Six Unfairly Neglected Games From Square, Enix and Square Enix That Are NOT Final Fantasy or Dragon Warrior.

By Holden Hodgdon in Daily Lists
Thursday, June 6, 2013 at 6:00 am


The criteria is pretty self-explanatory on this: pick two pre-merger games from both Square & Enix, then pick two more from Square-Enix post-merger in a demonstration that many great things from this JRPG powerhouse are not from either of their headliners.

I also made a concentrated effort to stay away from the back up singers, like Star Ocean and Chrono Trigger. So while much of this list wouldn't even dent the lowest rung of the most liberal "best of" list, keep in mind that "best" is not necessarily what this is about. Greatness seldom comes in a well-balanced package, and I have intentionally picked out some exceptionally "great" games you may have missed over the years.


The Bouncer

Quick! To the Bouncer-mobile.

Despite Squaresoft's many other departures from their traditional turn-based staple, The Bouncer was the seminal WTF release in their PS2 glory years. It plays as an arcade fighter/beat-em-up, with all the senseless plot and cut scenes that you would expect from a modern Square Enix franchise. The player selects one of three main characters, all of whom are bouncers at a dance club in a techno-punk industrial city (thus the game's title, duh). After one of the barmaids gets kidnapped by the "it's not Shin-Ra" corporation that runs the city; you set off as your selected character to save her. This is done via beating the crap out of mob after mob of enemies (in a series of inter-connected hallways and lobbies), and many, many, many cut scenes. So in a way this was actually the precursor to Square's modern format of cinematic-laden releases.

I, like most everyone else, read a review and wrote the thing off without ever picking it up; that is, until I picked it up as a drunk weekend game. Despite the reviewers taking this game out back to crap all over it like a crackhead in an alley, The Bouncer is actually a brutal co-op button masher. Its main designer came from SEGA's AM2 division, also the main designer of both Virtua Fighter & Tekken. So it actually had a pretty decent combat system underneath all of its button mashing. The story was bat-shit (as half way though the game "Miss Barmaid" turns out to be a runaway super-combat android), but it was the kind of bat-shit that sounds perfectly logical to a bunch of (drunk) guys hanging out on Sunday morning. Best of all, or worst if you didn't have any friends, is that this game has absolutely no balancing done for a solo play-through; party hardy or GTFO. The icing on the cake was that you got alternate events and endings - in addition to sizable difficulty spikes - for each consecutive run through.

Secret of Evermore

You have no idea how hard it was to find a decent pic for this.

Chalk this one up to another as another Squaresoft title with "death by player ignorance & prejudice" on it's tombstone. You see, there is a little title out there called Secret of Mana, and way back when (in the '90s) it was sort of a big thing. So when Square announced that it wasn't going to be releasing the sequel to Secret of Mana, but instead it was going to release Secret of Evermore in the same launch window, everyone shat themselves in rage.

However, Secret of Evermore was closer to what audiences would have actually wanted, and a much better spiritual sequel to Secret of Mana than Secret of Mana 2 was ever going to be. Mechanically speaking, that is; 'cause in setting and scale, Evermore is nothing like Mana. For starters, the game plays out as a young boy with an obsession for cheap, B-grade movies wanders into an abandoned laboratory, where his dog inadvertently reactivates an inter-dimensional transporter by chewing up some wires. This leads to the pair (boy and his dog) being stuck in a series of themed timepiece segments, coincidentally based on the movies he is obsessed with.

Everything outside of that was directly cloned from Secret of Mana, right down to the radial menu system; but "derivative" and "bad" are two entirely different flaming bags of poo on the doorstep, and this game has got the same sort of B-movie charm as the films it was inspired by. Ultimately, it was doomed to failure from the getgo, as its main redeeming feature was that it lifted the gameplay from Secret of Mana wholesale (IMO, that is one hell of a redeeming feature) to clone out a somewhat inexpensive title. It's something Squaresoft majorly screwed the pooch on (pun intended) by not doing more of, as Secret of Mana has one of the best game systems, period.

But Chrono Trigger launched three months before Secret of Evermore, and thus most of the world has no clue that this game was ever shipped.


Soul Blazer

Sounds like a Dave Chappelle movie, hunh?

So the king of the world decides that he wants mo-money; naturally the most logical course of action to that end is to make a scientist build him a demon-summoning machine. Once his new dial-a-demon gets one on the line, the king makes a deal with it where the demon will give him 1 gold piece for each soul the king brings him; and not just the souls of humans - we are talking the soul of ANY-THING. Humans, dogs, flowers, I think there are a few talking rocks tossed about too; anything. So once the king manages to cough up the souls to every thing on the planet, animate or otherwise, it is naturally time for God to send an angel to fix things. The demon's name is "Deathtoll," your character is an angel sent from God, and "Soul Blazer" is your job description/name: it was 1992, and this shit sounded awesome on the back of the box. Soul Blazer was an action-RPG for the SNES, which is to say that it was an isometric 2D sprite game, because that's what everything was.

It kinda played like a Zelda game, in that you only had one character instead of a party, and combat consisted of thwacking at things in real time as opposed to an instanced battle screen. Outside of that, it was nothing like Zelda; there was no world map, no epic narrative and about zero complexity. Dude, you're on a quest from GOD to save the souls of rocks and shit: how much complexity do you really expect?

You start off in a dirt lot where a town used to be; there is a dungeon directly connected to the town, and inside the dungeon there are a number of easily slaughtered monsters. Once you have killed all the monsters in a section, you get to move farther in. Clear enough monsters and you "release" a captured soul. Each soul you free rebuilds a bit of the town, as each soul comes back with personal belongings in tow (because it appears in this world you CAN take "it" with you). Rebuild enough of the town and you get to take a swing at a boss; kill the boss and you get the keys to the next dirt lot of a town and the privilege to start over. The funny thing is when you add up hub towns, themed dungeons, incremental advancement, hack and slash combat, and the whole quest from God thing, this game was like the blueprint for Diablo 2.

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