I used to enjoy Square games immensely, and got way hyped about every new series and offshoot of a series they would announce.In the Square heyday of Final Fantasy VI through IX, alongside other amazing efforts out of Square during that span I was all in on that company. They were on the status of Nintendo to me. They could do no wrong. I could write thousands of words on some their forgotten efforts like Einhander and Brave Fencer Musashi. There were piles of original and innovative content being produced by them in the PSX days. Along with all that inovation, you could always rest your hat on the quality production of Final Fantasy as the cornerstone of console RPGs.
I never particularly felt betrayed by Square. I can’t pinpoint a moment when I thought, alright Squaresoft, you’ve gone too far, drop the gunsword before someone doesn’t get shot.
It was actually a very gradual process. There was a time when I would drool and ogle images of upcoming Square games in the latest issue of EGM, the way I do now for Nintendo or WayForward produced titles.
Eventually some mediocre games began to trickle out, so I stopped following this or that series. The next thing I know, Square has merged with Enix and I don’t want a single game from either company.
That’s not to say that Square has been terrible ever since I stopped caring. They still have great games, but their percentages of quality product have dropped off.
Shout outs specifically to The World Ends With You for the great world/music/battle system that made me remember how incredible you can still be. Although I do expect great work from Jupiter, the guys who created the classic GBC Pokemon Pinball.
Also props to Theatrhythm, for knowing so deeply one of the reasons we pick up Final Fantasy games, the music. This game also gave me the energy and nostalgia to wade through the morass of thoughts I have about Square and Final Fantasy.
I think the works of Square will be a hot topic among overly opinionated gamers for some time. I haven’t even began to cover all my thoughts on the subject yet.
In the 16-bit era, shoot-em-ups were enjoying their new found technological freedom. As technology stepped up, so too did the amount of enemy ships trying to blast you out of the air. Levels lengthened, enemies took on a wide variety, and bullets split the sky in various patterns. I was in heaven.
In the 32-bit era things went decidedly differently. Perhaps this was due to the continued decline of arcades and the inherent arcade nature of shmups. Polygonal hit boxes and the commonly low budgets for shmup developers (things that are still true today) clearly had an impact as well. Most great shoot-em-ups of the 16-bit days either went dormant, or stuck with the tried and true gameplay of their past iterations. New shoot-em-up franchises you say? Maybe in Japan, but even with the PSX being the money maker it was, publishers rarely cared to put in the comparatively minimal effort needed to bring them stateside.
Then Square stepped up to the plate by releasing Einhander in the US in 1998. Perhaps feeling cocky by the release of FFVII they were translating and releasing everything they could develop searching for their next big hit. Even things that were not RPGs were getting developed by Square, practically unheard of today.
Not only did Sony bring shmups into the polygon era, they nailed it on the first swing. Large bosses, huge variety of guns and strategy to using them, great music, amazing graphics. Any criteria you could use to judge whether a shmup is good or not (meaning don’t judge it on the story whatsoever) was impressive. I still go back and play this game when I want to blast hundreds of generic enemy ships into oblivion.
I, as I am wont to assume, believed that this was the beginning of an incredible series, rather than a one off experiment. Evenually other companies dragged shoot-em-ups new and old into today, but Square was so far ahead of the curve it is truly surprising that they didn’t capitalize on it. Square never saw fit to develop a sequel, nor any other shmup game ever since. Even worse, they are too lazy to let me download the originalon PSN, even though it is available on the Japanese PSN!
Oh Square-Enix, finding the dumbest ways to try and take my money while simultaneously finding other ways to keep me from throwing money at them.