What was the golden age of Squaresoft? Was it the Super Nintendo, or the original PlayStation generation? Both were incredible with some of the best games ever made. They are pretty much tied, but for now let’s begin with the PS1.
Now a lot of these games, of course, were Final Fantasy related. Final Fantasy VII, Final Fantasy VIII, Final Fantasy IX, and Final Fantasy Tactics are all 10/10 experiences. They are amazing, but what about the unsung heroes of this generation? Let's take a look at some of those hidden gems right now.
Everyone remembers Final Fantasy VII, but Xenogears, well, not as much. Why bring up that title? The two were developed at the same time. Unfortunately the budget got cut from Xenogears for Final Fantasy VII making that last disc a crazy fever dream.
Again, that is a sour note for it, but weird absent story aside, it’s still a completely unique RPG that is the grandfather of all the other spiritual successors like Xenosaga and Xenoblade Chronicles. Too bad the rights are tied up with Square Enix for those teams to make proper sequels.
Ever play The Legend of the Mystical Ninja on SNES. Brave Fencer Musashi has nothing to do with that, but it definitely has the same vibe. There is a whacky army of ninjas and monsters after this spunky little samurai in a kingdom where a lot of things are named after food. What is this Dragon Ball?
It did get one sequel, Musashi Legend on PS2, but that was the end for this short-lived series. Too bad too because Squaresoft didn’t make a lot of action games at the time.
Vagrant Story was the second game in the Ivalice series, which takes place in the same universe as Final Fantasy Tactics and Final Fantasy XII. Crazy fact, no? It was such an ambitious title for its time just like the former game.
It was a darker, medieval dungeon crawler with religious and political undertones. It was also brutally difficult. It is not Dark Souls challenging, but it definitely had those vibes. It’s a shame this hasn’t been revisited, or that Ivalice in general hasn’t been used more.
When one thinks about the Mana series, chances are Secret of Mana will come to mind. That is the best in the franchise without a doubt so that response is natural. While Legend of Mana was certainly a beautiful game on PS1, it was dated by comparison to a lot of games out in 2000 for North America.
Sprite based games were old hat especially with the PS2 so close. Not to mention the rather confusing mechanics. Despite the negatives going against it, Legend of Mana was, and still is, an excellent adventure. One just needs to read up on GameFAQs a lot.
Chocobo's Dungeon 2 Is definitely the weakest addition on this list. That said the whimsical nature of this adorable bird is hard to criticize. This is a spinoff of a spinoff in that this belongs to the bigger roguelike franchise, Fushigi no Dungeon, or as it is labeled in the West, Mystery Dungeon.
Yes, that includes those Pokémon Mystery Dungeon games too. Like those, this scales a bit on the easier side of things. It won’t hold hands, but it is more forgiving to say the least.
The first game is a 10/10 masterpiece and also definitely underrated. That said the sequel is also good, but a lot more obscure. Like Legend of Mana, this was a late console release for 2000. It’s also a much different game that is more like Resident Evil with RPG elements.
Aya Brea is still the protagonist and she has magic, but it got away from the mitochondria angle. It’s not my first choice for where one would want to see this series go, but it still is fun.
Okay so Bushido Blade 2 isn’t technically an RPG. That doesn’t matter. What does is that it took the concept of a fighting game and made it more brutal? The first was a good proof of concept.
Let’s have ninjas, samurai, and other bladed warriors duke it out in one hit finishers. That’s right. If struck by the blade once that was it, which is probably more realistic. The sequel did everything a hundred times better. Where has this series gone?
The SaGa games have always been a bit, er, weird. The ideas that would eventually shape this series started with Final Fantasy II. That was an RPG where actions dictated stats. Get hit a lot? HP and or defense will increase. Use magic a lot? MP and magic power increases.
That’s the idea SaGa carried forward. Now the first SaGa Frontier was an attempt at 3D, but on a lower budget making an otherwise interesting game simply ugly to go back to now. The sequel is gorgeous, archaic in nature, but still a treat.
Does Final Fantasy Tactics sound good but with mechs? If not it should! Front Mission 3 is the first game in the series to hit Western shores. It started all the way back on the SNES, or Super Famicom to be technical for Japan, in 1995.
History aside this series deserves more respect than it does. Much like the Gundam anime, Front Mission explores the follies of war, offering perspectives for each side. Oh yeah and there is tons of robot explosive action!
Threads of Fate, in some ways, feels like a predecessor to Kingdom Hearts. It has adorable monsters to both smack around with ridiculously shaped weapons and transform into. Yes, players can take the shape of enemies to both solve puzzles and to just thrash about. Like many of these others, this was a 2000 release.
Sense a pattern here? It was Squaresoft’s last push for the PS1 before taking on the PS2, which resulted in a lot of creativity. Some were bad, but there was a lot of good too.