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Five Fixes For Final Fantasy

We give Square Enix some friendly tips for keeping the Fantasy alive.

When Jesse Miller, our resident features guru, asked if I would be interested in doing a Final Fantasy retrospective for the series’ 25th anniversary last year my answer was a resounding “yes!” In the months that followed, I poured all of my love and dedication into a five part series detailing the 14 core Final Fantasy games. It was a labor of love for me; no series of games has been more influential or important to me as a gamer. I’m a staunch defender of these games, even when they go into weird territory like iOS time-wasters. That doesn’t mean that I’m blind to the fact that the series isn’t what it once was, however. As excited as I am for the future of Final Fantasy, I think that the fine folks over at Square Enix need to take a good long look at where the series stands. To that end, I have 5 things that I think could help immensely as we move forward into the next generation.

 

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Comments

Ryan Bunting Staff Alumnus

03/08/2013 at 01:13 PM

Step 1: FIRE TESTUYA NOMURA (I'm so glad you mentioned that in this list, you just earned about 1,000,000,000 points from Retro Rampage)

Step 2: Let Yoshitaka Amano design all of the characters.  ALL THE CHARACTERS.

Step 3: MAKE SURE NOMURA IS COMPLETELY FIRED.

Step 4: Did I mention fire Nomura?  We don't need zippers and belts on everything.

Step 5: Return the Active Time Battle, for fucks sake - don't fix what isn't broken.

Step 6: ??????

Step 7: Profit.

Julian Titus Senior Editor

03/08/2013 at 01:52 PM

And here I was thinking I'd have to defend my position on Nomura. Well played!

Ryan Bunting Staff Alumnus

03/12/2013 at 03:51 PM

I'm sure there may be some tweens out there that heart Nomura, but I'm a Final Fantasy purist, and over the years have developed a love for Amano's work, though perhaps not as much as my co-host has, but to me, that's what gave the characters that extra depth.  The facesets in FF6 were in that Amano-watercolor style, and it really added some character to what otherwise would be some generic anime face (no offense Dragon Quest/Warrior fans).

transmet2033

03/08/2013 at 02:14 PM

I am sick of that hair.  I am tempted to put some of Akihido Yoshida work on my desktop.  

Angelo Grant Staff Writer

03/08/2013 at 03:12 PM

I'm clicking an imaginary favorite button. Man I miss Amano....

Oh! What about whoever did the art for that El Shaddai game. Takeyasu Sawaki was it? Man could you imagine him and Amano working together on an FF game?

Ryan Bunting Staff Alumnus

03/12/2013 at 03:53 PM

And I'm clicking an imaginary Like button as well, and if Amano and him worked together, I think it would introduce the character and art design that Final Fantasy has so desperately needed all of these years.

natron

03/08/2013 at 05:28 PM

I agree with your article almost completely.

I personally would not want any Western influence at all in Final Fantasy- in fact, I want it to be MORE Japnanese. They already tried the whole Western influence in XII, and while it is unarguably the single greatest game in the series, Square could never hope to bring in Western elements more perfectly than in XII. As much as people bitch (most of whom, I would bet haven't played through an entire FF game since VII), the North American reception of XII proved that the average gamer wasn't all anymore accepting of a Final Fantasy game, no matter how much innovation or outside influence Square weaves in. Haters gonna hate, as they say.

The only real divergence I have with your thinking is loot. Fuck loot. This isn't WOW. Just bring back the concept of individual peices of equipable armour and I'll be happy.

chocobot

03/08/2013 at 06:18 PM

I especially like your suggestions for choice. Optional time and dialogue with party members would be a great, I want the characters to feel human and relatable again. I think little things like that help. I'd like to see a return to the exploration that was present in FF12 too. It wasn't too open or linear, it was just right and it's a shame they never did anything like that again. I just want the world and characters of Final Fantasy to feel alive again. If that makes any sense..

Also, I don't mind Tetsuya Nomura and I really like the work he's done. But I think he could use a break from Final Fantasy. I do really love the art direction for Versus though <3 Anyway, I like the thought of brining Amano back but something new and fresh would be welcome too.

SanAndreas

03/08/2013 at 06:20 PM

It's too bad they couldn't have kept Yasumi Matsuno and Hitoshi Sakimoto.  Final Fantasy XII fit the bill of nearly everything you just described.

thederpmaster

03/09/2013 at 12:11 PM

True, I actually really enjoyed XII. A lot of people really hate it which kind of baffles me but eh, to each their own.

GeminiMan78

03/08/2013 at 10:06 PM

NOMURAAA! Honestly I kind of liked his designs on VII and VIII, but compared to Amano they just come off kinda of flat . Just when we were getting to a level of graphical power that would do Amanos' designs justice He leaves and we get zippers and feathered hair on everyone. He realy has drove the series into the ground style wise.

Turn based combat needs to be brought back. Atlus realized people didn't like AI controlling the party after Persona 3 and gave you the option of semi AI or full control of your party in Persona 4. If I wanted to play an action game or an action rpg then I will play DMC or Skyrim. When I play a JRPG, other than Star Ocean or Tales, I expect a it to be turn based.

Variety in party composition is another spot on point. Both for the sake of the story and the combat system. This is why FFIX is one of my faves. You have a varied cast with specific abilities, strengths and weaknesses, but unlike FFIV, you have control of who is in your active party(most of the time). Putting together the right party is half the startagy and the fun of these games.

Althought not a straight up loot game, gear has had a more important role in FF games in the past but for some reason they have drifted away from that which sucks. You play damn near 3/4 of the way through XIII before you can even modestly upgrade your weapon much less anything else. FFVI was pretty good in the gear department, left hand, right hand, body, head, and two spots for relics that could be anything from speed boots, to a ribbon, to a magic exp amping egg. VII had materia and IX let you actually forge weapons from old gear. And you didn't have to wait 3/4 of the way through the game before you could find or make some cool stuff. 

Anyway I think you pretty much nailed it but I wouldn't hold my breath. I have pretty much given up on Final Fantasy ever reclaiming its former glory.

 

jjindie

03/08/2013 at 10:51 PM

Yeah, bring back the fantasy.  The characters and costumes Tetsuya Nomura is designing is not fantasy anymore, becaue that's what all the kids in Japan look like in their free time.  It may take some courage to finally try something new, but in Japan a better example of true fantasy that doesn't look anything like real life is From Software's Souls series.  British accents and Friar Tuck bowl haircuts.  Now that's fantasy!

thederpmaster

03/09/2013 at 12:08 PM

Great article, I agree with most of your points. Cloud (Old Cloud not Advent Children emo Cloud) is one of my favorite characters, but I agree that Nomura needs a rest.

Two things that I want to point out, while I agree that choice is important in a video game and that armor customization would be awesome in Final Fantasy - I am getting tired of the Bioware conversation tree formula. In fact, I have begun specifically playing games like Tales of Vesperia because sometimes a linear story is great. Sure having conversation trees with your party members makes you care more about them and should be embraced but for the main story arc - sometimes I just want to be surprised.

Secondly, I'm not so hot on the ATB system. Sure they could add more animations for the same attack, but how many are they really going to add? Enough that I still don't wish I could skip past it in a 70+ hour game? Watching combat and clicking through menus just seems so passive to me. One of the greatest rpgs of this generation, Dragon Age Origins, nailed it perfectly where combat was still slow enough that you could appreciate the fight and yet involved enough that you were constantly switching tactics, fighting with different weapons and armor, and bringing different party members to compliment the situation.

AnonymousJ

03/11/2013 at 02:26 AM

I enjoyed your post on this and agree on many of the points.  FF was a staple for me for many years.  FF12 was the first one I have not finished and FF13 I never even played.  I won't go into terrible detail, but the ATB is one thing I missed as well as the fantasy elements as opposed to modern. 

Surfcaster

03/11/2013 at 09:48 AM

I just want to give major props for the Robert Jordan comment. He was my favourite author and wrote what I think is the best fantasy series of all time.

More high fantasy in Final Fantasy would bring the series back to it's roots in a big way.

Coolsetzer

03/12/2013 at 12:12 AM

Good points, and all of those elements were present in their earlier games. Their failing with this series is that they kept drifting further and further away from the core mechanics that made the series work. For instance, FF XIII battles made me dizzy after awhile, and I wasn't watching battles unfold on screen, just looking at text. I did not have fun with that. They didn't put in fresh ideas that charted "good" new territory. They do too much rehashing instead of evolving. Also, sci fi elements are alright, but I want a fantasy game, not a sci fi game with fantasy elements. The SNES era was the best for me.

SanAndreas

03/12/2013 at 03:43 PM

What I would like for Square Enix to do is to form two FF teams. One, headed by Yoshinori Kitase and Tetsuya Nomura, would focus on the type of FF games that cater to fans of FFVII, FFX, and FFXIII. The other, headed by Akitoshi Kawazu and Hiroyuki Itou, with Akihiko Yoshida doing the art, would focus on more traditional fantasy settings and the Active Time Battle turn-based system. There is merit to both approaches. Remember, FFVII came into being because people were tired of medieval fantasy at the time, with that being pretty much the only trope used for RPGs for many years. The teams could alternate releases the way Infinity Ward and Treyarch do for Call of Duty. That's the lesson Square should have taken from CoD, not the game structure.

However, whichever approach they use, I want them to use the best tech available. Unlike a lot of others, I have no real burning nostaligia for 8-bit or 16-bit games, and find a lot of games made in that style nowadays look like faded imitations of the classics that were actually made during those eras. And with Tales of Vesperia, Ni no Kuni, Valkyria Chronicles, Final Fantasy XII, and Dragon Quest VIII all showing us what a talented RPG design house can do with HD technology and cel-shaded graphics being better than ever, I see no reason to revisit 16-bit graphics.

Kathrine Theidy Staff Alumnus

03/12/2013 at 06:30 PM

For some reason I came into this article expecting to not agree with anything, but found myself nodding along to most of it.

1. is less important to me, but still something nice. I'm not really into character building and usually follow a guide when a game has it, though I do like a decent variety of characters for personality purposes. The Dragon Quest games have a "party chat" feature that allows you to talk to your members about towns, NPCs, story events, and more, which can even give you hints on what to do. This would be something neat to have in FF games, especially ones like IV and VI.

2 is definitely it, there are plenty of (mostly cheesy) sci-fi games these days and the number of fantasy games is dwindling. I much prefer fantasy since it's much farther from reality than sci-fi, especially sci-fi games set in the future of the real world and passed off as a possible future.

3 is not exactly necessary, but can be fun if they don't overdo it. I like the second world in FFVI because the world kind of opens up, and you can go and collect lots of equipment and items, or you can go to the final battle any time you want. If the loot is mostly optional then it's a good addition to an FF game.

4 is the biggest one, for sure. I'm sick of turn-based RPGs being considered archaic and old-fashioned, and that action and real-time RPGs are some sort of evolution which makes them obsolete. This is as ridiculous as if someone claimed that 2D platformers were archaic and obsolete. It's simply a different style of game, and I don't get why any genre would be considered obsolete. Unfortunately, I think it's more a matter that most people simply don't like this kind of game, and are only criticising it to get more of what they want. Which is sad, but, these are the times we live in.

I have no comment on 5, I don't follow who works on games.

As far as I'm concerned, the FF spin-offs have been better than the main series. The Crystal Chronicles series has gotten pretty good, with Echoes of Time being a fun multiplayer game and Crystal Bearers being a unique experience with a decent story. Chocobo's Dungeon was a lot of fun as well.

smartcelt

03/13/2013 at 04:25 PM

Your ideas about choice and bringing back the fantasy are right on the money. I don't want my Final Fantasy game to feel like Halo! Or Call Of Duty,either. Time and a place for that sort of thing.  They have strayed too far away from what made the games so amazing and memorable to me.

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