Above: Not even time travel can find you a better JRPGperiod than 16-bit
In the glory days it made: Final Fantasy, Chrono Trigger, Secret of Mana
But more recently: Has made the massively divisive, massively linear Final Fantasy XIII, has bought Eidos, and has been making increased efforts to westernise.
Who’s missing? The biggest names would be Hironobu Sakaguchi and Nobuo Uematsu. Sakaguchi commited the small act of creating the Final Fantasy series in 1986, and produced or directed every game in the series up to and including Final Fantasy X. In 1991 he became Executive Vice President of Square, and steered the company and its multiple series until he stepped down and left in 2004.
Uematsu was Square’s best-known composer, creating the complete scores for every Final Fantasy game until XII. Next to Sakaguchi's design, his soundtracks gave the series its very essence. He left to go freelance in 2004.
Above: Love it or hate it, it was far from a failure. Apart from Leona Lewis
How badly has Square-Enix suffered? On the whole, not too badly considering. The company's games have certainly lost some of their old charm, but while the new directions taken by the Final Fantasy series (less linear, freeform combat in XII, massively linear, stripped-down everything in XIII) have been controversial, they have been successful. And while many old-school purists aren't sure about Squenix's increasingly sloppy kissing sessions with the west, getting fingers into the Eidos pie is unlikely to do it any harm in terms of money or diversification. The company has already produced somestunning animated work forDeus Ex 3.
And those purists don't need to worry too much. Sakaguchi left to form the Microsoft-funded Mistwalker studio, and its second release, Lost Odyssey, couldn't have been more traditionally Final Fantasy if the discs had come packaged in Moogle-skin bag. And the fact that Uematsu did the soundtrack worked wonders. As for the departed music man, he's only partially departed, as his freelance status means that he still does plenty of soundtracks for the company that made his name (or vice versa, depending on your perspective).
Above: This is better than Star Wars
In the glory days it made: Monkey Island, Day of the Tentacle, Grim Fandango, Sam & Max, Full Throttle, Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, a load of Star Wars games.
But more recently: It has made a load of Star Wars games. Most of them crap.
Who’s missing?A metric shedload of Lucasarts’ old adventure game talent. In 2004, Lucasarts’ final adventure felt the cold, bitter metal of the cancellation bullet hit the back of its throat, as Sam & Max sequel Freelance Police was dropped mid-production. Lucasarts then decided to ‘restructure’, rebuilding itself entirely out of Star Wars bricks held together with the mystical cement of The Force. Adventure games were out, as were its adventure games staff, and thus the likes of Tim Shafer (Day of the Tentacle) and Dave Grossman (Monkey Island) found themselves shuffling off elsewhere.
Above: This is not better than Monkey Island
How badly has Lucasarts suffered? Sweet baby Jesus. By voluntarily nuking its happy village of adventure makers, Lucasarts became more machine than man, a cold, hulking factory pumping out safe-bet Star Wars game after safe-bet Star Wars game, devoid of all the zest, originality and character it once reveled in.
Gamers however, can continue living the glory days regardless, as most of Lucas’ previous stars are still working successfully elsewhere on very similar stuff. The most obvious place is Telltale Games, an adventure studio made up of so many of them that it might as well be called Lucasarts: The Next Generation. Having got hold of the Sam & Max rights, the series continues aplomb in Telltale’s hands, andthe companyrecently kick-started Monkey Island again with the Tales of… series, via a deal with Lucasarts. Which hopefully, is a promising sign of things to come from the House of Vader.
Above: New Sam & Max is better than The Force Unleashed
And naturally, Tim Shafer continues to carve out his niche of hilarious but commercially unsuccessful games with the likes of Psychonauts and Brutal Legend, at his company Double Fine.
But what do you think? Are there any other devs you bemoan the loss of to this day? Any companies you think have fallen apart since the loss of their key members? Or are there any on this list you think are actually better nowadays? Let us know in the comments, or load your opinions into the speech cannon and take aim at ourFacebookandTwitterportals.