Square Enix should look to past to save its future

There was a time when Square Enix was the foremost role-playing game developer in video games and arguably the greatest Japan-based developer of all time. How the mighty have fallen.

Ask any fan of role-playing games what their favorite RPG is and the odds are a Square Enix game comes up in the conversation. The Super Nintendo era is considered widely to be a golden age thanks to “Final Fantasy 4,” “Final Fantasy 6″ and “Chrono Trigger.” The original PlayStation would serve as the platform that would vault RPGs into mainstream consciousness and acceptance with “Final Fantasy 7,” widely considered one of the greatest games of all time and many gamers’ first experience with a Japanese role-playing game. Square Enix would go on to dominate the RPG landscape throughout the PlayStation and PlayStation 2 generations.

What the heck has happened to it since then? The breakdown can be attributed directly to time and money.

 

 

The core “Final Fantasy” series has fallen on hard times as low sales reflects the quality of the games and Square Enix’s stubbornness. It was willing to try new things, but at the risk of alienating what gamers appreciated in its games. Nothing could match the disaster that was “Final Fantasy 14.” The massively multiplayer online role-playing game was so terrible that Square Enix literally reassigned a new development team to the game and worked to relaunch a completely overhauled version that has since seen praise.

Its mismanagement of budgets put it into a dire position on numerous occasions. Its Western-developed games, including “Sleeping Dogs,” “Hitman Absolution” and “Tomb Raider” failed to meet outrageous sales expectations despite positive critical responses. Square Enix let the scope of its projects get out of control. It intent was to get “Final Fantasy” onto an annualized release schedule. It took four years to release the “Final Fantasy 13″ trilogy with latest game “Lightning Returns” having just released Feb. 11. It had to rework a fourth game in the “Final Fantasy 13″ series into what will now be “Final Fantasy 15,” which is in development for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.

With all of its problems, it seems like remaking its most popular games is a no-brainer. Fans have been clamoring for a high-definition “Final Fantasy 7″ remake for years. Square Enix rereleased most of its catalog on the PlayStation Network and Wii Virtual Console, but these were all straight ports of the older games. Why not do what everyone wants you to do and just remake the all-time classics in high-definition?

When asked again about a “Final Fantasy 7″ remake, Yoshinori Kitase, “Final Fantasy” series producer, told Eurogamer, “I can honestly tell you I would love to do that. But you must believe me when I say it would take a lot to happen.” What he’s referring to is money since the game’s assets would have to be completely reworked and the staff would have to do it. Square Enix has consistently said over the years that in order for a remake to happen, the current “Final Fantasy” has to exceed the quality of “Final Fantasy 7.”

It seems odd to say it, because we want companies to be more creative and not iterate on the past, but it’s sitting on a treasure trove of classics. I bet it would make more money on the sales of “Final Fantasy 6,” “Final Fantasy 7,” “Final Fantasy Tactics” and “Chrono Trigger.” None of these have been remade, only re-released.

Square Enix is willing to take risks, but it’ll continue to spin its wheels as it reaches for the stars with its new games when it’s the old ones that will pay off.

Reach the reporter at michael.jerome.martin@asu.edu or follow him on Twitter @NefariousMike