Square-Enix No Longer The Perennial RPG Powerhouse
When I first heard that Squaresoft and Enix would be merging, I glanced over at my PlayStation collection of RPGs. Along with all the Final Fantasy titles, I saw the likes of Vagrant Story, Parasite Eve, Front Mission 3, Legend of Mana, Threads of Fate, Chrono Cross, and Star Ocean: The 2nd Story. Enix only did the latter, but hey, it was an awesome RPG and Squaresoft...well, they were the masters. Plain and simple.
But the dream role-playing company never seemed to take shape. Yeah, we still got some of the best RPGs I've ever played, including Final Fantasy X and Final Fantasy XII, but it has become more and more obvious that FF remains the only guaranteed smash hit from Square-Enix. Games like The Last Remnant (based on reviews, I don't care in the slightest if it ever comes to the PS3), Infinite Undiscovery, and Star Ocean: The Last Hope have proven something to me: I really like Star Ocean, but it doesn't really measure up to expectations; if this was a decade ago, I certainly would've anticipated a little better from the king of RPGs. Now, one can make an argument for or against Square-Enix based on a variety of handheld titles and other games I haven't mentioned here, but I think all RPG fans can agree that Square-Enix hasn't lived up to the legacy of Squaresoft. I'm not really sure why...are they putting all their effort into Final Fantasy XIII? Is this why the IPs and other lesser sequels aren't as great as they could be?
I admit to not knowing the reason, and I further admit that FFXIII will rock; if it doesn't end up being the best RPG of the generation, I'll actually be surprised. I also have high hopes for Final Fantasy Versus XIII. But I'm just pointing out the obvious contrast here: there was a time when I'd peruse the shelf at the game store and if a game said "Squaresoft" on the box, it'd probably be a must-buy. Hell, they even did an awesome 2D side-scrolling shooter in Einhander! And for fans of the JRPG genre, Squaresoft was it. I remember it very, very well. Now, I find myself looking at a game with the Square-Enix logo and saying to myself, "hmm...I dunno." I'm actually skeptical. I would never have expected this when I heard about the Square/Enix combination; in fact, I would've expected the exact opposite. It's like they can do anything FF-related wonderfully, but anything else doesn't seem to live up to expectations. Look at those other PS1 games from Square. I mean, that's just not happening now.
I'm not trying to "talk trash" about Square-Enix or anything like that. I think the developer has immense potential as it always has, and as I said, I have nothing but the highest hopes for any FF installment. I'm merely pointing out a distressing observation that most all RPG fans will agree with, and I'm hoping Square-Enix can turn things around at some point, here. I have my eyes set firmly on End of Eternity, even if it's another tri-Ace-developed title. I guess I just miss the good ol' days of Squaresoft, you know?
4/12/2009 Ben Dutka