New Beginnings for Square Enix?

Once again, the annual Electronic Entertainment Expo (more commonly known as E3) has come and gone and this year more so than in recent years, the event has left us with much to talk about. Obviously, the biggest news was essentially Sony’s announcement that the PS4 would be DRM-less and priced at $100 less than the Xbox One, subsequently destroying Microsoft in the PR war and sending Microsoft backtracking on their own DRM policies. Then there’s The Division and Metal Gear Solid 5 which, from the amount of coverage they’ve gotten, look like the games of E3 (they certainly look it). But the news that’s been lost in the shuffle (well, sort of) and has me personally most excited, was Square Enix revealing Final Fantasy XV (formerly known as Final Fantasy Versus XIII) and Kingdom Hearts III.

Now, you might ask, of all of the games announced for E3, why single out these two games in particular? Well, first of all, look at the gameplay! Graphically Final Fantasy XV  just looks impressive and at the very least, there’s plenty of flair and flash in the trailer. I mean, I know it’s just a trailer and it’s supposed to look good, but don’t you just want to jump into Noctis’ shoes and go kick some ass? I know I do!

Then there’s Kingdom Hearts III. The two main Kingdom Hearts games are probably two of my top 10 if not top 5 games of all time. I’ve always thought that the controls were one of the more innovative ones. They give you enough that you can go about the game is somewhat different ways and yet don’t hinder you during the action. The other thing about the Kingdom Hearts games is that, crappy dubbing aside, the games have always felt like a grand journey. It always felt bittersweet, because by the time I beat the game I’d felt like I achieved something and that we had come to an end. At the same time, I felt like I’d gone on this journey with Sora and Donald and Goofy, and I wasn’t quite ready for it to end either.

But let’s put all that aside for a moment. What I’m really excited about is that with the new generation of consoles, this is hopefully Square Enix deciding to kick things off in a positive direction.  And let’s be honest, this current generation of consoles really hasn’t treated them well (or maybe it would be more appropriate to say that they haven’t treated this generation well).

In the eight years of this current generation of consoles, Square has gone from being one of the most revered gaming companies to being one of the most disappointing. I tend to be a Square apologist and typically give them benefit of the doubt every time a new game comes out. But even I have to say that the recent string of Final Fantasy games have been rather disappointing.

It’s not that the games are particularly bad, it’s just that they don’t stand out. Everyone has their own favorites among the Final Fantasy series. But I’d be hard pressed to to find anyone that would say Final Fantasy X, X-2, XIII or XIII-2 as their favorite games.  All of the characters just seem bland and formulaic. It’s like every game is trying to re-hash a new version of Cloud or Squall (Actually, Noctis looks like he falls into that category too. But at least he looks like he has a bit of a back story).

While we’re on the subject of these numbered sequel Final Fantasy games, was there ever a clamor for these sequels? Maybe I’m not in tune with the popular sentiment or the people I talk to are just too hardcore, but I’ve never gotten the feeling that fans wanted or cared about an epilogue for Final Fantasy X or Final Fantasy XIII.

But therein lies the problem. Square never really seemed to understand their fans. Rather than putting out the best story with the best characters, they opted for a commercial appeal, concentrating on making the best looking characters with the best graphics. With Kingdom Hearts III (a sequel that fans HAVE been asking for) and Final Fantasy XV (the Final Fantasy XIII sequel that the fans were waiting for) hopefully this means that Square will start taking fans opinions into consideration and get things right for this new generation.