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What do you think the future holds for Square-Enix on Switch?
I’m going to start this off by listing a number of potential projects, and my sense of how likely or unlikely they are to materialize. Curious to read all of your lists as well. I’ll say up front that some of the games I’ll be talking about I know like the back of my hand, and others I know only by reputation. Hopefully, we can all fill in each other’s knowledge gaps. Thanks for stopping by! :)
Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars: This is the game I always have my fingers crossed for whenever Nintendo announces new additions to the NES/SNES Online apps, but unfortunately, we haven’t seen it yet. I still think it more likely than not that Seven Stars will eventually be available this way—it was included with the SNES Classic system, after all—but the longer it’s absent, the more I wonder if there’s some sort of legal/financial dispute standing in its way. (This was Square and Nintendo’s last major collaboration before their bitter mid-90s split).
Would Seven Stars instead be released as a standalone download for purchase on the Eshop? Given how beloved this game is by its fanbase, (myself included) I tend to think it would turn a profit. I suppose it could be given a slight visual touch-up and add things like higher difficulty settings, bonus dungeons, a boss rush, additional superbosses, access to all minigames from the main menu, etc. A similar approach to how Final Fantasies I-VI have been re-released since the GBA era.
There was a rumor I read fairly recently that a direct sequel to this game was under consideration, as a collaboration between Square-Enix and Nintendo. I am extremely skeptical of this, however, since Seven Stars has a nicely contained little story, with few if any loose threads to be tied up, save for perhaps exploring how Mallow adjusts to his newfound role as Prince of Nimbus Land. Certainly wouldn’t object to a sequel, though, as Seven Stars still contains my favorite overall incarnation of the Mario world.
Chrono TriggeCross: A ’Chrono Collection,’ which would include Trigger, Cross, and perhaps even Radical Dreamers as a bonus, seems logical, if not necessarily inevitable. This series may never have reached the commercial heights of Final Fantasy, but Chrono Trigger is among those very rare games where it’s hard to find even a word of negative criticism, a reputation I think still draws people in. (That was the effect it had on a young me in the early 2000s; I missed it the first time around on SNES, but as soon as I heard about Final Fantasy Chronicles for PlayStation, which included both Final Fantasy IV and Chrono Trigger, it was an instant pre-order). Chrono Trigger has since shown up on the Nintendo DS and mobile devices.
Chrono Cross, on the other hand, is more divisive, with passionate admirers and detractors. This might explain why Square-Enix has yet to bring it to mobile devices, despite the availability of Trigger on these platforms. The fact that an enhanced version of Final Fantasy IX is available on mobile devices suggests that technical considerations are not the reason for Chrono Cross’s absence. (And of course, none of this would be a barrier of entry with the much more powerful Switch).
All this leads me to speculate that Square-Enix is holding off on releasing Trigger or Cross for modern platforms at this point because they are planning a ’Chrono Collection’ at some point down the line. I can’t help but picture a very attractive physical edition, perhaps featuring a black and gold case with the familiar clock design, and a companion booklet containing artwork and development history for the series. (Trigger’s development history is particularly interesting).
The visual novel Radical Dreamers, which could be described as something of a rough draft for a key early episode in the story of Cross, is non-essential, but would still be a nice little bonus—a window into the creative process. Including the excellent soundtracks for both Chrono games (ala Super Mario 3D All-Stars) would be an even bigger draw.
Of course, this is all just speculation on my part. Outside of Chrono Trigger being made available on Steam and mobile devices in recent years, this series has not shown signs of life in quite some time.
Secret of Evermore and Final Fantasy Mystic Quest: Grouping these two together because they are both lesser-regarded Square SNES titles that might still be interesting additions to the SNES Online app. The likes of Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy IV, and Final Fantasy VI are unlikely to pop up there, both because they have a proven ability to sell individually, on multiple platforms over the years, and because the initial SNES releases of these games are no longer the optimal versions available. (Especially true in the case of Final Fantasy IV). The popular Secret of Mana is also unlikely, given that Square-Enix has already released a remake, as part of an ongoing project of remaking the Mana series games for modern platforms.
So why these two? Well, with little if any demand for either to get the modern treatment, bringing them to SNES Online isn’t likely to step on the toes of any future remake/re-release projects. While neither are great games, both are semi-interesting ‘relics.’ Evermore a Secret of Mana clone with a different aesthetic; Mystic Quest designed as a beginner-level RPG for audiences outside of Japan. Not the sort of games many would go out of their way to find and play, but if made available on the SNES Online app, I suspect that many would happily give them a spin. Little if anything to gain, but nothing to lose either.
For the record, I don’t see either as a likely inclusion to SNES Online, which has slowed down considerably in terms of adding new games to its roster. But aside from possibly Seven Stars, these are the only SNES-era Square games I can picture them giving Switch owners more or less for free.
Final Fantasy Tactics/War of the Lions: Quite possibly my favorite video game of all time, I’m both disappointed and a bit surprised that it has yet to appear on Switch. Tactics debuted on the original PlayStation; the enhanced War of the Lions version, featuring an updated translation, beautifully animated and voice-acted cutscenes, and a respectable amount of bonus content, made its first appearance on PSP, and was later adapted for mobile devices. The mobile versions operated with touch controls, and the Switch in handheld mode has touchscreen support built in. Theoretically, at least, War of the Lions would translate well onto Switch, but perhaps there are more potential technical complications than I realize. Alternately, Square-Enix might have made the calculation that those who love Tactics already have it on iOS/Android, and would be less likely to ‘double-dip’ and buy a Switch version.
I really hope this isn’t the case, though, since I’d love to have it on Switch. This is another game where I think Square-Enix could make some extra money by releasing a physical version that includes artwork, maps, the soundtrack, etc. A full visual remake, with the production values of the gameplay graphics matching that of the cutscenes, would be even better, but I don’t think that’s very likely.
The Final Fantasy VII ‘Expanded Universe:’ The original Final Fantasy VII is available on Switch, but what is probably the most famous and popular entry in the series has branched out in multiple directions since its debut in 1997. Most recently, of course, was the Final Fantasy VII Remake for PS4. Whether a downgraded version of that game could possibly be adapted for Switch, I honestly don’t know, but even if it technically could, I wouldn’t particularly like its chances. Reason being that Final Fantasy VII Remake is, from a narrative standpoint, incomplete, since it doesn’t cover the range of the original’s story. (Not even close). In theory, this necessitates at least one more entry, and probably two or more. With the ‘original’ being a late PS4 title, that means that its follow-up(s) will likely debut on PS5, which the Switch will be much further behind from a technical standpoint. Would Square-Enix want only one part of a two- or three-part story workable on Switch? If they thought it would sell well enough, perhaps. But I think it’s more likely that if anything from the FF7 Remake series ever makes it onto a Nintendo system, the Switch’s hypothetical successor is more likely to see it than the current model.
Remake is not the only video game expansion of the FF7 universe, of course. If any of the others are to make it to Switch, I think Crisis Core is much more likely than either Before Crisis or Dirge of Cerberus. Wouldn’t rule out the possibility of any of them, but Crisis Core was originally designed for a handheld: the PSP. Zack Fair’s story was and remains compelling to fans, despite anyone who played through Final Fantasy VII knowing full well how it ends. The popularity of Vincent Valentine was not enough to save Dirge of Cerberus from some pretty harsh criticism.
Working against all of these? Well, Remake throws the continuity of the original and its spinoffs into question. It’s possible that Square-Enix might be planning to scrub the existing canon clean as part of this ongoing project.
Vagrant Story: I’ll admit, this is pure wishful thinking on my part; I’m under no illusions that this is even remotely likely. Still, it’s behind only Tactics/War of the Lions on my own Square-Enix Switch wishlist. (Switchlist?) What’s not to like about a dark Renaissance detective story? (The block stacking/rearrangement puzzles required to progress through dungeons can be a bit tedious, but nothing awful).
Star Ocean Games: With First Departure—a enhanced PSP remake of the first Star Ocean game—already on Switch, I think it’s a virtual certainty that Second Evolution—the PSP counterpart to Second Story—will eventually make the leap over as well. (Frankly, I’m surprised it hasn’t already). The Switch prospects of post-Second Story/Evolution games are iffier, but with the second installment often regarded as the highlight of the entire series, it is a very strong candidate to pop up on the Eshop.
Kingdom Hearts Games: The first games on this list I know only by reputation. My understanding is that they have done very well in terms of both sales and critical reception, and even that feels like an understatement. The recent announcement of a Kingdom Hearts rhythm-based spinoff for Switch seemed to spark disappointment in these parts that nothing from the main series was coming. This suggests that there is a potential market for mainline Kingdom Hearts on Switch; I’d certainly be willing to give them a shot.
Final Fantasy Tactics Advance Games: I can’t help but wonder if the original Final Fantasy Tactics Advance was hurt at all by Fire Emblem making its debut appearance outside of Japan around the same time, to positive press and public reception. The success of Fire Emblem on GBA likely overshadowed Tactics Advance a bit. Still, there are other reasons why this game tends to be held in lower overall regard than the original Final Fantasy Tactics. While the first has the air of a Shakespearean epic, the central conceit of Advance is that a group of kids, presumably from the ‘real world,’ get sucked into a fantasy world, and the main story goal is their trying to somehow get back home. Some saw this as a major step backwards from the original, while others praised the writers for thinking outside the box. Also controversial was the ‘Judge’ system, where every battle would start with the announcement that certain abilities could not be used. Some saw this as a fun challenge that kept players on their toes; others found it irritating and contrived. I know less about the DS sequel, Grimoire of the Rift.
If we ever see anything from the Final Fantasy Tactics sub-series on Switch, War of the Lions seems far more likely than any of the Advance titles. If a hypothetical War of the Lions Switch version was to sell well enough, however, perhaps Square-Enix would release one or both of the Advance games in the hopes of piggy-backing off its success.
Final Fantasy XIII Games: Doable? Probably. Worth it for Square-Enix financially, given the mixed reputation of these games? Tougher call.
Final Fantasy XV: Another recent Final Fantasy I know quite little about. I know that the downgraded ’Pocket Edition, which I first became aware of via the iOS App Store, is also available on the Switch Eshop. This perhaps suggests that Final Fantasy XV in its original form would be difficult to adapt to Switch. Difficult, however, does not necessarily mean impossible, so I would be surprised, but not shocked, if Final Fantasy XV was eventually brought to Switch.
Threads of Fate & Brave Fencer Musashi: Grouping these two because they are both mid/late PS1-era games that have virtually no chance of re-emerging on Switch. Still, both are cute, family-friendly action RPGs that would be right at home on the system.
Xenogears: Another PS1-era longshot...noticing a pattern here? Legal difficulties aside, I could see Xenogears potentially doing well on the Nintendo Eshop, riding the coattails of the popular Xenoblade games. (Which I definitely need to get around to trying one of these days; my understanding is that although there are no direct narrative links between them, Xenogears, and the Xenosaga games, they are considered to be ‘spiritually’ connected).
I last played Xenogears myself about two or three years back, and my experience then left me with the sense that the game might be a bit more ‘digestible’ on a handheld-hybrid like the Switch than its home console origins. Engaging, thought-provoking story; complex, well-written characters; a wonderful soundtrack. No one can take these things away from Xenogears. That being said, Xenogears often employs long (winded) cutscenes and dialogue sections to tell its excellent story, has a pretty high rate of random encounters throughout its large-scale dungeons and overworld areas, and requires frequent micromanagement and shopping to upgrade ‘Gears’ (combat robots) so the player remains competitive in battle.
In other words, an average Xenogears play session can leave the player with the sense that they have accomplished relatively little compared to the amount of time they just invested in it. Because of that, I often found myself feeling ‘burned out’ by the game, engaging though it was.
While a Switch version of the game could not be expected to totally resolve those issues, it could alleviate them, both by its ‘pick up and play’ nature and by increasing opportunities to save progress outside of the designated save points and world map of the original. (As was the standard of the time). Ideally, one would be able to save during a lengthy cutscene, so they would be able to take a break from the story without being forced to later watch (and process) the entire thing from the beginning.
Dissidia Games: Admittedly, I don’t know much about these games other than the very basics: they are a fighting game spinoff of the Final Fantasy series. On paper, though...doesn’t that sound like something that would sell like hotcakes on Switch? Dissidia may not be at the top of my personal wishlist, but outside of Kingdom Hearts, it is perhaps the most puzzling Square-Enix exclusion.
Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings: A definite longshot, but there are two factors that could theoretically, at least, work in its favor: a) its ties to Final Fantasy XII, which is on Switch via The Zodiac Age; and b) the fact that, unlike XII itself, Revenant Wings was originally released on a Nintendo platform: the DS.
Working against it? Radio silence. I admittedly have never played this one myself, but the fact that so few people seem to talk about it suggests that it didn’t make much of an impact one way or the other. It would have been a cool bonus—as an unlockable or DLC—to include with Zodiac Age, but no such luck, and Revenant Wings seems to be more or less forgotten. I quite like XII, though, so if Revenant Wings did come to Switch, I’d be inclined to give it a shot.
Front Mission Series: A not especially famous, but long-running, somewhat prolific Square-Enix series, with entries spanning from the SNES to the PS4. File this one under surprised but not shocked if something from the Front Mission series eventually lands on Switch.
Parasite Eve Games: The last PS1-era longshots, I promise! (And the second-to-last entry overall...Hallelujah!) Right down there with Threads of Fate and Brave Fencer Musashi in the ‘never gonna happen’ column. I totally missed out on the original and its sequel during their initial run, which I kind of regret now, since many of their basic elements—a more gritty/realistic tone; a female detective as the protagonist—sound really cool on paper. The sort of thing I glanced over as a child/adolescent, but would be right up my alley these days.
Final Fantasy I-VI: If you’re still here, thank you very much! This will be the last section of my list today...but also the longest. I decided to group the first six mainline Final Fantasies together here not because I think each is of equal importance—far from it—but more to highlight the curious fact that, despite the fairly widespread availability of these games on multiple platforms over the course of many years, the earliest Final Fantasy game up and running on the Nintendo Switch at the time of this writing is VII. So, what gives? Thinking back to the Tactics/War of the Lions section, this could be a matter of Square-Enix calculating that, with the first six Final Fantasies already available on mobile devices, there would be little incentive for Switch-owning fans to ‘double-dip.’
I’m not sure if that theory holds up as well here, however, since we are talking about six individual games of varying importance, as opposed to one.
Final Fantasies I & II have often been bundled together, in the case of both Final Fantasy Origins for the PS1 and Dawn of Souls for the GBA. If we ever do see a Switch re-release of these games, my guess is that we would get another two-pack, if for no other reason than a bundle is probably the best means of selling the ambitious yet deeply flawed Final Fantasy II. My first experience with both games was via Dawn of Souls, but one thing I didn’t realize until some time later was that, at least in the case of Final Fantasy I, the adaptation was quite different from the original experience. The Dawn of Souls version had a traditional MP system for spells—each spell used x-amount of MP, which could be recovered via certain items and by resting at town inns and tents/cottages on the world map. The original release, on the other hand, featured limited spell charges, which could apparently only be recovered by resting in towns, forcing the player to be much more strategic/conservative with magic use. Thinking back to the high encounter rate and maze-like dungeons, my first thought was: ’My God, that sounds like an absolute nightmare!’ For others, though, it could be a fun challenge, so it might be nice for future re-releases of Final Fantasy I to include both magic systems.
I’m not sure to what extent, if any, Square-Enix might be influenced by Nintendo’s recent decision to re-release the first NES/Famicom Fire Emblem game on Switch, with no apparent changes aside from it being available in languages other than the original Japanese, but I suppose this could theoretically compel them to release the first three NES/Famicom Final Fantasy games with the original NES/Famicom graphics, at least as an optional setting. (Hopefully not completely replacing the ‘prettied up’ versions). That being said, I wouldn’t want any downgraded graphics settings to strip a future Final Fantasy I re-release of the fun superboss cameos, including but not limited to the dragon Shinryu and the eccentric swordsman Gilgamesh.
A quick aside about Final Fantasy II, since we’re here. There are very few games I’ve ever wanted to like more, and I think it deserves credit for thinking outside the box with its leveling system, and for having a story more on the human folly/political intrigue side than the straight ‘good versus evil’ side. Unfortunately, though, it falls a bit flat in both areas. The game does have its bright spots, including a pretty strong supporting cast—Princess Hilda and Minwu the OG White Mage are standouts—and one of my favorite music tracks in the series: the Wild Rose Rebellion theme.
Onward to Final Fantasy III, which is probably best known for its more complex/sophisticated take on the ‘Job System’ introduced in Final Fantasy I, and for how long it took (sixteen years!) for the game to first release outside of Japan. The last of the NES/Famicom Final Fantasies, my understanding is that, after the largely failed experiment that was II, the next game in the series was intended as a return to form—going back to the concepts of the original and expanding on them. A similar approach, one could argue, to both Super Mario Bros. 3 and The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. With the SNES/Super Famicom set to release within the same timeframe, however, and Square’s plans to bring the ambitious Final Fantasy IV to that new platform, it was ultimately decided that releasing III outside of Japan would be unwise. Fast-forward to 2006, and the Nintendo DS would see a full remake of Final Fantasy III, complete with both 3D graphics and an expanded story—where the four playable characters were nameless avatars in the original, the remake gave them established names and backstories. (This version was also later adapted for mobile devices). The sheer novelty of this ‘lost’ Final Fantasy game finally showing its face outside of Japan, and of a Nintendo system finally being able to boast having a 3D Final Fantasy of its own, led to the game getting some decent attention early on, but long-term, it doesn’t seem to have made much of an impact. Perhaps in large part because it’s difficult to think of anything Final Fantasy III did that Final Fantasy V didn’t do as good or better.
And on that note, I’m going to skip ahead briefly to Final Fantasy V. (IV will get its time, don’t worry). Like the odd-numbered Final Fantasies before it, V is remembered more for its gameplay—an even more sophisticated Job System than that of III—than its story or characters. This is the most common criticism of the game, and while I think there’s something to it, it should also be noted that Final Fantasy V had the misfortune of being sandwiched between the epic, story-driven IV and VI, so it had some stiff competition in that area. There’s still a pretty good story to be had here; a likable, if not super-memorable cast; and a handful of interesting plot points and twists.
One interesting aspect of Final Fantasy V is that, in terms of gameplay, it is almost a mirror image of IV. Where IV is very linear and allows virtually no opportunities to customize characters, or even choose which party members to go with at any given time, V encourages frequent mixing and matching of classes and secondary skills to adapt to the current situation. One might go in expecting, consciously or unconsciously, the obvious male lead to function best in a Knight/Swordsman class, and the obvious female lead to be most effective as a mage. In truth, however, anyone can be anything. All characters have access to the same Job classes, but their visual design in each class varies to reflect their personality. Take the Monk/Martial Artist class, for instance—where both male characters go shirtless when assigned to this job, the more ‘girly’ of the two female characters dons a bright red athletic dress, while her more ‘tomboyish’ counterpart instead chooses a plain white robe/karate uniform. Given the relative obscurity of Final Fantasy V, it’s difficult to picture Square-Enix investing many resources into a future remake project, but it would be cool to see a modern take on all these character designs.
As for why I skipped right from III to V? Well, despite the fact that these two games, as far as I know, have never been bundled together, I think they would make pretty logical ‘running mates’ in the future, given that both are centered around a version of the Job system. (Maybe they could call it ’Final Fantasy Labor Collection’).
Now let’s tackle what is arguably the heaviest hitter of this group: Final Fantasy IV. Of the pre-VII Final Fantasy games, IV is probably the one that has gotten the most love from Square-Enix, which one could argue is a mixed blessing. While the original release is almost universally well-regarded, its direct, seventeen years after-the-fact sequel, The After Years, is often considered among the weakest titles to fly under the Final Fantasy banner. It has its good points, and I think there would a pretty engaging story here if they had just trimmed the proverbial fat and made >!Kain Highwind the undisputed main character.After Years is kneecapped by its original format of downloadable ‘episodes’ that were released gradually, and these chapters are by no means created equal. (Some are interesting, but others are a miserable slog).
Final Fantasy IV would eventually appear on both the Sony PSP and Nintendo DS, but the competing handhelds were not to receive the exact same product. The DS version featured the 3D visual style of Final Fantasy III DS, while the PSP’s Complete Collection employed a more traditional 2D art style with redrawn sprites and locations. Complete Collection, unlike FFF 4 DS, also contained both After Years and the aptly-titled mid-quel Interlude.
If Final Fantasy IV ever does make its way over to Switch, Complete Collection seems like the better overall value, but my guess is that the DS/mobile device 3D version is a bit more likely. It might be worth noting that, despite After Years debuting with a 2D style, it was re-released for mobile devices with a 3D ‘makeover’ back in 2013. This move also suggests that Square-Enix would sell the original IV and its sequel separately on the Eshop if they ever do bring them to Switch.
And now, the biggie: Final Fantasy VI. The most recent mainline entry to debut on a Nintendo system, and simultaneously one of the most beloved by fans and most neglected by its parent company. To this day, the definitive version of Final Fantasy VI is the enhanced GBA port, from all the way back in 2006. (Advance takes that crown in my book solely because, unlike other re-releases that contained the same bonus content, it included a run button from the beginning, in place of always needing to have one party member’s Relic slot taken up by the ‘Sprint Shoes’ if you wanted to get anywhere fast).
The sad reality of Final Fantasy VI is that, more than probably any other entry in this series, it is hindered by its graphical limitations. Not because it uses a 2D sprite-based presentation, to be sure—both Chrono Trigger and the first two Suikoden games managed to convey a large-scale world with a similar art style—but I think the best illustration of this shortcoming is to compare the the city of Vector in VI to Midgar in the original Final Fantasy VII. Neither locale would win any beauty contests these days, but even the rather primitive 3D visuals in VII were enough to convey that this was a massive, massive city. The Imperial capital, on the other hand? Not so much. Save for some slightly larger, plain-looking buildings, a lack of flowers and trees, and what looked to be pieces of industrial equipment in an area just beyond the line of apartments and stores, there wasn’t a whole lot to distinguish it visually from the average town a player visited.
Beyond the basic set pieces, though, there are a multitude of scenes in Final Fantasy VI that absolutely demand a greater visual spectacle than what the SNES/Famicom could achieve at the time. Especially the whole Floating Continent sequence of events. (Can you imagine?) As I admitted earlier, I don’t know much about the Dissidia games, but one thing I have seen of them are the amazing 3D models of VI’s Kefka and Terra. To have all those elaborate character designs given a modern (ish) touch, whether they used 3D models or 2D sprites, would be a thing of beauty.
Do I think a modern remake of Final Fantasy VI being developed for the Switch is likely? Sadly...no. But I can’t ignore how poetic such a thing would be. Considering that the first the world saw of the eventual Final Fantasy VII project was an N64 tech demo showing 3D models of Terra, Locke, and Shadow in battle, this would really bring things full-circle.
Again, if you made it this far...frankly, I’m surprised I made it this far! Five thousand-plus words, more than a month of fiddling with this ‘script,’ and I’m sure there’s still plenty I missed and got wrong. Still, it feels good to finally wrap this up, and if nothing else, I hope it will be a semi-enjoyable read. Curious to hear your thoughts, and many thanks!