Five Ways to Fix Final Fantasy

    October 22, 2010 at 6:00 am

    Before I begin, let me make a few things clear. First off, I do not hate Final Fantasy, Japanese role playing games or the beautiful nation of Nippon. In fact, one of my fondest video game memories is missing the school bus because I was mucking about in the Ice Caverns instead of watching the clock. I’ve never missed a Final Fantasy game since and I have always found something about each one that was fascinating. But after slogging through roughly 30 hours of Final Fantasy XIII, I came to a very hard realization: Final Fantasy is broken, and it needs fixing.

    Sure, the game has sold well enough – more than a million copies sold in Japan and North America, according to figures from USA Today. However, FFXIII is also the lowest rated game of the series on Metacritc, falling behind such divisive entries as Final Fantasy X-2 and Final Fantasy XII. Those two games are also relatively recent, and also garnered lower than expected review scores.

    Simply put, Final Fantasy is Square-Enix’s flagship title, and it’s been slowly sinking over the years. Here is how to right that ship, and keep it afloat for generations to come.

    5. Ditch the annoying tween characters

    There was a time when the archetypical young man/woman character on a mission to discover the nature of love and responsibility was not annoying. That time is long since past. With the advent of voice acting and fully-realized graphics, tweenaged characters have become almost as annoying as their real-life counterparts. Now, instead of a blob of pixels whining in skippable text about mommy and/or daddy issues, we get to experience it in full, usually unskippable, cinematic glory. Playing through Final Fantasy XIII was like watching an exceptionally dumb group of 6th graders run around trying to save the world with tears and boomerangs. Characters like Hope, Vanille(FFXIII), Penelo and Vaan (FFXII) completely ruin every scene they’re in because frankly, kids aren’t even interesting to other kids. Everybody wants to play as the badass soldier with nothing to lose and a big-ass flaming sword. Nobody wants to play as a 12-year old with a desperate desire to grow pubic hair and a really nifty pair of short pants.

    4. Bring back exploration

    Final Fantasy XIII was the world’s first corridor RPG. The first 25-30 hours of the game happened on a completely straight map, with zero exploration throughout. After what seemed to be an extremely long tutorial, the game did allow for a tiny amount of freedom, but it was too little, and way too damn late. While the series has always been a linear, story-driven experience, players have always had some measure of freedom along the way. Final Fantasy I-IX all had airships that players were given direct control over, and each had massive overworlds that allowed for much exploration. In fact, without poking around the four corners of the map, players would miss out on rare treasures, hidden story elements that fleshed out the world and, in some cases, entire characters. That has slowly been eaten away over the years, to varying degrees. In Final Fantasy X and XII, the airship was just a method for quick travel. In Final Fantasy VIII, most of the characters were introduced right away. In Final Fantasy IX, the rewards for exploring were sparse and unfulfilling. Each of those games was responsible for stripping away a part of the exploration that made the best entries in the series stand out. The ultimate distillation of that poor game design is Final Fantasy XIII, which had no exploration until almost the end of the game. Final Fantasy XV needs to have an open, cohesive world with rewards for explorative players, because a RPG without it is like a first-person shooter without ammo – pointless.

    3. Create a side series for the DS or Wii Ware

    At this point, it’s clear that Square-Enix is far, far more concerned with creating a pretty looking game than a fun one. Even the most strident fan would agree that the best part of FFXIII was the visuals. With so much focus on that aspect of the series, everything else that made Final Fantasy a (gamer) household name has taken a back seat. Clearly, that trend is going to continue…at least on the HD consoles. The solution to that is simple. With the massive amounts of talent under the Square-Enix roof, there has to be somebody interested in pressing their own thumbprint on the FF series. Take those individuals, give them the tools to develop on the smaller, but very profitable, DS and Wii systems and let them create. Hikari no 4 Senshi or Final Fantasy Gaiden, has taken some of these ideas, but not nearly far enough. Gaiden has been marketed as a spin-off, rather than a proper game in its own rights. It also was restricted by an adherence to the idea that the game had to be ridiculously simple. While older FF games were simple, they were never mind-numbingly boring. This proposed series would be a full-fledged Final Fantasy, just on a different platform. A series exclusive to Wii Ware or DS, done in the style of the classic games with the proper team behind it, could let Square-Enix have its cake and eat it too. It could still create experimental, high-definition games while still appeasing the fans of the more traditional versions.

    2. Find a new art director

    Of all the ideas presented in this article, this is the one least likely to occur. For more than twenty years, there have been two designers responsible for the look of Final Fantasy – Yoshitaka Amano and Tetsuya Nomura. Both have done excellent work (though I personally prefer the work of Amano to Nomura) but it might be time for a change. The visuals of Final Fantasy XIII are gorgeous, but the art design is a complete mess. There were monsters with neon tubing attached, summons that are also motorcycles and hot rods, and areas of the world that change abruptly just to show off a new piece of scenery. It’s not necessarily bad, but it’s the visual equivalent of an overproduced pop song. There is so much going on that the main focus is lost. The same can be said with the character designs, though those have always been very busy, FFIX notwithstanding. I’d really like to see what a new character and world designer could do with FFXV.

    1. Show, don’t tell

    Of all the most grievous errors of Final Fantasy XIII, the RSS-feeder that served as the main storytelling device was the worst. One of the most basic rules of storytelling is “show the audience, don’t just tell them about it.” This rule was not just broken, but completely shattered by FFXIII. Instead of letting players see the wonderful city of Wherever, the game designers thought a couple of poorly written, trickled down paragraphs telling them about the wonders would suffice. If I’m hungry, I want to eat a sandwich, not just read a food review that explains how tasty a Reuben is. In previous games, if there was a city or location that was brought up in game, players could go there. Not in FFXIII. Gamers had to rely on descriptions of all the wonderful places in the world that they weren’t allowed to visit. It was as exciting as reading a travel brochure. The updates to the in-game RSS feed also explained the emotions of the characters in scenes that had already played out. You shouldn’t need to do that, especially in game with so many resources behind it. In Final Fantasy VI, 16-bit sprites were more than capable of showing surprise, sorrow and excitement – it wasn’t necessary for the game to explain that. FFXIII failed in that regard. For a game that was supposed to be 90 percent story-driven, their implementation of the narrative was completely wrong. FFXV needs to ditch the RSS feed completely and go back to relying on the in game storytelling to weave the tale.

    1. Gritsnbacon says:

      I agree with everything you said. Thank you for crystalizing everything I hate about this game. It’s a shame. FFVII and FFIX were such great games.

    2. igyman says:

      Agree on 5 , 4 and 1

    3. garbarble says:

      Aw man, now I want a Reuben. Thanks a lot, jerk.

    4. CelestePace says:

      That is well known that cash makes us disembarrass. But how to act when one has no cash? The one way is to try to get the credit loans or college loan.

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