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Has Square lost their magic touch?

One company is known worldwide for incredibly deep stories, involving characters you actually care about, in worlds where miracles happen, the good guys win in the end, and fantasy becomes reality. This company is Square. Since the original Final Fantasy was released for the NES on December 18, 1987, Square has made a name for itself by releasing the greatest Role Playing Games in the world of consoles. Their early years were spent developing for Nintendo on the NES, SNES, and GameBoy Platforms.

Although Square attempted to branch off into other genres of gaming, they could never match the quality of their RPG titles. In the US and around the world, Square is mostly known for the Final Fantasy and Chrono Trigger series. While they are known for these titles, Japanese gamers have had the privilege of many other quality series that never were even considered as candidates for release outside of Japan. Even to this day, hardcore RPG fans long to play these older Square RPGs in English.

After a lengthy relationship with Nintendo, things got rocky and Square left the "Nintendo fold" for the greener pastures of the Sony Playstation. Once there, work quickly began on their masterpiece, Final Fantasy VII. For the first time in Square's history, gameplay and storyline were not the central topic, as they began speaking about better graphics and a more "move-like" experience for the player.

The release of Final Fantasy VII was a turning point for Square, the Playstation, and the RPG community. For the first time in the history of the genre, an RPG was being marketed to the masses outside of Japan. As Final Fantasy VII quickly rose to top of sales charts worldwide, Sony finally had one of the first "must have" games in the 32 bit era that ultimately brought them a mass of developer and consumer support to the Playstation. Soon after the release of Final Fantasy VII, the hard core fans of the series began to grumble about the lack of quality within Final Fantasy VII. Players in the US were disappointed with the poor translation of the title, which caused the game to be more of a chore than an epic Role Playing Classic that Square was known for.

Soon after Final Fantasy VII, Square began developing more titles on the Playstation and they began releasing worldwide. No longer content to be just an RPG developer, Square began developing and publishing fighters, sports games, action/RPGs, action games, racing games, etc. While the titles were enjoyable, each successive game released seemed to not be nearly as polished and complete as prior titles. In fact, a quick look at the titles developed by Square revealed that they were working on so many projects that all of their resources were spent in developing more games instead of polishing and ensuring that all their titles were quality games. For the first time in Square's history, players could no longer just go out and buy the latest Square game, trusting in their reputation to only release quality titles. Square was now content to just release a game and put it on the shelves to sell.

This downward trend in Square titles continues to this day. Although their latest Role Playing Game, Final Fantasy IX, was an attempt to please the hardcore Square fans, it is only a faint glimpse at the fantasy-filled worlds of past Square titles. Is it possible for Square to continue in being a dominant console developer if they continue to stretch their resources thin by releasing numerous average titles? As their recent Q1 earnings show, Square has reported their first unprofitable quarter in their history. Perhaps this will be a wake up call to one of the greatest console RPG developers֠However, if they continue on this path of ignoring quality, Square hopes at staying a profitable company will turn into their "final fantasy."

By Kaleb Rutherford - 01/09/02

Screenshots for Has Square lost their magic touch?

NFL QB Club 2002

Final Fantasy X