Dear Square Enix, please go back to churning out JRPGs. Thanks.

Okay, I suppose a little justification for that is in order.

It may have escaped the notice of less astute gamers (Those who simply look for the amount of blood and tits a game has and nothing else), that Square Enix's name is appearing on a lot of titles lately, and not the standard JRPG titles that SE is known and (at least partly) loved for. This is due in part to Square acquiring companies, including Eidos interactive as well as entering into deals with developers such as Gas Powered Games (The brilliant guys behind supreme commander, one of my favourite RTS titles ever), and Avalanche studios (Relative newcomers but quite popular).

In and of itself, there's nothing wrong with this. Developers and publishers merge and split all the time, sometimes for good, sometimes for ill. Often the most hotly contested issue in such events though is how it will effect the games.

Case in point, Westwood studios. Westwood are the guys who created Command and Conquer and the various sequels to said game. They where bought up by EA, and then released what is in my opinion their opus, Tiberian Sun (Another all time favourite). Afterwards however, due to a long and complex story involving money and EA being stupid wankers (at the time), Westwood was dissolved and absorbed into EA. The Command and Conquer series went on to become a souless husk- still very good games but lacking any of the charm and character of the Westwood titles. Until CnC 4 which of course sucks donkeys.

The problem I have is that Square Enix have only ever been good at one thing- JRPGs. Now, in the videogames industry there is nothing wrong with being a one trick pony. For example, if I see a JRPG with Square Enix written on it, I know it's probably going to be a pretty good title. Likewise, if I see Rockstar's name on something, I will buy it because Rockstar are currently the Gods of gaming. In contrast, I have no idea what to expect when I see EA's name on something.

So what happens when a company who focuses mainly on publishing JRPGs branches out? Well, so far nothing good.

There was supreme commander 2, the bastard love child of SupCom 1 and CnC (in all fairness not a terrible game, but certainly a less than worthy successor). There was Nier, which I maintain is still an atrocity against gaming (but not as bad as Vampire Rain though). What else do we have... ah yes, Just Cause 2.

I hear a thousand angry gamers getting ready to flame the comments section. But honestly, I found Just Cause 2 to be utterly boring. It's possibly one of the worst sandbox iterations I have ever played. Why? Because NOTHING HAPPENS. So much time is wasted travelling around the ludicrously huge map that I just get bored shitless and turn it off. Trying to make something happen just results in a dull by the numbers firefight against a constant stream of enemies until you get bored and go back to what you where doing.

Even when you are blowing stuff up it feels boring and uninvolving. There's never enough ammo for a start, and given the crappy auto aim, that's an issue. You never seem to have enough explosives meaning you need to spend ages emptying clips into things, furthering the ammo problem, and to be honest the entire combat just feels... clunky. A good action game should flow, you should be able to move from point to point, shooting targets, switching weapons and doing whatever you need to do without feeling as though you need to wrestle with the game to get it to co operate. Red Dead Redemption, Gears of War and (especially) Arkham Asylum all managed to do this, as did Mass Effect 1 & 2 to a slightly lesser extent. Just Cause 2 feels horrible in comparison to these games.

I don't know, maybe I just suck at it, but there's no appeal there for me to practise and get good at it. Now when most of my time is spent wondering around doing sweet f### all. And yes, I know there's a fast travel system... but doesn't that defy the point of a sandbox? If you'd always prefer to use the fast travel system, then why bother creating a big open world to explore in the first place? In Just Cause 2's defence though, I was playing Red Dead Redemption too, and compared with that any game goes down a few pegs.

Anyway, back on topic Square Enix's acquisition and partnership of/with several companies means their name is getting around, and sadly I think many of the games are sub par. My reckoning is that this can be attributed to what I call “I Know Better” syndrome. IKB is very common, especially among managers and editors who think they know people's jobs better than the person doing them. It's best explained through example.

Let's say you're a publishing company and want to make more money by buying a smaller company who is producing profitable games. After the acquisition do you:
A) Get High
B) Let them keep making money for you.
C) Interfere with the way they work and change the product.

Organisations suffering from IKB will do C. Anyone with half a brain will do B (possibly followed by A). The reason you bought the company was because it was successful- why would you want to change what they're doing when they're clearly doing it right?

My EA being wankers remark earlier is linked to this.
“Hey, we bought Westwood, a company that makes great RTS games!”
“Brilliant, have them make an FPS Game!”
(not much time later)
“The FPS game flopped.”
“What? Clearly these guys are not profitable after all! Seize all the intellectual property and get rid of the company!”

Wankers. Total, utter wankers.

IKB isn't just linked to the videogame industry though, You can see it in comic books and other media too, when people further up the chain screw with people further down just for the sake of trying to give their little lives reason.

Now I don't think Square Enix is that bad. For one thing, none of this 'new wave' has been awful, and Nier was developed by Cavia, the people behind Bullet Witch (Which I've not played, but has been condemned by everyone who's opinion I care about). So you can't blame SE for that one.

It just really, really worries me that SE are doing such a hamfisted job with these new titles. Even if they aren't developing them, as publishers they have a lot of control over what the final product is like, meaning whether it's brilliant or balls, they need to shoulder some of the blame. Let your companies do their thing in peace. Or if that's the approach you're taking (as I suspect may be the case with Nier), then give them a kick up the jacksee. I don't know how Square Enix is operating at the moment, but they 'aint making great games.

To be fair, it's not like they've brought many franchise down a notch- yet. Remember that Square Enix own the rights to Tomb Raider and Hitman. Not so big on Ms Croft, but I'm a big fan of number 47, and I'd hate to see his games brought down a few notches.

On the other hand, that does offer some great cross over potential...
“Hello 47, I hope you are recovered from your last mission. Your new target is a young man hiding in the dream-future-past. You will recognize him by his crappy lederhosen, sub size T-shirt and Meg Ryan hair. He answers to the name of Tidus...”

That would KICK ASS.

But if you're still not worried about the fact that Square Enix seems to be swimming in too deep water, and cocking up other people's titles- remember this.

They own the rights to Deus Ex.

And Deus Ex 3 is in the works at the moment of writing, being developed by (the SE owned) Eidos and published by Square Enix.

I'll leave you with that thought.

1 Response to "Dear Square Enix, please go back to churning out JRPGs. Thanks."

  1. Evis T says:

    Oh, it springs to mind that there is one thing you are certain to get when you buy a square enix game these days - really pretty menus!

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