations by 92%. Here’s to hoping Sakaguchi can buy back the FF, Xenogears, and other IPs when Square goes into bankruptcy.

    The moral of this post: Follow the people, not the IP. If the talent leaves and all that stays is the name, it’s not really the same game/series/brand. Would you still hold the same respect for the Mario brand, for example, if Shigeru Miyamoto no longer worked with Nintendo? If a record company owned the right to the name of your favorite band, and then fired all the members and hired new people, you think you’d buy the CD? Don’t be fooled be lousy copyright laws allow corporations to own their employee’s creations. So spread the word, the next Final Fantasy is a game called the Last Story.

    1. If the unnamed poster is me, then i’ll just say that game length simply isn’t a factor. Casuals play Bejeweled, Solitaire, The Sims, Maddens, etc. for hundreds of hours.

      Squenix sold 92% less than hoped? Doesn’t mean they still tried to cater the non-hardcore (not saying casual because FFXIII players aren’t Wii Sports players -but they’re not STALKER players either…). I don’t think you have to make games more dumbs to sell, publishers think that. Unfortunately, developers don’t make games based on what i think.

      Also, if that Citan’s in honor of Xenogears’ Citan, i like you a lot.

      And double also, it’s interesting that The Last Story (first time i hear about it) and Xenoblade are both coming for the Wii. I have a lot of faith of the relatively (at least in comparison to the PS360’s budgets) cheapness-to-develop of the Wii and i’d be happy if this meant that was finally turning out into good hardcore games.

    2. Honestly, I don’t hold the same respect for the Mario brand anyways. Its lost a lot of its charm since the SNES/N64 era. Same goes for Zelda, Kirby, Metroid, and prettymuch every Nintendo IP except Donkey Kong.

  8. I’m inclined to both agree and disagree with you.

    I won’t say that Square has been living completely up to their past glories, but I can’t think of ANY developer who has. Gaming as a whole has become a lot more derivative with a lot lower quality games. I can’t point to a single developer that I knew from my childhood who is still producing games up to the caliber they did on the Super Nintendo or the PS1. Not a single one. Nintendo, Sega, Square, Sony, Enix, etc…. all of ’em.

    So is it any surprise that Square is in the same boat?

    Not at all. That being said, I’ve thoroughly liked most of the Square titles I’ve played in the past few years. Infinite Undiscovery and Last REmnant were both solid RPGs, Dissidia was a blast that occupied many hours(and duodecim is looking like it will do the same if the Prologus is any indication), FF13 was a brilliant story told in a beautiful world that I enjoyed playing in a great deal(that I felt was a MILES better game than FF12 and in every way but story a vast improvement over 10 as well).

    It looks like Square HAS taken a lot of their past to heart. They’re doing rereleases and remakes of a lot of their old titles, they’re designed new games in long abandoned series, and they’re listening to their fans(Remember: FFXIII-2 was released entirely at the request of fans). I’m loving the attention they’ve paid to the PSP lately, and I’m so glad that they’re doing a sequel to FFXIII because lets face it, whatever else you may say about the game itself… the world has a lot to offer – it was gorgeous, varied, and only available in a very limited scope in ffxiii. I am VERY interested in seeing more of Pulse and Cocoon.

    But lets look at their major upcoming releases to really get a glimpse of what they’re doing right now

    Dissidia Duodecim – a refinement of the gamestyle of the first with a new story delivery system. Huge improvements. The prologus is so much cleaner, and a lot more difficult, than the first. Which is really cool to see.
    3rd Birthday – a sequel to the unbelievably well-done parasite eve games. Long-overdue, but still eagerly anticipated. This game is generating a ton of interest in the psp overall which is cool.
    FF4 Complete – a remake, but also an evolution. FF4, the After Years, and ~10 hours of completely new content bridging the gap between the two. I can’t wait. This is gonna be a 100+ hour game.
    Final Fantasy Type-0(formerly agito xiii) – another cool looking psp game. One that we don’t really have enough info to judge, but still sounds pretty cool from what little we have.

    PS3: Final Fantasy XIII-2 – already went into this above.
    Final Fantasy Versus XIII – the long delayed and long overdue Action RPG member of the Fabula Nova Crystalis. Footage looks incredible, and hopefully it won’t disappoint.

    This is from the Square subsection of Squenix, so this is the section that you could compare to Bioware, Blizzard, or other developers. They have 6 titles, of which 1 is a remake. That isn’t excessive. Compare Squenix to Zenimax or EA or Activision if you want a more accurate comparison in terms of total titles released – because in terms of number of development branches, Square is in the same category.

    I think the real fact is that when compared against the SNES/PS1 era, gaming has gone a long ways downhill. Overall, on the whole. Not any one developer. Its just that since Square holds so many of our best memories of that era, its more noticable in them.

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