Square-Enix was once a company I followed. Two actually, Squaresoft and Enix. During the last decade after their merging we can pretty safely say that they made most of their money on remakes of their past titles of Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest. The new Final Fantasy games haven’t even made me interested in them, and I bought Final Fantasy XII just because it’s part of the Ivalice Alliance. Never really bothered playing it more than some eight hours, and then basically discarded it to me shelf. Perhaps some day I’ll return to it.
I have to ask if Square-Enix is having a bias towards the games they own. We’ve seen that it’s the Square side of the company controlling and overseeing everything, and very little Enix is in there. We’ve seen rereleases of multiple Final Fantasy games from PlayStation to GameBoy Advance to PSP, but we really haven’t seen any Enix games been remade and released.
SquEnix has an interesting in this regard. They could play it all out with the Heaven and Earth tetralogy and call it the the only contender ever to stand against Final Fantasy on equal grounds or the like. Back in the day you could hear whispers of Terranigma being the challenger to Final Fantasy III (VI). Nowadays it’s almost universally accepted as one of the defining games in the Action RPG genre on the SNES. Being only released in Europe and Japan, the game’s pretty damn expensive unless you’re buying the German language version. Rereleasing this game (and adding more dungeons and other nifty extra stuff) would drop the English cart’s price even among collectors, and more importantly it would allow pretty much everybody to get their hands on Terranigma. The game does need a retranslation much like every other 16-bit game does. SNES game reverse engineering is easy these days even of they have lost the source code; they can just use the same tools emulation scene uses. It’s not unheard of.
Then on what console should Terranigma be rereleased, you ask. Seeing we’re getting bunch on new consoles next year in E3, putting (updated) Terranigma into WiiWare, XBLA and PSN wouldn’t be a bad move. I’d love the idea of getting a PSP/Vita or some sort of DS release, but seeing neither Sony’s or Nintendo’s handhelds are making any proper money, the only realistic route is digital sale. That doesn’t mean they could be cheap about it. On the contrary, they could be smart and pour few extra resources into the project and convert it into proper HD, or at least make it that the pixels won’t make your eyes bleed on a 50″ screen.
I’m usually against digital distribution because the customer has the least control over his products in that form. Good Old Games is one of the few digital distributors I can trust. However, I do recognize it’s advantages, and with Terranigma we can actually put the game’s quality into test with digital distribution. One advantage it has over traditional physical distribution that some of the competition is levelled down. It’s not eliminated, but every product has the same equal opportunity. On WiiWare it would be going against the likes of Super Mario Bros. in popularity. On XBLA and PSN there’s PacMan and the like. It’s a harsh competition. If Terranigma is as good as people tend to regard it as, it’ll sell like hotcakes. If it’s not, then most it’ll most likely stay somewhere around Top 50 selling games, but that’s it.
I do believe that Terranigma would sell. It depends on what SquEnix would do with it. The vanilla Terranigma shouldn’t cost more than 5 bucks or so. Twenty if they remake it like they did with the GBA and PSP ports. SquEnix doesn’t really have anything to lose with this idea, much like they don’t have anything to lose if they ever actually decide to remake Final Fantasy VII. However, FFVII remake would fetch far larger development team and longer time to properly make, while they can just whip Terranigma up just like they did with the Chrono Trigger port to the DS.
Speaking of Chrono Trigger, the amount if English cartridges on both Trigger and Terranigma are limited, but if you ever happen to check the prices of the Japanese carts you’ll notice that they’re much cheaper. Chrono Trigger’s actually commonly bundled with random 10 Super Famicom game packs that game stores sell to get rid of them, as is Terranigma. I actually got my copy of Tenchi Souzou around 15 euros few years back, complete with box, manual and the protective plastic bag. Seeing how the game frequently fetches 80€+ prices in every auction, it makes me a bit dumbfounded that SquEnix hasn’t managed to shove their hands in. 80€ is high price for Terraniga, seeing that a rather large quantity of them is in circulation in the end. Just like with bad games, it’s the collectors’ value and all that which jacks up the price. It’s stupid to see Terranigma go with such high prices. Having played the game quite some time, I can safely say that it is a good game by every standard you can think of. However, just like Final Fantasy III/VI, you do feel how age has caught upon some of its mechanics. Games like Super Mario Bros. 3 are basically ageless, but games like Final Fantasy and Terranigma are usually ravaged by time. Slowly, but surely. Another example would be the Ys series, but Nihon Falcom has been remaking the series for some time now and these remakes will stand the test of time better than the two SNES classics. Not because they’re newer, but because they’re more refined, just like Super Mario Bros. 3 or Space Invaders is. SquEnix has all the means to make Terranigma shine like it should.
And while they’re at it, they might want to check the rest of the tetralogy; Soul Blazer, Illusion of Gaia/Time and The Granstream Saga.
Hmm, perhaps I’ll dwell deeper into Granstream Saga some day. It’s the ignored last game of the Heaven and Earth tetralogy, so visiting it after visiting Ys would seem viable.