Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Merry Christmas 1998 from Squaresoft!

Happy holidays from Square and the folks here at "Shilling Epilepsy to Mouth-Breathers"! Writing time has been tight since our October spree of terror, but the current work schedule is looking as though there may be more regular activity in our medium-term future. (All the same, since I've been sitting on it for just such an occasion for quite some time, I wanted to be absolutely sure I got this ad posted before Christmas. So here we go, enjoy!)
you better watch out...
you better not fry...

The creators of Final Fantasy VII have the hottest lineup of holiday titles, including the spectacular new science-fiction masterpiece, Parasite Eve.
From the blazing fighting action in Bushido Blade 2 to the smoldering battlefields of Final Fantasy Tactics, these games might be too hot to handle.

PE parasite eve The cinematic RPG
Xenogears Role-Playing with giant robots
BUSHIDO BLADE 2 Honorable swordplay
Final Fantasy Tactics A strategic new world
Saya Frontier Seven journeys become one
EINHÄNDER A fully-loaded 3D shooter
This ad was always somewhat of a head-scratcher to me. OK, so you've mangled the lyrics to "Santa Claus is Coming To Town", but how does it logically follow that I should purchase your products? Perhaps if I'd played more Square games (Chrono Trigger was special and exceptional, but most of my other Square experience have actively repeled me) I would recognize the women in the ad artwork, and understand why one is setting fire to a Christmas decoration featuring the other. (And still, that's burning, not frying... In short, this ad screams that they couldn't find a common element for their bill of goods. If you only have one idea for an ad, that must de facto be the best idea you have, right?)

The ad shows that the company had a real momentum going after Square jumped ship from the Nintendo platforms that incubated it to Playstation 1 platform-exclusivity and a deft touch with its often-abhorrent early 3D. How many game companies in their bumper years had seven different titles brought to the Christmas market? Some of these games rated ads of their own; perhaps others did not. I like how they all have stylish and distinct logos, with an interesting frequent focus on brush-painted calligraphic styles. Square is if nothing else a consummately Japanese company unafraid to relish, wallow even, in Japanese concerns that may never have been of any interest to Western markets; when they caught our attention, it was as the result of a happy accident. (Or do they actively cultivate an orientalist otherness for exotic appeal to Western otaku and nippophiles?)

The company's family tree is somewhat tangled; here they appear to have been working with EA as a Western distributor, before they picked up Eidos (itself the ruins of Domark -- perhaps the last of the big game companies named as a portmanteau of its founders?) and were themselves bailed out by acquisition by old rivals Enix (whose Dragon Warrior series may have been the only suitable rival for Square's Final Fantasy franchise) following the ruinous release of the expensively hair-obsessed Final Fantasy movie. But don't take my word for it, that's just my construction of what I've been able to observe and conjecture.

In conclusion: winter is cold, but Square's lineup is hot; Bushido Blade 2's fighting action is blazing and FF Tactics' battlefields are smoldering, resulting in games that "might be too hot to handle". I don't believe that the PS1 suffered from overheating, but if it did that might have been a good way for these marketers to turn a liability into a seeming asset.

As a thanks for reading and a reward for your patience, here's a totally unrelated (well, Christmas-themed, yes; made by Square, no) game I whiled away a couple of idle hours with the other evening: Merry Clickmas!

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