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Why Final Fantasy Is Still A Series To Watch

Final Fantasy has been around since the late 1980’s, providing its fans with fantastical adventures and memorable characters. Originally, Final Fantasy was to be creator Hironobu Sakaguchi’s final game.  However, due to the sales of the game, Sakaguchi stayed with Square and developed Final Fantasy into a series. At that point, Square became a JRPG giant, pushing out games such as Chrono Trigger and Secret of Mana, and even continuing their success before and after merging with Enix with the Kingdom Hearts series. Unfortunately, the shouts of joy that Square Enix used to evoke when releasing a new first-party game have morphed into muffled screams that are unsure of what to expect. Will it be extremely linear like the first half of Final Fantasy XIII? Will the story be as disappointing as Final Fantasy XIII-2? Will the game be canned immediately in the same sense as Final Fantasy XIV? Is Final Fantasy even a series that should exist anymore? To this question I say an absolute “yes!”

Fan interpretation of when Final Fantasy began to go downhill is scattered, with some people attributing it to the pseudo-MMO Final Fantasy XI, and others blaming the more recent Final Fantasy XIII. Personally, I felt like the twelfth game was fantastic, but the thirteenth one could have used more work. Nonetheless, I love both and would not consider either in anyway to be the start of a Final Fantasy apocalypse. Fans criticize the former for being extremely long with a boring battle system, while they destroy the latter because of its linear nature until halfway through the game.  However, Square took the criticism from Final Fantasy XIII and completely reversed them.  In Final Fantasy XIII-2, you can go practically anywhere at any given time, with a nice Pokemon-esque monster collecting system put into place for added variety and replay value. Alas, however, fans found something wrong with this game as well in the form of a poorly explained and underdeveloped story which ended on an unexpected cliffhanger, guaranteeing a sequel.  That sequel is Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII.

Lightning Returns Logo

The official logo for the game from Square Enix.

What is it?Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII is a current gen game set for release in Fall 2013. It will feature Lightning as the main character again, only this time, she is the only playable character.  Because of this, the game, while still featuring an ATB-style battle system, will be more action-oriented, giving the player more control over Lightning then before. The game will reportedly feature an in-game clock of 13 days, after which the world will end and the game will presumably be over. This is similar to The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask.  Some fans have bashed this aspect, stating that they do not want to be rushed while playing a Final Fantasy game. This has caused Square Enix to reveal that there is a way to extend the time limit, only the way is not yet known.

Why should I watch for it?: The prospect of a single character, action-focused Final Fantasy has been in my dreams since I first started playing these games. The gameplay in Final Fantasy games has always been fun, and I have full confidence in Square Enix to make this entry as fun to play as the rest of them. Plus, the in-game timer, while intimidating, also serves a rather important purpose in promoting replay value, as it has been stated that one cannot do everything in one playthrough. Hopefully, Square Enix still took hints from the final encounter in Final Fantasy XIII and work hard on balancing the game.

 

Final Fantasy Versus logo

The logo for Final Fantasy VERSUS XIII

What is it?: Final Fantasy Versus XIII was revealed alongside Final Fantasy XIII and Final Fantasy Agito XIII (which later became Type-0, but more on that later), in May of 2006. It has since been over seven years since its announcement, with very little information revealed about it. Versus XIII is constantly accused of being cancelled, only to have the developers come out and deny it while releasing a couple of screenshots or a Japanese trailer. The game will feature a battle system more akin to Kingdom Hearts than traditional Final Fantasy games, in that it will be much more action-oriented, although trailers have revealed possible third-person shooter mechanics as well. The game still has no official release date, although the developers have said more information is coming “soon.”

Why should I watch for it?: Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts are two of my favorite series ever. The majority of their entries have fantastic settings, stories, and characters. However, I have always enjoyed the combat of Kingdom Hearts more than that of Final Fantasy. The fast paced attacks and unique enemy designs compliment an amazing story about friendship and hearts. Combine that fast-paced action with Final Fantasy’s arguably more memorable monster designs, and you have a recipe for success. Now if only that recipe would get released at some point…

 

 

Final Fantasy Type-0 logo

Notice how the logo has more Japanese characters than most Final Fantasy logos, due to its Japan-specific release.

What is it?: Originally announced as Final Fantasy Agito XIII, the game underwent a name change and became Final Fantasy Type-0. The game is also more action-oriented than other Final Fantasy games, but still makes use of multiple characters and an ATB system. This game has done tremendously well in Japan, garnering critical praise and good sales. Unfortunately, there are still no plans to release it in other territories, according to the game’s director, Hajime Tabata.

Why should I watch for it?: Good question. While there is no way to play the game without understanding Japanese, there is always hope for an eventual release over the PlayStation Store’s PSP collection. Even without playing it, however, one look at a game play video tells you that this game would make a fantastic addition to your Final Fantasy collection. If you haven’t played it, like JRPGs, and have a PSP still, try importing it, I’m almost positive you will not be disappointed.

 

Agni's Philosophy screencap

Hopefully this was more than a tech demo…

What is it?: Agni’s Philosophy. Originally a tech demo for Square Enix’s new game engine, it was showcased once again at the PlayStation 4 announcement meeting. Hopefully, this means that Square decided to take what looked like an amazing setting for a game (and a gorgeous one at that), and run with it. The demo follows a young woman, presumably Agni, as she fights off trespassers with what appears to be magic and Final Fantasy staple Bahamut. The tech demo showcased gorgeous graphics and an interesting concept, and I hope more than anything this is a real game, hopefully to be revealed at E3…possibly Final Fantasy XV?

Why should I watch for it?: As I mentioned above, this “game” looks astoundingly gorgeous, and provides a look at a different kind of setting for a Final Fantasy game. While a combat system, game mechanics, or even story have yet to be revealed, whatever Square dreams up could help cement Final Fantasy back on top of Square’s IP’s.

 

That’s all I’ve got. Personally, these reasons are more than enough to keep me interested in the Final Fantasy brand. What do you think? Have you lost all faith in Square to redeem Final Fantasy? Would you perhaps want someone else to take the reins and reboot the franchise? Whatever it is you have to say, I would love to hear it! Let me know your opinions in the comments below!



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