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In Defense of Final Fantasy XIII

Jeff Dunn | 15 Mar 2012 14:30
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At this point, I realize I may be starting to sound like someone who's probably spent a little too much time sketching my own Vanille fan art. First, let me be clear: Final Fantasy XIII was by no means an outstanding experience. The narrative was frequently overwrought with meaningless minutiae, the combat could feasibly be reduced to autopilot for the first nine or so chapters, and I know I wanted to punch five of the six lead characters in the face at one point or another for various reasons (Fang, we're cool). There are other facets to bemoan, but we know them all already; plenty of people have made us aware of them, and I'm sure a few "w", "t", and "f" keys have been broken in the process.

The Final Fantasy series is something of the "bizzaro world" version of franchises like Call of Duty or Assassin's Creed.

But complaints like those aren't atypical to experiences with the Final Fantasy franchise (quick little example to prove my third complaint up there: if you know who Zell is, and you don't feel some queasiness right now, chances are I don't care for you as an individual). Instead, it's the principle so many have taken on in hating Final Fantasy XIII that rubs the wrong way. It seems that those who so ardently hate the title don't accept FFXIII, the game, so much as they don't accept what FFXIII stood for: a stab at forward-thinking design, the attempt to simplify some of the Final Fantasy games' needless complexities, the extension of an olive branch to series newcomers, an aspiration to not just be another Final Fantasy.

Yet that's just why Final Fantasy XIII was doomed from the start. It wasn't because it did anything particularly offensive as a standalone experience; it was because of how horribly disagreeable it was within its inherent confines and restrictions as a Final Fantasy game. In short, its gift - the name that virtually assured the game would have some sort of commercial success - was also its curse. Rename Final Fantasy XIII as Lightning's Quest and you'd probably have a terribly-named game that was still being praised for how committed it was in its attempt to evolve the tired JRPG procedure.

The Final Fantasy series is something of the "bizzaro world" version of franchises like Call of Duty or Assassin's Creed. Whereas those two series are loathed for cranking out yearly iterations of their long-held formulas without any significant changes in design, Final Fantasy games like FFXIII appear to be detested for not sticking to what made their series popular in the first place. The inherent hypocrisy in this "hardcore" fanbase that cries out for innovation in one franchise one minute, then shouts down anyone who messes with their traditional templates in another franchise the next, is startling. Chances are these are the same people who would rise up to defend Skyrim or Dark Souls, when the reality is that those titles do not aspire to do much more than their already mass-accepted predecessors; that is, Skyrim doesn't stray that far from Oblivion and Dark Souls plays very similar to Demon's Souls. Final Fantasy XIII sought for more than that, sadly.

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