Those wacky Square guys and there darn tootin RPGs that kids seem to love.
Reknown for its Final Fantasy & other RPGs, many wonder what, if any, role Square will have with Nintendo's next-gen plans. This is anything but a new issue. Love it or hate it, this topic is so hot, that it deserves its own detailed section in this FAQ, being one of the most frequently asked questions after all.
So, what about Square? Will Square develop for Nintendo's next system?
The short of the long is that things seem to look good but it’s despite developments here and there still too early to say anything with much authority. That continues to remain true, in light of recent reports.
Is Square Interested in GameCube?
In June 1999, Squaresoft announced that it was evaluating Nintendo’s Dolphin console and was very interested in making games for systems other than Playstation 2. What’s more, on July 14th 1999, Square held a press event where then-company President Tomoyuki Takechi began his speech by mentioning the Dolphin system; Takechi’s comments were very vague, saying only that he was very excited about the games industry in general, especially after the announcement of Nintendo's Dolphin. Square may be interested in GameCube, though Takechi’s statements could also refer to competition between Nintendo and Sony as well.
Square has not commented on the GameCube specifically since then, leaving much speculation as new information about Nintendo’s Game Boy Advance and GameCube (as Dolphin is now known) comes to light, it will be increasingly hard for Square to ignore the two systems completely.
Does Square Have any Games in Development for GameCube?
That is a definite “no.” There is a chance that Square may be a GameCube developer and is not saying anything due to a NDA, though more recent evidence suggests that this is highly unlikely and may not happen whatsoever.
While Square clearly hasn’t signed on yet, it remains to be seen how willing Nintendo & Square are to reconcile old differences.
What’s the Big Deal with Square & Nintendo?
Naturally, gamers everywhere are familiar with the company that created the Final Fantasy series. The first Final Fantasy game was released in Japan in 1987 for the Famicom (NES). In 1990, NOA published it in North America, giving U.S. gamers a rich and memorable RPG experience. Square developed over 20 titles for the NES, including Rad Racer.
Although Final Fantasy 2 & 3 were released for Famicom in Japan, (3 was out in Japan in 1990) Nintendo decided not to release 2 domestically, apparently believing it would not sell well in America. Square then decided not to bring over FF3 either. The lag between U.S. and Japanese releases certainly played a factor in these decisions; the SNES was released about a year after FF1 came to America. Additionally, this was a time when Square was small and did not have resources to translate many titles on its own.
U.S. fans did not forget Final Fantasy though and eventually did get a “Final Fantasy 2,” published by NOA in November 1991. FF2 was an early release for SNES, appearing only three months after the console had been released. The game was actually the fourth game in the series and appeared as Final Fantasy 4 in Japan. However, Nintendo worried about confusing U.S. gamers and called it “2.” Featuring more character development and story elements, Final Fantasy 2 became an instant classic.
Art work from FF6 (FF3 U.S.), still considered one of the best RPG games ever
Square held-off on releasing Final Fantasy 5 in America, claiming it would be too complex for American gamers. Final Fantasy 6 would come to U.S. shores though in November 1994, as “Final Fantasy 3.” This was the same time Donkey Kong Country came out and it beat “FF3” out for the cover for Nintendo Power’s Nov. ’94 issue. Still, few Nintendophiles missed out on “FF3;” numerous characters, various side-quests and unique game play innovations all accented an engrossing interactive story. Many still believe to be one of the best console RPGs of all time.
Other Square 16-bit Square titles were earning fans as well. With games like Secret of Mana, Secret of Evermore, and Chrono Trigger, Square seemed to be a reliable and consistent ally for Nintendo and a top-notch developer to boot. As Nintendo made preparations for its 64-bit system, Square’s involvement seemed to be a “no-brainer.” There were even announcements that FF7 would appear on the system. This was sadly not to be.
The “Break Up”
In February 1996, Square announced that it would not release Final Fantasy VII on the N64, citing the limitations of the cartridge medium. The long-running partnership between Nintendo & Square seemed completely lost, as Square allied itself with the Sony & its Playstation console.
The “break-up” was hard on fans, the most passionate of which split into groups of system loyalists. Either folks felt Square was betraying Nintendo, or they bought Playstations figuring “the hell with Nintendo, I want my Final Fantasy!” Either way you looked at the issue, Square’s defection to Sony was a tough blow to Nintendo, even before the N64 was released.
In February, 1997 the situation grew worse for Nintendophiles when Square signed an exclusive multi-title publishing agreement with Sony Computer Entertainment America (SCEA), giving them the right to publish FFVII and additional Square titles for the Playstation. While some still held hope, it seemed that Square wouldn’t be coming back.
In retrospect, the Sony Playstation probably was the best system for the games that Square wanted to make. Still, hopes run high that Square will develop for the Nintendo GameCube system.
Did Square Make ANY N64 Games?
Nope. Nintendo & Square were believed to be in long-term negotiations for new software for Nintendo 64 in late 1997 or early 1998. It was believed these games would be made for 64DD, since its format would allegedly provided more storage space. No results of these allegations ever materialized. Were these just rumors? Maybe not, as Howard Lincoln once indicated Nintendo was courting Square. Still, the failure of the 64DD probably hammered the nails into the coffin of any such negotiations.
Another rumor surfaced later out of Japan that suggested Square had officially become a Nintendo 64 licensee. Although it circulated among fans and game insiders for a short time it was later to be discovered as just another red herring.
Square was set to publish Stunt Copter for 64DD but this fell through completely, much like the 64DD itself. Stunt Copter was actually an EA game and Square, though their publishing agreement with Electronic Arts would have published it in Japan if the title had been made. Unfortunately EA later cancelled the game, though it wouldn’t have been much of a “Square” game anyway. Under the terms of the same agreement they did later publish Beetle Adventure Racing for EA in Japan.
A Squareless Nintendo
Over the past few years, Square has built a new relationship with Sony that has seemed as close-knit as its ties to Nintendo not so long ago. Many consider this to be one of Sony's biggest victories over Nintendo and while this may overstate it, it was a crushing blow. Nintendophiles have had to witness Square release Final Fantasy 7 but also 8 and now 9 all released on the PSX with no chance whatsoever of seeing the games on a Nintendo console.
The reasoning for this traces back to the cause of the break-up; format. Square's creative vision to blend cinematics with games could not be explored on N64's cartridge format. On PSX and CD format, Square's aspirations could be fully realized. Through its PSX games, Square took the "cut scene" device within games to a whole new plateau. Square has made remarkable achievements in CGI cinematics, enough to produce a computer animated Final Fantasy feature film, with lifelike characters & creating an outfit dedicated to CGI production for films. Impressive accomplishments certainly, though some wonder if the company hasn't left
Final Fantasy 7 was a good game and very beautiful, though many FF fans feel it fell short of previous games. Set in a futuristic, post-appolyptic world, it was a step away from the "Fantasy" roots of the series. Final Fantasy 8 strayed even farther was unspectacular. Fortunately, Final Fantasy 9 returned the series to its roots, though some believe FF6 has yet to be eclipsed and now look to other companies for their RPG fix.
Compared to previous FFs, FF8 is lackluster
Additionally, Square has continued to branch out from RPGs, with often mixed -or disappointing results. Tobal, its fighting game for PSX, sold poorly and its excellent sequel, Tobal 2 was not released domestically (a very real tragedy). The overly hyped Bouncer for PS2 met with incredibly poor reviews...
Now, as the stage is being set for the next generation of consoles, Square seem ready to shift its loyalty once again, or at least stray from a near-exclusive relationship with Sony.
What's up with Square and the Bandai WonderSwan?
With remakes of Final Fantasy II and Final Fantasy III headed for Bandai’s WonderSwan handheld, it almost begs the question why these aren’t coming to the Game Boy Advance instead.
Although the precise reason is not known, one RUMOR we received from a Japanese source that states that awhile back, Square applied to make Game Boy Advance games but were actually rejected by Nintendo. Could it be because of bitterness? The real reason could be that NCL supposedly have a policy that does not allow GBA development unless you have made a GBC title. Since Square has not developed for any Nintendo system over the past few years, this may have been a stumbling block in getting FF remakes to GBA—and a key reason Square decided to take the titles to WonderSwan instead.
Is there any sign of Hope?
Square’s publishing partner, EA seems to be very much onboard for GameCube development. It is unknown whether this has much, if any bearing on Square’s dedication. Also the interesting news of Namco, Enix and Square (ironically "NES",) teaming up to help weather the costs of games development. Each company sold 5% to the other partners and plan on utilizing the same online plan: Square's PlayOnline. Now, Namco is said to be very bullish on GC development, and Enix is a question mark along with Square. Who knows what the future might bring....?
Also, Square currently seems more interested in bringing versions of Final Fantasy and Chrono Trigger games to PSX than announcing any GameCube projects.
While future installments of Final Fantasy will appear on PC and a Final Fantasy game is rumored to be in development for X-Box, Square have made no indication of seeing Final Fantasy on GameCube.
Game Boy Advance may be a different story and may prove to be the springboard for future relations between Nintendo and Square.
Is there any chance Square will develop for Game Boy Advance?
Surprisingly, it seems that Square would like to develop for the GBA. Despite FFII and FFIII being released for the WonderSwan handheld, remakes of Final Fantasy IV, V, and VI would be "technically impossible to develop on WonderSwan Color," reported Square’s Vice President Hironobu Sakaguchi at a recent meeting. Because of this, Square may bring these classic RPGs to the Game Boy Advance instead. At the same meeting, President Hisashi Suzuki stated: "we will do our best to have our games on the Nintendo system."
Could FF6 be coming to GBA?
President’s Suzuki’s comment and the FF remakes make up the most recent and promising development on the Square front to date. Additionally, Square confirms they are working on a new Final Fantasy for an unnamed handheld console. Whether this game is for WonderSwan or GBA remains to be seen.
Still, there is a RUMOR that Square have applied to develop for GBA before and were denied.
Yamauchi to Square: FORGET IT!
In news that shocked many, NCL’s President, Hiroshi Yamauchi declared what many Nintendophiles have come to view as unthinkable. Essentially, Yamauchi stated
"There is no truth to an agreement between Nintendo and Square," said Yamauchi. "[Square] is free to say what they want, but there are no plans for a contract, and the chances that there will be one in the future are low."
Many people have been surprised that Yamauchi would react so coldly to Square’s interest. Nintendophiles wondered if Yamauchi flipped his lid & believes the GBA is unstoppable even without Square. Still, it seems that Yamauchi is no fool and is working to ensure the best for his company.
Shortly after Yamauchi’s statement, Square’s president responded:
"We're not expecting to be accepted by Nintendo right away, but we're doing everything to get the relationship positive again. The most important thing about management is the ability of having several choices. It is hard to loose one of these. We have to try to convince Nintendo, by showing them our plans for GBA and GameCube that we will boost their hardware sales" said Mr. Suzuki, Square's president.
According to sources, Nintendo wants SquareSoft to commit to at least two GameCube games before they agree to allow SquareSoft to develop Game Boy Advance games.
Some people have wondered what the heck is up with this story. Apparently, it was translated numerous times, from Japanese to German to French before it was found on American shores and on the Planet. It has been emphasized that the translation points out two GameCube games as a condition, though this does not make it any more valid. It is however, a likely scenario.
Square would certainly be obligated to respond to Yamauchi’s public dismissal. At the very least, the statement from Mr. Suzuki can be considered accurate. Therefore, it’s reasonable to believe that Square is willing to increase its support for Nintendo consoles whatever it takes.
Is Square Trying to Get Along?
Starting Wednesday, February 7th, 2001 Digicube finally began offering Game Boy games. The significance here is that Digicube is a major video game retailer in Japan owned by Squaresoft & that this is happening shortly after Yamauchi's dismissal of Square. Could this part of an attempt by Square to get on Nintendo's good side?
Is there any chance that Square will develop for Nintendo GameCube?
Square is in possession of at least one GameCube development kit for “research purposes.” As of yet, there has been no news of Square requesting any more kits. Nor has Square announced any intention of developing games for NGC.
It is believed that Nintendo want Square to develop games for GameCube, though they will not take the commitment lightly.
President Yamauchi, CRAZY… Like a Fox!
Following President Yamauchi’s statements concerning Square, Nintendophiles went buck wild. Now that Square is expressing interest in Nintendo, why would Yamauchi publicly strike down Square’s supposed GBA plans, instead of encouraging what could have been the beginning of the end for the rift between the two companies?
What may seem disappointing news or an arrogant display of bitterness may be more than “old man Yamauchi” misplacing his medication…
Square’s initial statement was wishy-washy show of Nintendo support at best. Although it did state that it was interested in bringing re-makes of Final Fantasy to GBA, Square also talked about numerous Sony FF plans with several new games. On top of that, Square only mentioned Nintendo after talking about Yamauchi called them out on it.
Perhaps if Square was as interested in bringing new Final Fantasy games to the NGC in addition to releasing versions of older (albeit classic) FF titles, Nintendo might have more reason to drop its hostile front.
With almost every known developer (including Sega) supporting the GBA already & an almost equally impressive (yet NDA-protected top secret) list of developers who support GameCube has already been assembled. Yamauchi isn’t wrong to presume that Nintendo doesn’t need Square. Many gamers might justifiably disagree, though this time around, neither NGC or GBA will be devoid of good RPGs.
At the very least, Yamauchi has good reason to play hardball—especially if in the long run it works to encourage even stronger support from Square than one might have originally expected.
What Incentives does Square have to develop for Nintendo?
Square is looking to broaden its horizons on the console front and because Sega is out of the console war (the first casualty) this leaves Microsoft and Nintendo. It is very possible that Square games will appear on systems from both companies for a few reasons.
Sony's Playstation 2 has fallen far short of expectations and has experienced numerous problems. By keeping Square games exclusive, Sony will have a powerful ally yet it limits Square's profit potential. Square would be wise to spread its FF games to other consoles.
Because Sony has no handheld system of its own, Square are already developing for Bandai's WonderSwan Color and releasing the previously-mentioned FF remakes. The demand for these remakes is very high in both U.S. & Japan. Because remakes of IV, V & VI are technically undoable on WonderSwan, Square is very interested in releasing these for the GBA.
Unlike Nintendo, Microsoft has no troubled history with Square & has gobs of money to make FF games appear on X-Box. Since there is no "XBoy" yet, the GBA remains the only viable handheld console in the U.S.
Despite Square's desires to bring FF to GBA, Yamauchi supposedly isn't interested. Square has every reason to increase Nintendo support but discussing NGC plans. Especially in light of the popular company recently suffering financial losses -its first ever. Now, not only can Square not rely on Sony, they have more reason than ever to make a gracious return to Nintendo.
In light of the financial loss, President Tomoyuki Takechi, Vice President Hironobu Sakaguchi and CEO Masashi have all announced their resignations. However, the three men won't be leaving the company completely and instead are being somewhat demoted. Takechi will become a contractual consultant, Sakaguchi will be an executive producer and Hiramatsu will take the position of executive director.
Aren’t Some Ex-Square Members Developing for Nintendo systems?
We’re happy to say that this is true. Ex-members of Square’s development team for the “Secret of Mana” (“Seiken Densetu” in Japan,) series have broken off to form their own company. Brownie Brown’s first GBA title is and RPG titled “Magical Vacation” and has just been confirmed for a U.S. release.
Look for a Brownie Brown Developer Profile soon!
What else can be said of the whole Square situation?
No matter how much time passes, gamers are eager to hear any word of Square games coming to a Nintendo system. Whether Square returns or not, Nintendo seem to have learned a lesson during the time it has been apart from Square. Whether or not the two entities are every able to fully reconcile, Nintendo will be sure not to overlook the RPG genre ever again.