(I know, worst title ever)
Hey, you know those stupid prediction articles that are all made up of guesswork skewed by the writerís personal preferences, the ones that serve to only stroke the writerís ego as they furrow their brows and pretend to be the next Michael Pachter as if being the next Michael Pachter is something to aspire to?
Yeah, letís do one of those!
So, Final Fantasy, you may
have heard of it, chances are you have strong opinions about it, and the general consensus seem to be that it isnít as good as it used to be, when exactly ďused to beĒ was differs from person to person, but Iíd imagine most donít exactly consider the current games to be living up to the legacy. Thatís why I want to talk about Versus XIII, and its potential to revitalise the franchise, if not outright save it. (Save it from mediocrity that is, itís not like theyíll stop making money anytime soon)
FF13 was a bit of a mixed bag, thereís been plenty of blogs about the games problems and merits so I wonít open that particular can of worms just yet, personally I thought it was a good game but a poor Final Fantasy, if that makes any sense. Instead, Iíd like to look at where the franchise is headed with both 13-2 and Versus and why I think these two games are a pivotal fork in the road for SquareEnixís future success, or at the least, their reputation.
Final Fantasy XII-2......hwaaaa........ to be honest, I donít think itíll be a good game, like, at all, in the slightest, I have zero confidence in it, and this is coming from someone whoís indifferent to the last game at worst. Square say theyíre addressing the problems people had with the first game, but from everything we know so far I just canít see how things are improving. Letís start with the characters, the heart and soul of any FF game, Sarah and Noel seem to be the only permanent party members from the looks of things, so I hope ya like Ďem Ďcause youíre stuck with Ďem. Call me sceptical, but I donít see Noelís ďcarefree, charge in head-onĒ attitude breaking new ground as far as JRPGs go, and Sarah, quite frankly, seems like she was more interesting when she was an inanimate object, she looked like she stood a better chance in a fight when she was made of glass too.
Granted this is all hearsay till the game comes out, maybe theyíll have a surprising amount of depth, maybe weíll be able to explore their characters more deeply now that there are only two party members, maybe while expanding her horizons and travelling the wider world Sarah will start to develop feelings for Noel or question her engagement to Snow. But, I just donít see it happening. Speaking of the story, remember how FF13ís plot, while not terribly complicated, was made
confusing because they kept inserting their own terminology for words that already existed and just generally did a bad job telling us what was happening? Well guess how theyíre going to remedy that confusion?
Time travel and alternate dimensions! Because if thereís two things that can make a story coherent and easy to understand itís time travel and alternate dimensions. Thereís plenty of other stuff too, the battle system is being tweaked, so thatís really a matter of personal preference (I liked it once you had a decent amount of options), the third party member being replaced with monsters you collect, QTEs, a lot
of reused assets, which I guess is to be expected from a game turned out in less than a year. Then thereís the plot, Noel and Sarah have to travel through time to save Lightning from an alternate dimension where she is a warrior goddess locked in a battle with an unkillable villain who has been described as ďHer version of SephirothĒ and looks like he was specifically designed so we could laugh at cosplayers at a later date.
I have a black eye because that plot synopsis made me curl my fist in rage and facepalm at the same time. Honestly, this may be the worst direction Iíve seen a series take since Suicide Bomberman. But enough, I didnít mean to harp on 13-2 so long, nor did I intend to be so hard on it, but everything I see just rubs me the wrong way, and I donít think all the moogles and pink hair in the world can save it now (sorry Dale).The most I can expect is an improved battle system but the story and characters, and how both seem to be lacking, may drag it down. And again, all this is just speculation till we get some proper time with it, Iíd be thrilled to be proven wrong.
But anyway, this blog is supposed to be about hope! And I believe Versus 13 is Final Fantasyís best hope for a return to form. I canít remember the last time I read something about FF13 or 13-2 without Versus being brought up. One of Versesí greatest strength is its status as a spinoff, you see, every Final Fantasy game has to both reinvent the wheel and stay familiar, they need to create a new world, characters, battle system and story, all while making sure to include chocobos, moogles, summons, menu based battles, airships, magic, fabulous character designs, Cactuar, crystals, a guy named Cid and much more. Itís like a bird trying to fly while still clutching its cage in its talons, basically, Final Fantasy has too much baggage.
Versus on the other hand, can pick and choose whatever it wants, they have the freedom to go nuts with this one and still retain the production values most games could only dream of. Of what we know, there are a few points of interest that seem to be shaking thing up in all the right ways, in my eyes at least.
ďThis is a fantasy based on realityĒ as stupid as that sentence is, it raises an interesting idea about where weíve been in FF games up to this point. Weíve seen medieval, fantasy, steampunk, cyberpunk, futuristic and all sorts of weird in-betweens. But weíve yet to see anything close to our own world, sure thereíll still be monsters and magic, but seeing it in a world we can relate to is at least worth a mention. This extends beyond just cities that look like real cities, an old fashioned world map thatís now to human scale, and a slightly
less pretentious and exaggerated story are things to look forward to.
Violence. Cast your mind back, years ago, to that first trailer we saw for Versus. Do you remember the shock you felt as you saw the protagonist impale a soldier? Do you remember the surprise and, admit it, thrill you got as you saw him snap another soldierís neck? Donít get me wrong, Iím not a fan of violence or gore, in fact the more I see in a game the more desperate the developer seems to me *coughVisceralGamescough*, M rarely stands for Mature, just inappropriate for children. But if one series could benefit from ďaging it upĒ itís Final Fantasy. Iím not asking for gore, but a bit of bloodshed would certainly reinforce the darker, down to earth tones weíve seen so far.
We donít know much about the battle system yet, but what we have seen has me really excited for one simple reason Ė options/variety. Iím not talking about ďwill I cast thunder or blizzardĒ, Iím talking about taking out the pilot of a giant robot and deciding to hop in and control it for yourself, Iím talking about fighting an enemy manning a turret and turning it against its allies, Iím talking about luring a monster near an explosive material and switching over to the character who wields guns and going into third person shooting to trigger the explosion. Have we seen this kind of thing in other games? Absolutely. But have we had it in RPGs, especially this style? Not to my knowledge. Itís not even that big a deal in the grand scheme (I basically said Iím excited for exploding barrels), but even the best of battle systems can get repetitive after 40 hours, things like this are what keep us guessing and keep things interesting.
I love Final Fantasy, we all do, everyone has fond memories of it peppered throughout their life, but how many times can you reboot the same basic concept? Is there any other series in any other form of media thatís been reimagined thirteen times? Final Fantasy is like The Simpsons, it was amazing in its heyday, but itís running out of steam, and the sad truth is it may never be as good as it once was. But maybe thatís okay, because when the Simpsons started to go downhill we got Futurama! Thatís how I see Versus, not so much a hark back to the past or a huge leap into unknown territory, but a sidestep, familiar yet experimental, something fresh but still within our comfort zone, branching out but with an assured level of quality. And in the end, isnít that what Final Fantasy has always been doing?
Hopefully weíll see it soon, right after Half-life 3 and the new Jet Set Radio.
BLAAAH. That went on way longer then it needed to, I actually donít feel so good about this blog, I procrastinated for weeks and even ended up writing other stuff in between. But it was just one of those weird ones you just need to get off chest and out of your system you know?
Also, that moogle that transforms into a sword and bow is just dumb. And this in coming from a guy who still thinks gunblades