Square-Enix is a name that gamers have long identified as one of the premier RPG and JRPG publishers. Mentioning titles like Kingdom Hearts and Final Fantasy can bring RPG fans to their knees in anticipation for development updates or gameplay footage. Unfortunately, Square-Enix has been struggling to capture the magic it once had when Final Fantasy was a series that helped shape the futures of Nintendo and Sony.
Recent titles like Hitman Absolution, Sleeping Dogs and Tomb Raider were solid games and did well amongst gamers and critics. The only problem was that sales were not nearly as stellar as the company had hoped for, and company restructuring began thereafter. However, a promise of a revival for JRPG fans has emerged after Square-Enix President Yosuke Matsuda was interviewed by Japanese Publication Nikkei Trendy.
In the interview, he admitted that he feels that the company lost its focus on core gamers and that Japanese-centric JRPGs were far more global than initially thought. His candid interview was in response to the surprising sales of Bravely Default for Nintendo 3DS. With over 200,000 copies sold within weeks in North America and great success in Europe, Bravely Default sent a message to the company that the outcry of gamers could not do: great JRPGs from Square-Enix will sale.
The platform, the region, or how visually impacting the game is doesn’t matter. If it is good, people will want to play it.
Final Fantasy Effect
Final Fantasy conjures up many different aspects of an enjoyable JRPG. Storytelling, character development, addicting game mechanics, hidden Easter eggs and grindy mechanics all constitute what it means to get the Final Fantasy experience. JRPG fans were reared upon the timeless classics that Square-Enix produced. These fans sought to capture the gaming experience that only JRPGs can bring, speech bubbles and all.
Comparable to the renaissance in animated films that occured when Pixar breathed new life into Disney’s animation studio in the mid-1990s, a similar effect happened with Square during the PlayStation and PS2 era. Final Fantasy VII-X arguably did for Square-Enix what Toy Story did for Pixar. Since that game was released, Square-Enix has been going many different directions in expanding the Final Fantasy universe.
Recent attempts–like the original Final Fantasy XIII and Final Fantasy XIV–did not do well to recapture that true Final Fantasy feel. From the overly linear design of FFXIII to the disappointing first iteration of FFXIV, there were a lot of questions and criticism leveled at Square-Enix. As a result, hardcore fans consistently compare their latest efforts to the golden era and Square-Enix developers have expectations that are hard to overcome. Thus far, they have been unsuccessful.
Depite demand and public infatuation with a Final Fantasy VII HD remake, Yosuke Matsuda reported that a FF VII HD remake would not take place until the company surpassed that game in terms of quality, even if this is not a realistic possibility this point in time–the company has their hands full with the development of Final Fantasy XV and Kingdom Hearts. Square’s openness to a real possibility of remaking one of the greatest installations in the FF series could help the company dramatically. Square-Enix would be able to hook in new gamers while re-igniting the fire of the original fan base.
Another way for Square-Enix to move forward with a core audience revival would be to ramp up production of JRPGs and allow publication onto more platforms other than the 3DS. Being readily available on additional ecosystems such as PlayStation Network, Xbox Live and Steam would improve sales, increase reach and reinforce the idea that the Square-Enix RPG division is back with a vengeance.
Kingdom Hearts and Final Fantasy XV are sure to please gamers. However, the open admission from Square-Enix that the company has lost focus and that JRPG fans really just want great JRPG games is most exciting. Hopefully Square-Enix brings more of the Final Fantasy games we love while delivering more of those sweet JRPG bits like Bravely Default: little in stature but big where it counts.
With a renaissance in its JRPG division, that Square-Enix logo will bring back chills of anticipation for the next intricately crafted RPG epic.