GSQ5: Square’s pupal phase

Formative Fantasies: Square Before Final Fantasy
I promise that there is more to this site than just GameSpite Quarterly 5 content and discussion! It’s just been kind of a big thing for me lately. We’ll diversify again soon, honest. In the meantime, please enjoy this second article, which helps clarify precisely why the name “Final Fantasy” meant something, even if — yes, yes — we’re up to “Final” Fantasy XIII now, hurr hurr hurr.

7 thoughts on “GSQ5: Square’s pupal phase

  1. For whatever curious reason, my elder brothers owned a copy of King’s Knight, and it was actually one of my most played NES games as a child. I could always get to the last level, but I’d always fail with one character, or miss the hidden power upgrades which are mandatory if you desire to do anything in the final level other than get crushed by walking dutifully into a wall too hard. It was quite a shock years later to pick it up and see what company’s name was on the cart!

  2. It may be splitting hairs, but Rad Racer rips off 1986’s Outrun more than Pole Position. Both have music selectable on-the-fly, the player Drives a Ferrari in both against an assortment of recognizable street cars, the ability to bounce off cars rather than simply exploding, and changing scenery. Outrun basically a fancier Pole Position, but Sega’s “Turbo” inspired Namco’s Pole Position. You can optionally race F1 cars in Rad Racer.

  3. I’ve actually got fond memories of Rad Racer as a child, though I’ll admit I’m not going to tempt fate by going back to it anytime soon and seeing how nostalgia stacks up to reality.

    I’ll admit to wondering how gaming would have been changed had King’s Knight done better. Would Squaresoft be a small company with a shooter-based following ala Treasure, with Dragon Quest influencing the majority of JRPGs?

    Actually, wait. That reality sounds a lot better. Yo God? Can we get a do-over?

  4. I’ve played all three of those old Squaresoft games at some point, though I’ve put more time in with 3D World Runner and King’s Knight than Rad Racer. As far as 3D World Runner goes, Space Harrier and platforming do not mix, at least not in the way Square did it. Friggin’ long jumps of death. =/

    As for King’s Knight, I think it had some interesting ideas for a shooter, particularly the characters getting their own chapters before banding together (something that’d be done right in Dragon Quest IV and Little Samson), but it had terrible, terrible execution. In particular, you have to play the first four stages one after another in sequence each game, with only one shot at each. Died in the first stage? Too bad! Onto Level 2 with some new guy. If you lose all four it’s obviously game over, but the guy (or guys) whose stages you beat will be your teammates, so you’ll usually hit the final stage screwed unless you beat all four initial stages.

  5. Rad Racer had a sequel in the US, made by Square, but it was made after FF was released. I could never figure out how Square almost went out of business. I always though that Rad Racer sold well in the US. How did second party deals work between a company and Nintendo. Did Nintendo just pay for the rights to the games and keep all the profits? Does anyone know?

  6. This article doesn’t really get into the full Square story, since the issue is focused on the U.S. side of the NES, but the next-to-last paragraph touches on it: In Japan, Square published a ton of terrible Famicom Disk System games under the auspices of Disk Operating Group. (And a fair number of mediocre cart games, like the Deep Dungeon series and a poor port of Thexder.) By most accounts, they sold horribly and gave the company an awful reputation. Final Fantasy’s redemptive effect may have been as much for way it ameliorated Square’s stock with gamers as for its financial solvency — all told, it looks like FF1 sold about 650,000 copies globally. But FF2 and FF3 did far better, probably thanks to word of mouth.

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