Time again for another one of those lists I concocted to fill the void left in my heart now that I lack enough contenders to do those PC ports lists. No complaints though, because this list is a lot more inclusive, considering these are games that no one outside of emulation junkies and retro game hoarders can get their hands on these days anyway. Better yet, it even affords me the chance to look into companies that I don’t constantly moon over. So, let’s start 2016 with a company I don’t usually discuss.
Before we get to that, let’s go over the rules I’m limiting myself to in this series once again. I’m going to be looking at games from the 6th generation (PS2/Gamecube/Xbox) and earlier. I’ve decided to focus on one company for each article, and because I live in North America, I’m not counting any international re-releases, so don’t telling me something on my list got re-released in Japan. If I can’t buy it legitimately from America, I’m not counting it. I’ll also be discussing any potential improvements that could be made to these games, in cases where the games themselves would receive an HD re-release. To make things reasonable, I’ll also be avoiding games that saw re-releases on 7th generation and later consoles, via PlayStation Classics, Virtual Console or anything like that. Sure, more substantial re-releases than Sony’s and Nintendo’s emulations would be preferred, but it’s better than nothing.
This time around, you’ll be surprised to hear that I’ve picked Square Enix. You see, before they converged into an unstoppable onslaught of Final Fantasys, Dragon Quests and Kingdom Hearts spinoffs – with the occasional Eidos title, for variety – Square Enix was, in fact, two separate companies: Squaresoft and Enix. Proof positive that not everything is greater than the sum of its parts: while I have nothing but disdain for the direction modern Square Enix has taken, both Square and Enix were responsible for many games that I love to this day.
Brave Fencer Musashi (PS1)
While most people only remember Square’s many turn-based RPGs, they were also responsible for some great action-RPGs as well. One of my favorites would have to be the PS1 classic Brave Fencer Musashi, due to its colorful world and unique cast of characters (one of the bosses is a friggin’ rhythm minigame – cool, right?). To add insult to injury, this game’s already available on PSN in Japan. Get used to hearing that, because it’s going to become a theme.
Potential Improvements: Honestly, if that upcoming Steam port of Final Fantasy 9 lives up to the hype, I’d love to see a similar treatment for Brave Fencer Musashi. Enhanced graphics would be great, achievements would be nice, anything else is appreciated but not necessary.
Another thing old-school Square did that Square Enix doesn’t do is experiment in genres that they’re not known for. Case in point: Einhänder – one of the best shmups of the fifth generation, bar none. Combining solid 2D gameplay with high-quality (for the time) 3D graphics, which allowed for some dynamic transitions. Again, Japan saw a PSN re-release while North America was left in the cold.
Potential Improvements: In addition to enhanced graphics and achievements, I’ve heard that the North American version of Einhänder was modified significantly from the original Japanese. I’d prefer the original version if I had to choose, but it would be really cool if the features from both versions were present in any overhaul.
Bust-A-Groove 1 & 2 (PS1)
I loved rhythm games back in the PS1 days. PaRappa the Rapper, UmJammer Lammy and Dance Dance Revolution were great, but the Bust-A-Groove games from Enix took things to a whole new level. Focusing more on competition than just following the beat, the BAG games were unique when they were released and I still consider them among the best the genre has to offer. Unlike the previous two games, these games haven’t seen re-releases in any region, possibly due to copyright issues with the game’s soundtrack – an important element in any rhythm game.
Potential Improvements: Enhanced graphics would be nice, but what would really sell me on this one would be the inclusion of both the English and Japanese soundtracks this time around. Online multiplayer is also a must.
Tobal No. 1 & Tobal 2 (PS1)
I told you the Squaresoft of old had some amazing genre diversity, case in point – the Tobal games. Developed by Dream Factory, the first game boasted character designs from Akira Toriyama himself. In addition to its solid 3D fighting game mechanics, the Tobal games boasted a unique “Quest” mode: tweaking the game into an action-RPG with multiple dungeons to explore. I never actually got to play Tobal 2, considering it only saw release in Japan, but it apparently boasts a roster of 200 playable characters – a feat that hasn’t been seen before or matched since.
Potential Improvements: Enhanced graphics, online multiplayer and achievements would be nice. Seeing Tobal 2 receive an English translation would be great.
Bushido Blade 1 & 2 (PS1)
Unique for their time, the Bushido Blade games took fighting game conventions and turned them on their head. No life bar, no time limit, just two combatants and their weapons of choice. Bushido Blade was unique because most hits would immediately end the match in death, but fighters could also choose to simply wound their opponents with the game’s “Body Damage System” – for example, crippling an opponent’s legs would force them to crawl.
Potential Improvements: Online play would be a must for these games. Enhanced graphics would be nice too, as well as the inclusion of the blood added to the North American version (though the option to revert it to the yellow flash from the original Japanese version would please everyone).
E.V.O.: Search for Eden (SNES)
I don’t even know how to categorize this game, but I still enjoy it. E.V.O. puts you in the role of a creature of their own design through various periods of Earth’s development from the Cambrian Period all the way to the Quaternary period. It’s really hard to describe, somewhere between a simulation game and an action-RPG, where you kill weaker creatures in order to evolve into stronger forms. Truly unique for its time, it’s a shame the game didn’t get more exposure – both when it was new and even to this day.
Potential Improvements: I can’t really think of much to improve if this were to receive a release on something besides Virtual Console. The best I can really think of would be to include a translated version of 46 Okunen Monogatari: The Shinka Ron, an earlier game for the NRC PC-98, which was effectively E.V.O.’s prequel. A turn-based RPG, it would be interesting and somewhat poetic to see E.V.O.’s roots released in English for the first time.
Mischief Makers (N64)
This game’s something of a white whale for me – a Treasure game that received no re-release, with no licenses preventing a re-release and on a system that’s notoriously difficult to emulate properly. Players are thrust into the role of robot maid Marina as she attempts to rescue her imperiled creator Professor Theo. Marina can attack her foes by grabbing objects and shaking them in order to rob enemies of their gems (the collectable du jour) or other items.
Potential Improvements: Graphical enhancements would be nice and if this were a port to other platforms, I’d love to see the controls modified slightly – the N64’s controller led to some weird layouts.
Before there was Dissidia, there was Ehrgeiz. Another Dream Factory fighting game, Ehrgeiz was originally published by Namco when it was in arcades. Square took over when the game hit the original PlayStation and it shows: several Final Fantasy 7 characters were made playable in the game – Cloud and Tifa were unlockable in the Arcade version and Sephiroth, Yuffie, Vincent, and even Zack were added to the console version. Ehrgeiz was almost like a prototype of Power Stone, with arena-style combat and the ability to use objects throughout the stage as weapons.
Potential Improvements: Online play is definitely needed for sure, graphical enhancements would be nice and the inclusion of the complete roster is a must-have.
The Bouncer (PS2)
I’ll be honest with you, The Bouncer was one of the games I most anticipated when the PlayStation 2 launched, but poor review scores kept me away. Looking back at it, it still looks like a very interesting game, especially considering it was one of the few early attempts at beat-‘em-ups in the 6th generation, before their eventual evolution into modern action games.
Potential Improvements: I guess ideally, if this game were to come back, I’d like to see a full overhaul of the game, incorporating all of the features that were dropped from early trailers. Aside from that, I’d be fine with upscaled graphics and online functionality of the game’s multiplayer mode.
Soul Blazer/Illusion of Gaia/Terranigma (SNES)
As odd as it sounds, these three games are all related, so I’ve grouped them together as their fans are wont to do. Collectively referred to as the “Soul Blazer series”, the “Gaia trilogy” or the “Quintet Heaven and Earth Trilogy” among other names, all three of these games were developed by Quintet, the team behind the much-acclaimed ActRaiser. These three games were loosely connected action-RPGs, and while Soul Blazer and Illusion of Gaia were both released in North America, Terranigma was not so lucky.
Potential Improvements: Aside from making sure that Terranigma is running at NTSC speeds with the English translation, I can’t really think of anything specific I would want besides perfect ports.
Just a few honorable mentions this time around: Drakengard 1 & 2, the Wonder Project J duology (with an official English translation) and Rad Racer. This time around, quite a few games have been blocked by regional issues, which is a damn shame. Writing these lists is honestly more fun when it’s difficult to fill the entire list, Sega and Capcom had several games I want re-released, but most of Square Enix’s good stuff is buried deep in their back catalog, forgotten by far too many people.