We have spoken before about the history of games industry titans, Square Enix. This time, we are going to be examining how their stories have impacted culture in the west, as well as the people who live there.
Final Fantasy Spreads Westward
As with a lot of Western fans, I was drawn in by Square’s Final Fantasy series as a kid. Of course, back in the early 2000’s, creating a terrible free website to show appreciation for something was the highest praise we could muster. These days, people have other outlets: we have seen people transform themselves to resemble the characters, attend cosplay conventions, and some have even created their games, inspired by the series. In 2013, a team started a crowdfunding attempt to raise funds for their game Gridlock Tactics, which was inspired by Final Fantasy Tactics and Disgaea, both of which were either created or published by Square Enix.
That is not all – after the release of Final Fantasy XV, a man named Yang Bing set out to create his own game called Lost Soul Aside. He drew slowly upon the series for artistic inspiration, and it shows: his characters would not look out of place in Ivalice or Gaeia. The art director for Mass Effect 3, Derek Watts has even claimed that his team took inspiration from the futuristic technology in the underwhelming movie Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within. It is clear that although the series started off small, it has become an almost household name outside of Japan. Of course, it is not just games. Square Enix games have referenced in everything from The Big Bang Theory to Scott Pilgrim. Even celebrities are singing their praises, with WWE wrestler Xavier Woods talking about Final Fantasy on his YouTube channel and incorporating it into his wrestling persona.
Western Influences On Final Fantasy XV
Of course, big ideas often come from some strange places. When Square Enix was putting together the dialogue for Final Fantasy XV, they wanted to base the group of four main characters on existing characters from pop culture. Square Enix allowed them to understand each character’s motivations better and helped them write realistic sounding conversations. According to Dan Inoue, the localization director, Noctis character based on Kurt Cobain, the Nirvana frontman. Additionally, his friends Gladio, Prompto, and Ignis based on John McClane from Die Hard, Ferris Bueller from the eponymous movie, and Sherlock Holmes, respectively.
The game’s creators have also mentioned that the game influenced by a lot of American road trip movies, and it shows. Dusty old gas stations, stunning overlooks, and exciting new towns are all par for the course, as is the ton of good-natured banter amongst the main cast. In essence, it is a coming of age tale not dissimilar to Almost Famous or Little Miss Sunshine. The game is a real jumble of cultures, with Italian-style buildings, American muscle cars, and even a Japanese expressway. However, Square Enix made one massive change to make the game more palatable to people who may not have liked turn-based combat – they made every fight happen in real time. There’s still an element of strategy to battles, but it is now far more similar to an action game rather than a bona fide RPG, and this may have contributed to how well the game did in the west.
Whatever your opinion of Square Enix, you cannot deny that they have been very influential. In just a few decades they have taken RPGs from being a nerdy hobby to being wholly mainstream and purchased by people of all ages and backgrounds. They are a company who knows that sometimes art imitates life, and this allows them to draw inspiration from Western culture, then feed it straight back in the form of their games. It is a textbook symbiotic relationship, and one that we hope continues well into the future.