Final Fantasy lost its way. The creative experimentation seen in Final Fantasy XII and XIII, while admirable, steered the series in a direction that many devoted fans openly lament. Even Final Fantasy XIII-2 appears reactionary; it exists to advance a story, yes, but also to address numerous consumer complaints leveled at its predecessor. I enjoyed both Final Fantasy XII and XIII, though I can say without hesitation that Square Enix’s past works reached far greater heights.
Final Fantasy was originally released in December of 1987. Since then the series has come a long ways. In that time span there have been many games and many spin-offs of the series. Along the way many good things have come along, also many things have come into play that make some fans wonder why they continue to be a fan of the series.
You can ask any fan of FF what they think the best game is, and you will get many different answer. Usually the answer they give is an indication of how long they have been a fan of the series. I, like most old people who have been with the series since the beginning believe that nothing beats an original. There is no FF better than the first. I am not saying that there have not been some other good FF’s along the way, for that would be untrue. There have been many good Final Fantasy’s since the original along with some good spin-offs.
The recent retro craze — popularized by such games as New Super Mario Bros., Pac Man Championship Edition, Bionic Commando Rearmed, and Mega Man 9 — showcases how popular traditional gaming remains. Even in an industry saturated by eye-searing graphics and motion technology, many gamers just want the classics. And who can blame them; gameplay above all else, right?
So where have the creators of the new FF’s gone wrong? At which point or game did they lose their way? That all depends on who you ask. Personally I feel that Final Fantasy took a nose dive with XI and have continued to fall. Why XI you ask, because FF is a turn based RPG. Creating a MMORPG and calling it a Final Fantasy was the worst mistake Squeenix (my affectionate title for Square-Enix) could have made. And yet, they want to make the same mistake again with XIV.
What does Squeenix need to do to correct their mistake before they lose more fans? Simple, go back to the roots of the game. Stop worrying about trying to keep up with what the other games are doing and using. That is not what fans of FF are after. Here are some thoughts.
The story itself needn’t tread entirely new ground. Crumbling worlds will continue captivate us with the right characters and enthralling dialogue. The most important point is to instill a sense of danger in us — create a problem that needs fixing. And if we care about the world enough, we’ll care about saving it.
Get away from the real-time battles and return to the turn-based or even the ATB (active time battle). Something where you are not just reacting to the fight, but involved in the fight. Thinking ahead, trying to determine the enemies next move, his weakness, his strengths. You don’t really have any of this in a real-time battle.
Another critical element to gameplay: equipment. The recent Final Fantasy titles did away with traditional equipment, so a return to form is in order. Each character should have slots for their head, arms, body, and legs, as well as an additional two slots for relics. Squeenix should feed our collective obsession with loot and invest serious time into developing a massive item catalogue — perhaps even randomize it. Remember the thrill of maximizing relics in Final Fantasy VI so one character attacks first with multiple strikes in a row? That potential for fine-tuning and meticulous customization would be a breeding ground for replay value.
Ask anyone who is a fan of Final Fantasy and they can sum the solution for this up in two words “WORLD MAP”. Enough of the linear crap. That was one of the biggest downfalls of XIII. Where was our world map, where was our ability to free roam?
I believe that the potential for the best FF is there by combining the best elements of the past games and doing away with the crap that has been added over the years. What are the best and worst elements? Lets start with the worst things that have happened to FF over the years.
Creating an MMO (XI and XIV) and calling it a FF was by far the worst move ever. Along with this are the ability to restart after a battle instead of dying (XIII), making the game linear with no free roam (XIII), sequels (X-2 and XIII-2) to continue a storyline because they couldn’t get it right to begin with and real-time battles
Those are ones that pop into my head without having to think on it. I am sure when I go back to play the games there will be things that will pop out at me that could be added to the list. I do not want to focus on just the negative though. There are many aspects that have been added over the series that have been very fun and/or beneficial. I am not going to attempt to list them, because at that point I would be writing a book and not a blog. All fans of FF have their favorite things they would like to see return to the game. I will end this with telling you my favorite thing about FF that I would love to see return to the games.
Character class! White Mage, Black Mage, Fighter etc….