Square Enix announced that a slew of DLC was on the way for Final Fantasy XV shortly after it released last year, and finally got around to dating some this past week. While most of the contents were already known, like the character quests and the fix to the mostly-disliked Chapter 13, outfits reminiscent of those from Super Sentai/Power Rangers shows called the “Magitek Exosuits” were a genuine-though- minor surprise. They were also a surprise in how many players thought this was an unlikely place for such outfits to show up, but it’s possible they aren’t aware of how popular Sentai-related Tokusatsu shows are in Japan. They aren’t simply a sizable phenomenon among older boys like Rangers in western territories (though some adults stay fans as they age — and that’s fine!), but also popular among people of all ages in the country.
The developers didn’t get around to clarifying precisely what effects the outfits will have in battle, and given what’s occurred mere days after the announcement, we may never know. Power Rangers IP holder Saban got in touch with Square Enix to say their outfits were too close to what they deemed as their source material. Thus, the company has been forced to delay and modify the outfits so they appear palatable enough for Saban’s strict standards.
But should they have to do this? Again, “their outfits were too close to what they deemed as their source material.” Let’s be honest: This really isn’t their source material when you observe how the Rangers shows are made. They take material from the Japanese Super Sentai shows, and edit that footage into other scenes with American actors and unique scripts. For many reasons, Saban doesn’t have much of a case here, and they’re coming off as gigantic bullies.
For one, the designs for the FFXV outfits are distinct enough that no one would confuse them for authentic Power Rangers variants, and think Square Enix is stealing from another company. That means they qualify as parodies, and though parody is protected by the First Amendment in America, many companies outside the country are often willing to let that slide. It’s clear that Saban isn’t among them.
How a possible court case would have unfolded would have depended on what country it occurred in, though in fairness, Japanese courts have let parodies or close facsimiles slide before. Take a look at how Nintendo lost their case against Enterbrain and Tirnanog over Tear Ring Saga for being too close to Fire Emblem (note that most of the court documents are in Japanese). This lawsuit likely would have gone the same way in multiple countries.
This isn’t the first time Saban has threatened a company and work for using Rangers-like designs. This previously happened to the crowdfunded Chroma Squad, an indie game from small Brazilian developer Behold Studios. It’s a game from a team that enjoys Power Rangers and Super Sentai works, whose game was about a producer creating episodes for a show. While their designs were a little closer to their inspiration, they nonetheless deviated enough to qualify as parodies of those works.
Regardless, Saban wanted royalties from the game’s profits for being too close to the source material, and threatened to take them to court if they didn’t. Given the size of the developer, however, this was an even worse case of bullying from a big company. Saban apparently envisioned how this would go for them in terms of perception and eventually backed off, and Chroma Squad released without any hitches or changes at the end of April 2015. It seems they felt they could get away with going after a company as large as Square Enix, and sadly, it appears they’ve succeeded.
There might be a silver lining to this ordeal, though. Sentai/Rangers-like outfits might be off limits, but this would be a good time for them to use the better source material: Kamen Rider. I’ve personally always preferred them to the Super Sentai outfits, and they’d be more popular material to use in Japan, given its popularity there. Hopefully Saban doesn’t feel they’ll be owed for this one too, since even many adult Ranger fans don’t remember their failed attempt to establish the franchise here with Masked Rider in the mid-90s. While Kamen Rider: Dragon Knight was another attempt nearly a decade ago, that wasn’t a Saban effort.
Hopefully Square Enix can take my (and other like-minded individuals’) advice and apply some Kamen Rider inspiration to the redesigns. Heck, perhaps they could establish a partnership with Toei Company in Japan to go over Saban’s heads and prevent them from interfering. They’ve yet to provide a new date for when the fixed outfits will arrive, but should in due time, depending on how much work is required to modify them until Saban’s satisfied.