If you are a Final Fantasy fan and you comment online, you will have seen them. They are everywhere and they are unavoidable. Anytime you say something good about an upcoming Final Fantasy, they will be there to tell you how wrong you are. I am of course talking about internet comments. There is always a reason for it but in the end it’s the same: why are you excited? Don’t you have taste?
Sadly, for a while there, they had a point, Final Fantasy the brand had gone through some seriously troubled times with the common refrain “well it is better than the last one” as the most common line of defense. This is no longer the case, now it is our time - the fans’ time as things are changing for the better.
In just a few short days one of the biggest games and likely the most expansive JRPG ever made will launch in Final Fantasy XV. Over a decade in the making with two titles and millions of dollars behind it. To say this is a pivotal moment for Square, the industry, and the fans would be underselling its importance - Final Fantasy XV could save the franchise or put it one step from the grave.
However coming off the past two years for once as a fan of Final Fantasy,
it’s possible to be excited for the franchise once again as the franchise has regained some of its luster. Starting with Final Fantasy Type-0 in 2015 and its companion Episode Duscae early build demo of XV, the series on the single player side of the franchise, started to find its footing again. With strong sales and decent word of mouth Type-0 helped make people excited for the franchise again, even if Square and the gamers that played it understood it was only a stop gap measure.
On the multiplayer side of things, for a time the writing was on the wall. Final Fantasy XIV, an MMO many fans were eagerly awaiting, actually not much unlike today with XV, was an unmitigated disaster. From beginning to end the game was plagued with technical issues, strange design choices,and generally just not being very compelling. As a result the game experienced a plunging player base. A debacle of this size would have taken a lesser studio down with it. Square though only went through years of massive losses and a massive corporate restructuring. Yet they lived.
Charting a radical course correction Square completely rebooted the world of Final Fantasy XIV Eorzea by quite literally sicking Bahamut on it. From the ashes, Square created Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn which continuing on today remains one of the most popular MMO’s, many forgetting its troubled lineage. Indeed a new expansion Stormblood is just around the corner.
This is important as if it shows anything it shows that Square Enix with its back up against the wall can learn. For years Final Fantasy the brand was tarnished by cheap mobile cash grabs like All the Bravest and gorgeous but hollow main titles like Final Fantasy XIII. A game not as bad as some online would have you believe but one that certainly did not live up to its expectations.
Since Square’s brush with financial oblivion though there has been a remarkable turnaround with both Square as a whole and Final Fantasy in general. As their output has been one of consistently quality, although there have been issues, certainly it’s a far cry from the days when the company could seemingly do no right.
However this Final Fantasy renaissance still requires one piece to truly be complete, and that, of course, is a successful Final Fantasy XV launch. If this games fails undoubtedly all those that take such glee in trashing the franchise will indeed have the last laugh. With only days before launch though I’m hopeful as the development and marketing of Final Fantasy XV has been a marked shift from how XIII was handled.
For a Japanese company like Square that has long been about secrecy and limited information, we’ve seen an amazing amount of content from Final Fantasy XV. If you really want to, an average gamer could already have spent over fifteen hours with this game during it’s various stages of development - from Episode Duscae, the Demos unprecedented 2.0 Patch, to The Platinum Demo, all the way to the pre-release Judgement Disk a couple weeks ago. It’s clear Square has enough faith in the game that they think people playing it will make them want to play it more.
Know what at least on this end, I think they’re right. Square’s openness in both development and the risky choice to show off their unfinished work has made me more excited for the game. Those who played Episode Duscae likely understand what I’m saying as it’s follow up with the Platinum Demo left a sizable amount of people worried, however having played Duscae it’s easy to see where Square was coming from with Platinum.
It would not be hyperbole to say many fans have already spend more time with Final Fantasy XV pre-launch than many games post launch and no, that is not a comment on its protracted development cycle. This fact is we’ve already got a pretty good look at the game and if as they say past is prologue, we should be in for a treat next Tuesday when the game finally launches after all these years.
Beyond XV though there is a little something for older and dedicated fans. Such as the adorable and fun World of Final Fantasy. Such as IX was to X, so too does World of Final Fantasy seem to be to XV. As the series evolves taking its fans (some kicking and screaming) into its long awaited next generation, World of Final Fantasy gave longtime fans something to enjoy with several call backs to the series of old.
Existing almost as a love letter to fans of the series, World of Final Fantasy is much more than a spin-off. Continuing in the footsteps of Final Fantasy Type-0, World of Final Fantasy seems like an indispensable part of any Japanese Role Players game library. That is unless you dislike epic adventures presented with a cute smile.
Finally, unlike post Final Fantasy XIII when the series look bare and what was then Versus XIII was merely a glint in Tetsuya Nomura’s eye, which incidentally was the setting in point of the dark time for many fans. The future is still bright post XV, as massive titles such as Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age finally brings the last outstanding pre-HD Final Fantasy to a modern console. Furthermore it’s fitting XII will be making its return to the gaming landscape as XII itself is going through a sort of renaissance with fans, as many are waking up to the charms they missed more then a decade ago.
However no discussion on the current of Final Fantasy could be complete without the whale of onslaught of what seems to be a whale of a sub-series that is quickly coming down the pipe. Final Fantasy VII Remake, when announced was one of the biggest games (now series of games) of E3 likely ever. Rumors swirled all day and when they were finally confirmed. Jubilation.
Even longtime critics of the series had to give praise to Square, especially coming off the previous Final Fantasy VII PS4 port troll - which thinking back was epic in its own way, as they knew they were developing VII-R. It was moment in an industry when real moments are hard to come by. To be fair, we know very little of VII-R. That being said, I don’t care that much, as it represents the return of Final Fantasy VII one of the most important games ever made - especially for the JRPG genre. Now if only they’d do a remake of the best, Final Fantasy VI... hey a man can dream, can’t he?
While Final Fantasy and Square look like they’re finding their feet once more, it’s unknown if this will usher a return to the halcyon days of old for the series. Just it’s clear for all the hate on message boards and naysayers, the series is right now on a good footing going forward. Final Fantasy has not been in the cultural consciousness the way it is now in many years - well over a decade or two - will it capitalize, who knows? For however long it lasts though, let us as fans lets enjoy the renaissance of Final Fantasy.
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