Final Fantasy isn't the same as it used to be, but gamers still remember its splendor. Memory can be a funny thing, though. Everyone has different ideas about how to fix the role-playing game series, but is anyone's thinking on the mark? Should we all just shut up? Mike investigates.
Take Gamasutra’s Christian Nutt. Nutt says Final Fantasy games became an industry “pillar” but now “lack something fundamental: a coherent, logical story.” Because if FF games are known for anything, it’s logic and coherence. Like in FF VII, when Sephiroth wanted to destroy the world because something about clones and his mother. Or FF VI, where our heroes battle a ghost train, tame a yeti, and star in an opera. Nutt claims his essay was inspired by spending four hours on YouTube with the flu, and it definitely has that vibe. He rambles for a bit about vision and crystals and mogs before ultimately recommending “throwing it all away, and starting fresh.” To save the series, throw it away. Christian Nutt just blew your mind, Square Enix.
Still, it’s better than Game Rant’s idea. They list “Five Things We’d Like to See in the Next Final Fantasy.” Number three: more cutscenes:
Part of what blew gamers away back when the first PlayStation hit was its ability to render some extremely impressive cutscenes, highlighted most notably by those contained in Final Fantasy VII. …
Think about Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, a fan service film that was essentially one long cutscene, and how well it satisfied fans’ need for visual splendor. Sure, interactivity might be important at certain points, but just setting the controller down and basking in some beautiful graphics is part of what makes Final Fantasy great.
I had to reread this a few times to make sure it wasn’t some sort of Swiftian modest proposal. Cutscenes have a fair reputation as gaming’s bane: dull, long-winded, exposition-laden quick-time event shitshows that are possibly antithetical to the medium itself. And the only way Final Fantasy could have more cutscenes is if it was Xenosaga. But Game Rant wants more. Game Rant has a fever, and the only prescription is more cutscenes.
To be fair, Game Rant is referring to a specific fancy kind of cutscene, but this is the first time anyone’s ever demanded more cutscenes from a Japanese role-playing game. What else does Game Rant want? Longer spell animations? More random battles? How about multiplayer?
Having a co-op experience in Final Fantasy would definitely be a challenge given the length it takes to complete each game, and the amount of freedom that is given to the player, but if done right it could be the closest thing to an [massively multiplayer online game] without all the MMO tropes.
So wait, you want a massively multiplayer online role-playing game that’s not really a MMORPG? And you refuse to give us even an inkling of what that means or how it might work? Screw you, Game Rant. It’s people like you who ruined Dragon Quest. At least Tim Turi of Game Informer respects tradition. Encourages tradition, in fact. Tim wants a 16-bit style Final Fantasy. “I wonder why Square Enix doesn’t consider eschewing the high-budget spectacle new Final Fantasies have become in favor of something simpler,” he writes. “Something 16-bit.” Well, Tim, Square Enix doesn’t consider that because only the grayest neckbeards would buy it. The drama and storytelling would be crippled. It would take a series synonymous with epic grandeur and make it small. It’s a pointless, stupid, terrible idea, and deep down Tim Turi knows it. He gives exactly one argument for a “return of the pixel”: FF VI is awesome.
Or hey, maybe we’re all just too old for Final Fantasy anyway. That’s the premise of a pretty interesting dialogue between Nightmare Mode editors Tom Auxier and Adam Harshberger.
AH: … at 23 and enslaved to a cubicle, those stories don’t resonate with me that much anymore. Squall, at a certain point in my life, was basically me. At one point Edgar was the most badass dude on the planet, Tifa was sexy as hell, and Aerith was the most perfect creature to ever exist. Not anymore, though. The Final Fantasy games these folks should make is the same kind that would speak to me.
So Harshberger admits to being Squall, the most annoying emo twat in gaming history. Then Auxier and Harshberger decide that, since the once “punk rock” FF developers are now broken-down middle-age company men, they should make a game in the same failed, empty spirit.
AH: They have to write what they know. They used to know youth, but now it’s something else. Something older and more cynical. And it doesn’t matter if it isn’t youth, it just has to come from the heart.
And yes, I realize I just seriously advocated for the “midlife crisis” Final Fantasy. Because I would play the shit out of that game.
TA: A midlife crisis Final Fantasy would be great, I agree with you.
What? No. A midlife crisis FF would be the diametric opposite of “great.” Midlife crises are for losers. Loserdom is precisely what people go on video game fantasy adventures to escape. No one wants to be your “miserable, trapped” protagonist, guys. We have real life for that. We want to be mighty heroes with cool friends who conquer the world. Save the mid-life crisis for your shitty indie browser game.
Leonhart Harshberger aren’t the only smart gamers driven to madness by FF’s woes. Jason Schreier writes an excellent JRPG column for Kotaku, and he denies there’s even a problem. Addressing FF’s creators, he writes “Speaking of Final Fantasy, you need to stop worrying about how to ‘fix’ that series. You don’t need to fix it.” I dunno, Jason. There hasn’t been a good Final Fantasy in 10 years. They should probably worry a little bit. That’s why a few months earlier you yourself said FF was on “life support.”
Let me help you out. Even at its very worst, Final Fantasy is still a platform for new, experimental ideas, and even its most mediocre games (ie. Final Fantasy XIII, Final Fantasy XIV) are always innovative endeavors. You continue to surprise us both aesthetically and mechanically. Don’t give that up. I’d rather see a crappy, original Final Fantasy than a decent, boring rehash.
OK, first of all, Final Fantasy XIV wasn’t “mediocre.” It was so broken and horrible Square Enix had to make it free to play and completely relaunch it. Second, the developer hasn’t surprised us aesthetically since FF IX, and that super-deformed chibi shit was one profoundly unpleasant surprise. (I love IX, but its look was a dumb homage to the 2D era. A retro modern FF should look like the artwork of Yoshitaka Amano. It’s not too late! We can do it now. We have the technology.)
Then, Schreier says this:
Keep experimenting. Keep trying new things. Surprise us. Shock us. Make us say things like “this isn’t Final Fantasy!” and “WTF, Square Enix?”
This is the kind of mindlessness that leads to baby-with-the-bathwater decisions like “let’s not have towns in FF XIII.” Sometimes, when fans say “WTF, Square Enix?” it’s not because they’re hidebound nostalgists who need their minds blown. Sometimes fans say WTF because they deserve an explanation for the stupid shit Square Enix does. Schreier once wrote a column defending disc two of Xenogears, though, so he might not be the guy to ask.
Look, there have always been crappy Final Fantasys. You do not know pain until you have played FF II (I did, all the way to the end, children). VIII stunk. I love it, but it stunk (sorry, Squall Harshberger). XII maybe sucked — no one’s sure. Between 1991 and 2001, Square produced an incredible run of all-time (or near all-time) classics: FF IV, FF V, FF VI, FF VII, FF IX, FF X, FF Tactics, Secret of Mana, Chrono Trigger, Chrono Cross, Vagrant Story, and Xenogears. We can’t expect decades of uninterrupted artistic greatness. Not every company can be Nintendo or Pixar or Studio Ghibli. Almost no companies are.
Maybe FF XIII was a Mario Sunshine-like aberration, and Final Fantasy is fine. More likely, Square’s postacquisition talent exodus was too much, and the next great FF was Xenoblade. We’ll find out with Final Fantasy XV. Until then, for the love of Aerith, do not tell the Internet how to fix Final Fantasy because your ideas are terrible and you’re a moron.