It seems like it was only yesterday that the name SquareEnix, formerly known as SquareSoft, was synonymous with amazing JRPGs. Just uttering their name would be enough to send RPG players into rapture. Here you had this brilliant Japanese game company that had built itself on the back of some of the greatest JRPGs ever to grace the gaming industry.
I still remember vividly the sense of excitement I would feel whenever I would pop-in a game and the logo SquareSoft (or Enix depending on the year) would appear onscreen. Such was their hold on me that I would be 100% confident that I would be transported to a fantastical world full of magic and wonder.
The sense of exhilaration of playing a SquareEnix game from the PS1 and PS2 era still remain quite fresh in my mind. The level of commitment SquareEnix had back in the day was quite spectacular. Their development teams knew what they wanted to achieve.
Even if many of their games were not that good, you couldn’t fault their dedication or their will to innovate. More often than not, they would end up creating something so amazing that those games would make both the critics and the gamers swoon in delight.
SquareEnix initial prominence and sustained success can be attributed to one man, Hironobu Sakaguchi, who in 1986 was contemplating retirement if his last game failed. Named ‘Final Fantasy’ the game shot SquareEnix to instant fame. That franchise which by 2011 would sell 100 million copies worldwide gave players the best of what the genre had to offer.
For the next two decades, no company could even compete with them in both the Eastern and Western game development communities. Their games catered to a wide audience from the hard-core section to gamers who had more than a passing interest in gaming and RPGs.
It will not be an overstatement that it was SquareEnix, who gave wings to systems like the SNES, PS1 and PS2. Their games made an incredible impact on these systems with the help of games like Secret of Mana on the SNES, Final Fantasy 7 on the PS1 or Kingdom Hearts on the PS2.
Whenever anyone discusses these systems, the name of SquareEnix always gets mentioned. However, that was all in the past, as for today SquareEnix is facing its most critical period as its struggling to come with a term with its inadequacies and identity, while at the same time it may not even know that the entire existence of the company and what it stood for is at a massive risk of fading away!
So where did the problem start? Let’s rewind back to E3 2006 shall we? SquareEnix already had an awesome show lined up with Final Fantasy XII leading the bandwagon along with many games. However, what made the attendees quiver with excitement was to see how the company tackles the next generation of gaming.
SquareEnix not only made massive headlines it also showed what it could do with powerful consoles and also chalked out a road map for SquareEnix games in the next generation of consoles. Not one, but two Final Fantasy games, in this case Final Fantasy XIII and Final Fantasy Versus XIII were shown in FMV form to a stunned audience.
There was expectation that these games would be out within two to three years, and it was then that the company started its long journey down to earth! Delays upon delays hit Final Fantasy XIII, many of the other games that were in development also started to get pushed back. It was painful to see as they struggled to deal with new, complex and expensive development cycles.
The technical side of things became a mess, but on top of that SquareEnix started to lose its grip on the story narratives and presenting memorable characters. Stories started to become mediocre; the characters become paper thin caricatures; the level of writing became amateurish.
Takes games like The Last Remnant, Star Ocean 4 or Infinite Undiscovery, and you will cringe at how all the aforementioned points started to hurt the games. While the other games were struggling to resonate with JRPG fans, the delays of Final Fantasy XIII were really starting to tell.