179: The Battleship Final Fantasy

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The Battleship Final Fantasy

What will Final Fantasy XIII have in common with the Battleship Yamato, Japan's most powerful World War II-era dreadnought? Just like the ship, the game will already be obsolete by the time it comes out. Ray Huling examines the evolution of the Final Fantasy series.

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Now, I'd agree with your conclusion that the natural destination of the Final Fantasy series (and other JRPGs) is the handheld, but not for pretentious reasons around presentation of it's themes. Dissonance between story and presentation can produce powerful effects, as shown with, say, Valkyria Chronicles, which uses soft lines, pencil shading, and light colours but tells a story of war, loss, and racism. It's very effective, despite the fact that the presentation doesn't fit your expectations for the type of story.

No, the real reasons are twofold. First is that the core gameplay, (which almost inevitably reduces to grind if you want to see all of the content) is far more palatable in a handheld format, where it can be used as a momentary distraction from other things, like travelling, rather than a serious investment where you are tying up a console which could be doing something far more interactive with it's time.

The second, and this is specific to Square, is that they have simply lost their technical edge. Back on the SNES and PS1, Square were kings of technical graphical wizardry, lush backgrounds, great sprites, detailed polygon models, and eye popping CG.

Nowadays, not so much. Even when given competent middleware like the Unreal engine they can't match the efforts of Mistwalker on Lost Odyssey with the same engine a year or so earlier. (even that had some problems with animation, but nothing like The Last Remnant does.)

Final Fantasy XIII's promo shots show that they aren't getting better either. They're poorly framed (mid range shots when closeups would be appropriate, not deciding whether to show off the character details or the backgrounds, etc, and character poses don't look natural.

Great article. I've become completely disenfranchised with the series despite how much I adored it in my youth. Though this may be due to growing up and finding different interests and tastes, I do believe it's partly down to Square remaking similar plots, with similar characters all to achieve the same pleasure I've already had.
Average plots, a poor script and an often pointless main character these days don't create the immersion of previous games.

As a 10+ year Final Fantasy fan, I can see where you're coming from. When I stop to think about it, I can agree that perhaps the series is getting "too big", too over-the-top. And part of me wishes the series would do one big final game and then just end gracefully.

But I also don't agree with a lot of your comments and opinions. FFVII didn't have the best graphics, but it was still capable of telling a very powerful story that many fans (including myself) identify with and love. I've never played FFIV, so I can't comment on that game.

Maybe I'm missing the bulk of your points, which is entirely possible because at the moment I'm running on very little sleep. I'll just say I don't agree with a lot of what you said, and that's just IMHO. :)

My quick-and-easy comment on this topic is 'Pull the life support.' Or at least, refocus the demographic. A simple story doesn't need to be told in the most convoluted way possible, through the voices of troubled teenaged sensibilities.

This may all be true, but even if the age of Final Fantasy is coming to an end I doubt we'll see it's effects for a good while now. There are far too many loyal fans keeping Battleship FF afloat for it to sink any time soon. :P

When I first played Final Fantasy IV the game disappointed me completely. There were some high points in the story and clever twists. All together though I felt it was more akin to the Titanic: the grand scale and elegance were spectacular, until it hit the iceberg of incredible dullness. Even in miniature the game failed to make an impression on me.

It might be because I came to the series late and didn't experience the game when it was a shining example of gaming, so I don't have the luxury of rose-tinted glasses that most Final Fantasy fans have, or possibly Golden Sun ruined 2D rpgs for me completely with it's winning charm and incredible storyline, but I didn't feel it Final Fantasy IV made any impact on me whatsoever.

It may be my personal preference to rpg games, but I don't expect a precursor to an mmorpg that focuses on completionism, grinding and a sloppily built structure as an enjoyable experience.

My first experience with FF was with the VII:th installment and just as the article mentions the characters and combat were mediocre at best. BUT the dark plot with its genetic engineering undertones sucked me in and I enjoyed the game.

Later I turned to FFVIII basically hoping for an even better experience. What I got was the biggest grind I had ever encountered (the junction system). As well as one of the least believable, least likeable main characters I can recall. I believe Squall is such a social misfit in order to cater to the equally socially misfit otaku crowd which probably could relate to his personality.

I did play FFIX as well and while Zidane was a far more likeable character the same grind and deja v feeling was there. Just the fact that you can't skip the summoning scenes is moronic by itself.

So, I'm hoping that FFXIII will bomb, being a parody of itself and the series already before release. Not because I have any animosity towards JRPGs but because I would rather see the enormous resources of SquareEnix being used on something more worthwhile.

While I find your article to bring up some excellent points, your use of metaphor is... very weird. Maybe I don't have the what feels like a requisite fandom in Anime or Japanese naval history... but I just can't draw the parallels you make in your writing.

First and foremost: could you really say the Yamato was outmoded and obsolete? The Yamato was sunk. The fate of an obsolete ship ends in a far different fashion: scuttled, memorialized, maybe converted into a tourist attraction. Look at the USS Midway, for example, which is now a floating museum permanently anchored about 50 miles from where I live. Is death at the hands of American air forces a fate that awaits an obsolete ship? You assert that the Yamato was obsolete before it even left the drydock -- as if it were fated to be nothing more than a sacrifical goat with a four-year lifespan.

But I digress. I'm not sure the miniaturization you speak of is what the FF series needs. I have a GBA SP and the Final Fantasy I/II cart and... it steel feels like Final Fantasy. These primitive games don't feel any more natural just because they're in the palm of my hand. Sure, the text is smaller. Sure, I can fold the thing up and stick it in my pocket. But it still feels just like the FF roms I fire up in ZSNES on my xbox. I can agree that they don't feel right anymore on a traditional console setup, but I'm not sure that this is because the original FF games on GBA/DS were "meant to be".

Your "bigger guns to deliver small pleasures" argument is interesting, though again it's kind of awkward when framed against the fate of the Yamato. That statement could be inferred about anything subject to the unyielding march of technological progress: video games, movies, computer processors, cars, and even business itself. Unless you can convince people to stop innovating and gamers to stop caring, the "bigger guns" will always be necessary even if all it means is staying competitive.

My first taste of Final Fantasy was FF7. Yours was much earlier -- so I'm sure there are some differences in opinion related to that. You knock on some of FF's features, though, like its a bad thing. What's wrong with overproduced cutscenes? You'd take crappy in-game cinematics (or even worse, pre-rendered in-game cinematics) over Square's breathtaking CG video? Hell, Square without the mindblowing CG wouldn't be Square at all. They'd be just another JRPG developer, lost and forgotten amongst indifferent American game buyers. And that grind stuff -- well, all you have to do is look at the Asian MMO market to see that, for whatever reason, they eat that shit up. A lot of us in the 'States do too...just look at anyone with a max level toon in Lineage II or Everquest.

Anyways, this post is long enough. I enjoyed your article, though I can't say I agree with your arguments. It was an elightening read, regardless... just please avoid the awkward imagery!

Thanks!

Tom

I'm a HUGE fan of the Final Fantasy series and have to admit that FFX was the last good Final Fantasy. Also it was probably the last Final Fantasy Hironobu Sakaguchi worked on but I can't confirm that. The series is now concerntraiting on a western audience with the looks and style of gameplay and personally I think the story of FFXII sucked bad... and that's why I play most games. I found FFXII the worst in the number series of Final Fantasy because of it's MMO battle system and it's boring story. I've finished every number Final Fantasy except FFXII because it's story was too boring for me and without a decent story, RPGs are useless. Final Fantasy in my opinion is dead and I doubt FFXIII will improve what they screwed up with. I personally think that Square-Enix should axe the series or give it to Mistwalker because they're whipping a dead horse, which had a few of stand out numbered Final Fantasys(which were FFIV, FFVI, FFVII, FFVIII and FFX). Final Fantasy now is only good for graphical upgrage remakes and nothing else and that's a shame since I loved Final Fantasy so much in the past. I'll still buy FFXIII just in case they improve on the mistakes of FFXII but if this one sucks too, then I'm just going to wait for remakes of the ones that didn't suck. Also If you want a JRPG that makes you feel for the characters and has great story play Lost Odyssey because that game story is fantasic and it should be considering Hironobu Sakaguchi worked on it. Also being in Australia I had to wait for the older Final Fantasys to get here and I'm probably one of the few Australian gamers that liked the 2D Final Fantasys and that's because it came out too late and these days most gamers want pretty graphics instead of great story telling and game depth, but I shouldn't really say that as a JRPG fan because it's too one sided of me.

Blissfully Ignorant:

First and foremost: could you really say the Yamato was outmoded and obsolete? The Yamato was sunk. The fate of an obsolete ship ends in a far different fashion: scuttled, memorialized, maybe converted into a tourist attraction. Look at the USS Midway, for example, which is now a floating museum permanently anchored about 50 miles from where I live. Is death at the hands of American air forces a fate that awaits an obsolete ship? You assert that the Yamato was obsolete before it even left the drydock -- as if it were fated to be nothing more than a sacrifical goat with a four-year lifespan.

Basically, yes. The Yamato was obsolete before she launched. Her air defense suite was horribly inadequate to the task of protecting her from air attack, and the twenty five mile range of her guns was impressive for a battleship, but not compared to the hundred mile range of carrier air power, which was repeatedly proven to be the defining element of naval warfare by the raids on Taranto and Pearl Harbour, and the battle of Midway.

The age of the big ship with big guns as queen of the sea was over before Yamato even launched, and her sinking by pure air attacks (along with that of her sister ship, the Musashi) drives that point home.

I know I'm an anomaly among the FF fanbase; I've been playing RPGs since 1980, when AD&D had first become a bit of a fad at my elementary school. My first FF was FFIV in 1992, but it seems like I'm the only FF fan in the world who played it first but doesn't consider it to be the best in the series, or even count it as a personal favorite. The fact is, I wouldn't even put it in my Top 5 FFs. It was FFVI that made me fall in love with Final Fantasy, which also happened to be when Sakaguchi essentially handed the reins over to Kitase. FFVI was the turning point, but FFVII was the real transformation of the series, and I see FFVII, FFVIII and FFX almost as a sort of loose trilogy. Someone earlier said "FFX was the last good FF." Well, it was the last Kitase FF. For those who thought FFVII, FFVIII and FFX all had a certain something that has been lacking in FFX-2, FFXI and FFXII, take heart- Kitase is overseeing FFXIII, so hopefully it will be a return to form... obsolete as it may be.

ThePlasmatizer:
When I first played Final Fantasy IV the game disappointed me completely. There were some high points in the story and clever twists. All together though I felt it was more akin to the Titanic: the grand scale and elegance were spectacular, until it hit the iceberg of incredible dullness. Even in miniature the game failed to make an impression on me.

It might be because I came to the series late and didn't experience the game when it was a shining example of gaming, so I don't have the luxury of rose-tinted glasses that most Final Fantasy fans have, or possibly Golden Sun ruined 2D rpgs for me completely with it's winning charm and incredible storyline, but I didn't feel it Final Fantasy IV made any impact on me whatsoever.

It may be my personal preference to rpg games, but I don't expect a precursor to an mmorpg that focuses on completionism, grinding and a sloppily built structure as an enjoyable experience.

I also played Golden Sun before I played any of the older RPGs, and then I played Final Fantasy VI. It was OK, but I kept missing Golden Sun's (and the Lost Age) colorful simplicity and pure fun. You don't need to Grind, but you can if you want. The game's sheer beauty, simple yet elegant story (not Pulitzer material, but better than FFVI or Dragon Warrior) and the fact that even the most menial RPG tasks were made completely fun put together a package that FFVI couldn't compete with, and I don't really want to be disappointed again. Game storylines should be simple and motivating. Gameplay should be ALWAYS fun, not mostly-fun-except-when-you-need-to-grind, or find item-drops, or somehow get to the end of a dungeon without hitting a random encounter every two steps.

Interesting analogy and I agree that they excel on the handhelds but...I'm not sure you can just lightly declare the entire series is "dreck" and "Saturday Morning Cartoon" fare when millions of people like them. If constant grinding was the chief appeal of the game that wouldn't explain the wide demographic of men and women who like the series. Nor can you just chuck out the plot when statistically about 1/4 of gamers (based on the XEO Design survey from a few years back) care about the plot with almost no concern about the game play or grinding.

X was an interesting break of mold for the series since it was so anti-romantic. Religion is false and piety is the false path and the mechanists were, oddly enough, the good guys. VII's anti-corporate message resonated nicely with the late 90's themes of marching against the World Bank and Sweatshop scandals. The insecurity of identity seemed to have an inadvertent connection with the materia system's destroying anything unique about each of the characters.

The Final Fantasy games have always been about creating a sophisticated method for delivering a grand, goofy soap opera. Yeah there's a ton of side quests, but given how easy the game is unless you challenge yourself personally...I can't help but think of them as scraps for gamers while the game itself contends with making the story delivery as fluid as possible.

I'm not really sure how XIII is going to do in the current climate with so many new gamers entering the culture...but I'd be surprised if the series' ability to deliver melodrama decreased in demand.

Firstly, all of the information Gloating Swine mentioned about the battleship Yamato should have been in this article. All I knew is that, when it was commissioned, it was ambitious, but when it was finished it was already obsolete (interestingly enough, this happens often in the gameplay of Master of Orion 2. Maybe an article should be written on that?). The article should have covered WHY it was obsolete. What it was going up against and wasn't ready for. As it was, this information was missing.

In the end, your core message is a good one. Unfortunately, your purpose is drowned in so much personal opinion that the overall message is lost and now there's too much desire to argue with your opinion rather than with your point.

Final Fantasy 4 does not have a great story, no. However, let us also consider the time it came out. While there were plenty of games coming out with pretty deep stories, a lot of them were mostly deep based on the medium they were encompassed in (take Myst for example). Final Fantasy 4 comes along, and all of a sudden it not only has a story, it has a completely cinematic experience. It opens up like a Hollywood movie with an epic score, with characters exchanging dialogue as they might in a film. Was the dialogue written expertly? No. Was the story absolutely ground breaking? Far from it. The story was cliched and read as if it were written by a middle school student.

The game was still ground breaking for what it presented. Even when you consider a lot of the Lucas Arts adventures from the early 90's and their stories, most of them were comedic. Final Fantasy 4 wasn't the first game to have a story, but it took itself seriously. While it wasn't the first one to take itself seriously, it also managed to do it cinematically. It paved the way for games to provide simple, yet still serious, cinematic experiences.

Unfortunately, as time passed, the assumption that Final Fantasy continued to be ground breaking continued. Somehow there became an assumption that JRPG's involved the deepest, greatest stories. This is, in fact, completely false.

Granted, a lot of the flaws you pointed out are actually part of a cultural barrier. Why are all the heroes teenagers whining about being heroes? Well, the Japanese wonder why our heroes are all middle-aged men that talk little or say nothing. While we think Gordon Freeman being an MIT scientist saving the world instead of the oft-criticized muscle bound soldier such as Marcus Fenix is a positive step in creativity, the Japanese look at him as just a silent doll with a generic American face. It all depends on the culture and what their goals are in narration.

As it is, I will admit that I have found new enjoyment in JRPG's in the DS. One of my favorite on the system is Contact, published by Atlus a couple of years ago and probably hard to find at this point. One of my favorite points is that the game is actually not very long, too. I'm tired of 40-80 hour games. I love how Final Fantasy 4 and Chrono Trigger are both roughly 20 hours, including the side quests. Any grinding I need to do, I can do it at my job.

The DS is a good place for JRPG's, since often enough their gameplay is more simple than the budget a console game may require (or major retail PC game). It is also a good place since it isn't always a system where you are competing for time to go from title for title. I know I can spend three months on a DS game and not care, but on console I have trouble spending two weeks before I want to move onto another title.

I also feel that Final Fantasy isn't keeping up with the generations, though they at least try to have good gameplay. Final Fantasy X, the last one I played, was fun despite a tedious story. In the end, I feel Final Fantasy moving to the DS is fitting, just as Dragon Quest shifting to the smaller platform was. I just feel the article got caught up in criticizing a game instead of embellishing the point it should.

I'm glad im not the only one in the world who thought FFXII sucked...but the rest i have loved so im not giving up on FFXIII just yet

But i cant agree with you on saying Final Fantasy cant make a good story...because FFVII made far too much of a massive impression on me to not be...

ccesarano:

Final Fantasy 4 does not have a great story, no. However, let us also consider the time it came out. While there were plenty of games coming out with pretty deep stories, a lot of them were mostly deep based on the medium they were encompassed in (take Myst for example). Final Fantasy 4 comes along, and all of a sudden it not only has a story, it has a completely cinematic experience. It opens up like a Hollywood movie with an epic score, with characters exchanging dialogue as they might in a film. Was the dialogue written expertly? No. Was the story absolutely ground breaking? Far from it. The story was cliched and read as if it were written by a middle school student.

It's also important to consider the medium it was released on. Final Fantasy IV squeezes it's entire story, battle engine, graphics, and sound into one measly megabyte.

It's not going to be War and Peace.

Final Fantasy should stick to what it does best: Create a somewhat believable fantasy world, and have a fun battle system to allow you to impact it.

"FFIV has such risible convolutions because these betrayals and deaths and family ties justify the constant rotation of the party roster. They vary gameplay. It's one thing to face down challenges with a Dark Knight and a Dragoon; it's something quite different with a Paladin, two kid magicians and an old wizard. The plot serves merely to explain why the player has one set of options rather than another."

I think this is salient. Recent Final Fantasy games have pretty much destroyed the link between narrative and gameplay, with all characters able to learn all skills/abilities. Party makeup ceases to have any real meaning because everything is customizable to the point where the arrival or departure of a character never hits you where it hurts - in the battle sequences.

Chrono Trigger was great because party choice impacted the type of elemental damage you could do, and because of the team-up combo techs you could do. You chose a team primarily to deal with the enemies at hand, and were rewarded for / reminded of that choice because each character would weigh in with personalized dialog at key story segments. Chrono Cross was a horrible middling mess because there were a billion characters that didn't play any significant, individual role (aside from having different stereotypical 'accents').

When play (battle) and story are casually disconnected, the whole thing feels like a giant discombobulated waste of time.

His reference to the Yamato was regarding how the entire concept of a battleship in the late stages of WWII was obsolete. At the beginning of the war aircraft carriers were consider support chips to the battleships and that idea fizzled about mid 1941 when the Bismarck sank to the hands of the HMS Hood on a 'lucky'shot that crippled her. Aircraft carriers in particular in the Pacific where what fleets and armadas were built around. I really enjoyed this article.
With other Square successes the decide to keep the Final Fantasy series going? Chrono Trigger was by far a better game then any and all of the Final Fantasy's for the SNES.
I suppose the success of FF is the reliability, you know exactly what you're getting, A story that you wish was done by now and if you do the sidequests almost no real ambition to use that final weapon or skill on the Final boss because you know what's going to happen anyways. Except for X-Death... geez you serious?
I enjoyed FF IV and VI. VII was long and really didn't care about any PC outside of Avalanche. Cloud Berret and Tifa where all you needed with their final limits so powerful anyways (Props to Cid and Highwind too.) At least when in VI you would see Celes and Sabin meet early in the new world. It wasn't the Loche and Terra show the whole time.
XII there is no real attachment to any of the players. I would switch out a player indefinitely if they were missing some guy too often and never use them again. Essentially I would use the guys who didn't piss me off. Who cares really, there was no difference in the players aside from a few stats here and there between levels, and the finishers/limits were bad, really bad. Sure you're able to throw some damage but I personally never saw them, I was too busy hitting the combo buttons below to hit harder and harder.
If Square didn't release their own or have Prima make walkthroughs for the game I guarantee that most things we take for granted like the Ruby Weapon in FFVII and the Crystal sword in IV. Random chance if talking to the right people or opening the right chests through out the game removes replayability.
Make it fun again with some customization. FFx was trying that with the sphere grid I think, but regardless once you had keys to go in other players grids who would want Lulu's stuff? She the only one who can equip her final weapon wo she's the only who makes sense to have the spells effectively.
That it... enough talking this should count for 12 posts sorry for all who read all of it, I feel like I owe you guys something. I'm open to suggestions.

I thought this article was split in two--perhaps because of the awkward metaphor at the beginning. First there was this complaint about the way the stories were told--but then how that would be OK if it was on a handheld, as though there is an excuse for poor storytelling--and then there was a complaint about the scope of the game, notably how sidequests < reward.

The former I don't think can be held up under any standard; you can say that the stories have evolved as the tools have improved, but I don't think the device a game is on gives it an excuse to be shoddy.

The latter however is more interesting to me. If the sidequests all outweigh the main quest, then aren't we just getting Final Fantasy: Sidequest?

One of the things I've been bothered by ever since 7 is that the side quests take a long long time and never seem to add to the story. When you got Vincent's ultimate weapon, there was a chunk of story that was added to you (though small).

Now, since as Clemstation points out, all the characters can do everything, giving those characters something meaningful that is specific to them and adds to the story might be worthwhile. Sidequests that just give you a cool sword-well who gives a fuck? (Someone does, just not me.)

Brodden:
His reference to the Yamato was regarding how the entire concept of a battleship in the late stages of WWII was obsolete. At the beginning of the war aircraft carriers were consider support chips to the battleships and that idea fizzled about mid 1941 when the Bismarck sank to the hands of the HMS Hood on a 'lucky'shot that crippled her. Aircraft carriers in particular in the Pacific where what fleets and armadas were built around. I really enjoyed this article.

Bismarck (and Prinz Eugen) sank Hood, not the other way around.

Hood was even worse than Yamato in terms of rubbish ship design though. Battlecruisers (Cruiser sized vessels with Battleship size armament) were never a good idea, they didn't have the staying power of a Battleship, or the speed of a Cruiser. They were good for scaring commerce raiders, but as the fate of Hood showed, utterly useless against even a smallish battleship due to poor deck armour making them very vulnerable to plunging fire (long range high angle fire that comes down on top of the ship, as opposed to flat fired shells at shorter ranges. (Prince of Wales, the British battleship at the Battle of the Denmark Strait, was still not finished, she actually had outfitters on board finishing the ship at the time. She was later sunk by Japanese air attack along with Repulse, PoW's radar was nonfunctional at the time, and an early torpedo disabled her rudder and part of her AA suite.)

Bismarck, though she was eventually a victim of air power as well, (a Faery Swordfish got a lucky torpedo hit that locked her rudder, and meant that she could only sail in circles.) actually showed what the use of Battleships still was, she took an immense battering from air and surface combatants before finally sinking, probably due to scuttling charges, as the citadel (inner armoured bouyant section of a battleship) was unbreached, though her entire upper structure was gone.)

The remaining virtue of a battleship in World War II was that they were immensely difficult to sink. The raid that sank Yamato consisted of over three hundred planes.

All games that cater to completionist (sic) share something with the art of building model ships. They're both concerned with monomaniacal attention to detail.

Oh indeed. Final Fantasy plots may be hackneyed, but until the writer can prove that this doesn't apply to pretty much all games, or that many people haven't been fascinated and inspired by obsolete things since before Keats' Grecian vase, nowhere near as hackneyed as the organising analogy of this vacuous piece.

Definitely a great article that probably needed some more time in the oven. Calling the Final Fantasy series a Yamato is definitely wrong though. You can call Final Fantasy 12 a Yamato because it was a superior game that came out on the aged PS2. Most people consider 12 to be the worst FF ever even though it is arguably the best. No one will forget FF I, FFVI,FFVII,FFIX,FFX, FFXII, and the FF XIII series. No one is going to forget the Yamato either.

Square Enix is slowly turning Final Fantasy into one more myth for Japan. While Lord of the Rings and Star Wars are myths for Great Britain and the U.S., Final Fantasy is digital Japanese mythology. Japan already has solid myths that still dominate the minds of Japanese. Myths don't sink. You haven't sunk Square's battleship.......

If you look at Dissidia, the Final Fantasy VII compilation games, FF X-2, and FF 12: Revenant Wings, and the FF Tactics Advance series (Ivalice), it is pretty obvious that Square Enix is creating a digital Lord of the Rings. Dissidia is probably the most important game despite coming out for PSP because it deals with the gods of the Final Fantasy worlds. One game is going to explain the mysteries of Final Fantasy universe.

Once Dissidia drops, Square is going to be bulletproof. It is going to take more than an article talking about sinking ships and horrible dialogue to even scratch the paint of this monster. This article should have came out 17 years ago in both Japanese and English written by a Japanese bilingual professor of mythology in order to have any lasting effect at all on the Final Fantasy series.

Besides Square Enix, no other game company has created a satisfactory digital mythology. Blizzard and Lucasarts are going strong and will compete with as well as compliment the Final Fantasy brand. I think that it is unfortunate Christopher Tolkien or some other Tolkien have failed to successfully bring Lord of the Rings to a dominate digital position. Sure the movies were fantastic, but video games are obviously the new media that Lord of the Rings needs in order to survive and thrive in the future. Harry Potter has also failed the transition to digital. Marvel and DC have also been unsuccessful so far. The problem with movies, comics, music,and literature is that the stuff gets old too quick. By the time I read Lord of the Rings or Watchmen, I had already played multiple Final Fantasy games and spin offs. The gameplay from Final Fantasy IV is still fun even though it is more than a decade old. The Lord of the Rings book is now dry and uninteresting. It needs a rehaul that the movies obviously couldn't accomplish.

A toy model is good to make and look at and then you put it down. You can only make a toy model once. You make and remake FFIV Advance as many times as you want. You can create as many Warcraft or KOTOR online characters as you want. People want myths. They want to understand life. Online gaming heals people by allowing them to play their many archetypes (read Carl Jung) As long as Final Fantasy continues to exist, people will keep coming back for more.

MannPower:
My quick-and-easy comment on this topic is 'Pull the life support.' Or at least, refocus the demographic. A simple story doesn't need to be told in the most convoluted way possible, through the voices of troubled teenaged sensibilities.

Thank you! That's how I generally feel about this series.

Oh snap Gaijin, I think you just picked a fight with the inteir nation of Japan!

Now I will definatly agree with you that Final Fantasy has become a lumbering behemoth of grind and glitz, like a high budget summer movie lacking substance or fun, possessing only over the top action and hackneyed formulaic plot.

The ORIGINAL Final Fantasy was popular because it was endlessly replayable and customizable. You could make a party of everything, build your characters from the ground up. Recent Final Fantasys have tried to capture this with their many obtuse grid systems and whatever, but the experiance is diluted by the plot. It is very difficult to have complete freedom and a strong plot- Final Fantasy needs to move away from it's current linear model if it's going to combine strong writing with customizable characters. May I suggest Fallout 3 as a model? Yes yes let all the failboys cry "NO! NO FINAL OBLIVION!" but screw you. I'm not saying make an Oblivion clone, i'm just saying that perhaps having a main character that is designed from ground up, combined with pre-genned followers with interesting personalities and traits, as well as selectible history for your character (ala Mass Effect) would be a good formula. Sometimes you just need to shake it up. The grind-tastic linear setup of Final Fantays is a dinosaur, and I know they can do better.

Signed,

Someone who wasted 60 bucks on FFXII

TsunamiWombat:
Oh snap Gaijin, I think you just picked a fight with the inteir nation of Japan!

Now I will definatly agree with you that Final Fantasy has become a lumbering behemoth of grind and glitz, like a high budget summer movie lacking substance or fun, possessing only over the top action and hackneyed formulaic plot.

The ORIGINAL Final Fantasy was popular because it was endlessly replayable and customizable. You could make a party of everything, build your characters from the ground up. Recent Final Fantasys have tried to capture this with their many obtuse grid systems and whatever, but the experiance is diluted by the plot. It is very difficult to have complete freedom and a strong plot- Final Fantasy needs to move away from it's current linear model if it's going to combine strong writing with customizable characters. May I suggest Fallout 3 as a model? Yes yes let all the failboys cry "NO! NO FINAL OBLIVION!" but screw you. I'm not saying make an Oblivion clone, i'm just saying that perhaps having a main character that is designed from ground up, combined with pre-genned followers with interesting personalities and traits, as well as selectible history for your character (ala Mass Effect) would be a good formula. Sometimes you just need to shake it up. The grind-tastic linear setup of Final Fantays is a dinosaur, and I know they can do better.

Signed,

Someone who wasted 60 bucks on FFXII

Okay that's it unless your problem was the pacing, or you just didn't connect with the story, I dare you to tell me a design flaw in FFXII. It is a good game, it's not bad by any means of the word. Yes the plot is badly paced around midway. That's it's only problem, well that and the Guide Dang It stuff.

Monsters drop loot, Human enemies drop money, you can create items in the Bazaar from Loot, this is more believable than a giant bird with 10,000 gil in it's beak, I mean a dragon I could understand, maybe the bird, but a Cactus? why does a Cactus carry money?!?

As for the Battle system, Yes you could make the game 'Play itself' but that's less a problem with the game and more a problem with you. I never used gambits on my main character unless I was waling through the starting area and didn't wanna fight weak enemies. The gambit's let you program the AI of your party so they don't do stupid shit. with a full 13 gambit slots you can program them to play like YOU.

The Party's Character development and plot is defended here http://www.gamefaqs.com/boards/genmessage.php?board=459841&topic=46066678

I am not saying you have to LIKE FFXII, so if I'm giving that impression that's incorrect, what I am asking is why you hate it, and is it for the right reasons. I have played every FF and save VI in story it's better than all the rest, I remember when X came out and EVERYONE called it shit, I remember that when IX came out everyone called it shit.

So understand my skepticism to anyone saying they dislike XII, Because I am predicting a big spike in hatred for XIII once it is released.

Also the Zodiac Job System (A.K.A. we fixed all the issues with the English game and refuse to release it their) solves Licence Board issues by making 13 of them, and you can only assign one to a character, and that corresponds with a Class.

Also the MP bar stopped serving for Quickenings and they added a third bar.

So yeah I consider your statements uninformed.

1. I believe that FFVI could (arguably) have the best story, IV being maybe second or third. VI had you going through many changes, including the destruction of the world, but more importantly it tried to make you empathize with the characters. From the fragile FEMALE main character (a first at that point), to the treasure hunter, to royalty, and even a wild child, everyone had a back story that appealed to people.

2. My theory is that the resulting convoluted plots were a result of the shift that occurred with FFVII. Up until that point, Square had basically ALWAYS worked with Nintendo, and as a result Nintendo's motto influenced their design (although I haven't found hard evidence). The plots might have been convoluted, but they were linked together by gameplay, and it was often about making as simple an epic as possible.

However, I believe it was one of the design team for FFVII that said "when we worked on FFVII, we were having a hard time working within the limits of Nintendo's hardware (i.e. the N64 and cartridges), so we went with Sony instead [for the transition into 3D]". As a result of switching from Nintendo to Sony, Square's philosophy began to change as well. FFVII was meant to be an epic in every sense of the word, no matter how complex, and it worked.

However, the success might have been attributed to the wrong things. The complex plot and stylish characters were thought to be the main draws of success, and as a result of that was FFVIII (which wasn't as commercially successful). Sony, realizing that perhaps they were misguided, tried to return to "classic" FF with IX, but in trying to emulate Nintendo, they irritated their audiences.

I believe that Sony/Square really doesn't know what else they can do other than continue to run with this complex evolution that they started. X had themes of religion, XII themes of politics, and I have no idea what XIII will deal with. The sales/likability of VIII and IX told them that they can neither stay with the same style nor return to it's roots: they have to continually try newer and more convoluted things.

Again, this is just my theory: if you have contrary evidence, feel free to chime in.

I take serious issue with this article on several different grounds, but for the sake of brevity I'm going to stick to one single point: the way the author addressed the series's plot.

While you are welcome to dislike a story however much you want, once you start tossing about criticism such as 'imitative drek suitable for children' any discussion travels from the realm of well-reasoned argument to a self-indulgent rambling. Using an example of game dialogue written in an era wherein gaming was in its early adolescence isn't exactly fair. At the time the only other genre that offered anything really story-oriented would be Adventure games (unless I'm having a horrible oversight). Any game that was action-oriented had almost no story in it at all, save 'This is why you're beating people up/shooting them' and 'this is what you get now that you're done committing mass murder'. Contrast to today, where ALL games are expected to have a story.
But I digress.
All that really needs to be said to demonstrate the fact that the article isn't giving the full picture: Final Fantasy X.
That game DID make a good portion of players genuinely care about the characters therein. If an ending is capable of moving at least a small portion of its audience to tears, something has very clearly been done RIGHT. The writing for the series has gotten better by leaps and bounds over the years; basing an assertion that the stories are terrible off of the fourth one is a bit like saying that Edgar Alan Poe was a hack and presenting something he wrote in the 8th grade to 'prove' it.

The Yamato thing is completely off-base, imho. Do you know what the American carriers that sank the Yamato had as escorts to defend them from air attack? Battleships. Air-air interception was a very new technology which the Americans were only just getting the hang of by the end of WWII, and so ships that could mount a lot of AA and take a lot of hits were needed to defend carriers. Yamato was destroyed by air power because she was one ship with a few cruisers vs the entire American naval air force, not because she was in some way 'obsolete'.
Likewise, whether the game is on a handheld or a next-gen console is irrelevant if you consider that the vital thing for an RPG is the story. All the stuff about the side-quests and hidden content can be applied to any game that has anything in it besides the main story- either you get a piece of equipment you've proved you don't need, or a trophy/ achievement that just sits there. So what? The important thing was the journey, the satisfaction of getting there.
An interesting article, but not one I found much truth in, I'm afraid.

Ro42G:
Final Fantasy is digital Japanese mythology. Japan already has solid myths that still dominate the minds of Japanese. Myths don't sink. You haven't sunk Square's battleship.......

No.

Dragon Quest is Japan's digital mythology.

Dragon Quest sells significantly better in Japan than Final Fantasy, and always has done.

Why is it that the handheld is somehow the place for bad RPGs? Is the console the only platform deserving of a game that effectively links gameplay to narrative? For that matter, why is it so critical that gameplay be linked to narrative in the first place, however hackneyed either ends up to be?

Most "jRPG" games are endlessly criticized as grinds wherein the player shuttles characters from one overproduced cutscene to the next, but I fail to see how that's such a terrible thing, outside of the idea that having these games sell like gangbuster (due to brand or legacy or what-have-you) might have a chilling effect on game designers that aim for something new in the same field.

For that matter, let's look at PC RPGs based on licensed rulesets like D&D. The same argument could be made that number-crunching bonus attacks and defense has absolutely nothing to do with the story of Planescape: Torment and that the game needs to be relegated to PC emulators on an iPhone because of the need to play the game between dialog trees being somehow offensively obsolete.

We don't always play games to find gameplay beautifully interwoven with narrative (though finding such is usually a plus), we play games to have fun. Final Fantasy has, in my own experience, proven quite fun to play between the lavish cutscenes and technical brilliance, even though I knew for a fact that there was little relation between my gambit construction and the fate of Dalmasca. Why? I cared about both, that's why. When I wasn't amazed by CG mini-movies, I was having fun hunting down a completely unrelated monster to test out my latest gambit flowchart.

The evolution of design doesn't always mean that previous designs no longer deserve to stick around. Just as new is not always better, there will always be a place for old relics. Besides, if someone likes an obsolete design and is willing to pay, who cares, so long as it doesn't somehow hinder what comes next.

GloatingSwine:

Ro42G:
Final Fantasy is digital Japanese mythology. Japan already has solid myths that still dominate the minds of Japanese. Myths don't sink. You haven't sunk Square's battleship.......

No.

Dragon Quest is Japan's digital mythology.

Dragon Quest sells significantly better in Japan than Final Fantasy, and always has done.

Now you wanna talk about wasting money, 100 dollars on Dragon Quest Swords.

Also I believe my friend told me this (Although I can not confirm)that games can't be released on working days in Japan, due to Dragon Quest 2 coming out and pretty much the ECONOMY shutting down.

But Gloating is correct, Dragon Quest is known EVERYWHERE in Japan, it's one of those things your expected to know like the first 151 Pokemon, even if you Don't have an interest, I knew Dragon Quest before I played my first RPG and I'm AUSTRALIAN! I mean they are produced by the same company, but if it came down to FF dies or DQ Dies, FF would die. Fast.

EDIT: Also the License Board(S) makes sense, they are citizens of a country under occupation, they aren't ALLOWED to use the most overpowered weaponry, I know in terms of Gameplay we could cut through thousands of guards, but in terms of Plot breaking the law will get your ass reamed in jail (Not like they haven't escaped once but ya know)

Do you think the title of Judge is just for fanciness? it IS the same world as FFTA and FFT after all.

unangbangkay:
tesxt

well said.

I also funny how they say how Final Fantasies gameplay mechanics and such are "obsolete" but...um....what about EVERY OTHER GENRE!! look at FPS games for christ sake, there's no justification to bitch about this franchise and it's "obsolete-ness" and try to single it out as if it was the only one. Every genre suffers from this as I see it.

Hi All,

Thanks for taking the time to read the article--and thanks even more for taking the time to reply.

L.B.: don't get me wrong man. I like the Saturday Morning Cartoons! I'll watch The Herculoids any old day, but it would irk me to learn that someone was investing millions to re-make The Herculoids without changing the tone and quality of the program in any way. That's what I find with FF.

ccesarono: I do mention that the Yamato was taken out by an aircraft carrier. You are right that much of what I'm talking about stems from cultural differences. I think it's easier to overcome these differences with a handheld platform, because you don't approach handheld games with the same expectations you have for full console games.

nicholasofcusa: 'hackneyed' means "trite" or "banal" or "unoriginal". I don't think there are all that many metaphors comparing videogames with naval war vessels, but I'm eager to know of other examples.

R042G: You wrote: "Square Enix is slowly turning Final Fantasy into one more myth for Japan."--yup; that's one of the key ideas in this piece.

But I will disagree with your claim that you can only make a model once: you can only make a specific kit once. I was going to extend the metaphor with my experience making multiple Yamato models, but I figured enough was enough (and besides, as nicholasofcusa will tell you, that's a hackneyed metaphor!)

As an aside, is it me or do I draw out the first-time posters?

TsunamiWombat: Yes.

camkitsune: my point is that FF dialogue hasn't grown up. It's really no more natural or sensible now than it was in 1991. There's just more of it, and it has voice actors.

Seraph: actually, FPSs are immensely different from how they were in the days of Wolfenstein. Everything is. Look at Resident Evil; look at Ninja Gaiden; look at Mario!

The big innovation of FFXII, the gambit system, is really a way to avoid the tedium of playing Final Fantasy. The amazing thing about going back to play all those old FFs is that you discover you're still using the same pattern of presses on the D-pad, over and over again. It's disturbing when you skip from game to game, as I did while writing this piece, to find yourself making precisely the same inputs from decade to decade.

When I'm taking the commuter rail, I find this sort of thing soothing, but when I have a $600 PS3 and a $2,000 TV dedicated to it, something seems mightily awry.

At any rate, thanks again everybody. I appreciate your thoughts.

Best,

Ray.

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