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Final Fantasy - You Used to be Cool

Final Fantasy - You Used to be Cool

When I first tried out Final Fantasy VII on my best mate's PlayStation, I was struck by the amazing graphics, the active time battles and the emotionally demanding storyline. When I got a PSX a few months later, FFVII was one of the first games I got. Of course, I later used an Action Replay to actually finish it, but that was after many, many hours of playing. Recently FFVII was announced as getting a PS4 re-release (not HD or remastered), showing that I wasn't the only one who enjoyed it.

When Final Fantasy VIII came out, I bought it on release day, eagerly returning to my house to play it. I didn't use an Action Replay this time, despite the awkward spell mechanic which required you to pull the spells you wanted out of your enemy. Again I enjoyed the graphics and storyline - not so much the battles - but it proved that the magazines were not wrong: Square could make a damned good game time and time again. Or at least twice in a row.

It was at this point I started to check out some of SquareSoft's back catalogue. This being 1999 there were precious few places in my town I could get my hands on a SNES or NES, and re-releases literally weren't yet a thing. So I set my sights on emulators, deciding to go back to the original Final Fantasy and work my way forwards. This was a mistake, as the original game was terribly boring to someone who had only played VII & VIII. So I checked out what websites said about the series and they seemed to think IV was the place to be.

Final fantasy VI battle

I played, but I also found a ton of non-RPG games that I could get into much easier, on the short play sessions I had on the PC. As such, it didn’t have the chance to pull me in like its younger cousins, nor did V or VI. It’s never been an issue of the graphics, as I enjoyed them and would later buy Final Fantasy Anthology in 2002 and Final Fantasy Origins in 2003 - I quite like 16-bit art. At the time, they just didn’t grab me.

Final Fantasy IX was touted as an end to this 'pesky future stuff' of VII & VIII, but given how much I liked the previous two, this purchase was obvious. Again, on day of release I was at home playing, and to this day it remains my favourite entry of the series. You can keep your Cloud’s, Zidane is my go-to protagonist. He was fun, funny and I had a man-crush on him.

It may be this love of the characters and entire plot, but since IX I haven’t fully enjoyed a Final Fantasy. I was so excited when Final Fantasy X came out - voice acting, great PS2 graphics and simply another great Square game. What followed was a nonsensical plot about time travel and summoners, and me giving up when I got stuck on Sin and couldn’t go back to level up some more. The Al Bhed speaking another language didn't entice me to try another playthrough.

Al Bhed Script

X-2 was the first ever sequel to a Final Fantasy, the others having been completely disconnected from each other. This was actually fun, because it was light on plot and brought in some new game systems such as changing job roles on the fly, instead of being screwed because you forgot to bring your long-range people. This along with the J-pop (my guilty pleasure) soundtrack made for a great experience, but I only played for a while before just watching my girlfriend play it.

The developer Enix, of Star Ocean and Dragon Quest fame, merged with Square before the next in the series and that made me ecstatic. I’d played Star Ocean: Second Story, which had multiple endings amongst other things - so surely Square Enix could succeed where Square had failed recently to entertain me.

I was disappointed with Final Fantasy XII (I've never played the subscription-based online-only Final Fantasy XI or XIV), so much so that I didn’t play more than a single time. I played for about half an hour, close to the end of the PS2’s life, and then never again. The plot wasn’t fun and snappy like IX or even VII had been. I can’t even remember the plot, by the time I was out of some gate I saved and never returned to it.

Final Fantasy XII

So when Final Fantasy XIII came out, I wasn’t going to fall for it. Unfortunately my wife did and went on to play all three in the Lightning Trilogy. I couldn’t tell you the plot to any of them, because I didn’t understand a bloody word of it. Blitz Ball and Zanarkand were one thing, XIII had things like Fal’Cie and Lecie, and two planets, time travel and the absence of death or something. I was lost long before I stopped watching my wife play them…

In VII, there was very little in the way of lore. With no voice acting, it would have required far too much reading - and considering how much reading there was, there’s no way it would have achieved the highest selling figures of the series if it contained as much background and history as XIII did. There are many games that achieve world building without boring gamers half to death, such as the pre-X Final Fantasy's. Some games manage to be mostly exposition but still not bore everyone - just check out the Metal Gear Solid franchise.

There is a fine line between world building and boredom. The Assassin's Creed titles toe this line carefully, with quite a bit told through cutscenes, but a lot more in emails, letters and sound files. Collecting these is optional and reading them more so - the world is fleshed out if you want it. The Batman Arkham games are the same - you don't need to know that Joker got Harley flowers, or that Cash bated Killer Croc into biting his hand off. But it's there if you want to know it, to enrich the experience.

scarecrow arkham asylum bio

Final Fantasy could benefit from this kind of world building, rather than bog everything down with terms that sound similar, trapping people in crystal and going on and on about how people live on different planets. 'Show, don't tell' - not 'show while telling until you get so bored you would consider playing Candy Crush Saga'. The tie-in titles I've played, such as Crystal Chronicles and Tactics Advance, are light on lore and still very fun to play.

Despite myself, I'm getting excited for Final Fantasy XV. The setting is interesting, though that may just be the car that interests me. I'm not a car guy, but you've only been able to drive airships and chocobo in previous games, after all. If it can do some world building that doesn't require an atlas and a wikia, then there's a chance it could keep my interest and be fun. If the main character can display emotions (I'm talking to Cloud and Squall, as well as Lightning here) then it might even be cool!

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Andrew Duncan

Andrew Duncan


Guaranteed to know more about Transformers and Deadpool than any other staff member.

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