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An Open Letter To Square Enix: We Need To Break Up

On 07/17/2013 at 10:21 AM by Ryan Bunting

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How I Miss the Squaresoft Logo

This logo will forever be a reminder of what Square Enix isn't

Dear SquareEnix,

                I know that you’re aware of our recent struggles in our relationship, and I know you don’t mean to do the things that you do, but it would seem that you keep making the same mistakes over and over again, then complain about profit loss. In the beginning, we were so happy together – you made Final Fantasy, a game that changed lives, and you took that momentum to create amazing RPG’s on the Super Nintendo – they were legendary. I immediately was immersed in Final Fantasy 4, with Yoshitaka Amano’s artwork, with its seductive watercolor style, Nobuo Uematsu’s near unparalleled compositions, and most importantly of all, Hiroyuki Ito’s “Active Time Battle.” The character-driven plot was incredible, and shaped the way you would craft other titles, Like Final Fantasy 5 – bringing back the job system, and Final Fantasy 6, arguably your apex of the series.

Final Fantasy 6/3 US - Doomgaze

"I'm coming to cast Level 5 Doom on your future profit margins!"

                Eventually, once the Playstation came out, you were brave and ambitious – with titles completely out of left field! You had underrated gems like Einhander, killer titles like Xenogears, and others such as Parasite Eve, Brave Fencer Musashi, Ehrgeiz (though developed by DreamFactory), Threads of Fate, and Vagrant Story. These were games that weren’t Final Fantasy, but managed to wow gamers and garner dedicated followings large and small. Where did this passion go? Where did your sense of exploration go? You’ve been making missteps constantly, and I’m worried about you. I’ve learned to let Final Fantasy 8 and 9 slide, as while I didn’t like them, there seemed to be many that did – but you took all of the things you did wrong in both those games, and wrapped them up in one package with Final Fantasy 10, which to me, is where your path to self destruction started.

Raining on Present Day Square Enix HQ

Pictured: Present Day Square Enix HQ

                It was with the release of that game that I knew our relationship was taking a turn for the worse. You had Tidus, quite possibly your worst protagonist yet – who may even rival the atrocious Vaan from 12 (I AM BASCH VON RONSENBURG OF DALMASCA!), who makes the game nearly unplayable in his own right. The “Sphere Grid” is basically the precursor to the god-awful Crystarium system used in 13, which was slow, convoluted, and annoying. These traits, of course, inherited from the Sphere Grid. While the voice acting was okay, the dialogue was horrendous, and you eliminated overworld traveling by chocobo and controlling the airship – two big errors. The worst mistake of all (which again set the standard for future titles) was the game’s linearity. While this doesn’t seem to go into account as much for say, Final Fantasy 12, which was relatively open (I’d say refreshingly open, though overall I don’t count FF12 as a success), you took linearity to an entirely new level with Final Fantasy 13.

FF13 Hallways

"Oh man where do I go next?! Oh yeah, straight."

                How many hallways do I have to run down to get to the next boss battle followed by a cutscene? Hundreds apparently – I played through until I got to Gran Pulse, which is about as open as the game has been so far, and I just can’t stomach it anymore. I don’t like to hate on the guy, but Tetsuya Nomura should not be main character designer anymore – everything is riddled with belts and zippers, the hair colors are even crazier than the most oddball anime character you can imagine, the clothing designs make absolutely no logical sense, and it makes the characters unappealing even before you hear the nauseating voice acting. I needn’t go into details on the story, because honestly I had stopped caring about it about halfway through my play time, as words like “l’Cie” and “Fal’Cie” made me want to reach for the nearest living thing and strangle it.

Chrono Trigger: Giga Gaia Fight

"No worries, you can just Triple Raid the shit out of my face next turn."

                I’m not going to ask you to make something that rivals the likes of Final Fantasy 6 or Chrono Trigger, because at this point by comparison to your most recent titles, they’ll forever be immortalized in the fans eyes as “When Square was still good.” What I will say is this – listen to the fans. You won’t be able to please everyone, and there will be people who have unbelievably high standards set for you – and it’s understandable, but don’t worry about attaining such a high goal, but take note of your missteps. Take a different approach to creating your characters – look back at what you did right with Kain and Cecil, or Terra and Locke, and take those ideas into account. You teased fans with your PS3 tech demo showing off the introduction of Final Fantasy VII, why not go on full force with it? I know in the past we’ve seen you say things like “It would take 90 years to remake Final Fantasy VII” and “We don’t like to make money,” but why not? You’ve got the resources – make it happen. What about the ever-so-neglected Chrono series? All you’ve done is port it to mobile devices, and while the DS port was great, that’s ALL YOU’VE DONE WITH IT. Chrono Cross was great, why not continue the story? If you put the same amount of effort into a new Chrono title that you put into issuing cease and desists to incredible non-profit fan titles, you could have had one by now. How about all of the Enix intellectual property you have access to? You could make a new ActRaiser, Terranigma, Illusion of Gaia, E.V.O., or hell Robotrek – all of these great, beloved games at your finger tips – yet you choose to completely ignore them and keep milling out substandard Final Fantasy games.

First World Problems

How I've felt after buying every Final Fantasy after VII pretty much.

                Our relationship is now at the point where if we were on Facebook, it would be “Complicated,” and I’m at my wits end. I used to get excited for new Square games, but for the past decade, they’ve all been let downs. You refuse to see things from different perspectives, and you refuse to see the big picture. You ignore the fans (though for some reason, there’s actually a fan base for the Final Fantasy 13 “series”) and have now alienated your core audience that have been following you since the late 80’s/early 90’s. I don’t know how to put this, but I think we need to go our separate ways. I’ll always hold onto the memories of when you were innovative, and crafted deep, immersive gameplay experiences, and I’ll cherish them – but you’re not what you once were, and since you seem destined to continue down your poisonous path, I can’t continue down it with you. Goodbye for now, SquareEnix, if you ever decide to wake the fuck up, grow a pair, and pull your drowning company up to the surface, I’ll happily put my faith back in you, but for now, like Nomura’s character designs, my faith in you is looking like complete shit, and (with any luck) probably ruining your day.



Julian Titus Senior Editor

07/17/2013 at 10:27 AM

Good piece. I completely disagree with everything you say about X, but to each his own.

I'm just curious how you can begin by saying how much you love the SNES Final Fantasy games and not like FF IX. At the time, people hated that game because it "wasn't a real Final Fantasy game." Those people of course had only played VII and VIII up to that point.

Matt Snee Staff Writer

07/17/2013 at 10:35 AM

IX is my favorite.  Tongue Out

Ryan Bunting Staff Alumnus

07/17/2013 at 10:36 AM

I've given every Final Fantasy game a chance, but a lot of them fell flat. VIII wasn't entirely bad, the focus on the love story was new and exciting, but it had a degree of linearity to it, and overall I wasn't a fan of the junction system - everything was overly complex and I ended up spending more time dicking around with that than playing the game.  For FF IX, I liked the game right up until the very end - "Necron" was a bullshit cop-out deus ex machina that completely negated any effort to make the story before it successful. Kuja would have been a fine last boss, and that could have been it, but it was pretty much another "Cloud of Darkness." Final Fantasy X just annoyed the shit out of me through every step of the game. I ended up just playing Blitz Ball most of the time, as to me, it was the game's only redeeming factor, then the fact that a X-2 even existed completely blew smoke up my ass. I liked the fact that each installment of Final Fantasy was a different story, with the only relation to others possibly being a character named Cid, but X-2 put an end to that, and now we have 26 planned "Lightning" games. I'm slightly biased purely because I grew up playing the SNES and early PS1 Square RPG's, which was absolutely their Golden Age, and now their modern games just don't even compare because they focus too much on the gamers that have small attention spans and need things to have huge explosions and look pretty. They put effort in the wrong places, and now are in a habit of making sub par RPG's if you can even call them that. FF13 has what they like to call "Active Time Battle" but it's a shadow of its former self. "Auto Fight?" Are you fucking kidding me? Full heal after every battle? Come the fuck on - that worked in The Last Remnant, but they really need to stop pandering to the gamers who say "Oh I can't manage to use healing items in and out of battle to make sure I don't get obliterated in a dungeon" or "I don't feel like leveling up my characters, so just scale everything so that I can coast through the game."


07/17/2013 at 10:50 AM

I've always been amazed how quickly Square squashes the tribute projects by its most ardent fans. THOSE ARE YOUR BIGGEST SUPPORTERS, SQUARE! Also, more Chrono games, please.

Ryan Bunting Staff Alumnus

07/17/2013 at 11:17 AM

Seriously - it's like, these fans are using their knowledge and skills to create something that's a dedication and support for one of YOUR games, purely because they love it so much - and you're going to squash it? It's no threat to their intellectual property, they're not doing it for profit, they're doing it becaus they love the characters, they love the setting and the story, and they end up getting put under Square Enix's thumb.


07/17/2013 at 10:54 AM

I did not grow up playing RPGs, so my histroy with FF is very spotty.  I have played a portion of FF, nearly finished FF IV, hope to finally get through IV, I beat VII, played through two discs of IX and that is about as far into the series as I have gotten.

I do not think that it is just FF that is the problem.  I think that a large portion of square's output recently has been questionable more often than not.  Which is presicely why this open letter is to square, and not to FF. 

Ryan Bunting Staff Alumnus

07/17/2013 at 11:18 AM

Exactly - I emphasized the FF series purely because it's their largest one (obviously) and the facty that it's been on such a downward spiral as of late.

Chris Yarger Community Manager

07/17/2013 at 10:55 AM

I hated 8 with a burning passion, and I still do.. But 9 will always be my all-time favorite of the series. I just loved the world and the characters.

Ryan Bunting Staff Alumnus

07/17/2013 at 11:19 AM

I wasn't a fan of Zidane as a character, but the rest of the characters were pretty loveable, and the worlds were beautifully crafted, it's just that damn Necron ending left an awful taste in my mouth.


07/17/2013 at 11:19 AM

My brother kept going on and on about FF 14 the other day. I simply can't get excited for new Final Fantasy games anymore. I could tolerate 13 some what, but the sequel was absolutely atrocious. I don't even know how I made it through it honestly. I've seen better endings in NES games! Yell

Ah well. At least there's always the classics to go back to right?

Ryan Bunting Staff Alumnus

07/17/2013 at 11:20 AM

Pretty much! I don't let myself get excited for Final Fantasy games anymore, because then the let down is so big, and it's all just wasted energy. They really need to get their shit together.

The classics will always be there for us haha.


07/17/2013 at 12:09 PM

I'm with Chris and Matt in that IX is probably my favourite FF. But I also loved X and XII having logged well over 100 hours in each of those games.

Sadly XIII may have been the last Final Fantasy I'll ever play. I've tried it from the beginning 3 times and I think chapter 5 is as far as I've reached. 

Ryan Bunting Staff Alumnus

07/17/2013 at 01:10 PM

I thoroughly enjoyed FF12 - but not as a Final Fantasy. I treated that game as its own separate entity from the get-go, and I feel like it allowed me to enjoy it for what it was, and I had a good time setting up gambits to automatically grind for me overnight :P


07/17/2013 at 12:49 PM

I dunno, I guess I have a split opinion on this. I guess it's cause I'm a newer gamer than probably all of you, and my earliest gaming memories were not the classics, but rather the early PS2 era. Strangely, I have almost all of the Final Fantasy games except for the PS2 era ones. Tongue Out But I digress, I love Square Enix to death, but sometimes I just get tired of them trying to be what they aren't. Square Enix is a JAPANESE company, but they are trying to appeal to WESTERN gamers, when the truth is, most western gamers would rather be playing a more Japanese Final Fantasy then watered down explosion after explosion. 13, for me was not a really enjoyable game. The lore is really cool and interesting if you are into that stuff, but none of it is explained in the game, and the only way you would know about it is if you went through the tedious menus and spent a day on the FF wiki. I, strangely, have the unadultered patience to go through all of that and I found the story actually pretty cool, but I can see why others wouldn't find it as interesting as I did. I think that in their quest to make the series more accesible, they actually made it more inaccesible. Frown

But blaming Nomura on all of FF's problems is just silly, he's a good game maker in his own right, case in point, The World Ends With You, Kingdom Hearts, and FF7. Albeit he sometimes gets a bit carried away. 

And if a reviewer who said that FF versus 13 would save Final Fantasy pans FF15 for being too action oriented instead of turn based, I literally gonna flip my shit. You knew it KH style gameplay from the VERY BEGINING STAHP COMPLAINING.

Ryan Bunting Staff Alumnus

07/17/2013 at 01:09 PM

I don't blame Nomura for all of their problems, but I blame him for horrid character design. Zippers and belts and more zippers and a few more belts. It gets tiresome. They need to take their ideas from the 16 bit era that worked, adapt them for modern gaming, and make a real jRPG - stick to their roots while still bringing something new to the table. But they won't - so I'm not holding my breath.


07/17/2013 at 01:37 PM

Haha, yeah, sometimes the belts and zippers are a bit tiresome, but like I said, my earliest gaming memories were with Kingdom Hearts, which is like the great grandaddy of outlandish character design. I sort of have like an immune system built up for it, and I don't really find it that ridiculous anymore. At least he isn't part of the team working on FF14, which is actually shaping up to be very good.The classics are great and all, and some of them rank on my all time favorites list, but I mean, times change. I don't think that it is likely that SQ will return to the style of older games.


07/17/2013 at 01:18 PM

In the mean time, the only way I can get that 'old skool' FF fix is with roms, remakes or the new MMO 'A Realm Reborn'. Even with 13 it seemed SE was trying to strip away that battle menu in favor of a more hack n slash action game as evident from the latest Lightning Returns and FF15 trailers. I try not to compare each game to the last, as that will just lead to disappointment and try to find something I like about each game. 

For example, Final Fantasy 8 was so strange and mysterious in its story, art design and music. I still scratch my head over it and read plenty of conspiracy theories about its meaning. I'm actually playing through it again right now. It' very odd but I'm still glad the game exists though. 

A Realm Reborn seems to have all the things I like about the FF games: a more traditional fantasy setting, classic classes and jobs, an enormous world to explore, character customization, classic enemies and bosses, music, art direction, etc.   The only chance of getting games similar to SNES days is in remakes unfortunately, so I'm not going to sit around and wait. I'm just going to jump into whatever is closest to it, which happens to be an MMO. Oh well! Cry 


07/17/2013 at 07:31 PM

I read an article that said they can't make a new Chrono game because it's too political. I'd love to see what the reason is. Anyway, I mostly agree with you. I don't want FF to be inspired by Call of Duty. V13/ FF15 isn't looking all that great to me so far.

Ryan Bunting Staff Alumnus

07/25/2013 at 08:38 AM

I don't get that, I can kind of understand why they wouldn't be able to faithfully remake FF7, due to 1.) Becoming a member of Avalanche, a terrorist group, that B.) Uses explosives to destroy Mako Reactors, leading Shinra to destroy the pillar supporting the plate, murdering everyone in Sector 7, and C.) This is SquareEnix we're talking about.

Cary Woodham

07/17/2013 at 07:32 PM

Yeah I really enjoyed Square back in the 16-bit days.  Every game they made, I liked.  It was a bit spotty for me in the 32-bit era.  I didn't titles like Xenogears and Parasite Eve, but it was OK because they still had great stuff like Brave Fencer Musashi and FF9.  But after that, hardly anything interested me at all.  Kind of strange to think about since I was such a Square fan back in the 16-bit days when I was in high school.

However, one of their games was my GOTY for last year: Theatrhythm: Final Fantasy for 3DS!

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