We began our adventure in 1997, and it was so much fun. We shared laughter, and tears, and sometimes we even went back and did the same things over and over just for nostalgia's sake. Yet, somewhere along the line, Final Fantasy and I have drifted apart.
Yet sometime after that, things began to change a little. After the release of XII, I started to lose that feeling of fulfilment when a new Final Fantasy came out. The anticipation was there, and the want for it to be good, for it to make me feel the way its predecessors did; but it never happened. So much started to change, and in my mind, it did not need to.
With the arrival of Final Fantasy XIII and our new protagonist Lightning, there was hope a new generation of Final Fantasy would revive the games of old, in all their open world, expansive glory. Unfortunately, it fell flat and dashed a lot of hopes and dreams. Despite fans being so vocal about how they want to play a Final Fantasy game, Square Enix just don't seem to be listening any more.
From a personal perspective, the biggest issue really is linearity. I like being able to jump on an airship and go wherever I please, and in recent iterations this has been taken away from me – there's no travelling back and forth between places to complete tonnes of (sometimes completely random) side missions, or finding bizarre items to make two big yellow birds breed. Hidden summons? Nope. Extra, missable characters? No. Those would probably be made DLC now. And what about those card games in VIII and IX? Those were awesome. I spent hours finding and winning decent cards alone.
Battle systems have taken a bit of a battering, too, being changed to mindless button tapping – honestly, I think I got through 80% of XIII without really paying any attention to what was going on – gone are the days of actual turn based strategy, where you really need to think about what move to make next, do you have time to cast that spell or should you use a potion first? Maybe you should just cease attacking altogether and focus on your defence? Does it really matter any more, because all the battles run the same anyway?
There used to be something that really set Final Fantasy apart from other RPGs of its sort. It was the element of personal interest invested in the characters, they way you played through it and really cared about what happened to them and wanted them to save the world. It was the way the story was told, how it played out and genuinely shocked you in places. How it made you cry, and laugh along with the characters you'd grown to love. Of course, it was also about having characters you can relate to and are actually likeable, and Square Enix seem to have lost the ability to produce those, as well.
there used to be something that set Final Fantasy apart from other RPGs of its sort... how it made you cry and laugh along with the characters...
Lightning. I know people who love her, but I know far more who really don't understand why Square have milked her story as much as they have. The writers used to come up with characters who yes, had their flaws, and yes, some were borderline mental health cases – but they were likeable. There's something about Lightning that just isn't. There's no personality there, she's like watching paint dry. This could be forgiven if her companions were awesome enough to make up for it, but that doesn't happen either. Whether it's whiny Hope, OTT Vanille or far too macho for someone with that haircut Snow, they just don't really cut it compared to what Final Fantasy used to give us.
Of course, now we're faced with a new generation and a new Final Fantasy to look forward to. The first videos and glimpses seem promising, even if the main characters do look like a J-Pop version of the Backstreet Boys. I've still got the feeling of anticipation and excitement, I genuinely do want this game and will be a day one adopter of it. But it's tinged with the thought at the back of my mind that if I get too hyped for it, I could well be disappointed in the long run.
Fingers crossed a new generation of Final Fantasy can rekindle what we used to have. I miss you, old chum.