OP-ED: Does Final Fantasy XIII-2 Represent the End of Square, or a New Beginning?

Earlier this week, Gamasutra published a scathing criticism of Final Fantasy XIII-2 penned by our colleague (and occasional Retronauts podcast guest) Christian Nutt. Though contextualized through an extended comparison to Red Letter Media’s popular video critiques of the Star Wars prequel films, his commentary touched upon many of the same points and concerns I addressed in my own review of the game. Where our opinions differ, I think, is in our ultimate conclusion of XIII-2‘s merits (or lack thereof); I found the game flawed but a welcome step in correcting the series’ course after two widely lambasted entries, while Christian feels it represents a deep, systemic rot at Square Enix’s internal development studio.

I’m not too surprised by this turn of events. Christian and I rarely see eye-to-eye on most matters. So while I agree with his assessment of the underlying issues affecting FFXIII and XIII-2, my outlook on the company’s future isn’t nearly as dire as his. (I also disagree with many of Christian’s assertions about FFXIII, such as the claim that lead protagonist Lightning lacked a demonstrable character arc, but that’s neither here nor there.) From having spoken to FFXIII-2 director Motomu Toriyama and producer Yoshinori Kitase several times over the past couple of years, I get the impression that they’re sincerely concerned about the series’ direction and want to keep Final Fantasy relevant. From what I know of Square Enix’s corporate culture, I also suspect that they’re hobbled by the conservative nature of Japanese business, which can be slow to change when processes and standards that worked for years suddenly become ineffectual.

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