In Defense of Final Fantasy XIII

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Atmos Duality:

Aye, not all change is good.
"Bold but random/stupid" isn't the solution to "Safe but stagnant/overdone".

It's much better to have some actual vision for the project, rather than changing shit just to make it look like you're making progress...I saw enough of that in the 90s.

Indeed, O'Neill.

I have friends who seem to be big fans of twist endings, whether or not they make sense. Granted, if you didn't see it coming, but can look back at all the pieces, yeah, it can be pretty good (shocking does not make a good ending either, so "I didn't see it coming, but it makes sense" does not rule out "stupid" as well). And yeah, a well done twist in a well done plot tends to thrill me.

Then there's the "pulled from ass" ending. And just because I didn't see it coming doesn't mean it's good.

Having not actually played XIII, I don't know which this is. I don't know if it would have been a series of well-played ideas in another game, or if not calling it "Final Fantasy" would have meant nothing and it was still trash. I was curious about the defense of the series because I thought maybe it would point out some salient points. I more got "you're playing it wrong!" from this article. More a "How silly to expect a final fantasy game in a final fantasy game" than a specific endorsement of the game. Or even a proper defense.

Zachary Amaranth:

Atmos Duality:

Aye, not all change is good.
"Bold but random/stupid" isn't the solution to "Safe but stagnant/overdone".

It's much better to have some actual vision for the project, rather than changing shit just to make it look like you're making progress...I saw enough of that in the 90s.

Indeed, O'Neill.

I have friends who seem to be big fans of twist endings, whether or not they make sense. Granted, if you didn't see it coming, but can look back at all the pieces, yeah, it can be pretty good (shocking does not make a good ending either, so "I didn't see it coming, but it makes sense" does not rule out "stupid" as well). And yeah, a well done twist in a well done plot tends to thrill me.

Then there's the "pulled from ass" ending. And just because I didn't see it coming doesn't mean it's good.

Having not actually played XIII, I don't know which this is. I don't know if it would have been a series of well-played ideas in another game, or if not calling it "Final Fantasy" would have meant nothing and it was still trash. I was curious about the defense of the series because I thought maybe it would point out some salient points. I more got "you're playing it wrong!" from this article. More a "How silly to expect a final fantasy game in a final fantasy game" than a specific endorsement of the game. Or even a proper defense.

-I think you're just misinterpreting me, not playing the game wrong. I think that, after 13 entries, the FF series should be granted some room for drastic changes, instead of confining itself to former structures.

-Virtually every FF game that's come out after 7 has received some form of backlash, essentially for not being like the one before it. FF13 isn't the first FF title to be like this, sure, but it is the most recent one, and it did make the most extreme changes to the series (save for 11, which wasn't exactly "loved" either). Yes, I know, lots of FF games have made innovations. I'd say none of those core games have made changes as extreme as the ones in 13 though.

-But, to your point, my goal was to explore the relationship between the artistic aspirations of the developer, the demands of the hardcore fanbase, and, to a lesser extent, the pressures both of these factors bring upon a franchise's commercial success. I used FF13 as a lens through which to look at this. This issue is not uncommon to many game companies.

-I don't care if you thought the game was good or not, really. If you think that was the point, that I was trying to give some sort of "retro review" of the game, then I don't think you're reading into the whole of my essay. I'm not "endorsing" anything. Lord knows I wasn't paid by Square Enix to write this.

-Also, one of my points was to say that people didn't realize that these changes didn't "come from nowhere," but that the developers had announced their aspirations before the game even came out.

-I really, really don't think FF13 wanted to "change shit for change's sake." There's changes people like, and there's changes people don't like. Lots of people didn't like them. That's okay. But, lots of people did like them. Just because you (not you specifically, Zach) didn't like them doesn't mean that they were made for no reason.

-That being said, when I researched feedback to FF13, I saw many complaints essentially boil down to one sentiment: this isn't what I'm used to, it's not what I expected from this series. Now, one could say "I wouldn't care if it was different if it was actually GOOD." Okay. Fair enough. That's your opinion, that they were bad. It's not my goal to tell you "no...YOU'RE WRONG!!" My goal was to present an alternative reading to the backlash, a possible underlying motivation to the hatred. Most outlets haven't really taken my position. I thought it'd be nice for readers to have another side of the argument laid out for them. Could "Final Fantasy" get away with trying a new style of game with all of their loyal fans? I don't think that they could. Rather, I know they couldn't. They tried to with 13. It didn't work.

-I think the game still would've been trashed if it hadn't changed anything. They're stuck in this weird limbo between their desires to break from making standard RPG games, the fans' desires to have the type of game they're comfortable with, and the market's desires to make something safe enough to ensure blockbuster sales, both for now and for the future. I found that to be a bit of a tragic situation for them.

-And another thing, comparing Final Fantasy 13's relationship to past Final Fantasy games to standard Halo games' relationship to Halo Wars isn't really a valid argument. FF13 wasn't really an RPG, yes, but it's not like it dropped every RPG element from its design. It was a hybrid of action, RPG, and FPS, game design, as I see it. This is what the developers said they had in mind when creating the game as well. That still doesn't make it a real RPG though.

-Basically, I think that, for many people, separating yourself from the inherent expectations of a "Final Fantasy" title is more difficult than you think. Why was it "bad"? I'd argue that it's because you can't shake yourself from what you thought you were going to get. Without Final Fantasy having a legacy, without it having certain traditions it adheres to, I think that FF13 would've been received better. If it was a standalone title, perhaps even one from a separate company, I don't think it would've been as roundly bashed by the core fans the way that it was. Hindsight is 20/20, though.

-You'll notice that I used "I" and "me" often in what I just wrote. That's because this is just my opinion, how I saw things. Anyways, thanks for the feedback Zachary, hope I gave you some insight into where I was coming from upon writing this.

Susan Arendt:

BabuNu:
If they tried so hard to break from the Final Fantasy M.O. why did they bother putting "Final Fantasy" in the name. If they wanted to make a different game, MAKE A DIFFERENT GAME! Don't try to increase sales by slapping "Final Fantasy" on the title. Almost everything that defines a Final Fantasy game has been cut from this, either bring back the world map or give it a new title!

Because name recognition counts for a lot. It helps with marketing, it helps with built-in audience...take two games that are otherwise equal, from a quality perspective. The one with a well-known name attached to it will, typically, sell better than the one that's a brand new IP, because people like to stick with what they know. They feel more comfortable buying something that they recognize in some way, even if it's just a name.

Wow! My third comment ever and Susan Arendt quotes it! What a honour :-) I totally fancy you by the way Susan, just putting that out there...

My point is that by slapping the Final Fantasy name on a game that they're so desperately trying to steer away from the Final Fantasy M.O. they're almost admitting that the game needs a marketing boost. If they were confident enough that the game could stand on it's own two feet then they shouldn't need to call it Final Fantasy just to ensure sales. If they're not confident that it an survive on it's own then, in my opinion, it shouldn't be released.

Angry Juju:
Now defend XIII-2 cutting the ending from the game completely and releasing it as DLC.

???

I didn't get any DLC, and I got the ending (and Platinum Trophy) - what was there to miss?

OP: I for one have been playing FF since the first on the NES. I had no real issue with FFXIII, other than it being different - yet still played to platinum. I always thought of each iteration being fairly different anyhow - usually different magic/skill system, ATB or not ATB, on rails or open, classes or no classes, etc, etc, etc...

Atmos Duality:

Incidentally, I hated Vanille because she's just ridiculously creepy.

I liked Vanille, but then again I <3 Flonne...

The thing about Vanille is, as she herself stated: she "was always afraid". She had to pretend to be something she wasn't to hide her true nature (Pulse L'Cie) from the group. She had to hide her memories from the amnesiac Fang, so as to not awaken Ragnarok. She had to live with the burden and guilt of being the cause of most of the horrible things happening around her (Serah, Dajh, the newly christened Pulse L'Cie that is your party, the Purge, etc...)

How she handled it is not unlike that of Yuna in FFX.

Interesting note: Vanille was originally supposed to be the main protagonist, and Fang was supposed to be a male (my theory from this - Noel is Fang's unused male character model...)

s69-5:

I liked Vanille, but then again I <3 Flonne...

Flonne worked because the tone of Disgaea is very very different from that of, well, just about any other jrpg I can think of (actually, Radiata Stories is similar once you get past the intro; it too is a satire on rpgs and gaming. Bard's Tale too, though that satire was more on the darker side.)

She's meant to be the innocent backdrop to the rest of the demon world; and her serious moments are actually touching, rather than soul-grating irritation. A lot of her cuteness is done tongue-in-cheek, whereas Vanille is meant to be taken seriously, and she has a very serious reason why she acts the way she does (as you stated).

So instead of the kind of cute/creepy like Ed from Cowboy Bebop, you end up with one of the Stepford Wives. Or Kathy Bates.

There's a lot I find wrong with this article, but the main gist of it is the idea that Final Fantasy XIII failed (or maybe just got trashed) because the old fans don't like the changes being made to bring it to a larger audience. As in if only the fans would embrace it, the Final Fantasy name could continue on being successful.

But what do you say of a game, no even beyond that a genre, that while managing to alienate it's existing fanbase fails to capture the larger market audience? You would say the problem is the fans are fighting against change, I would say the people the changes aren't interested in the game to begin with. Western RPG's have made a strong transition from being hardcore isometric CRPG's to big budget blockbusters with a wide appeal, but JRPG's have failed horribly. And I don't think it's because they're 'stale' or 'tired' or 'lack innovation' or whatever you want to call it, but rather because it wasn't a widely popular genre to begin with and what innovations/changes they can make the Western audience at large will get turned off by the Japanese influence int he art, style, and characters of the game. After all the number one complaint about FFX is that people hate the main character Tidus, who's probably a fairly common archetype character in Japanese media. It seems the more expressive the median becomes the more it's Japanese roots show through and the more we turn against it in favour of our burly space marines and grizzled warriors. It seems the only way a JRPG can really 'win' is to give up and become a WRPG, like Demon's Soul for example.

So yeah this is what bugs me, what's wrong with giving fans what they want when the fans are the only audience you have? A perfect example of this in my opinion is Dragon Quest VIII, kept all the norms of a traditional JRPG but used modern technology to add to the overall experience.

RandV80:
There's a lot I find wrong with this article, but the main gist of it is the idea that Final Fantasy XIII failed (or maybe just got trashed) because the old fans don't like the changes being made to bring it to a larger audience. As in if only the fans would embrace it, the Final Fantasy name could continue on being successful.

But what do you say of a game, no even beyond that a genre, that while managing to alienate it's existing fanbase fails to capture the larger market audience? You would say the problem is the fans are fighting against change, I would say the people the changes aren't interested in the game to begin with. Western RPG's have made a strong transition from being hardcore isometric CRPG's to big budget blockbusters with a wide appeal, but JRPG's have failed horribly. And I don't think it's because they're 'stale' or 'tired' or 'lack innovation' or whatever you want to call it, but rather because it wasn't a widely popular genre to begin with and what innovations/changes they can make the Western audience at large will get turned off by the Japanese influence int he art, style, and characters of the game. After all the number one complaint about FFX is that people hate the main character Tidus, who's probably a fairly common archetype character in Japanese media. It seems the more expressive the median becomes the more it's Japanese roots show through and the more we turn against it in favour of our burly space marines and grizzled warriors. It seems the only way a JRPG can really 'win' is to give up and become a WRPG, like Demon's Soul for example.

So yeah this is what bugs me, what's wrong with giving fans what they want when the fans are the only audience you have? A perfect example of this in my opinion is Dragon Quest VIII, kept all the norms of a traditional JRPG but used modern technology to add to the overall experience.

Thanks for the comment.

You don't think JRPG's were ever popular to begin with?

If the only way a JRPG can "win" is by changing its style and form into that of an existing genre, isn't that kind of proving my point? I tried to get into this on the last page of my article. I'm probably misreading you, though.

I think what's "wrong with giving fans what they want" alone is that the developers are people too. They're artists, to some extent, at that. They have urges, they want to grow with the times. They probably wouldn't like to spend their game developing lives building a similar product over and over. How many times can you break down the block tower only to build it back up again? As many times as the fans keep telling you to? Is that the right thing to do? Is that fair? This is sort of what I'm getting at. Just my opinion, as you know.

The gist of my article, here said in another form: I think many longtime fans hated FF13 because it fucked with their proverbial "childhood memories" of Final Fantasy.

Anyways, thanks for taking the time out to give it a once over.

Jeff Dunn:

Thanks for the comment.

You don't think JRPG's were ever popular to begin with?

If the only way a JRPG can "win" is by changing its style and form into that of an existing genre, isn't that kind of proving my point? I tried to get into this on the last page of my article. I'm probably misreading you, though.

I think what's "wrong with giving fans what they want" alone is that the developers are people too. They're artists, to some extent, at that. They have urges, they want to grow with the times. They probably wouldn't like to spend their game developing lives building a similar product over and over. How many times can you break down the block tower only to build it back up again? As many times as the fans keep telling you to? Is that the right thing to do? Is that fair? This is sort of what I'm getting at. Just my opinion, as you know.

The gist of my article, here said in another form: I think many longtime fans hated FF13 because it fucked with their proverbial "childhood memories" of Final Fantasy.

Anyways, thanks for taking the time out to give it a once over.

Well there was a time when most never got a North American release, such as Final Fantasy II, III, and V, Dragon Quest II, III, then V-VII, Secret of Mana 2 and 3, etc etc. FFVII brought the genre to the mainstream and all of a sudden they all started getting translated, with many great games for the PS1, and it carried into the PS2... but for this generation? Where did the console JRPG's go?

You're focusing on the Final Fantasy series, but personally I've been a lifelong fan of the genre starting with the first Dragon Warrior and Phantasy Star games so I look at it from a bigger picture problem and wonder what happened to the genre, as we're almost back to where it was before FFVII. The best I can figure is that it's followed the decline in Japanese game development in general. Used to be that company's like Capcom, Konami, Square, etc were at the top of the console market, but now it's all Western developers. As the graphics and technology allowed for developers to enhance the vision of their game the Japanese brand seemed to became more and more foreign, and while some over here love everything Japan others hate it.

Take Cloud for example. In his original incarnation:

Very blocky with little finer detail, so you can picture him however you please. Then you get to Advent's Children and can see what the creators really intended him to look like, and I'd put money down that if he looked like this:

From the start FFVII wouldn't have been as popular. I mean probably the biggest complaint with FFX (my second favourite FF game after VI) is that they thought Tidus was a whiny, girly-looking emo teen and hated him. This outrage was followed up with FFXII (which I didn't mind) and Vaan, and avoided in FFXII because they just went ahead and made the main character a girl. Maybe I'm wrong but I feel this is perhaps the root of the problem of as to why the FF series has become so polarizing. People buy it based because of reputation and the general impression that as a 'hardcore' gamer you have to play every AAA title, but then they get it and don't like what they find.

Responding to the article:

The author makes a lot of valid points. Yes, you can't make everyone happy. However, fanboys of anything are pretty damn bizarre.

I think -- and the point was made earlier in the thread -- that if you took the FF label off FFXIII, it probably would still be considered a bad game, and would probably be a pretty big flop. Without the insta-buzz that the FF label still generates, it would've been reviewed on its merits, which are pretty damn paltry.

FFXII didn't have turn-based battle system, and is actually my favorite one of the series as far as battle systems go. FFXIII's auto-fight was about as engaging as watching paint dry. I don't want turn-based combat back, and I certainly don't want it back to where my input in the battle is so minimal, that the game might as well play itself. (not that XII was perfect, singe gambits could make the game play itself, but at least it wasn't turn-based.)

The story was terrible. FF games have usually had pretty terrible stories, but most other ones had a few redeeming moments. FFXIII's story was bass-ackwards, near incomprehensible, and got worse as the game went on -- including a pretty blatant recycling of VII's characters, with some gender-swapping and retardation thrown in. Lightning's take on Cloud's broodiness was particularly odious.

I'm all for innovation. I just don't see how FFXIII innovated anything. Linnear progression isn't innovative. Retarded storytelling isn't innovative. Turn-based combat with minimal input certainly isn't innovative. I dislike FFXIII because I felt like it was recycling the worst of the FF series, without adding anything new, and without imbuing it with any meaning.

While I prefer the traditional FF games I did have fun playing FFXIII. It's story actually seems better now that I've played XIII-2. Maybe in FFXIII-3 they will figure out what they are doing.

Or maybe I'll just wait for the next one ....

Jeff Dunn:
In Defense of Final Fantasy XIII

The legacy of the Final Fantasy name is what's preventing the series from progressing in any meaningful way.

Read Full Article

I don't hate Final Fantasy XIII because it experimented with the Final Fantasy formula. I hate it because the experiments were failures.

Cases in point...

Square-Enix: We're going to re-vamp the turn-based battle system to create more dynamic, fast-paced, and intense battles!
Me: Then why am I locked out of all the battle system's features from the get-go? Why do they unlock slowly over time? Why does the first half of the game feel like a tutorial with little-to-no challenge? Why are most of the battles in the game repetitive, unchallenging, time-sinks until we get to the later chapters?
Square-Enix: We wanted it to be more accessible to newcomers.
Me: And by doing that, you've alienated seasoned gamers and your core fanbase. Have you ever heard of these wondrous things called "difficulty levels"?

Square-Enix: We're going to use the linear approach to tell a grand story that couldn't be told in a non-linear fashion!
Me: Then why did the story have terrible pacing, lack in focus, and make little-to-no sense?
Square-Enix: It makes sense if you read the Datalog...
Me (channeling/paraphrasing Yahtzee): THAT IS NOT GOOD STORYTELLING! YOU'RE SUPPOSED TO WEAVE EXPOSITION INTO THE NARRATIVE, NOT HAND THE AUDIENCE A SET OF CLIFFNOTES!
Square-Enix: We hoped that by making large chunks of the story optional, it would be more appealing to fans of other genres and more action-oriented gameplay...
Me: You can't please EVERYONE! You need to decide what you want your game to be and then make it good in regards to THAT goal!

Mr. Dunn, I'm afraid you assume too much. I concede that many (probably most) FFXIII haters fall along the lines that you describe in this article. But I DO understand what FFXIII was going for and I don't fault FFXIII for it-and-of-itself being experimental; I hate FFXIII because the end result of the experiments was a disjointed, unfocused, pile of tripe.

I am not a fan of the Final Fantasy games and I have barely played them. You could even go so far as to say that I dislike them.

I can however totally understand why fans would get very annoyed by what the developer did with FF-XIII.

If you have a long-running game franchise like FF (which to me is essentially about making the same game each time with slight variations in flavor and color) in its thirteenth installment you should not use that franchise as a platform for innovation.

Publish your innovative new game under a new title like for example "Initial Imagination".

Don't be surprised if people get pissed when they order pizza and you serve them something else no matter how innovative.

So, I read this after Shamus linked to it. Because I can't think of an eloquent way of putting it, I find this article very, very stupid. If you think FFXIII is original or forward-thinking, I would question your definition of those terms. As one who was never a fan of the franchise to begin with, I can definitively say that the "departures" of FFXIII were nothing I was looking for. What they didn't change was Squenix's retarded archetypical character design, boring, mostly impenetrable narrative, or its extremely played-out and unoriginal character types (A healing white-mage class! ground-breaking!) What they did change? This is how I imagine the battle system was created.

The design team for a different RPG is having a brainstorming session. Terrible, inane suggestions snowball into worse decisions. A.I. controlled party members are one, a convoluted resource system that doesn't do anything to reduce player idling is another. Eventually the discussion director realizes where this is going and chunks the whiteboard into a dumpster. Someone at Squenix finds it and implements all features on the board immediately.

Also the map is super linear. This is not always a bad thing, but when the ride is as boring as it is in FFXIII, it doesn't help that you can't occasionally pull over at an attraction. Seriously, I HATE the way FF generally does its worlds. It tacks on a ton of random bullshit that's completely separated from the core gameplay. But a dull ride on a railroad is no better.

"New" or "Different" is not always better. A retread is always good for nostalgia's sake at least. FF isn't my cup of tea, but I do have plenty of franchise's that have been buried because some "re-imagining" completely dropped important aspects that I enjoyed about the original and replaced it with something completely generic. Change can be good, and fans do not, regardless of popular belief, despise any change. Many franchises have had complete reinventions and remained successful (see, just about every famous franchise that started on the NES OR SNES and eventually transitioned into 3D.) But the change has to stand on its own. Metroid prime was able to go from a 2D platformer to a first person shooter because it added to the series while preserving Metroid's signature features. FFXIII removed the expansive world and the party management in favor of...really nothing.

The Escapist is infamous for being oppositional-defiant. Whenever a group of people start to hold a concurrent opinion, there's some Escapist writer condemning them as sheep and defending the opposite point. As a non-fan, I will happily announce that any fan that found offense with this game is justified. Your precious innovation is fucking bad and anyone with half a brain could have seen it coming in development.

Great article, Jeff. I feel like I have to disagree with you, though, at least insofar as the reasons that I, personally, hate Final Fantasy XIII have nothing to do with it being Final Fantasy or not.

I really could not care less about most of the Final Fantasy franchise. Ten was my favorite, and if I ever want to replay it, I've got two copies (long story) sitting in my bedroom. I don't need to shell out another sixty bucks for the same old shit.

So, I'm totally cool with SquareEnix shaking things up. I'd be content to see a Final Fantasy FPS or hack 'n slash, tower defense, or even something completely different from what we're used to. Further, I don't really count FFXIII as having strayed too far from the RPG formula, at least in any meaningful ways. You still get EXP, level up, then use new abilities to kill stronger things. There's still an extreme focus on overly complex storyline.

The thing that I fault FFXIII for the most, though, is that it bored me. It bored my pants right the fuck off. The first three quarters of the game are spent with combat, exploration, and party management on autopilot. You get sent down long hallway after long hallway, you have extremely limited choices in how your characters grow as fighters, and you have NO control over who is in your party. The combat is only marginally better because you have SLIGHT control over how your party fights.

It was much more like watching an interactive movie for those first thirty hours than it was like playing a game. This would have been okay in my mind if that movie had any likable characters or a story that I could care about.

Take, for example, Indigo Prophecy. It wasn't the best game ever, but it eventually wound down into an interactive movie, and I didn't fault it for that because I CARED about the story. I wanted to know why I began the game in a diner bathroom after having just MURDERED a stranger. I wanted to know why I was hallucinating for half the game. I wanted to know how this would all end. I wanted to know what my character's past was.

Likewise, I care about Solid Snake and Otacon. I want to know what Snake does in his spare time when he's not saving the world. I want to know how Otacon lives with the death of his sister and the fact that he spent months (years?) mindlessly developing a WMD with no consideration for how it might be used. I want to know what goofy thing they're going to make Dave Hayter parrot back to Chris Randolph next.

I do not, howerever, care about fal'Cie, l'Cie, Coccoon, or Pulse.

I could not give less of a shit about Hope or his mother. I really have no reason to. We don't know anything about Hope's mother, and we aren't really given a reason to care about Hope before bad stuff starts happening to him. Then, after we get to spend a little time (LOLTHIRTYHOURS) with him, all we know about his personality is that he's sad and angry. A lot. Because they really only show us how he's dealing with his mother's death, and they don't try to give him any depth outside of that. If I were Hope's mother, I would have killed myself long before the events of FFXIII because I just would not be able to handle all of the whiny bitching he's constantly doing. I also wouldn't have wanted him to murder a guy (who's been nothing but nice to him, and who tried to save my life) in order to avenge me, because that's what CRAZY PEOPLE do.

So, in summation, Final Fantasy XIII wasn't a terrible game because it wasn't Final Fantasy enough. It was a terrible game because the only things Final Fantasy about it were the things that sucked about Final Fantasy in the first place, and the changes they made didn't really do anything to enhance the gameplay.

I will give credit to FFXIII for the section where you get to run around a bit and make some choices, though. They gave us some interesting, beautifully designed areas to explore, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I also liked being able to sideline all of the characters that I hated. I also liked being able to turn my fighter into a medic, if I so chose. If the rest of the game had been even just a little bit more like that, I would have been much happier with it overall. It's just a shame that it takes goddamn thirty hours of boring gameplay to get to the fun part.

kurupt87:
You don't do major innovation within an established and popular franchise, ever. It never works.

You don't even need a franchise for that. I still vaguely remember the flac DA2 was getting for having several major gameplay mechanics noticeably altered.

I could stomach the bad stuff (Vanilles voice and hopes whining) but the combat was ungodly bad, you know you failed at making a game when cleaning your room is more fun than the combat in that game and considering my room is a tip, that's saying a lot.

I didn't hate hope because he was sad over his moms death (that scene under Palompolum where he says that he fought to try drown the pain of his moms death because he had to focus on fighting was great, I loved that part, but the fact that he whined about L'cie having no hope and a quick death is all they need got on my nerves and his unjustified hat for Snow (it was a fat NPC that caused his mom to go with the "Moms are tough" bullshit) I found it distracting and annoying.

Vanille having to put on a cheerful demeanor to cover up her loneliness and pain was good too, but that fucking voice...

Atmos Duality:
Actually, looking at it a bit more closely, shaking up the mechanics/mood started from about FF5 onward. It's not that new to the franchise. I'd argue that Squaresoft actually experimented a fair bit during their "glory years" (1994-2000).

FF5 introduced the class system, FF7 and FF8 are very unique installments, FF9 was a throwback to (especially to FF4 and FF6 mechanically, where characters had more unique skill sets), FF10 was sort of a hybrid of FF8 and FF9, and mechanically is very similar to FF13 in character progression.
FF12 was literally designed to play like an MMO, but as a single player title.

It actually started a long time before that.

FF1 had the then-traditional "build party out of a set of classes" approach to party construction that was popular in Western RPGs like Dungeon Master or Ultima. It also used the "sprawling overworld / dungeons" approach that Ultima liked. It just added a Japanese sensibility and blended in some ideas from Dragon Warrior that made for a good fusion that everyone liked.

FF2 added the idea of a rotating cast of core characters who each had their own story and specialties, which set the tone for the rest of the series. It also experimented with a wild new experience system, which did not work out and was never revisited.

FF3 actually added the class system that 5 later improved on (dramatically), and created a few of the "appear in every game" characters.

Holy old threads batman...

Friv:

It actually started a long time before that.

FF1 had the then-traditional "build party out of a set of classes" approach to party construction that was popular in Western RPGs like Dungeon Master or Ultima. It also used the "sprawling overworld / dungeons" approach that Ultima liked. It just added a Japanese sensibility and blended in some ideas from Dragon Warrior that made for a good fusion that everyone liked.

FF2 added the idea of a rotating cast of core characters who each had their own story and specialties, which set the tone for the rest of the series. It also experimented with a wild new experience system, which did not work out and was never revisited.

FF3 actually added the class system that 5 later improved on (dramatically), and created a few of the "appear in every game" characters.

True.

FF2 and FF3 are the only games in the core series that I have little to no experience with, primarily because I cannot read Japanese.

Atmos Duality:
Holy old threads batman...

Oh, wow, you're right. I totally did not notice the necromancy, this was sitting on my front page.

True.

FF2 and FF3 are the only games in the core series that I have little to no experience with, primarily because I cannot read Japanese.

There was an English PS1 port of FF2 (coupled with FF1, as Final Fantasy Origins), and a DS port of FF3.

You are not missing much. While they were pretty innovative at the time, time has moved on. Expansively.

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