Some developers draw inspiration from a particular genre. Electronic Arts built up some of the most successful franchises in the sports world, Id Software concentrated mainly on first person shooters like DOOM and Wolfenstein, and Lucasarts grew its fan base by creating excellent adventure games. Square Enix falls into this category as well. Their area of expertise is the RPG.
As many already know, Square and Enix started their relationship under very different circumstances than today. They were originally rivals in Japan, vying for the attention of RPG consumers in a very competitive market.
Enix made its big splash with the Dragon Quest series (known as Dragon Warrior to Western audiences). The NES game would introduce many characters, weapons, and plot lines that still appear in the series today. It turned out to be hugely successful for Enix and gave them a foothold in the Japanese role-playing game market.
What’s interesting is that Enix didn’t actually develop these games themselves. The creation process of the first five Dragon Quest games was handled by a company known as Chunsoft. Enix would merely act as publisher and maintain the copyrights.
Square, on the other hand, was a publisher. During the company’s toddler years there was the danger of having to declare bankruptcy due to some unsuccessful early releases. This impending doom led Hironobu Sakaguchi to name their last entry into the gaming industry Final Fantasy, a name that was selected to signify the company’s inevitable demise. However, the game proved to be successful, and Square was saved from the chopping block.
Many consider Final Fantasy to be the pinnacle of any role-playing series available. Fans of the FF releases could debate for hours which game has the best story line, most useless power-up, or most annoying character. Final Fantasy is one of the most loved franchises in the history of videogames and it continues to grow to this day.
Genre lines have been crossed, movies have been made, and figurines have been manufactured. Final Fantasy has gone from a last attempt at success to a household name. And through the years, the talented people at Square have been there to steer their ship into areas of new discovery.
Games like Secret of Mana, Chrono Trigger, Front Mission and Kingdom Hearts pushed role-playing genre into new territory, while Final Fantasy kept sailing on with new plot situations, battle systems, and characters. But that’s not to say that Square always had to stay within the RPG genre. The company had great success with the car racing classic Rad Racer on the Nintendo Entertainment System. They also made a nice addition to the survival horror genre with the Parasite Eve games on the Sony Playstation. But for the most part, Square has continued to create what comes naturally to them– RPGs.
On April Fools Day in 2003, Square and Enix made one of the biggest mergers in video game history. The two rivals would shake hands (or bow, actually) and continue their monopolizing of the JRPG market as an unstoppable duo. The absorption of Square by Enix would bring together two of the most influential companies in gaming history, and fuse two of the most well-loved and respected catalogs by any company found in Japan or abroad.
What the future holds is yet to be seen. But if the past is any judge, these fantasies aren’t showing any signs of finality.
Final Fantasy III (SNES),
Final Fantasy VII (PS),
Secret of Mana (SNES),
Dragon Quest IV (NES)
Chocobo Racing (PS)