Dear Square Enix. Or, as I like to call them; Squaresoft: Please fix your once beloved Final Fantasy franchise.
Wait, that’s a horrible way to start an ‘article’ almost 5 months after the previous one? I know. But I don’t use this space for daily updates concerning what my breakfast consists of, or which shoes I should pick today. If you’re looking for that blog, I hear great things about other blogs.
Skipping to the point, however.
Since I was circa 13-14 years old, I’ve been a fan of Final Fantasy. The first one I picked up was a platinum version of Final Fantasy VII for the PlayStation. I didn’t quite know what to expect of it. Up until then I mostly played games like Tekken or Gran Turismo, so Final Fantasy was quite the leap. I guess the Platinum bit helped; it was cheap. And back in the day, that mattered. Anyway, I had no idea what I was throwing myself into, but I played it almost exclusively for months. I invested in game guides, browsed game magazines for tips and tricks, and cleared it 100% sooner or later. Probably later. Game was huge. 3 goddamn discs!
Okay, so the adventure continued in Final Fantasy 8, and while it’s vastly different, I enjoyed the story and combat game play enough to look past the aggravating ‘draw’ and ‘GF’ systems. This was when I started thinking I should probably pick up the older games in the series. I started with I, and worked my way up to VI, not counting III, as it wasn’t, at the time, released in the west. I even played TACTICS, dammit!
And I loved every single one of them. They all had their bits, their own characters, worlds, systems and deep, intricate stories, some of them better than others (I’m looking at you, IV and VI).
So, I suppose it comes as no surprise that I was there when IX launched. It was a great blend between new and old; new graphics(PS1 style), but with a world and characters that were very much like the original NES/SNES games. Black mages, white mages, thieves etc, it had it all. It was the first in the series that *really* latched itself onto the jap-stamp(cross-dressing males, graphical letters during overdrives/trances and such), but I still think it’s one of the strongest games they made.
Then came X. New console, new system, new graphics engine, voice acting, and a full-on 3D world. Boy, was I excited. Now, before you say anything, I was overwhelmed. Sure, it was a tad straight forward, and lacking in some parts, as well as suffering from voice acting directly copied from the Japanese track, meaning we’d get Anime-style dialogue, with moans and grunts all over the place. I got over that. It didn’t matter.
I even enjoyed X-2. Sure, it was mounted against female players, but the fighting system was a ‘fresh’ welcome, the story continuation from X was actually quite intriguing, and the fact that it had several endings was great.
But this is where the shit hits the fan. A big pile of elephant dung hitting a wind tunnel. Someone putting an air compressor inside a guano pile. You get the picture. It’s pretty much downhill from here.
We’re going to ignore XI here, as it’s an online game not valid in my humble opinion, and as with most online games, it always results in more grinding and hording than it does in actual story-based game play.
But let’s continue onto XII, shall we? Oh yes. On the outside, it looks great. A great desert-like city with more races than ever before, a kingdom falling, another invading, et cetera, et cetera. Oh go fuck yourself, Square. The gambit system was horrible. Just an excuse for not wanting to let the player control 3 people(or more) at the same time. Thinking that gamers have become too stupid or just too damn lazy to be stressed out during a boss fight. And let’s not forget about sound. XII had the most forgettable soundtrack to date, and the sound quality in general was horrible, compared to X. The entire game felt like an MMO reject, and it didn’t help that the final bosses were still as jap-inspired as ever(ever evolving, going bigger and badder every time you defeat them etc). Vaan as a main character lacked an actual personality. Most of the cast in general were underdeveloped, but the protagonist himself lacked everything. He’s just cannon fodder you happen to play as.
Now.. It’s time to talk unlucky numbers. 13. XIII.
OH MY GOD what a train wreck.
Do I even have to elaborate, here? Read the reviews, play it yourself, but don’t hold me accountable for your emotional scars, mate.
Okay, I’ll admit it; I actually enjoyed the game. Or at least I thought I did. I lived in a reality-isolated bubble in which I was omitted to love the game so much I actually believed I did. Didn’t take too long until I hated it with passion.
It wasn’t until I completed it my brain rebooted and actually informed me what just happened. I’ve not picked it up since, and it doesn’t help at all that there’s a sequel out there.
XIII-2 is, evidently, a game. One that’s received outstanding critique, too! Does it help? No. Should it be necessary to fix a game with a sequel? No.
Goddammit, it makes me angry. Too much jap-crap in a game series that should work great outside Japan, too.
It all boils down to what the fans want. A fuckin’ Final Fantasy VII remake. We’ve already seen successful remakes from them in III and IV, so why shouldn’t they redo VII? Well, there are a couple of reasons.
For starters, it’s a daunting task. A game that big remade completely from scratch? That’s a lot of notes to hit correctly. It’s comparable to playing “Through the Fire and Flames” 100% on Expert. You know what I mean. There’s also the graphics. The original game had anime-style characters and settings, whereas the latter games are mostly real-world based geometry and proportions, as far as characters go. Advent Children got the gist of it, so that’s one way to go about things, but that’s not all; FFVII had an open-world style game play. Like the elder ones with their ‘overworld’ maps, VII had their own version of this. Converting it to PS3 would be challenging. Not to fall into the linear game play of X and XIII is tricky, and going with a retro-style overworld just seems silly. Then there’s the voice acting. Should it be there, should it not? It’s hard to say. And of course, the world in itself. It’s hard to recreate the rustic feel of Wall Market in 3D graphics. Or Cosmo Canyon. Even the Northern Crater is hard to recreate now without it being too silly and anime-styled. A game like this should work outside Japan, and should borrow at least SOME features from western games, but that would also mean straying away from the original, right?
See, it’s not easy to do. Even if they decide to go thru with it, it’s a VERY challenging and hard task that needs to hit all notes in order to be loved. If it fails, it’s pretty much bye-bye, Square Enix.
But that put aside, Square has some projects going on now, like Versus XIII. The eluding game that we’ve yet to actually know anything about. Sure, there are some details, some videos and the likes, but we don’t really know anything about it, other than that it’s, according to Square Enix on Twitter, “In development”.
Well, we’ll see about that.
In the mean time; Dear Square Enix: Please fix Final Fantasy. It used to be a great genre, but you’re changing too much, adding too much jap-crap, and not thinking of the rest of the world. The games shouldn’t be 90% story and videos, and 10% game play, nor should it take the player 10-20 hours to unlock the full capability of the combat system, and it should have 3-5 PLAYABLE characters in the battles, not just one that relies heavily on pressing X throughout the battle.
End note: I chose to leave out a few titles from here. Tactics, XIV, XI, Dirge of Cerberus, Crisis Core, XII Agido and other minor, non-successful titles in the EU/NA aren’t mentioned because they’re either sequels, spin-offs or online games, and I wasn’t ever going to play them in the first place.