An Introduction to Square-Enix

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April 26th, 2006
Final Fantasy XI (Xbox 360)
The Final Fantasy Begins

The same year Enix released Dragon Quest in Japan, a small game development company was on the verge of bankruptcy. Founded back in 1983 by Masafumi Miyamoto (yes, the same surname, but not related to Mario�s creator) and Hironobu Sakaguchi, Square Co. desperately needed a commercial hit after its first games (released on the Nintendo�s Famicom Disk System) did not meet expectations.

Sakaguchi, who at the time was the company�s president, knew this would be his final chance to save the company, so he picked the term �Final� for what could very well have been Square�s last game. Considering his future further, he planned that he would retire from the game industry and move onto other business. Little did he know this final creation would lead him on a different path�

Seeing the tremendous success of Dragon Quest, Sakaguchi thought he could develop a game that would improve upon that game�s save-the-princess plot. The backdrop for the first Final Fantasy game focused on a world dying as the glowing crystals that represent the planet�s four elements�earth, fire, water, and wind�are growing darker. Its habitants are waiting for the fulfillment of a prophecy that foresees the arrival of four warriors, known as the Light Warriors, who will save the world.

The game began with a character-type selection for the four warriors, and due to the primitive (at least by today�s standards) 8-bit technology available at that time, the choice of different character types would only affect the characters� powers in battle. Each one of the Light Warriors carries one of the darkened crystal orbs.

At the end of the game, the four Light Warriors discover they accidentally created a time-loop paradox after defeating one of its enemies. By killing Garland, the evil knight who kidnaps the princess of Coneria at the beginning of the game, they created an arch demon called Chaos. Garland made a pact with the Four Elemental Fiends defeated through the course of the game to transport him back 2,000 years into the past and combine his body with their spirits to give birth to Chaos. Until the Light Warriors destroy Chaos, they won�t be able to put an end to the 2,000 year time loop and restore the order. The game ends after the four warriors destroy Chaos and return back to their own time�with the world now unaware that the order was ever altered.


As you can see, the plot for Final Fantasy was far more complex than that of Dragon Quest, and it was this engaging plot�combined with such elements as a spellcasting system and mythological beasts taken from the first edition of Dungeons & Dragons, that made Final Fantasy a huge success and ended up saving Square from bankruptcy.


Origins

The American version of Final Fantasy was released in 1990�three years after the original release in Japan. By the time the series debuted in North America, Nintendo was already working on the North American launch of the Super Famicom, and for that reason Final Fantasy II and III, originally released in Japan on the NES, never appeared in America � at least in their original format. Western gamers would have to wait until 2003 to play an English-language version of either of these two sequels.

More importantly, the separation between the Japanese and Western releases created a significant divergence in the franchise. The original Final Fantasy II and III games were released in North America in 2003 as a compilation entitled Final Fantasy Origins. What was numbered as Final Fantasy II in the U.S. is actually Final Fantasy IV from Japan; Square�s first FF game for the SNES. Also, the game released in 1994 in the States and Europe as Final Fantasy III is actually the localized version of Final Fantasy VI from Japan�being that Final Fantasy V was never released outside Japan. As you can see, for those Final Fantasy historians out there, things can get a bit confusing.


It is worth clarifying that Western gamers never noticed any kind of plot interruption in the series, because every Final Fantasy game featured an entire story with brand new characters and settings. Many believe that since Sakaguchi thought Final Fantasy would be his last game, he never envisioned a universe that could host sequels. After the time loop was destroyed in the first game, it was easier to create a fresh story for the sequel than to revisit the original Final Fantasy universe. This started a long tradition in the series of presenting an entirely new storyline with unique worlds and characters for each release, and it wouldn�t be until 2003�s Final Fantasy X-2 that the series featured a direct sequel.


Final Fantasy III/XI is considered by many to be the best of the entire series�and by most fans to be the best game of the 2D era. This game not only marked the end of the 16-bit era, but it was the last Final Fantasy game to appear on a Nintendo console for some time, due to the subsequent move of the series to Sony�s then-new PlayStation platform.
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