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by Chris Galli
Recently, there have been many editorials expressing anti-Squaresoft sentiment. People feel cheated, betrayed and disappointed. Others say that Squaresoft has sold out to the masses and they will no longer produce anything worthwhile. Fortunately, all is not lost, nor is it as bad as some people would think. Squaresoft has not sold out to the "masses". They have not lost that element of quality we have come to expect. Squaresoft has continually done what they always do: produce original, quality games.
The most prominent negative argument towards Squaresoft relates to the recent success of the Final Fantasy series. The main argument here is expressed in the editorial by Macaroni titled "Squaresoft Isn't Fooling Me" from April 26, 2000. In it he says that Final Fantasy VII was a "commercial pandering to a mass audience". This is an attitude held by many, because people who have never played a Console Role Playing Game before thought FFVII was as great as the experienced CRPG player knew it was. If FFVII was such a "commercial pandering" then why did they bother with the materia system? They would have known that it would have confused the "newbie". The junction system was even more confusing. Sure, the junction system had an auto-junction ability for the "newbie", but that didn't make it any less complicated. Another argument against Squaresoft is that the rash of FMV in their games is only there for the "ooh and ahh" effect, to draw new players to the game. The quality of the FMVs show that Squaresoft wants to make their games the best they can be, to "hold no punches" so to speak. Why should better graphics make a game worse? It doesn't make any sense. Others argue that the entire FF series is a cookie cutter series made to make money. This is just ludicrous. No FF game was ever the same as the one before, none of the same characters, storyline or game systems. The only thing common to the FF series is the guaranteed quality, and the goal to save the world, which is never even that from the beginning of the game. The save the world goal always develops from some smaller conflict. To say that FFVII and FFVIII are made from the same cookie cutter shell is to be a fool. The leveling systems were totally different, the fighting system was totally different, the in game systems were totally different, the activation of limit breaks was totally different, where are the similarities? Another argument, also in Macaroni's editorial, is that Squaresoft tailored the recent FF games to the US masses, thus betraying their fans. Did we forget that ALL Squaresoft CRPGs are made by Square of Japan, by and for a Japanese audience? The "girl next-door", "supermodel babes", and "ghetto talkin gangstas" are all consistent with japanese anime culture, a large influence on their video game culture. If you're wondering about "ghetto talkin gangstas" in anime, check out the Street Fighter II V series for a quick example. If Squaresoft catered to the american masses, wouldn't they make their games here, and then export them to Japan for translation? One final argument is that with the relatively short time period between the release of FFVIII and FFIX, that Sqauresoft is just trying to push out more FF games to make more money, so the quality is going to drop. This is a common logic error. The real reason is that with the recent success of FFVII and FFVIII, Squaresoft has A LOT more money then they're used to, and can now handle more game projects simultaneously. This allows the "summer of adventure" with Legend of Mana, Chrono Chross and Threads of Fate. They can afford more programmers, more graphic artists, more composers, and more designers. Squaresoft has done everything but "sell out", they've just made better and original games, and with their recent income, the much larger budget allows even more games.
Now lets look at what Sqaresoft DOES, rather than what they DON'T do. Ever since that gem of a game, Final Fantasy for the NES, the Square name has been synonymous with originality and quality. As Squaresoft says themselves on their website (www.squaresoft.com), "What are we known for? Whatever the type of game, we are committed to providing the most original and intriguing titles, enhanced with the latest, most exciting and advanced technologies available." That pretty much covers it, and every game Squaresoft has produced lives up to this standard of excellence. Let's start with original. Every game Squaresoft has released, even ones in the same "series", are always completely different than every other game they've released. Every Final Fantasy has different game systems and battle systems, the only thing similar is the epic and world threatening evil that presents itself. The upcoming Chrono Cross game, while a sequel to Chrono Trigger, will be nothing like the original, except for the ability to travel through time, and perhaps the ability to see your enemies before you run into them. The Front Mission and SaGa series follow similar "patterns" while at the same time producing original storylines and game systems. Even when Squaresoft breaks into a new genre, they create the most original games possible. Fighting games Tobal No. 1, Bushido Blade, and Ehrgeiz are nothing like the competition. Brave Fencer Musashi, while sometimes compared to Zelda, is nothing like it at all. Final Fantasy Tactics, known to some as the best Tactical RPG ever, was one of a kind. Now lets examine the second part of Squaresoft's mission statement. Every game Squaresoft released since FFVII has had FMV in it. Why? Because it is the latest and most advanced that there is right now, not because it sells to a bunch of easily led automatons. FMV makes a game more realistic, and better expresses situations then some dialog and 16x16 sprites. "A picture is worth a thousand words". In fact, I don't seem to remember ANY games for the playstation using much FMV before the success of FFVII. Squaresoft has never made a "bad" game. Sure, some games certain people don't like, but even the "bad" games have that quality that Squaresoft thrives on.
Squaresoft became what they are today through always making original, quality, and all around awesome games. This trend has not slowed, and I myself cannot wait to see what the next wave of Squaresoft titles has to offer.
[Editor's Notes: This game gives some insight into Square, as many editorials have been as of late. I was given permission to edit this for grammar, and I'm glad, because those paragraphs are durned imposing. I'd fix it, but time does not permit me since this is going up as 5/07 for an update (since that's what all the filenames are), and it's already 5/08. So yeah, good editorial, let me edit for grammar, paragraphs are your friends.]
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