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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Final Fantasy - I Once Loved You


Final Fantasy - I loved you, but I don't anymore, and more people are agreeing with me. I think I know why you're starting to fail. Your reach is exceeding your grasp. I think you caught lightning in a bottle once, and now you don't know how to get it back. You keep flailing about, adding more stuff, more stuff, more stuff, more stuff, more stuff hoping one of them sticks. More stuff than one man can possibly play through. Here's the thing: Just because the disc is 25 gigs, doesn't mean you have to fill all that.

I remember watching a Star Trek documentary, with Malcolm McDowell commenting on the "trekkie treadmill" that fans seem to get on and never get off. Anything Star Trek does is good, Star Trek becomes their life. Square seems to think people feel the same way about Final Fantasy. I used to too, but here's what happened: the game lengths got longer, the reviews got worser, and nothing in-between changed.

I don't mind that you've got wacky characters with JP localization problems, or that you've got long cutscenes. But when it comes to playing the game, its the same thing over and over. Press the attack button, press the attack button, press the attack button. You can dress up all the battles you want with magic and skills, but at the heart of a video game is the way that the player interacts with the program.

And when you can strap a coin to a button and leave the game alone, something's wrong. When you've got all these complicated formulas to calculate damage and resistance, but you don't ever change your strategy (because usually you're not privy to those formulas), something's wrong. It reminds of the Facebook games I used to play. Click, click, click. Leveling up is an illusion and battles are just an obstacle to get to the next cutscene. So in essence, the game is not playable.

I thought of this while watching this video: Homefront Demonstrates Everything Wrong With Modern FPS Games. It's a 20 minute look at a level mid-game and how little you actually do any playing in it. The scripted scenes cannot be deviated from. There is no freedom. I don't mind linearality as long as there aren't invisible walls blocking me from doing things I should be allowed to do in the world. RPGs have their own forms of linearality -- you don't usually get to jump, and paths are well-marked. But you do have dialogue options, and general free-roaming. But Final Fantasy doesn't let you deviate, even while there is technology to do so (Mass Effect). You are so locked into the numbers game that you aren't allowed to leave the D&D trappings that started the franchise.

The guns are overpowered -- you play a pilot who knows how to work a automatic sniper rifle with no recoil and auto-aim. You shoot a guy in the leg, he dies. You get just as much interactivity from a flash game. Same with Final Fantasy. Spend an hour leveling up, and you'll be ahead of the difficulty curve for all future battles. It's more important to get to where you can see the cool moves, and then that's just for the sake of seeing them. Otherwise, you save up so many items that budgeting for Ethers (magic restoring potions) becomes moot.

I want Final Fantasy to come back, and not just on the laurels of your past successes (Kingdom Hearts, Dissidia, remakes for portables). You need to stop adding so much into the game. Quality over quantity. No one wants to play a game that's got so much you miss out. No one wants to play a game that's got secrets that can only be found on the Internet. That's not playing the game, that's playing the program. That's taking you out of the game. Someone in the game needs to clue me in that if I dodge 200 lightning bolts, I can get Kimahri's weapon, not from GameFAQs. Make another Aeris, not another Squall. Make another Sephiroth, not another Yu Yevon/Necron. And condense.

One last thing: why the hell did you call yourselves "Square" when you used to have a triangle in your logo?

Seriously, get on the frickin' page here.
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