I have loved the Final Fantasy series since my entry with Final Fantasy 8. After the release of Final Fantasy 15 I have some thoughts about the franchise, the direction it may be going and the magic it may be missing.
We can all be honest and admit that Final Fantasy 15 appears to be a game made in response to Final Fantasy 13. Some of the Final Fantasy 13 complaints were that the game was too linear, the characters were forgettable, the story was hard to follow and the battle system was a rehash of turn based battle systems. Full disclosure, I did not complete Final Fantasy 13. To be super frank I didn’t complete Final Fantasy 12 either. After Final Fantasy 10 something happened to the franchise and I’m not sure what it was. Some people say it was the absence of Hironobu Sakiguchi, the father of the franchise, and I can see some merit in it. After the debacle that was Final Fantasy: Spirits Within, I can understand why Square wanted to distance themselves from him. But if he was the Final Fantasy magic then it has been missing ever since he left.
This topic has been debated for decades and my thoughts will probably elicit the same reaction. I think that Final Fantasy games have several features that have been pushed to the side for the past 3 single player entries. I would like to share the tenets I have observed all Final Fantasy games to contain and how they were not met with Final Fantasy 15. Remember this is not a comprehensive list so feel free to disagree.
**Also there may be some light spoilers for Final Fantasy 15 or some of the other games in the franchise.**
- Story and World Building Above All Else
Final Fantasy games were the cream of the crop because they delivered a narrative experience that made me actually care for the characters and the world they reside. I haven’t felt anything similar in a Final Fantasy since Final Fantasy 10. I cared about Yuna and her group of Guardians. I cared about the world of Spira and how Sin was ravaging the world. I felt for the people of Kilika when Sin attacked the village and Yuna had to perform her first official sending. I felt the small joy the people of Spira had for a blitzball match and cheering for their teams. I mourned with Tidus when we realized together he was a dream and a wish for hope. I have not felt that level of connectedness to the Final Fantasy worlds for a long time.
I played Final Fantasy 12 and while the world was big and expansive, the characters and the plot seemed lackluster. The gambit system was creative and easily exploitable and some of the bosses had a punishing difficulty. The nail for me was the awkward flow of combat that seemed to be a testing ground for their MMORPG Final Fantasy 11. Final Fantasy 13 tried to create characters that we could care more about but failed. While I loved the battle system, the story to keep me playing the game also felt lackluster. To add icing to the cake, the world was linear, way more so than Final Fantasy 10, and when it did open up the reason to be there left much to be desired. For those entries I tapped out and a certain point. It started with Final Fantasy 12 that i realized something was missing, Final Fantasy 13 was the confirmation of the missing something then Final Fantasy 15 just drove it home.
Final Fantasy 15’s world appeared big, and is, but then it was small at the same time. We could all tell a HUGE amount of development time went into the first half of the game from the sheer amount of detail they put into it. However, it felt big but empty save some hidden items and dungeons you couldn’t enter until post game. The lore of the game is disjointed and left a few plot holes. The ancillary content like Brotherhood and Kingsglaive used to be things that were in the actual game. Maybe not in the same amount of detail but enough for the players to know the history and care about the characters we were spending time fighting with and for.
Final Fantasy 15 also tried to make their world building feel more organic by having it take place in the “real world” and not in cut scenes. If you’re paying attention,which you might not be if you’re hunt farming, the boys will give IMPORTANT lore details right after a major event while they are driving. If a player zones out because we are tired of the Bros recycled lines then we are going to miss important things. I like the idea they attempted but I think they may need to balance that idea a bit more.
2. Innovative Battle System
Final Fantasy 15 may have done something right here for some players but it personally did not work for me. I do play action rpgs but Final Fantasy was always something interesting as we watched how they would tweak the tried and true turn based battle system. The Final Fantasy purist in me understands that they try something different with the battle system each game so I won’t harp on it too long. However, I do feel like SE was trying to cater to the western RPG audience as well as the naysayers in the Final Fantasy family who think turn based is boring. I was watching an old E3 trailer for Final Fantasy Versus 13 and while that battle system was turn based, it looked amazing. I wished we could have seen in realized.
If I had a nitpicky gripe it would be that this game managed to make magic more of a liability than the fun that it supposed to be. I get that the developers were going for realism but I think that having friendly fire as something to be toggled on and off would have been a great thing. I may have even forgiven that oversight if the Bros’s AI weren’t so… stupid. Like, Prompto you’re on fire… why are you still standing in the fire when you’re a ranged fighter? Prompto please.
I actually have one more gripe and that is with the summons. The summons in the game were epic. Their entrances, their designs and their scope were pure excellence. The summons were probably the most “fantasy” thing about the game but I didn’t like that we couldn’t summon them at will. The summons are usually your trump card and could be a strategic element to turn the tides of battle. The random aspect of arrival weren’t enough to make me say it was awful but I do like having my summons be at my beck and call.
3. Characters to Love and Love to Hate
I watched the Brotherhood anime and the Kingsglaive movie and the anime added more for me about the “Bros” than Kingsglaive. If we want to be super honest, we didn’t even need Kingsglaive. It didn’t endear me to King Regis, it didn’t make me care more about Luna and I didn’t make me feel bad that the whole city was destroyed without me getting a feel for Noctis’s home. I just didn’t care and THAT BOTHERS ME! The game also did nothing to add to the support character’s causes and that was a sad thing. The only good thing to come from the movie was Ardyn and the game also made him a complex villain to explore. But even his story in the game had gaping question marks.
What it did do correctly was have me care about the Bros. I did care about the bonds of the guys. I loved that Prompto took pictures for us and showed us at the end of every day as well as singing the victory fanfare. I enjoyed that Ignis cooked for us and wanted to get Noctis to be more proactive. I loved that Gladiolus loved his little sister and gave Noctis the older tough love approach. I enjoyed watching Noctis’s growth throughout the whole game but even that felt a little rushed. That was the biggest problem. It felt like the development team got to a certain point in the game as thought “Oh shit, we left some things out that don’t make sense according to the testers throw some something in there.” If the recent announcement SE made about adding more story scenes to clarify certain chapters FOR FREE didn’t make people feel that something was off about this game then I don’t know what will.
In the end, the three things I mentioned will continue to be debated. These are the three aspects that I think need to be taken into consideration when the developers make the next Final Fantasy game. Some people may agree with my topics but not why they are important and that is perfectly fine. I encourage the community to continue to dissect what makes a Final Fantasy game so that it can be defined by that kind of experience. It’s not just SE and the Final Fantasy franchise that I give this much scrutiny to but any franchise that seems to have lost it’s identity (cough Star Ocean). I don’t want my Final Fantasy games to be compared to other great franchises when it used to be the pioneer for the genre. Maybe the franchise has peaked a long time ago and I’m not willing to accept it which could also be true. But I will forever hope that this franchise has a long life even if the recent SE entries have missed the mark for me personally.
Let me know what you think. Did Final Fantasy do everything a Final Fantasy should do? Do you have any criticisms of the game? Do you think SE is going in the right direction with the series? Let me know in the comments section below.
Until Next Time guys,
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