Square Enix has had an epiphany: the Final Fantasy series is in need of an overhaul, something fans have known for years. With the swell of action-RPG’s dominating the role playing market, slower paced, turn-based games are finding this generation of players lacking the patience for strategy, critical thinking and the ability to wait for anything.
Without the panache that action brings, constantly littering the gameplay experience with loud noises and flashy effects, it seems current gamers are left feeling bored. It’s hard to not go into a “back in my day” speech about the beauty of old school turn-based RPG’s that are still often considered some of the best games in history, many of them developed by Square Enix (Squaresoft back then). It was another time and another generation; things have most definitely changed.
The greatest evidence for this change came after lousy sales of Final Fantasy XIV, the company's second foray into the MMORPG market, also turn-based. This has prompted a delay in its port to the PS3, and an admission by CEO of Square Enix Yoichi Wada that “The Final Fantasy brand has been greatly damaged,” and that the gameplay design of Japanese developers is "weak."
Yoshinori Kitase, producer of Final Fantasy XIII-2, has apparently come to this realization as well and has implemented a faster battle system into the upcoming game to appeal to this trend, one that “you ignore at your peril,” Kitase notes in an interview with Edge.
"FFXIII and FFXIII-2's battle systems have those elements of speed and action that are the key words for us, though that doesn't necessarily mean we're going to stick to the same route in our next game. That's something only time can tell."
While the first step in reviving the franchise would indeed be to bring it up to current standards of gameplay, possibly taking hints from the popular Tales series, they might want to dig back into their roots in terms of storytelling as well. Final Fantasy has always been an innovator in the RPG genre by continually tweaking its battle systems with every sequel, changing the game and setting the bar for competitors, but the heart and soul of the series was its story.
Personally, I would give anything for a reprieve from the futuristic, semi-steampunk craziness that is now the series' standard style, and see it go back to the old sword and sorcery days of castles and airships. Things really hit their low point for me when the games completely lost an overworld map, removing the spirit of exploration and becoming a more linear experience.
It will be interesting to see how Square Enix will attempt to one up current action-based games when and if they edge into that market. Future Final Fantasy installments will be different indeed from the games we grew up with, but let’s hope they don’t lose the spirit of the series that made them a name in the first place. Those familiar with the company’s history will know that their first fantasy was supposed to be their last, but has now spanned twelve sequels. Perhaps they should delve into why they were successful, be their own inspiration and apply it to the brand. If not, the next sequel might just be the final fantasy.
What do you think, readers? Is the idea of an action-base Final Fantasy intriguing or blasphemy? What direction would you like the series to go?
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