It’s no secret that Square Enix has delivered many great games, from the beloved Kingdom Hearts series to the highly-debated PS3 and PS4 Final Fantasy games. Things do seem fine on the surface, and in some studios they are, Eidos Montreal has been working well on the Tomb Raider games. However, concerning the main branches Square Enix Co.Ltd (the Main Tokyo team) and Square Enix Osaka, behind the scenes from 2006, things were imploding.
At E3 2006, Square announced 3 games: Final Fantasy XIII, what was then known as Final Fantasy Versus XIII, and what was then known as Final Fantasy Agito XIII, as part of the Fabula Nova Crystallis saga of Final Fantasy games. XIII’s trailer was more or less what they wanted to do with the game, but besides a few HUD changes and some less flashy combat, the game seems pretty similar to what was shown in that 2006 teaser. Versus XIII and Agito XIII’s trailers were just teasers for the game, though an extended cut of the E3 trailer for Versus XIII was shown at E3 2007. However for the main XIII game, things were not going well. Crystal Tools, the game engine used for the XIII saga of games, and the Original build of Final Fantasy Versus XIII was not working with the external companies that wanted to help make the game. In an interview for Game Developer Magazine, Motomu Toriyama and Ahikio Maeda said:
“Another issue was the universal engine. Because we were so focused on creating an engine for next-gen hardware that could be utilized across all platforms, we made the mistake of trying to accommodate every single project that was in progress at the time.
In hindsight, it should have been obvious that it would be impossible to fully satisfy all of these needs. As a result, we spent a considerable amount of time prioritizing all the different requests and ended up not being able to determine the final spec requirements. ”
This lead to weeks worth of work being trashed at each time, which turned into delays. It also may be the reason so much content was cut for the final game. To focus on Final Fantasy XIII, they made adjustments to the engine for Final Fantasy XIII to release in December 2009 in Japan, and March 2010 worldwide(with exception to the Xbox version in Japan which came out in December 2010) which would kinda screw Final Fantasy Versus XIII over down the line.
Not that Versus XIII was in a happy development place itself. Development of the game was sluggish at best, and members of that team had been “assisting Final Fantasy XIII’s development when available”(which YuriofWind thinks translates to, they were reassigned to Final Fantasy XIII), and Nomura can even be quoted in a WIRED article saying “Versus XIII is waiting on XIII”.
Meanwhile, Agito XIII, which would become later known as Type-0, was in a hell of its own. It was originally being developed for mobile devices, but this was the late 2000’s where mobile phones were not a gaming thing. Therefore in 2008, it was decided to make the game a PSP exclusive title. Beside that though, the development of Type-0 went smoothly, coming out in October 2011, where there was still no sign of a release for Versus XIII, despite the fact that game play had been shown off, the engines adjustments for Final Fantasy XIII’s linear worlds meant it was not suited to open worlds that Final Fantasy Versus XIII had wanted to use. Not helping was the fact that the first version of Final Fantasy XIV(yea, remember that?) was kind of a hot mess, and was remade into A Realm Reborn. As such, let’s skip to E3 of 2013.
In Sony’s press conference in 2013, Final Fantasy Versus XIII was now Final Fantasy XV, and Kingdom Hearts 3 was announced, despite the fact that development had just started. In December 2013, Hajime Tabitha, director of the afore-mentioned Type-0 was made director of Final Fantasy XV, because Nomura wanted to focus on Kingdom Hearts 3, and Square had commissioned a new engine called Luminous Studio, which was riddled with development issues in itself, and in 2014, Kingdom Hearts 3 switched to the Unreal Engine 4, because of the fact the team was have problems rendering certain images, which may be why Kingdom Hearts 3 news was quiet till 2015, where the Tangled world was shown off, marking Square’s first project in Unreal Engine 4. All the while, Final Fantasy XV was going into it’s the last stages of developments, leading to it’s delayed release in 2016. As you can tell, I’m mostly focusing on the main/numbered games within each series, so I will skip Kingdom Hearts 2.8.
Kingdom Hearts 3 was announced for release in 2018 at D23 2017. By this point Final Fantasy VII Remake was announced, but I won’t talk about that here since we don’t know too much about it. By this point Final Fantasy XV had also released it’s first wave of DLC, with the Windows Edition announcement coming a month later. But then we get to this year, 2018, where things were a tale of 2 sides.
On one hand, beside the delay of Kingdom Hearts III into January 2019, it had been a good year for Kingdom Hearts fans, especially the second part of the year, getting trailers nearly every month since September. However, for Final Fantasy fans, it was a different story.
Shinji Hashimoto, the co-creator of Kingdom Hearts and Head of Square Enix Division 3, said that this would be a big year for Final Fantasy. And it some ways, it was. The year started strong with the release of Dissida Final Fantasy NT, a port of the Arcade Edition of the game that had been in Japan for a few years, and the release of Opera Omnia seems to symbolise hope for the Dissida franchise. We should also not forget that in September 2018 a New World of Final Fantasy release was announced and later released, alongside the announcement a re-master of Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles, and release of the Foremast games for the Nintendo Switch, those being, VII, IX, X/X-2 HD and XII: The Zodiac Age. But what about the current game?
April 2018, at Pax East, after the Release of Final Fantasy XV Windows Edition, 3 new DLC packs were announced alongside the already announced Episode Ardyn, and a stand alone release of Comrades, the Final Fantasy XV multiplayer expansion. However, after this point, there was remote silence for a while in terms of Final Fantasy XV, beside a delay of the Comrades expansion, as well as the DLC for the game. However, everything came to a head on November 8th , 2018, as it was announced that all Hajime Tabata had left Square Enix, and the DLC for Final Fantasy XV, outside of Episode Ardyn, which will come out in March 2019, that the Final Fantasy XV DLC was cancelled.
What was going inside Square? Who knows outside of the people working there. However, one thing that is shocking to me is that Square has been able to produce games of a High Quality despite all the adversity they faced (barring some opinions on the XIII saga of games and XV). However, lightning rarely strikes twice, meaning that if Square want to keep their current quality of games in their main 2 divisions, they need to sort themselves out.