Will There Ever Be Another Squaresoft?
This isn't just about Final Fantasy, nor is it about Square Enix being a depressing shadow of its former self.
This is simply about the past, and about the fact that for several years during the original PlayStation generation, a company called Squaresoft could do no wrong. Just about everything they touched turned to gold. And I mean gold.
And you know, Squaresoft would've solidified its legacy with only the four Final Fantasy titles in that era (FFVII, FFVIII, FFIX, FF Tactics). That would've been one hell of a run for just about any developer on the face of the earth. But Squaresoft not only made other games, they made other masterful titles. On top of which, they even found success in completely different genres. Brave Fencer Musashi didn't score off the charts but it was a solid action/adventure title, and Einhander was a really excellent side-scrolling space shooter. Okay, so Ehrgeiz was a bit of a slip (mastering the fighting genre eluded Squaresoft) but even that wasn't exactly terrible. It was actually playable.
Chrono Cross is still widely regarded as one of the finest games of all time; not merely one of the best RPGs in history. Vagrant Story offered a look at something very different; a turn-based/real-time hybrid similar to what we saw in Parasite Eve, only with a vastly different setting, theme and style. Legend of Mana may have annoyed old-school Secret of Mana aficionados but the bottom line is that it was still beautiful. You don't see hand-drawn artistry like that anymore, and it was still a really great game in its own right. Threads of Fate was yet another top-notch RPG. And should we also mention Xenogears, another RPG that is viewed as being one of the best ever? I mean, it was just insane.
I'm sure I'm missing a few but you get the point. The point is that in those days, if you were an RPG fan or even just a hardcore gamer at heart, if the box said "Squaresoft" on it, you bought it. Done. There really wasn't even a thought process involved. I don't think another developer has done that before or since. One could argue for maybe Rockstar or Naughty Dog, but either they haven't expressed the same level of diversity (and quality diversity) or they simply haven't made as many games as Squaresoft did in those days. And I'm just not sure we'll ever see another game maker like good ol' Square ever again.
12/7/2012 Ben Dutka