In response to "The Battleship Final Fantasy" from The Escapist Forum: "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.
You've made some fairly intelligent points, but it seems that you wrote this from the perspective of someone who really didn't like the games. I must say that FFVII (which is superior than the rest) does everything fairly well. Story was engaging, characters were deep and different, and the gameplay did exactly what it was supposed to! Let's not forget that we're talking about a turn based RPG. It's built to be slow and organized. The ultimate weapons are just supposed to make killing things easier, so it HAS to be difficult to get.
Let's a look at the big title Fallout 3. Other than being an RPG, Fallout shares little with Final Fantasy. The story is pretty dull, there are no cutscenes, there is no particular good or bad guys you get to play or deal with. But the best weapons of the game are still somewhat difficult to get to (unless you're a low level character) and do nothing more than make killing things easier.
The problem with Final Fantasy is that it's losing the only thing that made it really stand out. While FFIV and VII were fantastically written (yes, they were improbable but what do you expect from a game called "Final Fantasy"?) the rest of the series has been an exercise in the ludicrous and bland. But these new final fantastys are trying to improve on the gameplay mechanics that have always been lacking, so I suggest we give this one a chance before we all jump ship.
- Rogue 09