"Final Fantasy, have a seat. Your mother and me are worried about the kind of game you're becoming. We know you've been ... experimenting recently with different gameplay mechanics, and while some of them have made you a better game, others are isolating you from your fans. Is that really what you want to do to yourself?"
Final Fantasy's battle system seems to be something no one can agree on. Some people prefer the Active Time Battle seen in the majority of titles. Some like the true turn based style as seen in FFX. Some deranged souls even enjoy the free roaming battles featured in FFXII.
I have mulled over what the best combination of these mechanics are and I truly believe that FFVII: Crisis Core has gotten it the closest. I agree with the free roaming people that just standing there scrolling through menus is boring, but I still believe the battles should be random. There are definitely things I would change about Crisis Core's battle system. As many agreed, it seemed to be just an "X" button mashing affair. Instead of having to press the X button for every swing a la Kingdom Hearts, simply selecting an attack button from a menu and then the character getting to attack on a set time schedule reflecting their speed, a la Star Ocean, would be way easier on our thumbs.
Of course, Crisis Core only had one playable character, which would be unacceptable for a real Final Fantasy game. So how would the extra two or three characters in your team be controlled? By an AI with basic options you could choose for each character, none of that Gambit bull. And the ability to switch between characters on the fly, borrowing from Star Ocean again. Finally, the DMW crap would have to go. The limit breaks would be gained as they are in Final Fantasy VII & IX, a meter that builds as you take damage. The summons would go back to being just really powerful materia, again like FFVII & FFIX.
The World Map is sadly disappearing from games recently, as seen in FFX/FFX-2 and Lost Odyssey. This makes me sad because the world map has always been a staple of the RPG genre, and needs to stay. FFXII still did it wrong even though you actually traveled around the world instead of picking a place from a list. Final Fantasy needs an actual World Map that you can roam around as you go location to location, like every title from I to IX.
The recent trend of Final Fantasy's has been that you are given a cast of characters and that any of them can be anything they want. Want the main character to be a white mage and the damsel in distress to be a powerhouse? With the Sphere Grid and License Board, this was possible. This seems like a step forward in gameplay mechanics, but I think it hurt the game in terms of plot development.
In my opinion, the reason FFIV & VI were regarded as having the best stories in the series is that each character had their own specific role and that was part of their being. Take that away and part of their personalities are being forsaken as well.
Screw the Ivalice Alliance. Screw it. What made the old Final Fantasy games so great is that each one was a separate entity from the others. A new world and cast of characters to fall in love with. Personally I never became too attached to Ivalice. Gaia I favored more but I still think it would be in the series' best interest to not stick with a given setting. Honestly I believe the more focus is put on developing the setting; the less effort is put on the characters background and overall plot.
Amount of Games
This is one thing about the Final Fantasy series we can all agree on. There are way too many spin off Final Fantasy games coming out nowadays. Some I enjoy, such as Final Fantasy Tactics and Crisis Core. Regardless, it would be for the best if there were only the regular numbered games. Square-Enix is a huge, powerful company, if they want to do another kind of game they can name it something besides Final Fantasy and still have it be a smash hit. The Final Fantasy games are so big that they don't deserve to have attention be divided between tens of spin offs. I want FF13, and after that FF14, and so on.
There you go, my dream Final Fantasy. I'm sure some of you will disagree with me, and I'm certainly not the God of Final Fantasy (I believe that position goes to Ms. Bennett), so I'm open to suggestions of what you could do better.