Saturday, January 15, 2011

Gaming Disappointments: Final Fantasy Series

But First, A Quick Note About 4th Edition D&D…

Originally, for my greatest disappointments in gaming I was going to tackle D&D 4th Edition. However, my good friend Randy at Growing Up Gamers beat me to the punch. So, I will say just these few words on it.

4th edition D&D strips away just about everything that encourages role-playing and storytelling. It reverts years of D&D evolution back to something much closer to its roots as a miniatures battle game with the thin veneer of story. If all you want from D&D is a vehicle for playing classic fantasy archetypes who dungeon delve and hack up monsters, then I think 4th edition will serve you just fine. However, if you’re love of D&D stems from the love of experiencing heroic stories with unique characters where battles occur (but are not the entire point) then the 4th edition rules will lend you no assistance. True, intriguing stories and wonderful characters can be invented with no rules help at all. That doesn’t give Wizard of the Coast (makers of D&D 4th edition) a pass for removing all the customizable flourishes and non-combat abilities of class and character that helped D&D stories come vibrantly to life.

And Now…Final Fantasy

The original Final Fantasy was actually little more than a D&D adventure. The classes, the monsters, the spells and even some of the items were ripped straight from the pages of Advanced Dungeons and Dragons. In the years that followed, Final Fantasy grew past its D&D roots to find its own voice and its own wonderful style. It then went on to lose its damn mind and exchanged its soul (and its gameplay) all in the name of pretty graphics.

It’s Hallowed Roots

As the Final Fantasy games continued, the series became known for its wonderful characters, interesting stories, and vibrant worlds. The actual gameplay was beloved by many for its sense of exploration, enjoyable character advancement, and epic scale. The story path was amazing, but off the story path you could find hidden spells, new creatures to summon, powerful weapons and helpful accessories. The only real complaint most fans of the series would volley is that at some point the combat in Final Fantasy became repetitive and was reduced to little more than mashing a single button to make everyone attack, win, and grind up a few more levels before a big boss fight.

The Beginning of the End

The hints of Final Fantasy’s doom came even during its peak days on the Playstation. Final Fantasy 7 had long, unskippable summon spells that were incredible to watch the first time and tedious to endure the 20th time you wanted to cast you powerful spell. With the move to Playstation 2, Square released Final Fantasy X…that last good Final Fantasy ever made. With X, there was a big sign that the series was going off the rails. It was the first time where you had no overworld map to explore and when you finally got your own airship, it was nothing more than a map where you could pick points to warp to and check out.

Check Points On The Way To Fail

From Final Fantasy X you’ve got a series of terrible mistakes.

Final Fantasy the Spirits Within: Cutscene hubris leads the company to release a theatrical length cutscene that is devoid of anything resembling Final Fantasy, but sure does look pretty.

Final Fantasy X -2: Harping their first ever direct sequel, Square releases a game that has nothing to do with its beloved predecessor. It has a nearly linear, mission based structure with dress-up Barbie outfits as the main form of customization.

Final Fantasy XII: Square decides to solve the tedious, button mashing combat by letting the player do tedious combat that requires no thinking or button pressing at all. The game still has some sense of exploration, but once again the overworld is absent and there is no real airship.

Final Fantasy XIII – The Big Fail

All of Final Fantasy’s blundering attempts to find a way to update its style and stay cool, culminated in an epic fail called Final Fantasy XIII. Final Fantasy XIII does accomplish one amazing feat. It makes the combat fun again. Which is good, because combat is all you will be doing. Gone is the exploration. Gone is any semblance of interesting treasure or locales. Instead, the game consists of running down a narrow corridor with no real twists or turns and fighting monsters. Then you fight a boss and watch a cutscene or two. Rinse and repeat for 30 hours of game. I hear it opens up eventually, but that's about 30 hours too late for me.

Final Fantasy has fallen from one of my favorite RPG series, to one of my least favorite RPG's of all time. Sadly, I can only hope that Square Enix can find a way to get Final Fantasy back on track...or at least give it a proper burial.

Attack or Defend

Please leave a comment with your own complaints or defense of Final Fantasy or 4th ed D&D. Or feel free to share some of you own great disappointments in gaming. Maybe a good cry will help us all feel better.

1 comment:

  1. Sadly, I don't think Square Enix is planning to take Final Fantasy back in the direction you would like OR bury it. People keep buying the Final Fantasy games and loving the cut-scene heavy new linear style that many JRPG's are moving towards. RPG's in general seem to be branching towards action games or first-person shooters, and less focused on the exploration and depth model that made them so popular to begin with. I think that many of these beloved franchises are evolving, and the Final Fantasy of this "generation" is captivating a different crowd. Along those lines, rpg elements are working their way into all sorts of other genres with great success. I wonder how all this will play out for the rpg genre as a whole?