Mon, 14 November 2016
This week, we discuss the early days of our favorite game publisher/developer Square! And Enix. Enjoy!!
The History of Square-Enix - Part VII:
Last time we talked about how Square Co. become an almost exclusive Playstation game publishing company. By 1998 they had a multi-game publishing deal with Sony, and with the success of Final Fantasy VII things were looking up for the now very profitable gaming company.
Enix, although keep in mind they were a publishing-only company and made no games in-house, weren’t nearly as successful in the mid-to-late 90’s as Square Co. was. However, games weren’t the only thing Enix was selling.
Since 1991, likely due to Enix’s relationship with Akira Toriyama (the artist behind Dragon Quest and Dragon Ball), Enix began publishing a weekly Manga magazine to compete with Shonen Magazine, Shonen Jump, and Shonen Sunday. Enix’s magazine would be called “Monthly Shonen Gangan” (by the way, “shonen” means a type of magazine aimed at young men and boys). It was so successful that they published another fantasy-only magazine in 1993 called “Monthly GFantasy”. Both of these monthly Manga Publications have been selling successfully all the way up to now around Japan. You may recognize some of these names: Fullmetal Alchemist, Soul Eater, Star Ocean and other spin-off manga has been published through these magazines for series later including Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts.
In 1991 Enix also and a couple of other gaming companies in Japan helped fund the Digital Entertainment Academy Co., which is a school for game development.
Speaking of games… The first game Enix published for the Playstation? “Bust a Groove” from 1998. It was a rhythm game developed by the now-defunct “Metro Graphics”. It was enough of a success a sequel in 2000 (Bust a Groove 2), and a more obscure third game on the PS2 called “Dance Summit 2001”, which even wikipedia didn’t even know existed.
Following up the successful “Star Ocean” from 1996, Enix released “Star Ocean: The Second Story”, which was the first in the sci-fi/fantasy series released outside of Japan, and proved to be a pretty successful game with 1.09 Million copies sold worldwide.
Although we listed the games on a previous episode, I’ll reiterate once again that Enix did experiment with publishing a couple games on both the N64 and the Sega Saturn, but middling sales from both of those systems is what probably led Enix to publish exclusively on the playstation after 1996.
Square Co. during this era was pumping out games like crazy in comparison to Enix. Although it didn’t make the game, Square did publish the famous, and ahead-of-its-time, fighting game called Bushido Blade in 1997, created by “Light Weight” Studios (to be fair, they would also end up making the Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon game which is neither famous or any good). Bushido Blade would be considered one of the greatest games of all time by many publications, and sell moderately well for a 1997 title with 388,000 copies sold in Japan.
Also in 1997, Square Co. would re-release Final Fantasy IV on the Playstation, release 2 games that I couldn’t find any info on, “Power Stakes” and “Digical League”, and publish the sequel to their first Playstation game, Tobal 2.
...And then they decided to shake up the Final Fantasy series with “Final Fantasy Tactics”. Written and Directed by Yasumi Matsuno (the director who stepped down in the middle of FF12), with gameplay designed by Hiroyuki Ito (we have an episode on him btw), Tactics would be one of the strangest departures from the Final Fantasy series, yet one of the most successful and beloved with over 2.4 million copies worldwide, almost all of which went to snobby hipsters who keep reminding people that FF7 is not the best FF game, but their super-rare-totally-not-Final-Fantasy Final Fantasy is.
I kid, I’ve never played it, so I don’t know yet.
Square would continue 1997 with another addition to the Saga series with “Saga Frontier”, a moderate critical success that sold just over a million copies. A very critically successful sequel to “Front Mission”, “Front Mission 2” would sell a moderate 500,000 copies and be considered one of the best Playstation games. And you’ll forgive me for rushing through the rest of 1997, where we had an “International Version” of FF7 (whatever that means), a little-known game called “Power Stakes Grade 1”, the disappointingly unsuccessful side-scroller 16 bit-like retro-shooter “Einhander”, the forgetful “Front Mission Alternative”, and “Chocobo no Fushigi na Dungeon”, which no, we’re not playing.
Final Fantasy VII must have lit a fire under Square’s ass or something, because they would make and publish even more games in 1998, many of which are classics. They would start the year mildly, publishing a little game called “Super Live Stadium”, but would make gaming history in February with the release of “Xenogears”.
Praised for its complex psychological plot, and interesting use of anime-style artwork, Xenogears was actually one of the early pitches for the plot for Final Fantasy VII and eventually became it’s own game. It sold over 1 million copies and fans have begged for a sequel ever since.
Not to be missed, “Bushido Blade 2” would follow, along with a Playstation port of FF5 in Japan, the unknown-to-wikipedia games “Hai-Shin 2” and “Power Stakes 2”. Now here comes another mega-game…
...Based on the popular horror book (gotta be one of the first games based on a popular modern book, right?), the survival-horror RPG game “Parasite Eve” would make quite the splash as a serious and cinematic game, praised for its storytelling, and selling almost 2 Million copies to date.
Not all things can be hits though, the critically-panned Sokaigi would follow, as well as some other not-too-noteworthy games like FF7’s Windows port, Brave Fencer Musashi (forgotten, but it sold ok), “Another Mind”, which is supposed to be really bizzarre game with still photos of actors and shit in a horror game…., yeah…., “Ehrgeize”, the apparently mediocre fighting game which is most notable for its inclusion of FF7 characters, “Chocobo Dungeon 2”, and “iS - Internal Section” which is a “tube shooter” game, like space invaders.
With the classics released in 1997 and 1998, Enix was doing pretty wall, but Square Co. was creating a fucking lagacy. And that legacy would only become more solidified in February 1999 with Final Fantasy VIII.
THE REMIX: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xoPLHBhCRqQ
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