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Final Fantasy, A historical perspective by a fan of Final Fantasy and Nintendo.

Forums - Nintendo Discussion - Final Fantasy, A historical perspective by a fan of Final Fantasy and Nintendo.

Well hello good folks of VGC, I wanted to talk about a subject that has been on my mind ever since the last direct. It is mainly about the announcement of the big Final Fantasy bomb being dropped on the Switch. Now, I want to make it clear, this is NOT gloating about the games coming to a Nintendo platform. This is mainly an exploration of the subject, in which I discuss some of the findings of a certain article and then my own opinion and personal retrospective on the information presented. The article I recently came across is Final Fantasy 7: An oral history written by Matt Leone. While I do not like Polygon at all, I feel that this article is brilliantly done and I urge anyone interested in the history of Final Fantasy 7 and/or Square, to read it. What I mainly want to focus on is the split between Square and Nintendo, and the impact Final Fantasy VII had on this relationship. It is a historical event relevant to this wonderful hobby we all love, and it is good to look back at what happened, and maybe what could have been.

Article: https://www.polygon.com/a/final-fantasy-7

"We knew Nintendo 64 and PlayStation were going to be the next hardware generation, and that we’d be developing our next game for one of them. It was similar to when we moved from the Famicom to the Super Famicom. Our first step wasn’t to choose between the two systems, but to focus on learning the Silicon Graphics workstations we had purchased. They were very expensive machines, and we made a demo on them to show people, “This is how Final Fantasy could look in 3D.”" - Hironobu Sakaguchi

During the first half of the nineties, Nintendo was still on top. The Super Nintendo was doing very well, and was the industry leader. However, it was not a spot easily gained. Nintendo and Sega were going at it, and the 16 bit war was the defining video game competition of the era. No doubt, did Square help Nintendo and their platform with their wonderful games of which Final Fantasy was the most well known, both in Japan and somewhat in the west. Nintendo and Square were very close, so close in fact, that Square was considered a second party to Nintendo. Making games exclusively for their systems.



However, the 3D era came, and many new companies were moving to make new next generation 3D capable gaming machines. One one side, the new Playstation from Sony which was ready to give Nintendo and Sega a run for their money with a massive push to woo developers to risk putting their games on their new system. On other side, Nintendo was in contact with Silicon Graphics to move towards a 64 bit 3D gaming system. However, while Playstation was moving forward rapidly, the N64 was moving very slowly. Due to constant changes to the hardware and bad or "loose" communication between Nintendo and SGI, Square became increasingly frustrated with the hardware limitation of Nintendo's platform. And while frustrations built up, Sony and Square began to talk to each other. The choice for a cartridge based system, while others opted for a CD based system, was the best choice for Nintendo themselves but not for their partners perse. Nintendo opted for that to combat piracy, but it could also have been out of bad experiences with Sony and Philips. Either way, Square (Sakaguchi) had a vision for Final Fantasy 7, and it simply did not work on Nintendo's then unfinished hardware. They tried to make it work, but it could not be done at the time. The cartridge limitations and costs were too much for Square. So the choice was made.

"
As Nintendo 64 and PlayStation arrived, that grip began to loosen. Despite Sony having an unproven track record in the game industry, its developer outreach and hardware convinced many third-party teams to hop on board. Square was one of the biggest studios to jump ship, announcing in early 1996 that it had decided to shift its entire lineup to Sony’s hardware, with Final Fantasy 7 as the centerpiece. By the end of the generation, almost all major third-party studios had signed up with Sony, in part due to the economic advantages of manufacturing games on PlayStation’s CDs compared to Nintendo 64’s cartridges."

The split was harsh, but Square wanted their games to fit their vision. Sony gave them that opportunity. No doubt did this frustrate Nintendo, as it added to a growing list of support of their new competitor. However, while this is mainly attributed to the Nintendo's insistence of making a cartridge based system, all was not well with Square and Nintendo before this issue came. As it says:

"While many people speaking for this story point to this often-told story about the differences between CD-ROMs and cartridges as the main reason for Square’s shift to PlayStation, some say hardware horsepower differences and communication between Square and Nintendo also played a key role in the decision. Kawai says he believes Square has focused its public comments on the disc versus cartridge debate over the years out of respect to Nintendo."

Nintendo and Square had definitely split, and not on good terms. While Yamauchi wished them well, in yakuza style fashion, no Square affiliated person came into Nintendo offices for at least 5 years. The doors had shut for a long while.

"
I knew it was important [when Square left], and it certainly was a loss. But for me, it wasn’t such a devastating loss. I knew it was very important for [Nintendo in] Japan. I’m not so sure about the U.S. market. But we knew it was a big deal to have lost it on our system, and knowing that it would make Sony a bigger competitor, it just made the work that much more important." - Darren Smith

"
What I heard was Nintendo said, “If you’re leaving us, never come back.”" - Hiroshi Kawai

Square became a Sony only developer from the on, and the rest is history. Final Fantasy 7 became a massive hit, and definitely helped the Playstation become the sensation that it was. Square eventually became Square Enix and continued its support by releasing the Final Fantasy mainline games exclusively on Sony's platform. Only when Crystal Chronicles came to the Gamecube, could we see a glimpse of Squares past support for Nintendo.

My personal perspective

While I grew up as a Sega and Amiga gamer, when I got my Super Nintendo in 94, my gaming tastes changed. A game that I remember getting in 95 was Illusion of Time (Also known as Illusion of Gaia). While it was no Square game, it introduced me to the JRPG genre. Through this introduction, I came to know Squares RPGs already out or coming to the SNES. I absolutely loved these games. This love was no doubt connected to the platform that I played them on. I became a Nintendo fan because of it. This naturally made me opt for the next Nintendo system. The system was mind blowing for me when I first saw Mario 64. I was eager to play more 3D games on it, especially role playing games. Only, they never came. Instead, the games came to another platform that I did not own yet. When at school, during the regular console warz on the playgrounds, Final Fantasy 7 was frequently used as a shot against the 64. And while I pretended that it didn't matter, I was very envious. Eventually, I also got a Playstation, and I got to play them of course. I didn't care as much as I used to, but I did see how this was something important and special. The games had a vibe to them, they were mature and appealing, had great visuals and the stories were unlike what we had seen before. I however hoped to see these games still, on a Nintendo platform again. Just because of my desire to "play the games on my favourite companies system". The two belonged together in my mind. However, when my Playstation broke, I got a new Playstation from some friends uncle. It was modded to play burned CDs, and it was region modded.
The system came with a bunch of games, official and pirated copies. One of those games was Xenogears. A game that I absolutely loved, even more so than any other Final Fantasy game.

Later on, as I grew past the older gen, I played more than enough RPGs on the Gamecube to fill that gap. One of those was of course Baten Kaitos, partly made by people behind Xenogears. Eventually I skipped the Wii for a good part of its lifetime. Fast forward to 2011: I suddenly got urge to play a game that sounded familiar, namely Xenoblade Chronicles. This game very much so got me to relive that old rpg feeling I had back in the nineties and I was happy to know that it was from a development company that I knew (at least the games). For me, Xenoblade kind of became Nintendo's Final Fantasy for me, so I didn't really feel that big of a desire to play a FF game on a Nintendo system perse. Same with the Bravely Default games (being similar to the older SNES titles). However, with the recent announcement it made me remember the time back then and reflect. The announcement, coupled with what I read in the article gave me somewhat closure.

Anyway, if you have read my rambling, I want to thank you. To me, this part of history being closed is somewhat historic and significant. How do you feel about Squares switch to Sony and the impact FFVII had?


I want to close with a video, the FFVII intro, soon to be seen on your Switch.

Last edited by OTBWY - on 19 September 2018

Liberate Hong Kong, the revolution of our times!

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I've never played Xenogears.

 

EDIT: I just now saw what OP is asking. I dunno tbh. I've never thought too deeply of Square and Sony, I just like to play Square's games.



Square's switch to Sony made sense at the time and it continued to make sense. Nintendo had chances to make a console good enough to host a mainline Final Fantasy game after the N64 with Gamecube and Wii and they didn't. However like the article says some of it most likely has to do with the way the Japanese do business and their concept of loyalty. That one fatal hit of the PS1 and it's developer-friendly nature created a chain reaction. Realistically there was no going back for a long, long time.

I do agree that Xenoblade is Nintendo's Final Fantasy now, not that it matters in relation to Final Fantasy though since platform exclusivity is slowly dying. That being said, Xenoblade doesn't really attract the mainstream audience in the same way.

It is cool that these games are coming to Nintendo though.



AngryLittleAlchemist said:
Square's switch to Sony made sense at the time and it continued to make sense. Nintendo had chances to make a console good enough to host a mainline Final Fantasy game after the N64 with Gamecube and Wii and they didn't. However like the article says some of it most likely has to do with the way the Japanese do business and their concept of loyalty. That one fatal hit of the PS1 and it's developer-friendly nature created a chain reaction. Realistically there was no going back for a long, long time.

I do agree that Xenoblade is Nintendo's Final Fantasy now, not that it matters in relation to Final Fantasy though since platform exclusivity is slowly dying. That being said, Xenoblade doesn't really attract the mainstream audience in the same way.

It is cool that these games are coming to Nintendo though.

I agree with that, and part of it has to do with it being a rather new entry in a sea of JRPGs that came before it (and maybe after). It doesn't have a good establishment and popularity like Final Fantasy. However, I think the right steps are being taken to grow the franchise. 



Liberate Hong Kong, the revolution of our times!

I think it's only right that more gamers get to play these titles and putting them on Switch and Xbox One as well as PS4 and PC is a very good decision by Square Enix. I'd still really like FFVIII to be there though.

As for my opinion on Square choosing the PS1 over N64, I'm very happy with how things went. FFVII did a lot for Square and jrpgs. FFVII would have been crippled on the N64 and been a completely different game. It wouldn't have had the same marketing push that Sony gave the game either, leading to lower sales and fewer people introduced to the series and jrpgs in general, certainly for a long time. In Europe we really got shafted, more so than America, when it came to jrpgs released before the PS1, we had a few but magazines and video game shows never showed them or told anyone why they'd want to play something like that. FFVII introduced me to my joint favourite genre and with that one game's commercial and critical success there was more light shed on a whole genre. This might never have happened if Square stuck with Nintendo, so I'm glad.



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When the PS1 first released, I was a Nintendo fan. That is to say, I thought I was a Nintendo fan. I associated the exclusive games on Nintendo systems with Nintendo themselves. No one knew at the time that much of that had to do with Nintendo forcing developers into exclusivity in North America. As it turned out, I was more a fan of third-party games than those developed by Nintendo. Kind of ironic that Nintendo's own actions would cause me to realize that.

At first, I wanted and expected Nintendo to crush Playstation. Nintendo owned the North American market and seemingly had complete control of developers and even retailers. However, Final Fantasy 6 was by FAR my favorite game at that point and the TV commercials for Final Fantasy 7 made my jaw drop. It became the main reason I bought a PS1 (the first major purchase of my life, made from Birthday and Christmas money and probably a lot of help from my mom). Turning traitor, though a bitter pill at first, turned out to be a fantastic decision for me, as the PS1 became my favorite console of all time with franchises like Final Fantasy and Suikoden.

People talk a lot about console manufacturers being arrogant but I don't think anything will ever touch Nintendo during that period. I remember a Square employee saying that the impression he had was that Nintendo wasn't troubled much over losing Square. They thought they had control of the market and it's likely they figured companies like Square would come crawling back.

As for Square, they've fallen, over time, from being my favorite developer to a company I don't really care much about. Besides their games, one of the things I dislike about them is the old-fashioned way they dole out exclusives in order to curry favor with the console manufacturers.



Landale_Star said:
I think it's only right that more gamers get to play these titles and putting them on Switch and Xbox One as well as PS4 and PC is a very good decision by Square Enix. I'd still really like FFVIII to be there though.

As for my opinion on Square choosing the PS1 over N64, I'm very happy with how things went. FFVII did a lot for Square and jrpgs. FFVII would have been crippled on the N64 and been a completely different game. It wouldn't have had the same marketing push that Sony gave the game either, leading to lower sales and fewer people introduced to the series and jrpgs in general, certainly for a long time. In Europe we really got shafted, more so than America, when it came to jrpgs released before the PS1, we had a few but magazines and video game shows never showed them or told anyone why they'd want to play something like that. FFVII introduced me to my joint favourite genre and with that one game's commercial and critical success there was more light shed on a whole genre. This might never have happened if Square stuck with Nintendo, so I'm glad.

That is an interesting take on it. I would have liked to know what would have been had Nintendo opted for CD. Perhaps it could it have been better, but either way, it indeed would have been different without a doubt.



Liberate Hong Kong, the revolution of our times!

pokoko said:
When the PS1 first released, I was a Nintendo fan. That is to say, I thought I was a Nintendo fan. I associated the exclusive games on Nintendo systems with Nintendo themselves. No one knew at the time that much of that had to do with Nintendo forcing developers into exclusivity in North America. As it turned out, I was more a fan of third-party games than those developed by Nintendo. Kind of ironic that Nintendo's own actions would cause me to realize that.

At first, I wanted and expected Nintendo to crush Playstation. Nintendo owned the North American market and seemingly had complete control of developers and even retailers. However, Final Fantasy 6 was by FAR my favorite game at that point and the TV commercials for Final Fantasy 7 made my jaw drop. It became the main reason I bought a PS1 (the first major purchase of my life, made from Birthday and Christmas money and probably a lot of help from my mom). Turning traitor, though a bitter pill at first, turned out to be a fantastic decision for me, as the PS1 became my favorite console of all time with franchises like Final Fantasy and Suikoden.

People talk a lot about console manufacturers being arrogant but I don't think anything will ever touch Nintendo during that period. I remember a Square employee saying that the impression he had was that Nintendo wasn't troubled much over losing Square. They thought they had control of the market and it's likely they figured companies like Square would come crawling back.

As for Square, they've fallen, over time, from being my favorite developer to a company I don't really care much about. Besides their games, one of the things I dislike about them is the old-fashioned way they dole out exclusives in order to curry favor with the console manufacturers.

Well, Square is a company that has changed a lot over time, from NES to SNES, to Playstation (turning into Square Enix) and then multiplatform more or less. It is a very different company from the nineties at least. Also the biggest change came after the huge flop that was the Final Fantasy movie (not Advent Children). It almost bankrupted them. It is all there in the article.



Liberate Hong Kong, the revolution of our times!

The relationship and history between Square and Nintendo is certainly an intriguing.

When it came to the PS1/N64 generation and the fallout between the two. I certainly believe it was Nintendo's fault for taking Square for granted. Square did what they had to do to take their game in the direction they envisioned and Sony deserves credit for giving them the tools and resources they needed with the PS1. And Nintendo, or Yamauchi I should specify, handled that situation very poorly. But once Iwata took over, essentially from the GameCube onwards, Nintendo slowly but surely begin to place more priority and importance on their relationships with third parties and Square Enix in particular. But with the Switch in particular, it feels like they've gone into overdrive (well, for Nintendo's standards anyways) and it's really paying off. If this continues, then perhaps we're not too far off from the day when Square Enix is releasing Final Fantasy XVI, or whichever mainline Final Fantasy it is, for Sony and Nintendo simultaneously. If that happens, then I think it would finally be safe to say that the relationship between Square and Nintendo has come full circle.



Pancho A. Ovies

Nintendo Switch in Japan (Famitsu): 2018 vs. 2019
http://gamrconnect.vgchartz.com/thread.php?id=238945&page=2

PlayStation 4/Xbox One/Nintendo Switch: 2018 vs. 2019
http://gamrconnect.vgchartz.com/thread.php?id=239387

Square's and Nintendo's visions simply didn't align, honestly, that doesn't seem to have changed.
I don't think FFXVI will be built to run (unless you count something like a FFXV Pocket Edition) to match what the Switch is limited to.
The whole CD vs cartridge scenario sounds a bit like what Nintendo will be dealing with, on the Switch.