Jimquisition: Batman Is Everything Wrong With Square Enix

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Batman Is Everything Wrong With Square Enix

In this excellently titled episode, we look at how a Batman action figure represents everything wrong with a major videogame publisher.

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The title is the same problem DC seems to be having these last few years.

*Edit*

Great video Jim. All i saw the first time of that picture was a clustercrap of black scrap put together and it looks more like the final boss of a Darp & Griddy JRPG than the "protector" of Gotham.

Nice new picture, though I'm not sure what it's supposed to mean.

Also, this episode, once it started dipping into 2011 style of ranting, is simply wonderful.

I was fond of the XIII series, but everything you said was more or less right on the money, Jim. Squenix definitely needs to take it down a notch.

I must say: the designers & plot writers at Square Enix Japan should be on medication. I have not played any of their titles, but glancing at them they seem more & more about style over substance. Base design is great, they make things memorable. Namco happened to find this back in the PSX era by trying to get a new mascot Klonoa to be the new face of the company. Least I hear that game is actually good, convoluted but good.

The only fallacy I'd point out in this video is that Jim accused Lightning of having no personality but briefly lionized Link a few moments prior. Other than that, the things he's saying aren't wrong, even if I don't agree with all of them. The core concepts of Final Fantasy XIII, one of my favorite games of the seventh generation, are actually pretty simplistic, but it obfuscates those concepts in a miasma of bizarre proper nouns and the narrative does rail on a bit.

That Batman reminds me of Terrorblade from DotA 2.

The fade-to-black-while-rambling is what put this one over the top.

you just compared Square Enix to Rob Liefeld 0__0

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holy shit you're right!

I think the problem these companies have is the same that many Hollywood producers have (JJ Abrams being the most notorious) that they are obsessed with trying to impress their audience at the cost of all else. FFXIII's endless graphical details serve the same purpose as Abram's constant plot twists and that whole 'mystery box' bollocks, in that they both desperately want you to tell them how clever they are at the expense of actually telling a good story, and their constant showing off pulls you out of the story. There's an old Hollywood adage which sums this up beautifully: "Don't impress me, convince me"

Square Enix does make some pretty stupid buisness and game design decisions from what I've heard. That said, I always appreciate over-the-top JRPG and anime outfit designs (at least when they're not bikini armor). Tales of Symphonia and Code Geass just wouldn't be the same without the cool, ridiculous duds.

Yes.
Fuck greebles.
Fuck fantasy weapons.
Fuck squeenix for popularizing the "blind them with bullshit" aesthetic.
Character design should fucking mean something.
Character design should not stretch your suspension of disbelief further.
Function over form.

Oh my God how right you were on so many things. How they overdo it so much that we can't remember anything about it.

Good show Jim, good show.

I'm still rooting for Yahtzee in Uncivil war though. You can't be all perfect you hunk of a man you!

The sheer number of Batman figures Square Enix have announced also feels like a parallel to the AAA industry as a whole; keep doing the same thing over and over until it's completely run into the ground.

Seriously Square Enix, stahp. I like Play Arts and Batman, but I already have (or have my sights on) a couple of those guys, I don't need a hundred million billion more of the bastards.

And that figure in the video is frigging hideous. I can't stand overly designed bullshit.

From what I can tell, Square has been focusing on dazzling players with visuals ever since the PS1 days. I mean Final Fantasy VII had attack animations that last over a minute and boxarts boasting "Over 120 minutes of mind-blowing cinematic sequences" (PAL version) or "lush 3D animation" (US version).

Same with Final Fantasy VIII: "Nearly an hour of stunning motion-captured CG cinemas seamlessly integrated into gameplay"*

* source:
http://img.gamefaqs.net/box/6/5/9/3659_back.jpg

(my apologies, I don't know how to imbed images on this forum or if it's even possible.

My point is that "Companies focus too much on graphics these days!" is one of those complaints often made against the modern game industry that I don't really agree with. Not when I realize that games from back in the day also tried to attract players with (at the time) cutting-edge graphics.

I'm guessing that if you went on a friends picnic with Square Enix, the sandwiches would be overdesigned...

That was oddly cathartic, thank you Jim. Thank god for you.

I actually do sort of like Lightning (as portrayed in XIII) though, not enough however to want her to be some sort of transcended icon of all that is Final Fantasy like her creator seem to. I mean come on.

I feel like part of the issue here is a clash of cultural aethestics. Even if Square Enix has made a few 'westernising' concessions in recent years it is still fundamentally based around very Japanese ideals. That Batman is a pretty stereotypical example of 'What if 'X' was a Power Ranger?' crossovers. Consider how many of the major Japanese properties have heroes and villians that transform or evolve or combine in order to fight one another. That's not to say that it doesn't happen in Western comics and cartoons but more often than not Western heroes and Villians are more distinguished by the distinction between their 'ordinary' lives and their Superhero counterparts.

Case in point: when the Japanese get a hold of TMNT this is what happens...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MQAQohS0On4

In the end I appreciate that Square Enix has some serious issues in its writing departments lately but I kinda feel like all us Western nerds [still] aren't quite their target audience.

Eh...is this problem with Square Enix or is it a problem with Tetsuya Nomura? Asides from the graphics thing, which is still primarily on Nomura, most of these comes from Tetsuya's tastes and his inability to stop announcing things when there are unfinished projects. I mean, for all the talk about Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest IX and X from last generation were pretty simplistic. I mean, X being a MMORPG didn't help Dragon Quest that much, but it was still a pretty simplistic game (which has been the point of the series since VII) for an MMORPG. Furthermore, things like Tomb Raider: Definite Edition and Final Fantasy XIV: Reborn shows that they are dedicated to fixing their mistakes.

Still, if you replace Square Enix with Tetsuya, I agree with you mostly.

Overdesigned costumes is kind of a running theme in japanese design. They are never simple, never practical. From hair to boots it's spikes, straps and layers. I think the reason for this is that artists are drunk on money and processing power, they just can't stop adding more bullshit to their design until there is no design left.

I don't see the problem.

It may be bad taste to like shit, but it's not a crime.
Square Enix and their FF series in particular, cater to a certain audience who like weird spiky hair and extra zippers and other weeaboo stuff.
Don't begrudge them their fun.

Square-Enix does seem to have it's priorities screwed up. And yes the most iconic characters in video games have very simple designs, maybe Square-Enix should take a lesson from that.
Also if they want a good battle system, I loved the one Star Ocean 3 had.

Aw Jim by all means, have a go at Square-Enix. I love their games...heck, Final Fantasy 7 is the reason why I started liking JRPGs as a whole. But when a company starts doing dumb things you have to sit them down and slap the stupid out of them for their own benefit. I may love FFXIII and Lightning for what they're worth but it's not like I am going to defend the decisions made and how the series was handled as a whole because they did do some rather stupid stuff with it.

As for Bahamutman, I like to look at it but I'd never want to own the thing. For one part all those extra bits look like a massive choking and/or poking hazard for your dog or infant child. Something which I am certain the Caped Crusader would not appreciate.

Raika:
The only fallacy I'd point out in this video is that Jim accused Lightning of having no personality but briefly lionized Link a few moments prior. Other than that, the things he's saying aren't wrong, even if I don't agree with all of them. The core concepts of Final Fantasy XIII, one of my favorite games of the seventh generation, are actually pretty simplistic, but it obfuscates those concepts in a miasma of bizarre proper nouns and the narrative does rail on a bit.

I think Jim was explaining that these other characters are considered iconic in gaming, and they didn't need BELTS AND ZIPPERS AND HALF-SKIRTS AND ANGLES to do it. He just wanted to rag on Lightning a little bit more before diving in to her costume (Pac-Man has no personality either). I would argue that those characters are more iconic because they are the stars of their own respective successful franchises more than their designs, and their simplistic designs where mainly dictated by the limits of technology back then, but Jim has a point. Squeenix has displayed over-detail for their FF games, and tend to focus on style a lot more than substance at times. At least the simpler designs are a lot easier to pull off in cosplay.

My first thought was that they'd lost Batman in that toy. My second was that it was "so 90s," thinking of comic books that imitated Liefeld and MacFarlane (Though the design seemed more McFarlane than Liefeld, both had overdetailed art). I'm glad both of these were addressed.

Batman is usually pretty easy to dentify. Pointy ears? Check. Cape? Check. Bat on chest? Check. Overly adoring fanbase? Check.

It's hard to truly screw up Batman (Though Frank Miller has tried). This figure pulled it off.

Jandau:
I'm guessing that if you went on a friends picnic with Square Enix, the sandwiches would be overdesigned...

"We've designed this sandwich using 27 different kinds of bread. It was worked on by 15 teams of bakers overseen by a corporate hierarchy (because what would bakers know about bread?). To recoup our costs, each sandwich will cost 75 dollars. Sandwiches wll be discontinued if we fail to sell at least 30,000, because people clearly don't want sandwiches."

That was beautiful, Jim. The ending was perfect. As for the actual points, I just have to assume you're right about everything, since I'm about 10 years behind on games and JRPGs especially.

I haven't played it yet, but I hear that Bravely Default is different. Any opinions on that?

The thing is while many could criticize Japan for having extreme designs and characters and overcompensating I actually think it's their attempt to appeal to Western audiences. Other popular Japanese characters are Godzilla and Astro Boy and they are also simple and iconic.

I think Nomura should design a game like Persona 4 or a setting like Attack on Titan/Legend of the Galactic Heroes where all characters are basically uniformed the same. This forces you to make distinguishing faces/personalities to make everyone stand out.

LostPause:
I feel like part of the issue here is a clash of cultural aethestics. Even if Square Enix has made a few 'westernising' concessions in recent years it is still fundamentally based around very Japanese ideals. That Batman is a pretty stereotypical example of 'What if 'X' was a Power Ranger?' crossovers. Consider how many of the major Japanese properties have heroes and villians that transform or evolve or combine in order to fight one another. That's not to say that it doesn't happen in Western comics and cartoons but more often than not Western heroes and Villians are more distinguished by the distinction between their 'ordinary' lives and their Superhero counterparts.

Honestly that Batman figure looks less Sentai and more Kamen Rider or GARO to me, but your point still stands.

As for SE I think what really screws them over is that they don't make particularly good games anymore. They became a titan of the industry by making some of the best JRPGs on the PSX and PS2, but their output has been miserable recently. I honestly blame the management. Motomu Toriyama is a complete hack that needs to go, it was his idiocy that "Fabula Nova Crystales" was ever a thing, he's big on flash in the pan "Interactive movie" gameplay. It wouldn't be as bad if his "Story over gameplay" stance wasn't tied to such crummy stories. The bloated hideousness of FF13 is in complete contrast to FF14, where the new director completely scrapped the game and made not only a good MMO but arguably the best FF game in recent memory.

That batman design looks neat... for a devil lord from the infernal plane.

The ridiculous amount of design is one reason I get annoyed when I tell people I like RPGs, and they answer with, "Ooh, I love Final Fantasy X_!"

The design of Lightning in FFXIII is pretty good, I think.

canadamus_prime:
Square-Enix does seem to have it's priorities screwed up. And yes the most iconic characters in video games have very simple designs, maybe Square-Enix should take a lesson from that.
Also if they want a good battle system, I loved the one Star Ocean 3 had.

I'd appreciate it if they just stopped trying to reinvent the wheel every game or two.

Though the odds of me buying a new FF game any time soon are slim. But still. I imagine if they used the SO3 engine, the next game would be completely different.

This. So much this.

However, Jim, I'm surprised that you didn't talk about Final Fantasy XIV. At this year's GDC, FFXIV director Yoshi-P gave a good talk about exactly this problem, and why it crashed FFXIv 1.0 (the game that launched to technical, critical, and financial failure). The dev team working on 1.0 were so graphics crazy, objects had as much detail as a single player character and because this caused such a burden on both servers and local machines, they had to limit the onscreen player count to twenty.

In a fucking MMO.

"Everything wrong with Square Enix" seems a bit misleading when it's mostly talking about final fantasy (exuberance in desire for graphical fidelity and unrealistic profit goals besides), and seems especially narrow-minded when the same criticisms can be leveled at a large portion of the Japanese game industry (which in fairness, Square Enix helped inspire through sheer size, but they are by no means alone).

But I've been quietly making these criticisms about character design in popular fictional Japanese media for years, in everything from anime to manga to video games and how everything is so wildly angular, over-the-top and flashy that the Batman model featured here is less preferable than the Batman costume of Adam West through sheer process of elimination.

P.S., I'm perfectly aware this isn't a Japan only thing, if I had to come up with a recent western comparison it'd be Michael Bay's Transformers, being the hideous, indistinguishable animated trash heaps that they are, but this is a different, rarer problem.

That batman thing made me think of what Konrad Kruze/Night Haunter from Warhammer 40,000; Horus Heresy would look like as a Daemon Prince. >_>

But seriously, a lot of mid to post PS2 Square Enix has been doing a lot of things that pushed me off the company, FFX-2 being the starting point in their change.

UberTriangle:
Overdesigned costumes is kind of a running theme in japanese design. They are never simple, never practical. From hair to boots it's spikes, straps and layers. I think the reason for this is that artists are drunk on money and processing power, they just can't stop adding more bullshit to their design until there is no design left.

Funny because Nomura actually made Lulu from FFX to have a skirt of belts to challenge the modelers/desginers. On the other side, pretty much all the iconic characters Jim mentioned were simple and Japanese.

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