March 25, 2011

Japan Week day 5: Tecmo/SquareEnix

Next to the last day in my ded­i­ca­tion to Japan­ese devel­op­ers and we are going to take a look at two com­pa­nies with two dif­fer­ent styles. Tec­mo is known for the DOA series, Nin­ja Gaiden, and the Tec­mo Bowl series. Squa­reEnix on the oth­er hand has had a run­ning track record of great RPG’s that includes ChronoTrig­ger, Final Fan­ta­sy, and the Drag­on Quest series.
Tec­mo cre­at­ed two series of games for the NES that hard­ly ever left my con­sole, the Nin­ja Gaiden tril­o­gy and Tec­mo bowl. Tec­mo Bowl is still a clas­sic and Bo Jack­son was the ulti­mate cheat. Nin­ja Gaiden was a dif­fi­cult game but yet some­thing I real­ly enjoyed. (See peo­ple I was about 8 when I played these and they are still con­sid­ered tough games, I encour­age chal­leng­ing your kids no mat­ter the age.) Hiedo Yoshiza­wa was the pro­duc­er for the tril­o­gy on the NES. Nin­ja Gaiden was first NES game to include cut scenes and had well over 20 min­utes worth of them. In 2004 it was giv­en a reboot by Team Nin­ja, a sub­sidiary of Tec­mo. The game was orig­i­nal­ly released on the Xbox and giv­en an updat­ed look and con­tent for the PlaySta­tion 3 enti­tled Sig­ma. The head of Team Nin­ja dur­ing this time was Tomonobu Ita­ga­ki. Besides the Nin­ja Gaiden reboot and its sequel, Ita­ga­ki also cre­at­ed the Dead or Alive fight­ing series. DOA was a fight­ing game in same court as Vir­tua Fight­er, it left out super moves and blood and gore for mar­tial arts and a counter sys­tem. DOA would be released in the arcades, on the PlaySta­tion and Sat­urn. DOA 2 would be released on the Dream­cast and PlaySta­tion 2. The series would then make an Xbox run with DOA 3 being a launch title and DOA 4 would again launch with a Microsoft sys­tem, the 360. After work­ing on Nin­ja Gaiden 2 for the Xbox 360 Ita­ga­ki would leave Tec­mo and file a suit against his for­mer employ­er for unpaid roy­al­ties. Last year it was revealed that Ita­ga­ki has start­ed his own devel­op­ment stu­dio, Val­hal­la Game Stu­dios, and is cur­rent­ly work­ing on Devil’s Third. Ita­ga­ki has always been known as the “Rock Star” of the game devel­op­ment world. Always sport­ing sun­glass­es and long hair, and on occa­sion leather, he is always some­one always worth watch­ing out for.
Squa­reEnix has a great deal of great devel­op­ers new and old, but none as impor­tant as Hironobu Sak­aguchi, the father of Final Fan­ta­sy. Sak­aguchi worked on a few games for Square Soft (which was Squa­reEnix before the merg­er) before tir­ing of games he was design­ing. Final Fan­ta­sy would become a cul­tur­al phe­nom­e­non and no RPG to date has had such an impact (I am open for debate but you know I’m right). The title Final Fan­ta­sy is derived from the fact that it was to be Sakaguchi’s last game of his career. After a long run of games on the NES and SNES, Square left Nin­ten­do to make games for grow­ing PlaySta­tion mar­ket, due to the CD-Rom tech­nol­o­gy inside Sony’s machine. His next game would be what some con­sid­er one of the best games of all time, Final Fan­ta­sy VII. Final Fan­ta­sy VII had become a hit in Japan and in the US, and Sak­aguchi was on the top of the nerd pile. Final Fan­ta­sy VII was the top sell­ing game of 1997; its char­ac­ters, music, and sweep­ing cin­e­mat­ic cut scenes would become a cul­tur­al phe­nom­e­non. Every gamer knows of Cloud Strife, Sephi­roth, Aeris, and the heart­felt scene where Sephi­roth kills Aeris; these have become sta­ples of gam­ing cul­ture. The last Final Fan­ta­sy Sak­aguchi would pro­duce would be Final Fan­ta­sy IX, which some feel, was bet­ter than VII. In 2004 Sak­aguchi would leave Squa­reEnix and form his own stu­dio Mist­walk­er. Sak­aguchi and Mist­walk­er would go on to cre­ate two RPG’s for the Xbox 360, Blue Drag­on and Lost Odyssey, as well as The Last Sto­ry for the Wii.
Any of Sakaguchi’s games would not be com­plete with­out the won­der­ful com­po­si­tions by Nobuo Uemat­su. Uemat­su was at Square for the same dura­tion as Sak­aguchi, in 2004 he became a free lance com­pos­er, though he did still work with Sak­aguchi on Blue Drag­on, Lost Odyssey, and The Last Sto­ry. Uemat­su has done per­for­mances, fea­tur­ing the music he has made for video games, all over the globe. His music is one of the main fea­tures at the Video Games Live con­certs held all over the US.
These two com­pa­nies have giv­en great gam­ing joy to the mass­es around the globe. Tem­co for cre­at­ing a foot­ball game that has lived on in dorm rooms across Amer­i­ca for decades, a great (and under­rat­ed) fight­ing series, and a great series of my child­hood (may con­trollers were lost dur­ing the play through of this tril­o­gy). Squa­reEnix brought RPG’s to pop cul­ture sta­tus, have woven great jour­neys with breath­tak­ing  musi­cal scores, and have tried to bring games even clos­er to cin­e­ma (i.e. Final Fan­ta­sy: The Spir­its With In and Final Fan­ta­sy VII: Advent Chil­dren, both of which I have in every for­mat pos­si­ble). Final Fan­ta­sy XIII is still sit­ting half fin­ished, some­thing I have des­per­ate­ly want­ed to fin­ish, but have not had the time. Sak­aguchi has made the only RPG’s that I can real­ly get into out­side of Bioware’s. For all the great design­ers and devel­op­ers I have hit this week, I hope we get to see lot more of these cre­ative minds in the future.  
As this week comes to a close it is sad. I have enjoyed writ­ing these arti­cles and doing the much need­ed research to get my facts straight. I wish I had the time and ener­gy to write these types of arti­cle all the time. I may start this as a week­ly writ­ing and see how it evolves from there. Thank you all for your com­ments, they have been great­ly appre­ci­at­ed. I will see you guys tomor­row for one last arti­cle on Nin­ten­do, and the 4 most impor­tant peo­ple (in my hum­ble opin­ion) to come from that com­pa­ny. Again thank you all for read­ing.  
Here’s a bit of Uemat­su’s work from Final Fan­ta­sy VII (One Winged Angel)

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