zophar53's Blog

Posted on Sep 3rd 2016 at 08:00:00 AM by (zophar53)
Posted under Final Fantasy, Final Fantasy XV, SquareEnix, RPGs

From the SquareEnix press site

With the release of Final Fantasy XV a mere handful of weeks away, I should be getting more and more excited. I should be devouring every trailer and screenshot with abandon, but I'm not. Instead of squeeing at the thought of a new massive RPG from SquareEnix's flagship franchise like a 14-year-old girl at a Justin Bieber concert, I find myself caring less and less, to the point where I probably won't even play the new game. It's disappointing, and has had me thinking for a while now about other times this has happened to me.

Final Fantasy used to be my favorite RPG series of all time. When I was a kid, my brother Josh and I would stay over at his grandmother's house for the weekend. We'd go to the local Super K to stock up on junk food, then stay up all night playing the first FF until all hours of the night, with me playing and him manning the strategy guide, acting as navigator, both of us hyped up on Twizzlers and M&Ms. We never did finish the game, but I've put countless hours into it and finally managed to complete it on my own when I played the GBA version in my late 20s. It remains near and dear to my heart to this day. In fact, I've paid for the game no less than ten times over the years due to the fact that with every re-release and remake, I feel compelled to buy it again, despite already owning it on close to a dozen other platforms and formats.

Before GameFAQs, before the Internet, there was Nintendo Power

I'm a bit ashamed to admit I haven't finished any of the other 16-bit Final Fantasy games. I've played chunks of all of them, and have put significant time into IV and VI specifically, but have never seen the ending of any of them past the first. They remain on my ever-growing to-play list, and I genuinely do mean to get to them someday.

Once the series got to the PlayStation, my interest in the franchise was renewed, and I loved the heck out of Final Fantasy VII-X. With the release of X-2 though, things started to change. The pop star theme didn't click with me at all, to the point where I've still never played it to this day. I'm not a fan of MMOs, so FFXI was off the table for me the moment it came out, and even though I gave FFXII a heartfelt try, I couldn't get myself comfortable with its battle system to stick with it. All that said, during this whole time I still considered myself a die-hard Final Fantasy fan, and excluding the online entries ended up with copies of every game in the series whether I played them through to completion or not.

When XIII was released, the stunning visuals made me think it was going to once again reinvigorate my interest. Alas, the trite, endless slog of corridors and nonsensical story coupled with characters that I couldn't care less about, making me give up only a few hours in. It was such a turn off that I had no interest in playing XIII-2 or Lightning Returns, and it started making me question why I considered myself a current fan of the series. This was when I began to think that maybe these games were just simply not for me anymore. I'd heard that the next two games in the Lightning trilogy got better in terms of gameplay and pacing, but that the characters and story were no more interesting, and I had no desire to play them.

Part of me wants to think I'm ready to give Final Fantasy another chance with XV. The brand new setting, characters, and platform are encouraging. A new game director hopefully means new inspirations, ideas, and creativity. The buzz I've heard indicates that SquareEnix still cares deeply about its star IP, has taken the criticism it received about the last few games seriously, and recognizes that if this new attempt fails it could be incredibly damaging to the franchise's future. Then again, I'm personally not a huge fan of open-world games, having only really enjoyed a few of them over the years, so the new structure of the game could have trouble getting its hooks in me on a pure mechanical level. Also, the Platinum Demo I played back when it was released at the end of March completely turned me off. It felt like a Kingdom Hearts game, which some fans may absolutely love, but for me, if I want to play that I'll just go play Kingdom Hearts. That's not what I want out of a Final Fantasy game.

I'm fully aware that this probably makes me sound more than a bit curmudgeonly, griping about how back in my day we had our pixels and our turn-based grinding battles. Back when the stories felt genuine and we felt connected to the characters. But it's exactly this fist-shaking that's made me wonder if I have to simply accept that Final Fantasy has passed me by and is no longer a game that caters to my preferences. Games aren't what they were in the 90s, for better or for worse, and this isn't the first time this has happened to me.

The last real-time strategy game I put significant time into, before the series went all MMO

Real-time strategy games are a genre I loved growing up. I played hours upon hours of Dune II, Starcraft, and Command & Conquer. At some point along the way though, RTSs got complicated. No longer could you sit back and grow out your base (always my favorite part of the process, anyway), build as many units as your PC would allow on the screen at one time, select them all, and swarm the opponent's base to win by sheer attrition alone. Once AI got to the point where you had to start using tactics and the proliferation of online connectivity allowed the most dedicated players to crush their competition, I just couldn't compete. Aside from Rise of Nations, which emphasized base-building and advancing your settlement through the ages, and some dabbling in Starcraft II, I've come to terms with the notion that RTSs aren't for me anymore, resulting in less fun and more brain hurt.

Fighting games took a similar path as technology changed. I used to be pretty darn decent at Super Street Fighter II Turbo and Mortal Kombat 1-3, but when different stances, special meters, cancels, counters, and who knows what all else got into the mix, I couldn't keep up, and spent many years away from the genre. One of my favorite things about Street Fighter IV and Mortal Kombat 9 was their back-to-basics approach. The visuals looked fantastic in ways that really popped with modern tech, yet had a 2D play field that kept things simple. The advanced combat techniques were kept to a minimum to the point where I was able to get a handle on them, but were deep enough that the competitive scene didn't have any trouble adopting them. I even bought a few arcade sticks and started playing fairly regularly again. Of course, with Street Fighter V & MKX they've swung back to the complicated end of the scale a bit, but for a few years there it was like old times again.

Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3: exciting to watch, incomprehensible to understand

Which leaves me in a weird place with Final Fantasy. How do you know when a series just isn't for you anymore? What is it about a particular genre or series that has to change to make you not want to go back? And if you've been burned, how long do you give it before you write it off?

With my admittedly spotty history with FF I'm sure some would say I wasn't a super fan to begin with, and I while I'm not interested in opening up the Pandora's Box of the "are you a 'real' fan" conversation, I feel that the history I do have under my belt and good times I've had with it warrant some introspection. It's disappointing to think I may never be excited about a new Final Fantasy game. It's frustrating to look at the path the franchise, and SquareEnix as a company, has taken and feel they've completely lost their way, or rather, have chosen a path I'm no longer interested in following.

I'd be interested in hearing if this has happened to anyone else. How did you know it was time to say good bye? Did you go back at some point? For now, thankfully, there are so many amazing games coming out, including many RPGs, that I haven't felt like there's been an unfulfilled hole in my gaming life. But it's with a bit of a heavy heart that I must officially step away.

I'm sorry Final Fantasy, but we haven't been on the same page for a long time now, and I have to live my life. We just want different things. I'll always treasure our good times and look forward to reliving them for years to come. Maybe someday if our paths cross and we're in more compatible places in our lives we can try again. Until then, I release you. May you be happy in the life you have chosen.

Sorry old friend, but I don't want to help push the car anymore. From the SquareEnix press site

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I heavily relate to this article. I have that same original Nintendo Power Final Fantasy guide, from my original subscription, as a kid. It's the only NP issue from a 3 year subscription that I still own. I too fell in love with the Final Fantasy series and JRPG's as a whole, from the original game. Having had similar experiences as you ie: Having my cousin colin play, while I researched maps, figured out clues, and other co-op RPG things.

I remember getting my own copy eventually and never beating it as a kid, but I did take a picture of Warmech for some NP contest. I remember also co-oping FFIV with my cousin Colin when it came out, and probably the same with FFVI. I enjoyed playing VII, and to a lesser degree. I never bothered with, and still to this day, have never played IX. I beat FFX.  I think that was where they lost me. I don't remember how far I got into X2, but it was such a non-enjoyable experience for me, that I haven't had the desire to return to the series since.
I feel the same way,  its about time they do the Final Fantasy.  I have hopes for FF7 remake, but only if they give you a choice about the combat.
maybe you should play I Am Setsuna instead.
@EngineerMike: Oh wow, I think I remember that contest Mike. I also remember reading about the Warmech and being completely blown away by the idea that there was this one tile that would randomly spawn the enemy or not, and if it did you had an incredibly difficult fight on your hands. It changed the random battle mechanic in a way that fascinated me as a kid.

@douglie007: I was ready to write off the FF7 remake, but I have to admit that the trailer they showed at E3 this year actually sold me on the idea. It definitely looks like they're giving it a massive overhaul I wasn't expected. I'm genuinely interested in playing it. Maybe that'll be the game that brings me back, ironically enough.

@noiseredux: Yes, I really want to play I Am Setsuna! I'll probably pick it up next week.
I gave up on Final Fantasy after XII. Having a culture of radical gameplay change with every title would eventually lead to an exhaustion of ideas, and it seems like the entire series has lost its ability to focus on what drew a lot of people into the series in the first place, the characters. Now, they're all bad, when the classic games may have one character you didn't like.

I found that Atlus' games appealed to me more than Final Fantasy maybe ever really did, so all the SMT series pretty much supplanted what Final Fantasy used to be for me. Fairy Fencer F gave me a better old school Final Fantasy feel than I've felt since I bought FF9 day one.
Final Fantasy X-2 is where it started going off the rails for me, but I still completed that 100%. I had no intention of playing FFXI, and FFXII came out after I had transitioned to Microsoft consoles with Xbox LIVE. I purchased FFXIII day one, and literally have never played it. I own so many RPGs now that I've never played, but I think it's mainly due to my time restrictions rather than my WANT to play. I'll play anything just to give it a chance, but people are surprised to hear I haven't played most of the popular AAA titles of the past 8 years, including Bioshock, Dark Souls, Halo 4/5, any Forza game... just about any AAA game released for Xbox 360 or Xbox One.
I can relate to this. Since they went the automated combat route in FF12 I completely lost interest. I tried 13 as well, and didn't like it, and since playing the demo for 15, I haven't been interested at all.

Though, for me, X-2 was the most fun game I've played in the series.
I've beaten FF I, III, IV, V, VII, IX, X, X-2, XII and XIII now. The series is really hit or miss for me and I've stopped feeling hyped for them when I bought XI without doing any research and being so angry I spent $200 on an MMO. All of the ones I've finished I've enjoyed though, even X-2, and XIII which always get a lot of hate. XIV looks terrible though after seeing the E3 footage. Really just take each release with a grain of salt and hope that the next one will be for me again.

I feel the same way as you about RTS games too and Warcraft specifically.

There are still a lot of fighters that font get overly complex though. Definitely a genre you can dig into again if you want some solid simple fighters. PM me if you're interested in some suggestions.
@Crabmaster2000: King of Fighters. Cheesy
@Shadow Kisuragi: I'm certainly with you on the time restriction thing. I rarely play many RPGs myself these days simply because between work, friends, family, my other hobbies, and so many other games I want to play, there's no way I can find 30, 40, or even more hours for one game. It's caused me to really appreciate smaller indie titles that I can finish in less than 6-8 hours. They generally seem to have the majority of the talent and creativity these days anyway.

@Crabmaster2000: Thanks for the tip. I may have to take you up on that if I get the urge for a fighting game fix. Actually, the new Tekken game is intriguing. That was always a series I enjoyed for it's pick up and play style. You could go into Tekken 3 and button mash and still pull off some cool-looking moves.
"Of course, with Street Fighter V they've swung back to the complicated end of the scale a bit"

Actually, SFV is probably the least complicated fighter in about 20 years. That's not an opinion, that's a fact.
SF4 was far more complicated (which is why many FG fans hated that game) because the large amount of shenanigans, vortex characters, and endless options selects.
I don't know why I can't edit, but I meant to say that people didn't hate SF4 because it was complicated, but because there was too much random BS that could go on in a match.
Good article.  I loved FF7, but because I've not been an RPG person over the years, I'm not nearly as invested.  But I can see the evolution of the franchise, from the outside, and see that it has changed pretty drastically.  Just based on what I've seen, I would think FF13 isn't for me, either.

@zophar53: Two words: Eddy. Gordo.

@Crabmaster2000: I was hoping that the mobile space would give us a resurgence of RTS games, but it seems like they're either all tower defense games, or the Mobile Strike style where there's no real strategy or "real time" element.  I miss having a good RTS experience.
Finally got time to read through this, and I completely agree with your feelings on Final Fantasy. For me, the romance is gone. Luckily, it seems that Squeenix is keeping the flame alive with the Bravely series. If you're looking for great, traditional, turn-based combat, look no further.

I'd agree with JerryGreenwood over SF V. I haven't had as much time with it as I'd like, but the systems do feel more streamlined than IV. V gives me more of the vibe that I got from III.

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