Do me a favor and just think of one of your favorite videogame franchises and try to picture that one game that decided to stray from the rest…the game in the series that changed the recipe…decided to make vegan meatballs just that one time, alright I think you guys fucking get it at this point. Whether these changes were big or small, for better or for worse, change is usually healthy in a long standing series, and is essential to growth. For example, the Final Fantasy series has spanned generations and decades of gamers, systems, and playstyles. Of course a series that hangs around for almost 30 years now, would undergo stagnant points and eventual changes. So many RPG fans fell in love with the turn based combat style encompassed within an engrossing world with memorable characters and so many have given up on it during these transitional periods. I’ll focus on the later entries in the series to help explain some of the benefits that have come from the changes as well as some of the over arching down falls that have put the Final Fantasy series in such a weird spot in the gaming industry.
Final Fantasy X truly launched the 3D graphics into the stratosphere when it launched on the PS2 in 2001. Don’t get me wrong, 7-9 were all amazing games and arguably some of the best in the series, but they don’t necessarily hold up to this day. If you try to go back and play them, they’re just kind of hard on the eyes. I distinctly remember my sister buying me FFX when I was a wee lad of only 8 and it was the first real jaw dropping graphical experience I got to be a part of with my PS2. In my personal opinion it is the best Final Fantasy game overall, I think the characters were all individually distinct with great personalities, thrown into a story that really captures you, and with what I think was the best form of turn based combat to date. (I really fucking love Final Fantasy X). Square decided to give the MMORPG realm a shot with XI and it was an overall decent experience, however at the time I was completely sold on Guild Wars. Then after 2 decades of turn based combat, and a shot in the MMO world they chose to change some things up with Final Fantasy XII.
FFX was your typical linear storyline with a proper turn based system and XII Black Sheeped it. FFXII opened the world up quite a bit, which I think was the right decision, as well as re-skinning the combat system into a tactically time based RTSesque style. You had to time your attacks, spells, and items in combat and not many long time fans appreciated it. Such a huge change to the game hit fans like a truck, however many critics loved the change of pace. This launched a big split in the FF community with the die hard original fans hating the change and the other die hard fans embracing the change alongside the newcomers. I feel like it was a refreshing change the series needed and many people believe that XII is the best in the series…and of course those morons are wrong, but it is very good. It was well received, well reviewed, and sold great, but it left much of the community uneasy with a sour taste in their mouths.
The atrocity that came next flipped the community on its heads. Final Fantasy XII was just a bad game, and the fact that it got 2 sequels that were just as bad if not worse is the biggest joke of them all. FFXIII took us back to an even more linear story line with a similar combat system to XII but much more complex and troublesome. I think Square Enix was just trying to do way too much with this game and totally underachieved in every aspect. This was yet another leap they tried to take but fell pathetically short on. The characters were corny and lame, the combat system was boring and tedious, and the story was a linear let down. Thankfully it did bring the community back together in common agreement, that the game was not doing such an amazing franchise, justice.
So where do FF Fans go from here? The HD revamp of Final Fantasy VII is in the works and it should be significantly different than the original. Final Fantasy XV is slated to hit store late November of this year and I believe this is that game we as fans can look forward to. Everything we have seen so far looks great, the combat looks well put together, the graphics look phenomenal, and I can quote multiple IGN editors who have gone to Japan to see the game in the works first hand and say it is THE most beutiful game they have ever seen or played. The story seems to be on par with many of the games I fell in love with, so my hopes are high for this one. Hopefully I won’t be too broke or too busy to get my hands on it when Final Fantasy XV launches in November, so stick around for our thoughts on it then.