5 Things We'd Like to See in the Next 'Final Fantasy'
Final Fantasy XIII-2 might only be just a few days old, but even before its announcement, or perhaps even once gamers started seeing footage of its predecessor Final Fantasy XIII, fans were already looking toward the future. Yes, there are elements contained within the world of 13 and 13-2 that bare some resemblance to the Final Fantasy of yesteryear, but only marginally so. It seems like based on the trajectory of this franchise, Square Enix better be gearing up for a drastic overhaul, and we thought we'd help them with a few choice suggestions.
Granted, there is still Final Fantasy Versus XIII along with a rumor that Final Fantasy XIII-3 is on the way, but we're talking about a true Final Fantasy follow-up — basically Final Fantasy XV. So without further ado, here are our top five things we hope to see in the next Final Fantasy.
It is definitely the most obvious choice for Square Enix, but it's also one that wasn't featured in Final Fantasy XIII, and drastically changed that game's experience for the worse. Without the sense of exploration, without being able to adventure or converse in every area, the densely populated world of the game loses a lot of its life. Gran Pulse in FFXIII was sort of what we were looking for, but without towns to talk to strangers and learn their story, it felt like a cheap way to cut corners, and made the game extremely straight forward.
Picking up unique items and encountering special bosses is something that RPGs have always used to keep players leveling until they max out. They provide incentives to play more, and to explore, and keep the player in check but not allowing them to feel like they're unbeatable. We're not saying make it open-world like Skyrim, but just create a handful of areas with enough activities to do, and it will give players a better understanding of the world they are inhabiting.
It could be argued that some characters featured in the past two Final Fantasy propers do hearken back to the androgynous protagonists of early Final Fantasy titles, but typically it's an ensemble affair, with many characters taking the role of the "lead" and not one person standing out that much further than the other. For Final Fantasy XV though, we'd like to experience a story where the main character, or the player, is once again that central figure that Cloud, Squall, or Cecil were.
Of course there's some room for interpretation, and some contemporization, but how about a main character that has an out there hair style, a larger-than-life sword, and who never leaves the party? Characters like these transcend a singular property and become icons of Final Fantasy the brand. If nothing else it would certainly do well for the marketing of Final Fantasy XV.
Part of what blew gamers away back when the first PlayStation hit was its ability to render some extremely impressive cut scenes, highlighted most notably by those contained in Final Fantasy VII. Though they were few and far between, those pre-rendered CG cutscenes were moments to catch one's breath after a particularly challenging battle, and a chance to see the Square designers really flex their artistic muscles. Since then, Final Fantasy, and games in general, have tried to blend in-game graphics with cut scenes -- with a few opportunities for CG mixed in -- and that works to some degree, but ultimately doesn't capture Final Fantasy.
Think about Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, a fan service film that was essentially one long cut scene, and how well it satisfied fans' need for visual splendor. Sure, interactivity might be important at certain points, but just setting the controller down and basquing in some beautiful graphics is part of what makes Final Fantasy great.
It isn't a JRPG without the turn-based combat, but over the years significant improvements have been made, and that's one of the few things we hope Square Enix pulls from Final Fantasy XIII for future generations. The use of the paradigm system, combined with a more traditional turn-based approach is enough to keep gamers from getting bored, while still giving options. Having a little greater control over team mates would definitely be a plus, and also giving players the option to play without paradigms and designating party members one or two roles will help keep older fans who want deeper combat and greater control pleased.
Combat in Final Fantasy XIII was fast furious, and helped teach newcomers the basics of not just attacking and healing, but buffing/debuffing and tank management. These might not have been as important with less sophisticated AI, but for the new generation of RPGs, these are skills every player should have a competent understanding of.
Although it works in direct opposition to our suggestion of a central protagonist, we figure if those days are gone, how about completely moving in a new direction — one with multiplayer. Having a co-op experience in Final Fantasy would definitely be a challenge given the length it takes to complete each game, and the amount of freedom that is given to the player, but if done right it could be the closest thing to an MMO without all the MMO tropes.
The Old Republic promised it, but it couldn't quite deliver without padding content and game time, but if Final Fantasy XV can let me get together with a few of my friends and every now and again progress a little further in our own journey, that extends the lifespan of the title, and adds a community element to those intense boss fights. There is a lot to consider logistically in order to pull such an ambitious idea off, but when a game has a party system, you'd hope one days those other players would be real.
It's tough to single out just what should go into the next Final Fantasy, but these five choices seem like the perfect jumping off points, by themselves, for making a game that pays homage to its predecessors and delivers entertainment. Sometimes in order to keep things from getting stale, a developer needs to branch out and experiment, but typically there are core elements fans are expecting for each iteration, just look at The Legend of Zelda.
Final Fantasy XV might not even be in the cards based on the way things are going with the franchise, but we certainly hope that is not the case. And if Square Enix does choose to wipe the slate clean, we hope they take a few, if not all, of our suggestions when starting development.
What would you like to see change/return in the next Final Fantasy? Is it time for the series to completely evolve into something more action-based or are its older core elements part of the appeal?