Squaresoft Past and Future

If I were asked what my favorite game company was, the answer would be simple: Squaresoft. Squaresoft has given me more gaming memories than any other company around, from the first Final Fantasy game I ever played eleven years ago on a Gameboy to Xenogears, whose deep story line will stay with me always. So take a trip with me down memory lane as I relive some of my favorite Squaresoft moments and look ahead to what Square has in store for us in the future.

My first dim memories of Squaresoft start with a game for the Gameboy, Final Fantasy Legends. While I don’t remember the plot of the game very well, I do remember sitting transfixed for hours as I battled monsters in an effort to climb a tower–for what reason I don’t remember now, but at the time it seemed important.

Following that, my next run-in with Squaresoft occurred during the heyday of the SNES. I played such classics as Final Fantasy 2 and 3. I can still remember getting quite choked up when, in FF2, my Dark Knight ascended Mount Ordeal in his quest to become a Paladin. FF3 was such an amazing game that I don’t have one clear-cut memory–the whole game made a huge impact. Sadly, these two gaming classics are next to impossible to find today and when found usually do not come cheap, but if you haven’t played them they are worth the effort and the money. I also played Final Fantasy Mystic Quest for the SNES. This game is basically a dumbed-down RPG that provides a good introduction to the genre, but besides that it is pretty boring (a rarity for Squaresoft).

After that I drifted away from console games as I played more and more PC games. Last summer when FF7 came out for the PC, I had to have it, and let me tell you, this game does not disappoint. This is the only game that has ever moved me to tears. I must have played Aeris’s death scene about three times before I realized that no matter what I did she was going to die, although I still wish to this day there had been a way to save her. I felt so attached to each character as I watched them grow and mature as they each struggled with their own inner demons.

After I finished FF7, I ran out and bought a Playstation so I could play all the Squaresoft titles on the market. I played Parasite Eve, which, while short, had a great medical horror plot to it. Next, Brave Fencer Musashi, which is a cute action/RPG the whole family can enjoy. FF Tactics has been played, and if I ever go bald I will point to this game as the culprit. Never have I came across a game that is so frustrating yet so addictive. More hair has been pulled out in an effort to fight a certain battle just a little bit better. I even played Saga Frontier, which many point to as Squaresoft’s big RPG bomb. While definitely not as good as most of their products, I did enjoy its sort of quirky appeal. And last but not least, I played Xenogears, which I believe to be Squaresoft’s best game to date. This game’s plot is nothing short of brilliant. You play as an orphan who has to come to terms with his destiny, which is to be the slayer of God. This game almost wasn’t released in North America since quite a few of the moral majority were a little upset by the heavy religious overtones in the game. Personally, I’d rather have my kids play a game that makes them think about religion and questions their beliefs as opposed to mindlessly shooting anything that moves, but hey that’s just my opinion.

So, that brings us to the present day. Naturally, with my love of all things Squaresoft, I was very interested to see what they were showing at E3 this year. Happily I can report that it looks like some more gaming classics are coming our way in the near future.

First and foremost, as to be expected, they were hyping FF8 to the hilt. They had no less than three different areas in the Convention Center showing off their products, and they were for the most part dedicated to FF8. A short trailer for the game shows a happy, playful Rinoa leading a shy, reluctant Squall through the steps of a dance. The animation is so charming I found myself smiling as my heart remembered what it was to be young and in love. I stopped several times over the course of the three days to play a little of the game and found myself longing to get my hands on the finished product. The game boasts some of the most beautiful spell and summon effects I’ve ever seen, and if played on the Playstation, each is accompanied by a good shake from the dual shock. The characters look more lifelike than in FF7, and the cut scenes are on par with the ones in Parasite Eve, which is to say they are incredible. This game is already available in Japan and should be released on August 31, 1999 for the Playstation and in late 1999 for the PC.

Also coming in late 1999 for the Playstation is more Final Fantasy goodness with Squaresoft’s planned release of the Final Fantasy Anthology. This will consist of FF5, which has never been released in North America and is considered by many to be the best of the series, and FF6, which was released in North America as FF3. The updated version will feature all new full-motion video cut scenes and completely redone opening and closing sequences. This will be a must for Final Fantasy fans.

In early 2000, we can look forward to Saga Frontier 2. Although the first game didn’t do so well, this game is supposed to fix the flaws that plagued the first one. Like the first one, the game will let you play as several different characters in the same world, with each character following his/her own story. The game will feature beautiful hand-painted watercolor artwork and a battle system that allows for three separate modes: duel, team, or strategy.

A surprise, shown very briefly at E3, was the possibility that another Parasite Eve game is in the works. During a short movie about their upcoming games, Squaresoft very quickly flashed a picture of Aya, then the words, “she’s back.” I haven’t seen anything else about it, and it wasn’t in their press kit. But rest assured that I will keep a close eye on this and as soon as I know more I’ll report it. Also briefly shown in their movie was Chocobo’s Dungeon 2, slated for an early 2000 release. This is the sequel to Chocobo’s Mysterious Dungeon, an adventure/RPG that was never released in North America. And if after that you are still jonesing for more of those cute Chocobos, they are coming out with Chocobo Racing, which seems reminiscent of Super Mario Kart.

Well, I enjoyed sharing my memories of Squaresoft with you, and I am excited about the new products that should becoming our way soon. If you have any special gaming memories you’d like to share, {write to me} and I’ll do a follow-up article on what you, our readers, hold dear to your gaming hearts.

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