Love Lost, or Why Square Enix Sucks

Square Enix and I aren’t friends any more. If you had asked me a few years ago, I would have told you I loved them. Their name on the case was enough for me to take interest, and the Final Fantasy series was undeniably my favourite. Final Fantasy and I grew up together. In many ways, I can thank that JRPG series for being here now, writing about video games. But Square Enix has broken my heart, and like a true vindictive ex-lover, I’m going to tell you all the terrible crap they’ve done.

When Square Enix released Final Fantasy X-2, I was hesitant. They’d gone back on their word about sequels. But I let it go, because Final Fantasy X-2 was still good. Sure, the fan service was a little creepy, but the battle system was top notch. Square Enix saw this modest success and decided sequels and spin offs were great, and followed it up with the likes of the Final Fantasy VII compilation and Final Fantasy IV: The After Years. Some of these were good, some seemed like shoddy and blatant attempts to profit from nostalgia, but I wasn’t fussed and just called it square.

When Square Enix announced a sequel to Final Fantasy XIII, the prettiest and most melodramatic corridor simulator ever made – though merely average as far as Final Fantasy titles go – I was confused. Final Fantasy XIII had sold well, but the fan reception had been lukewarm and it didn’t seem a solid base to build upon; if anything, it made more sense to quit while they were ahead. Even though Final Fantasy XIII-2 was better received, it didn’t sell nearly as well, and could not excuse what happened next. Lightning Returns, the third instalment in the Final Fantasy XIII saga, seems to exist purely because Square Enix has a big old dirty crush on Lightning. The potential for success is limited, given that fans didn’t fall in love with Lightning the first two times.

The 'Fabula Nova Crystallis' compilation was announced in 2006 with a three game line-up: Final Fantasy XIII, Final Fantasy Versus XIII, and Final Fantasy Agito. Anticipation for all three titles grew as details trickled out. After waiting almost four years for mixed bag Final Fantasy XIII, attention turned to the other two titles. But Square Enix were tight lipped. Time passed and nobody would confirm or deny whether Versus XIII had become vapour ware. Agito got a name change and was effectively confirmed as a Japanese exclusive.

Versus XIII was pulling a Duke Nukem Forever. Occasionally there were snippets, or whispers, but it seemed like Square Enix were pouring money into a project that would never come to fruition. And then they announced a name change: Versus XIII was now Final Fantasy XV, and it was definitely still in development, here is a trailer, so please get excited. Why should I get excited for a game we have been clamouring for over the course of the past 7 years? You ask too much.

In the eight years between 1994 and 2001, Square Enix released five main series games: Final Fantasys VI through X. In the almost eight years since Final Fantasy XII was released and Fabula Nova Crystallis was announced, Square Enix have given us: two poorly rated Final Fantasy XIII games (one of which was unasked for), one yet-to-be-graded undesired Final Fantasy XIII game, one failure of an MMO, one moderate success replacement MMO, and a whole lot of questions and anger regarding the absence of Versus XIII and Agito.

The Final Fantasy name used to carry a reputation. Square Enix knew this, which is why the initial launch of Final Fantasy XIV was a dismal failure. They thought people would buy based on name alone and that resulted in catastrophic failure. To their credit, Square Enix replaced the director, instituted a new team, and in a short time built – from scratch – Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn. But no matter the success of A Realm Reborn, Square Enix’s already worn reputation was further tarnished by complacent and cocky behaviour.

Space is running out, so let me detail one last crime. Square Enix seem to realise they’ve lost the magic tough, so they rely on ports and remakes to generate easy money. Some games are treated well – Final Fantasy IV’s 3D remake for the DS was great and the Final Fantasy X and X-2 HD remaster looks promising – but others have not been so fortunate. The Steam ports of Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy VIII only added rubbish achievements and kept a low quality MIDI soundtrack.

The most recent port prompted this piece: Final Fantasy VI for android. At the most superficial level, Square Enix have taken what was a beautiful sprite-based game, airbrushed away the personality, and slapped a $16 price tag on it. Some of the art is crisp, but the character models are gross and clash horrendously with the rest of the game. A straight port would have been far less offensive.

Even ignoring blatant cash grabs like Final Fantasy All The Bravest and Final Fantasy Airborne Brigade, it’s clear that you’ve got a problem, Square Enix. You have wronged me, and I am hurt, but in the name of the love we once shared, let me give you this advice: stop. Stop now, while you still can.

Originally published in HYPER #246.