Where did it go wrong with Square?

Posted by aldo_q (125 posts) -

I recently finally started on Final Fantasy XIII. It became one of those games I was originally hyped over, but that fell from my personal grace. Only to be picked up once it hit the budget bin. Let down by the negative reviews and word of mouth I had started to question if I wanted to even get this game. I usually do follow my own path when I pick games and ignore most review grades, but they did get me thinking. Why was I originally so hyped for FF XIII?

I used to love the series. Having basically bought my first Playstation just because I loved Final Fantasy VII so much at university. Once I saw it at a fellow student I just had to have it. And for a long time Final Fantasy and Squaresoft became marks of quality. But that time has long since past. I did not even finish Final Fantasy X. I just stopped caring just before the final battle. Final Fantasy XII I barely touched. And suddenly every game released became branded as some sort of Final Fantasy by Square.

I can't exactly recall if this was around the time they merged with Enix to become Square Enix. But something of the magic had disappeared. The stories where getting dumbed down and formula's reused. But how come? I can of course only guess.

It seemed to me that Square started to worry to much about being the leading JRPG developer. With Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy they held (and still hold) two household names in gaming. And it seems they kinda collapsed under the weight of it. Trying desperately to break into bigger and bigger audiences. With bigger development budgets, that need to be covered by releasing 'cheap money makers' along the way. Hurting their good name with bad quality games along the way.

But also desperately trying to reach an audience that isn't there and alienating their original audience. With the easy one click battle systems and ever more focus on graphics the RP of JRPG seems to have disappeared more and more. The stories are still okayish. But its nothing truly exceptional after decades of telling similar ones. The combat is dumded down to solve the 'problem' of people not liking turn based combat (but I do!) and the free roaming is limited because it's to expensive to generate that with such graphic's..... at least it is when you started development on the PS2 and needed to rewrite most of your work.

Ironically the one annoying feature of JRPG's they should have gotten rid of they didn't: Save points. A useless system that is more a hindrance then anything else. It does not add to the difficulty of a game. It just forces upon you a lack of control over when you can stop playing the game. I will rejoice the day Save Points are abolished and developers stop thinking that difficulty correlates to when your able to save your game. I have a job, a wife and a kid. I don't always have time to first move to the next save point before I can stop playing.

Having said all this, I will say Final Fantasy XIII is still fun. It's so far been more of an interactive movie you can play with one hand on the controller. But the story seems interesting. Enough at least to keep me interested to see what will happen next. A level of storytelling that most other games lack. Still I can not wait for the day when a game with the Square name on it will again be something to instantly trust as quality. Rather then doubt it like I do now. It's not because the JRPG genre is in a bad state. I like JRPG's. I don't need much change. It's because Square Enix is so scared it's in a bad state they are trying to fix something that isn't broken. Mainstream Western Audiences never really loved JRPG's, FF VII was a fluke that it did. Stop trying to cater to an audience that just doesn't care and go back to catering to the fans. FF VII was a master-piece that can not be achieved again. Deal with it Square. Except by a remake... hint hint ;) Just cut development budgets and make fun JRPG's again. Don't try and go to big. Until then I keep my hope on studio's like Mistwalker.

#1 Posted by aldo_q (125 posts) -

I recently finally started on Final Fantasy XIII. It became one of those games I was originally hyped over, but that fell from my personal grace. Only to be picked up once it hit the budget bin. Let down by the negative reviews and word of mouth I had started to question if I wanted to even get this game. I usually do follow my own path when I pick games and ignore most review grades, but they did get me thinking. Why was I originally so hyped for FF XIII?

I used to love the series. Having basically bought my first Playstation just because I loved Final Fantasy VII so much at university. Once I saw it at a fellow student I just had to have it. And for a long time Final Fantasy and Squaresoft became marks of quality. But that time has long since past. I did not even finish Final Fantasy X. I just stopped caring just before the final battle. Final Fantasy XII I barely touched. And suddenly every game released became branded as some sort of Final Fantasy by Square.

I can't exactly recall if this was around the time they merged with Enix to become Square Enix. But something of the magic had disappeared. The stories where getting dumbed down and formula's reused. But how come? I can of course only guess.

It seemed to me that Square started to worry to much about being the leading JRPG developer. With Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy they held (and still hold) two household names in gaming. And it seems they kinda collapsed under the weight of it. Trying desperately to break into bigger and bigger audiences. With bigger development budgets, that need to be covered by releasing 'cheap money makers' along the way. Hurting their good name with bad quality games along the way.

But also desperately trying to reach an audience that isn't there and alienating their original audience. With the easy one click battle systems and ever more focus on graphics the RP of JRPG seems to have disappeared more and more. The stories are still okayish. But its nothing truly exceptional after decades of telling similar ones. The combat is dumded down to solve the 'problem' of people not liking turn based combat (but I do!) and the free roaming is limited because it's to expensive to generate that with such graphic's..... at least it is when you started development on the PS2 and needed to rewrite most of your work.

Ironically the one annoying feature of JRPG's they should have gotten rid of they didn't: Save points. A useless system that is more a hindrance then anything else. It does not add to the difficulty of a game. It just forces upon you a lack of control over when you can stop playing the game. I will rejoice the day Save Points are abolished and developers stop thinking that difficulty correlates to when your able to save your game. I have a job, a wife and a kid. I don't always have time to first move to the next save point before I can stop playing.

Having said all this, I will say Final Fantasy XIII is still fun. It's so far been more of an interactive movie you can play with one hand on the controller. But the story seems interesting. Enough at least to keep me interested to see what will happen next. A level of storytelling that most other games lack. Still I can not wait for the day when a game with the Square name on it will again be something to instantly trust as quality. Rather then doubt it like I do now. It's not because the JRPG genre is in a bad state. I like JRPG's. I don't need much change. It's because Square Enix is so scared it's in a bad state they are trying to fix something that isn't broken. Mainstream Western Audiences never really loved JRPG's, FF VII was a fluke that it did. Stop trying to cater to an audience that just doesn't care and go back to catering to the fans. FF VII was a master-piece that can not be achieved again. Deal with it Square. Except by a remake... hint hint ;) Just cut development budgets and make fun JRPG's again. Don't try and go to big. Until then I keep my hope on studio's like Mistwalker.

#2 Posted by zombie2011 (4968 posts) -
@aldo_q said:



But also desperately trying to reach an audience that isn't there and alienating their original audience. With the easy one click battle systems and ever more focus on graphics the RP of JRPG seems to have disappeared more and more. The stories are still okayish. But its nothing truly exceptional after decades of telling similar ones. The combat is dumded down to solve the 'problem' of people not liking turn based combat (but I do!) and the free roaming is limited because it's to expensive to generate that with such graphic's..... at least it is when you started development on the PS2 and needed to rewrite most of your work.


You don't have to use auto-battle, it's an option. Also where in the story would it make sense to have the players walking around towns and stuff? 
 
This was the first FF game i played and i thought it was great. 
#3 Posted by Cloudenvy (5891 posts) -

@zombie2011 said:

@aldo_q said:

But also desperately trying to reach an audience that isn't there and alienating their original audience. With the easy one click battle systems and ever more focus on graphics the RP of JRPG seems to have disappeared more and more. The stories are still okayish. But its nothing truly exceptional after decades of telling similar ones. The combat is dumded down to solve the 'problem' of people not liking turn based combat (but I do!) and the free roaming is limited because it's to expensive to generate that with such graphic's..... at least it is when you started development on the PS2 and needed to rewrite most of your work.

You don't have to use auto-battle, it's an option. Also where in the story would it make sense to have the players walking around towns and stuff? This was the first FF game i played and i thought it was great.

I've played the majority of the FF series, and I thought XIII was awesome! one of my favorite FF's.

#4 Edited by SoldierG654342 (1735 posts) -

There's simply more competition in the RPG market then there used to be back in the "golden years." Square-Enix used to win kind of by default, but now Atlus and Tri-Ace (among other companies) hold large shares of the JRPG demographic. It's why Square-Enix has been diversifying their publishing. Plus with the advent of console WRPGs, the cultural divide in gaming was been growing even wider. 

#5 Posted by SomeJerk (3138 posts) -

@zombie2011 said:

Also where in the story would it make sense to have the players walking around towns and stuff?

You have no idea how much hate I get for thinking the same as you do. These guys know where they need to go, sometimes it's just forwards, they have major and minor goals and proceed towards them, from start to finish it's an on-rails adventure that I enjoyed a lot. There is no time for them to quarter at an inn and rest though they set up camp when they have the chance.

#6 Edited by YI_Orange (1128 posts) -

The company you describe is Atlus now for me. Anything with their name on it has my interest.

That aside, I will say that I am not the biggest FF fan nor have I beaten very many of them(though I've played a little of almost all of them). I enjoyed 13, and thought auto-battle was fine because all it meant was I had to the x-button once instead of 5 times to do what I wanted. That, and at least with the way I decided to play the paradigm shifting could get relatively interesting. Yeah, the characters are weak but at least they become less unlikable as the game goes on.

Now, about final fantasy VII. Someone please explain it to me. I've played a decent chunk of that game and seen the rest and I just don't understand why everyone loves it so much, especially over FF VI if we're keeping comparisons inside the franchise. Maybe it just wasn't for me and that's fine, but I don't remember it having a revolutionary story or too great characters so if someone would be so kind as to explain to me why people feel so strongly about it, that would be great.

@somejerk said:

@zombie2011 said:

Also where in the story would it make sense to have the players walking around towns and stuff?

You have no idea how much hate I get for thinking the same as you do. These guys know where they need to go, sometimes it's just forwards, they have major and minor goals and proceed towards them, from start to finish it's an on-rails adventure that I enjoyed a lot. There is no time for them to quarter at an inn and rest though they set up camp when they have the chance.

Also this. I didn't miss the towns because unless there was something of interest for me to do there it was just a big place for me to inevitably forget how to navigate and spend my time talking to completely useless NPCs hoping one will give me a potion or something. That and as obsessive as I am about completing side stuff I feel that a lot of the time it will break the flow of the story and game so not having those burdens really worked out in XIII's favor.

#7 Posted by Elyk247 (366 posts) -

Guess what? You're absolutely right. For me Final Fantasy died with VI on the Snes. Chrono, Actraiser, and Dragon Warrior were great as well. Square Enix just didn't become accessible for America anymore. With Bioware and Bethesda becoming the new RPG juggernauts, Square Enix needs to find a solution fast.

#8 Posted by Sayishere (1838 posts) -

Well FF12 was primarily focused on open world environments similiar to a MMO, so i respect them for changing the forumula. Yes the game is ALOT more linear than previous titles, but change can be a good thing right? otherwise things get stale. Same thing with the Resident Evil series, with 4 and 5 being more action orientated.

FF 13-2 is a way for them to rectify some 'mistakes' if you want to call it to get the player base back on board (but i assume its to late for that). I personally enjoyed FF13, the game didnt need the towns, and also i personally feel the combat is quite diverse and not as simplified as you make it out to be. Theres options, less micro management but the leveling up system via the classes and the trees is pretty advanced, on par with the materia system from FF7

I feel this game is getting slated way to much, its different, but it isnt horrible at all, people just dont like change. Although i did personally prefer the older forumula, i hope Versus 13 will be a refreshing new title.

#9 Posted by aldo_q (125 posts) -

@zombie2011: Too each their own. Please do note the last section of my blog entry. I actually do not hate FF XIII. I just think it does not hold up the high quality mark that Final Fantasy and Square once held. By focusing on things like the auto battle system it seems their focus is more on accessibility then shaping a wonderful world.

While I did not mention the lack of towns explicitly and do not believe them to be mandatory. I do think towns and and overworld map add to the idea that this is a real world. I do not believe them to be necessary. But the way the linearity has been added now together with the auto battle system the game almost becomes playable with 1 hand and is just going from story cutscene to story cutscene with very little real interactivity. FF games have always been linear. But they gave you the illusion you had to think about your decisions. Towns are perhaps not needed for it, but atm I also don't really have a feeling I am part of a living world.

@YI_Orange I think everybody has their favorite FF game. I also love FF VI. I guess because I played VII before VI and it made such an extreme impression nothing will ever surpass it for me. The music alone can make me nostalgic for the game. I've noticed a lot, both with games and music, that often the first really good experience you have with a series or a band will make it very hard for anything else you play or listen to to top that ever again. I played every main FF except finishing X, XII and X-2. But the first experience with FF VII for me has never been surpassed. Due to the music, atmosphere, story and characters. The way you could modify your characters, etc. It just all clicked for me.

#10 Posted by Hailinel (23868 posts) -

@somejerk said:

@zombie2011 said:

Also where in the story would it make sense to have the players walking around towns and stuff?

You have no idea how much hate I get for thinking the same as you do. These guys know where they need to go, sometimes it's just forwards, they have major and minor goals and proceed towards them, from start to finish it's an on-rails adventure that I enjoyed a lot. There is no time for them to quarter at an inn and rest though they set up camp when they have the chance.

I feel exactly the same way. The plot being what it is makes the idea of wandering around towns like nothing is wrong an impossibility.

#11 Posted by chrissedoff (2075 posts) -

square was always bad. eventually, all of us figured that out but square didn't.

#12 Posted by Ragdrazi (2283 posts) -

In the worldwide venue, Square was a pretty obscure company until FFVII blew up. Suddenly they had made what was probably the biggest game in the entire world. US, Japan, Europe. It was huge. Legions of die hard fans. I think it convinced them they could do nothing wrong. I think they reacted too late when America started to grow tired of the same thing over and over. And now they know they're in trouble, and they don't have a game plan.

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