Dear Square Enix, how you doing? It's been a while. Last I heard, you guys had some money issues. Hope you've bounced back. Sold off some of those extra records in the attic. Took out a second mortgage on your airship. Made some Facebook games. Whatever.
I'm writing today because you're the vanguard of role-playing games in Japan, and I'm Kotaku's JRPG columnist. And we have a lot to talk about.
First of all, congratulations on your impressive E3 showing. Between Theatrhythm Final Fantasy, the new Kingdom Hearts, Heroes of Ruin, and that ridiculous next-gen engine you've been touting behind closed doors, I think it's safe to say you had a pretty good show.
Your Western arm is doing well too. Deus Ex: Human Revolution was one of the highlights of 2011, and both Hitman: Absolution and Tomb Raider look promising, despite their assorted controversies. Sleeping Dogs is getting tons of good buzz, and I had lots of praise for the puzzle-happy Quantum Conundrum.
But I have some requests. Some advice. Some tips for the future, from a big fan of your work.
For starters, you need to stop holding out on us Westerners. I can see why you might be worried about localising Final Fantasy Type-0, the action-RPG you released for the PSP in Japan last October. The PSP market is tepid, to say the least. And Sony's given up on the old handheld in favour of its successor, the Vita.
But there's still a fairly strong base of PSP owners here. As you know, many of us enjoy RPGs — that's why you've released games like Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy IV: The Complete Collection. Smaller companies like Atlus and XSEED are still releasing new role-playing games for the old system. And we love them for that.
You could release Type-0 on the PlayStation Network, like you did in Japan, so Vita owners can buy it too. Maybe even design a high-definition remake just for the Vita. The possibilities are endless!
While we're here, here's another reminder that you guys should localise Bravely Default: Flying Fairy. Thanks in advance.
Point is, we want to play your RPGs. Particularly the original ones. We want to revisit that Square Enix magic you gave us with wonderful games like The World Ends With You and Nier.
In fact, I'll make you a deal: for every new, original JRPG you bring to the West, you can release one remake, port, or Facebook game. We'll buy them all. Does that seem fair? Can't you see how desperate we are?
I snark about this "Facebook game" thing, and indeed, it does seem like you spend a great deal of time on social gaming these days, but it's still exciting to see you come out with creative experiences like Theatrhythm Final Fantasy. Sure, Theatrhythm is basically just Elite Beat Agents with Final Fantasy music, but you're thinking outside of tradition. I love that. Keep it up.
Speaking of Final Fantasy, you need to stop worrying about how to "fix" that series. You don't need to fix it. With releases like Final Fantasy XIII-2 and the upcoming Final Fantasy XIV version 2.0, you're not just apologizing for previous games, you're admitting that you just don't know where you want the series to head.
Let me help you out. Even at its very worst, Final Fantasy is still a platform for new, experimental ideas, and even its most mediocre games (ie: Final Fantasy XIII, Final Fantasy XIV) are always innovative endeavours. You continue to surprise us both aesthetically and mechanically. Don't give that up.
But don't lose sight of your origins, either. You've gotten a lot of flack over the past few years for seemingly abandoning the franchises that made you great, and I can't help but agree. You have some tremendous properties in your stable: Chrono, Mana, SaGa, Front Mission, Vagrant Story, Parasite Eve and many more. Stop ignoring them.
Here are some more random ideas. You're welcome in advance.
- Try new development techniques for some of your RPGs. Instead of just putting the same directors in charge of your projects, try giving creative control to random staff, like programmers or artists. Try taking a more horizontal, Valve-like approach to design.
- Make another Chrono Trigger sequel.
- Why not let a Western studio try its hand at a Japanese-styled RPG? I'd love to see what game-makers like Eidos Montreal could do with a traditional, turn-based game.
- Design something for the Vita. Seriously. Sony is desperate.
- How about a Final Fantasy VI remake for the 3DS? Isn't it about time?
- Turn Dragon Quest into an online game. No, wait, don't do that. That would be an awful idea.
- Oh come on.
- Make another Chrono Trigger sequel.
- Admit that Final Fantasy Versus XIII was never actually a real thing, and that Tetsuya Nomura has just been dreaming this whole time.
- You know what would be perfect on a handheld? Star Ocean.
- Keep experimenting. Keep trying new things. Surprise us. Shock us. Make us say things like "this isn't Final Fantasy!" and "WTF, Square Enix?"
- But also make another Chrono Trigger sequel. Don't you like money?
You're in a lucky position here, Square Enix. You have the brands, the clout, the manpower to both play around with crazy new ideas and continue cranking out Final Fantasy remakes. Take advantage of that. Give us fewer mediocre traditional games like Infinite Undiscovery. More zany, original ones like Nier. Or more solid blends like Final Fantasy: The Four Heroes of Light.
And remember, if your financial situation ever gets really dire, if you're ever in a situation where the money-bleeding can't be patched, there's a four-word answer to all of your problems.
Final Fantasy VII HD.
Random Encounters is a weekly column dedicated to all things JRPG.