Unbranding the Sheep: In Praise of… .Squeenix!? (UPDATED)

Friday, Square Enix announced their intention for a friendly takeover of Tecmo, at a price of about 920Â¥, a 30% premium of their current stock price.

The first thing that people complained about to me was that Square had become another EA, engulfing smaller companies to become an unweildly giant that’s going to forcefully take over the world, forcing gamers all over the world few alternatives but to admire their little androgynous nancy-boys, while preparing for a Godzilla vs. Mothra like showdown with EA. To them, this is just another indication that the industry is going into the tanker, and the death of another great name in favour of one that shoved Final Fantasy X-2 upon us.

While I’ll grant that their judgement is usually sound in cases like this, I, for one, happen to think this is the best thing that could have happened to both companies.

Tecmo’s had a rough time of it recently. Other than Ninja Gaiden and DOA4, none of their big releases had any real penetration into the market, and furthermore, the rest of their names are flagging as well; Tecmo Bowl: Kickoff is going to be castrated by a lack of NFL licenses, whereas Rygar continues to see delay after delay, while the old one – the same one they’re re-releasing on Wii – was overshadowed by other games, including one – God of War – that was essentially Rygar with blood and tits. Speaking of blood and tits, it seems Tecmo learned their lesson from what happened to Rygar, and proceeded to put them into all of their big name licenses; they released two shameful “Extreme” titles with their DOA females that were nothing more than legitimized masturabory fodder for otaku, and turned your average Ninja Gaiden enemy into blood fountains with a broken tap; personally, I thought we as an industry grew out of the whole “blood = hardcore” bit once Mortal Kombat III had been in the arcades for awhile, but whatever, I’m old. The Tehkan of old has long been gone, and anyone mourning the company is mourning the name, because other than Ninja Gaiden, that’s about all they have left.

Going back to the shock value aspect of their recent games, a lot of that can be blamed credited to Tomonobu Itagaki, their erstwhile game developer, brain child behind Dead or Alive, and leader of Team Ninja. At least, he was until he tried to get himself and his team bonuses promised to them, at which point their new President, Yoshimi Yasuda, told them to go forth and multiply. You don’t piss off a man as temperamental as Itagaki, so he left, and took his team with him, leading to a lawsuit for lost bonuses. The fallout from that is so severe that President Yasuda resigned, and it’s a large reason why Tecmo’s stock is such a low-hanging fruit in the first place. Depending on your view – and this is mine – the only good thing to come out of this is that Itagaki is gone. I personally view Itagaki as a hack who relies on shock value and degrades women in the most demeaning ways, and frankly, I’d love to see what will happen at least with Ninja Gaiden without him in charge of it, and standing on it’s own merits, without a lot of his false bravado generating media buzz.

As for Square Enix, I can definitely understand the fear of their taking over another company; after all, their reputation has taken a hit this decade as they try to grow their brand and milk their better franchises for profitability, and I’ve been quick to criticize them as well. However, I can retort that with one word: Taito. The first major games by Taito under Squeenix’s umbrella came out this year in the form of Arkanoid Extreme and Space Invaders Extreme, and the last time I checked, they garnered excellent reviews, and judging by scores alone, Space Invaders – of all games – stands to be my game of the year. Squeenix did the best thing they could have done with those titles: they let the studio work, and stayed the hell out of the way, much like how Enix’s people did their work on the supremely quality Dragon Quest VIII. Criticize them for their current games, and the way they whore their old licenses, but thinking that they’re going to go in and ruin Tecmo just because they’re Square Enix is needlessly judgemental, and more of an indictment of other companies that actually do behave like that (hello, EA!) than it is of Squeenix itself. Furthermore, if they’re to be taken at their word – and like it or not, they usually can be – Square Enix’s proposal is friendly, and if the September 4th deadline passes with a rejection or no answer, they will drop the deal. I would say that sounds a lot more amicable than EA’s proverbial cock-slap of Take Two that’s going to end the sports gaming market as we know it.

Tecmo’s got two big releases on the horizon; Tecmo Bowl: Kickoff drops in November, and the old new Rygar drops – hopefully – in January. After that, the Tecmo name – provided they accept this fortuitous merger deal – can settle safely under the net of a company with Square Enix’s resources and hopefully return to the reverence it had when I was growing up in the NES era. This merger is the only way Tecmo as we know it can truly be saved, in my estimation, and I sincerely hope they accept the deal.

UPDATE1: Tecmo, stupidly, has rejected the offer.

UPDATE2: Inexcusably, Tecmo now seems to be in merger talks with Koei!

I’ll likely put forth a fresh perspective on this when I get more information, have had a chance to absorb this information, and it’s not 4:10 in the bloody morning.

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