The 5 Most Quintessential Squaresoft Titles
Whenever people fantasize about having a time machine, their destinations are usually ancient Greece, the Jurassic period or the future. We, for example, would love to go back to the time Square Enix was called Squaresoft.Luckily for nostalgic gamers like us, as no time-traveling devices are available yet, we can go back and replay these classics, which is almost as good… or read this article, remember or discover these gems, and get ready to hit the “buy” button as soon as PSN is back online. Get ready your nostalgia goggles, ’cause here we go!
Squaresoft, mostly remembered for its RPGs, was one of the pioneers in the field of making characters relatable, giving them personalities, dialog, and making the player care about them. Sometimes with better results than others, their stories would involve the player sinking several hours into the game, going deep into the characters motivations, fears, or reasons for going on this adventure, usually all the while expressing the true worth of friendship, freedom, love, or whatever the story required: we’re basically talking about the company who single-handedly created the JRPG idea as we understand it today.
Parasite Eve might be one of Squaresoft’s most unfairly forgotten classics: the first game wasn’t even released in Europe, and just barely made it to North America, while the third (“The Third Birthday”) arrived to the west and PSN just recently, only after three generations of consoles (from PSX until the current PSP). The game mixed a typical overworld system of JRPGs with combat that was a mixture of Third-Person Shooter and RPG, where the player moved freely to dodge enemies, yet chose attacks from a menu.
The Story was about Aya, a NYPD cop who sees a theater burst into flames while attending the Opera; it turns out the singer transforms into a monster at the play’s climax and sets everyone in the room except Aya on fire. As Aya chases after this mysterious woman throughout New York, the player learns a bit about her family, her (deceased) twin sister, and past. Also, Aya is quite cute for a pixelated, polygonal construction.
Xenogears was a game that had it all: incredible dialog and argument, fantastically written characters, a battle-system that involved either combos in a Chrono Cross fashion (albeit a bit more intuitive), or huge mechs for the player to control. What the game lacked was a proper budget: the second disc is now famous because of how the saga feels rushed to some, absolutely on rails, and that it removes the player of all the freedom it had on the first disc.
Despite this, the game absolutely shines thanks to its 3d environments where the characters have the ability to jump on the map, its anime aesthetics, the fantastic mech design, and the fact that this is one of the few games of its time where it’s implied that characters had sex (gasp!).
Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars
If you ever needed a reason to hack your PS3/PSP and get an emulator and some roms, this should be it: starred by Nintendo’s own mascot, Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars is a game unlike any other in the series, a true RPG experience. Sure, Mario doesn’t ever open his mouth and it’s pretty much his sidekicks who do the talking for him, but that’s not so uncommon for JRPGs after all, right? Also, in this game you get to control Bowser, Toadstool and the newcomers Geno and Mallow.
The vastness of the world combined with the superb soundtrack by Nobuo Uematsu make this game an absolute gem. Also, the combat system makes good use of timing to dodge attacks, a system that was sort of mimicked later in the Mario & Luigi games.
If you haven’t played Chrono Trigger by now, go and do it. Chrono Trigger is not only one of Squaresoft’s gems, but also one of the most beloved games of all time. No wonder, though, with Hironobu Sakaguchi (creator of Final Fantasy) as director, Akira Toriyama (the mastermind behind Dragon Ball), Yuji Horii (creator of Dragon Quest), and a superb soundtrack by Yasunori Mitsuda and Nobuo Uematsu, the all-star team that worked on it all gave their best, which ended up as an absolute masterpiece.
Chrono Trigger tells the story of Crono, a boy from a small town, celebrating the advent of the year 1000. He and the princess of the kingdom end up travelling 400 years to the past because of an incident at the fair, and with time travelling as a recurrent mechanic, end up discovering there’s a huge parasitic life-form called Lavos awaiting to eventually devour the planet. While the story might seem anecdotal at best, Chrono Trigger did a bunch of things well: all of the characters could combine forces in double and triple techs, and this interaction was even shown outside battle, where every character was relevant in every scene. This, summed with the multiple endings (about 13, all in all) gave the player enough incentive for multiple playthroughs. Also, every character was brilliant and relatable, and thanks to Toriyama’s design, the characters looked great yet shined because of their great dialog and not their looks or the amount of skin shown, which is particularly true for the three protagonist girls.
Final Fantasy VII
You knew it was coming, there’s no way to mention classics without mentioning Final Fantasy VII, AKA “everyone and their mother’s first RPG”. The 7th entry of the series, hailed by some as the greatest videogame of all time, had the tough job of following the acclaimed Final Fantasy VI and Chrono Trigger, as well as being Squaresoft’s first game for the debutant PlayStation 1; it was the first game in the series to use the now trademark FMVs, as well as moving away from the catridge system to CDs, while trying a more introspective story of overcoming oneself, and what Cloud, the main character, used to think of himself. All the while, he’s surrounded by some of the most remembered sidekicks and antagonist of the series. We also get to see the death of one of the main characters, which sets the angsty-dark tone for the rest of the series, halfway through this game.
Thanks to its incredible success, a bunch of fans blame it for changing the “feel” of the Final Fantasy series and making it pretentious, while others claim that it’s only after FFVII that JRPGs started telling stories about real human emotion instead of just having the characters run from town 1 to town 2 doing nothing but getting into random fights. On top of that, the thought of a remake has divided the waters amongst fans, and while some would love to see the outdated polygons in full HD in a proper remake, some are afraid a redesign might screw up all the things done well the first time around. I have to confess that an eventual remake would worry me, particularly because of the humor present throughout the game; with all the angst seen in the prequels, spin-offs and sequels, it’s hard to say if they’d be able to retain the original feel. No matter what anyone else thinks, though, Final Fantasy VII remains forever a cult classic and Squaresoft’s most remembered game.