This week, we discuss the post Golden 2D RPG Era within Square, and Enix.
History of Square-Enix - Part V
by Joseph DeGolyer
Last time we talked about the golden era of the 2D RPG, but it’s 1996 now in our timeline, and that can only mean one thing… 3 dimensions. But how exactly did we get to 3 dimensions? Well, we’re gonna have to spin back the clock another 10 years.
The Playstation began its life in 1986 as a joint venture between Nintendo and Sony (weird right? But this was before they were competitors). Nintendo wanted Sony to develop a CD ROM add-on for their SNES console that they would call the SNES-CD.
No one’s quite sure why, but the joint project never panned out. Some people cite behind-the-scenes drama between Ken Kutaragi (who some dub “the father of the playstation”) and some back-channel dealings with Nintendo. EIther way, Sony and Nintendo’s partnership would be over for now, and Sony would take the technology used on the SNES-CD, and use it to develop their own gaming console.
Sony briefly went to Sega to help develop the CD-centered technology, but Sega refused (mistake!!!!!!), and Sony was left to their own devices. Sony’s Play Station (two words) was announced in 1991, still made for SNES quality technology. At this, Nintendo filed a lawsuit on the claim that Nintendo still had the rights to the name “Play Station”, but as all the tech used was Sony’s, the judge refused Nintendo’s injunction.
Following the lawsuit, various deals with Nintendo were made and broken, and Sony, wanting to be free of Mario’s litigious grasp, did the only thing they could to get Nintendo off their backs: they changed the console from having the name “Play Station” (two words) to “Playstation” (one word).
At this point, Sony decided to beef up the system for a new generation of home consoles, focusing on the ability of the console to render 3D Polygons as opposed to 2D sprites.
In December of 1994 the Playstation console was released, selling 2 million units on launch and officially kicking the 5th generation of video game consoles into high gear (Sega’s system, the Sega Saturn sold 1/10th that of the Playstation only 2 months earlier). With this, CD’s were “in”, Sega was out, and a new console juggernaut was on the scene.
Of course, Nintendo would be back with a vengeance with their own 5th gen gaming console: The Nintendo 64.
The N64 was released in June of 1996 and would prove to be the defining system of the late-90’s. Sure, Sony had their fancy new CD tech, but Nintendo had the brand, and was already the publisher for many iconic games and game developers, including Square Co.
Many companies, including that of Enix, decided to begin publishing games for a variety of consoles, ostensibly to see what “stuck”, and initially published games for all 3 major systems at the time. They gave Saturn the games Nanatsu Kaze no Shima Monogatari and Nin Pen Man Maru in 1997, as well as Riven (the japanese version of the Sequel to the hit game “Myst”) and Nihondaihyō Chiimu no Kantoku ni Narou! in 1998.
Enix also gave a go on the N64 with the games Wonder Project J2: Koruro no Mori no Josette (1996)--a weird, culty, anime story “life-simulation” game-- and Mischief Makers (1997)--a side-scrolling platform game developed by “Treasure”, often seen as a forgotten N64 Classic--.
My only assumption is that the games didn’t sell all that well on either system, and after 1998, Enix would publish exclusively on the playstation (but we’ll get more into that next time).
Square’s transition into the 5th generation of consoles would be much more tumultuous, as we will see with the development of their next game: Final Fantasy VII.