For over 25 years, square has contributed to the things that i enjoy, and the games they produce have had a large influence in my character, my stories and even the way I see the world. I have been playing video games since I first touched an Atari 2600 in the mid eighties. The industry really changed in 1985 when Nintendo shipped the first units of their Nintendo Entertainment System to North America. Numerous companies began developing for the system, putting out various titles and styles. One of them was Square. Founded in 1983 by Masashi Miyamoto, it was a division of Den-Yu-Sha until 1987 when it became independent.
While the company has made other games, even then, it is most notably known for the overwhelming success of the Final Fantasy Series. Nobuo Uematsu the head composer for many of the series’ soundtracks said there were to reasons for choosing the name Final. The head developer, Hironobu Sakaguchi would have quit the game industry had the series not sold well and the more notable story, Final Fantasy could have been Square’s last production. At the time though, Square didn’t have confidence in the genre and only have the success of Dragon Quest, was the game green lighted. Dragon Quest, in America was called Dragon Warrior and it was published by Enix which would later become one company with Square.
Heavily influenced by Dungeons and Dragons, the developers incorporating western aspects that traditionally weren’t in Japanese RPGs at the time. It consisted of light and dark, magical crystals and races such as elf, dwarf and other common fantasy tropes. It also allowed for a selection of different classes which made the game more for individual choices. As you could only have four characters but six classes to choose from. With that success, while Square has never abandoned the series, it has provided them the ability to delve out into other stories including, what is arguably one of the greatest games ever made, Chrono Trigger.
While the main series of the Final Fantasy series didn’t always make it over in its youth, that has been corrected today with all of the main line being available on one system or another. It also took the company from the verge of bankruptcy to founding Square Pictures, which although the original Final Fantasy CG movie, The Spirits Within did not perform to its budget, it allowed to see some of the craftsmanship that the employees of Square possessed, with the movie, being one of the most realistic productions of animated characters at the time. Innovation in the genre is something that I think Square has not only been successful at, it’s something that often times affects titles from other genres and companies. Many of the releases often have a new system for gaining skills and abilities that make it not only a unique experience.
Circa 1996 Nintendo and Square had a great partnership. With not only Chrono Trigger, Secret of Mana and the forementioned Final Fantasy series they also worked together on an RPG game based on Nintendo’s flagship Mario series with Super Mario RPG. When Nintendo announced that their next system would be cartridge based, Square terminated that relationship. They had dreams to continue their innovation and felt the disc based Playstation would be the way for them to go. Which brings us to 1997 and the release of is arguably the greatest of the series by many, Final Fantasy 7. While not only being the first true 3 dimensional installment of the series, it was a game that fit a more cinematic storytelling strategy, with full motion computer animated cutscenes to assist in telling the story and allowing the worlds to be more expansive by providing it over multiple disc. This would continue for the next couple games until the Playstation 2 was released using better DVD based technology.
For me. It has been Square that has been the company to really spark my creative side. It’s been Square that for me, has found a way to keep me engaged in some form or another. That list spans more than Final Fantasy, with the teamups with Nintendo and Disney for Kingdom Hearts, their only ventures where I spent time in both Final Fantasy 11 and 14: A Realm Reborn. While there is not as much contact today as there once was, its the things that square does that I see innovates the industry in many ways, from Final Fantasy 1 to the more recent 15 because they seem to challenge themselves with ideas. Even 7, which notably killed off one of the main characters, was something that has to this day, an impact on those who played it and remembered it.
For Square it was just about the story, or the evolution of the mechanics from Espers, to Sphere Grids and Materia. The other component of these games is the soundtrack. Back in the beginning, before the technology really allowed it, games were played with a soundtrack of 8 bit beeps to help convey the tone of a moment. Nobuo Uematsu, head composer for many of the games, seemingly poured his heart and soul into every single piece of music he provided. Each note apparently constructed as a block of a foundation that without it the whole piece could crumble. Music that radiated with the emotion that sucked you into a story without you even knowing it.
For 30 years now this has been Square. Constantly evolving. Constantly growing. Constantly changing. So that each game could be a different experience than the last. With so many different worlds, populated with so many different characters. Characters that remain memorable as any movie or television show. From the stories of redemption Cecil the Dark Knight in Final Fantasy IV to Noctus’ struggle with this life and destiny in Final Fantasy XV, or the villians they faced as the demented Kefka poisoned the population of Doma, the ominous presence leading up to the twisted turn of Sephiroth you could always engage in a Square game knowing that it was going to do more than be that game you were playing. It was going to talk to you, and together you and those stories would dance you wouldn’t even realize you were making. And For that we thank you Square, for the years of inspiration, entertainment and connection.