The Evolutions & Constants of Final Fantasy
GameSpot Asia's Jonathan Toyad talks about the many tropes and themes of the classic JRPG series, from its story themes to its overall game design philosophy.
Truthfully, ever since Square became Square Enix, ALL of the games have taken a distinct down slide. Up until FF10, I was a die-hard FF fan, now with sub par RPGs I can take them or leave them. I kind of enjoyed FFXIII, but it's not a Final Fantasy game of the same quality. Final Fantasy was the undisputed king of RPG's!! Now? Let's just say, if the names of these games were changed no one would even associate them with what was once such a proud legacy! And I would be all for the classics being re-released with better graphics. Fighting Kefka or Sephiroth, or watching the Bahamut Summons we all know and love in 1080i would be awesome. Package them in bundles - one bundle per original system (NES/Famicom, SNES/Super Fam, PS1&2)
I think it would be silly for Final Fantasy to go the W-RPG route of having a near infinite amount of sidequests and dungeons and continuing with the main story whenever you get around to it...but there's a balance that existed in the past that's been lost. FFXII was really close to that mark, the story was just overly political and the characters had little personality. I like the traditional turn based RPG, even though through game mechanics you can make it seem that it's not.
I'd have SE do what Namco-Bandai has done for the Tales series since the beginning. A healthy amount of side quests, usually with a time limit on them depending where you are in the story. Really unique, colorful characters full of humor that's still unimpeded by a dramatic storyline. Granted, Tales of series has skits to show the maturing relationships and friendships, but you can do the same through sidequests in FF too. It's how you saw extra bits from characters or understood their past a bit more. Sidequests can be rewarding not just for character development, but differing quests to take and the rewards from succeeding. Plus, at any given time, you only had a few to do every so often, then you go with the story again. It's why I adore almost every Tales game I've played, it's balanced in sidequest to story, character development, humor and serious issues all in one. Phenominal bang for your buck. Final Fantasy used to do this too, it's why VI - IX are my favorites.
As someone who has never really played any FF game, I just picked up FF XIII and I have to say that I am enjoying it quite a bit.
The linear aspect of the game that annoyed most people actually works for me. It allows me to focus more on the fantastic fighting system and the game's enjoyable story.
Just about the only gripe I have with the game is the stupid character names, which I've been told are a recurring theme in some FF games.
I mean seriously... all the random letters and words you could come up with and they name the main character Lightning and then there are the fal'Cie and l'Cie. I can get by the main character having a silly name, but the latter names are just ridiculous every time you hear them said...
What game is at 2:39? Never seen it before..though one of the characters looks a bit like Kain from FFIV
Jonathan, you're really fun to listen to and the subject is pretty interesting too! On the content though: When FF13 was released, I wished the final fantasy games would have their current visuals and stories combined with the non-linearity of yesteryear. Not too long afterwards my wishes were heard and FF13-2 was born. I absolutely love that game. The lack of party members, since there's only two, gives us too little exciting dialogue though. Back in the ff10 days, kimahri telling tidus he should back off was pretty funny and tidus staring at lulu through his binoculars.. Those were better days!
You can't compare 7 to 13 (well you can but it's not entirly fair due to technology advancements). So lets compare 10 to 13. With every FF proir to 13 there was an Airship. There was no airship in 13. That alone seemed to make the whole world of 13 smaller and more linear. The sidequests in 10 are pretty intriguing, I especially like the monster hunting. You then fought a more powerful one after certain conditions were met. I still have yet to beat Nemesis in it. However in 13 Long Gui was the most powerful creature. With the proper equipment it wasn't as much of a challenge. I could continue but I digress to answer his question I like my characters having a certain class something that another charater doesn't have. 13 they all seem to be the same to some extent. I liked the old ways. You don't have to voice over every little thing. Not all of 10's sidequests were completely voiced. That didn't bother me at all. I had varity and a somewhat open world. 13 was lacking in both of them.
FF 7 was the first console game I ever played. It really got me into RPGs and other JRPGs. At first I was never interested in this style of gameplay. That being said when I first played it I got lost as soon as I left Midgar. I somehow missed that first town and lost to the Midgar Zolom. You couldn't get past the Midgar Zolom unless you got a Chocobo from that farm. But before that you couldn't get the chocobo unless you listened to Cloud's backstory. Other FF's are like this they are linear to a point. That point to when thigs really opened up is when you got your airship.
For me, the past few FFs have just been too linear. Rightly or wrongly, the ability to branch off from the main storyline whenever you wanted and do nothing but side quests or exploring for a bit, was my favourite aspect to the game.
Older defiantly, anything after 12 doesn't even feel like a FF, and 12 took a while to like as well. 9 with Zidane and Garnet, and 10 with Tidus and Yuna, the love romance and story is so rich, and is what I miss in a final fantasy.
Dear Jonathan Toyad,
I have almost completed ff13-2, just had no reason to rush out and buy it at release, instead waited till December 2012 and got it for 9$.
You know, it really is not a matter of linearity or open sand box style of play, team size, or whether the hero is male or female. Like it has been said so many times before it is all about the story. Take FF12, I really can not remember who was the main protagonist or bad guy or even why they were questing to begin with. Shame to ff12 had the best combat system, to me anyways.
In ff13 I loved the characters, the art style, and voice acting alot- but the convoluted plot, the lack of a threatening enemy left the game forgettable, and hard to keep playing.
Do you remember a game called Suikoden 2 and Wild Arms also. Now that was some story telling. The main hero could have easily been a guy created by the story which you followed or a person you put your own self in and played. The bad guy was loved, hated, feared, sympathetic, and cool all at the same time in Sui 2.
Square Enix still puts out the production values better then any other Japan based studio, but like you mentioned they are starting to use it as a crutch. Linear story telling has to be done more because you cannot have thousand of hours of voice work trying to predict all the actions of a gamer. Set pieces and production costs so much they can only add in what the player has to play, not some remote village that has no part of the story in it.
Skies of Arcadia allowed tons of exploration but you could only go so far before needing to advance the story.
ALL, I mean ALL rpg games need to give you that feeling of awe and wonder through a child's eyes of seeing a world not of their own for the first time. Take GRANDIA - while the adventure and environments were nothing new to old school rpg gamers - it was all new and wondrous to the characters - and that is what made it.
I played a weak combat/production game called Alundra but still remember the story and the characters reaction to the story.
It is impossible to make everyone happy since so many more people who play JRPG's are those who have played them so many times before. But there is one thing that all of us will agree - as long as the story is strong and engaging - everything else can be debated as what can be done better- not what made the game go wrong.
First, Squall For The Winner!
Second, Jonathan you're funny!! But fix the wires in your tee-shirt! You're such a mess! :D
Final Fantasy X showed that so called linearity isn't a bad thing - but that was because they had fantastic story, a magnificent sidegame, great music, a wonderful battle system, deep and likeable characters, graphics that caught your eye and didn't let go, and a setting which was both relatable and fresh,
Final Fantasy XIII wasn't horrific because it was linear, but rather because it didn't have a story, sidegame, its music was mediocre, its battle system was down right atrocious, its characters barely registered, and when they did they tended to be irritating, the graphics were detailed but soulless, and I can't remember anything of consequence about the setting. The best that can be said for it is it was all flash and no substance.
The main thing is the story and gameplay, though. All the FF greats (for me the best three were 6, 7, and 10) had an engrossing story, and stellar gameplay. That's what FF has to return to: 12 wasn't bad, but it was let down by the battle mechanics and a story which felt like a bit more could have been made from it.
13 should simply be held up as a shining example of what not to do.
Really enjoying these videos, but with that last comment he might as well have said:
"So what about it guys? Do you wish for a return to quality storytelling, complex characters and nonlinear gameplay?"
Since Square-Enix seems genuinely not to know the answer to this I will say yes. Yes, I do indeed, sir.
Started playing the FF series with FFIX. It still remains my favorite. But FFX comes in a close second. My brothers all say FFIII was the best of the them all but I have yet to try it. As for my experience with the later games I was very dissapointed in FFXII on account of the poor story. It started out well enough and it had some great characters. But it felt lacking in the end, no mind blowing twist. I felt the game was only half ended when I actually finished it. FFXIII had the same issue even worse. Along with a story that felt unfinished was a linear plot, lvling system, and world that beame monotonous and took away one of FF's major strengths in world exploration. FFXIII did have good characters more or less, I liked Lightning, Snow, and Fang a lot. But it needed a character like Auron (mysterious mentor and leader) in it to balance it out better.
As for gameplay, I loved FFX the most with the idea of switching the characters in and out as needed. You were never thinking 'I wish I would have put this guy in' or 'Dang, I need to lvl this persons abilities more.' I was fine the the experimentation in FFXII and FFXIII with the idea of real time battles instead of turn based. But FFXII kinda just turned into a confusing mess of blue, red, and green lines that took away from the battle itself. FFXIII was much better but camera angles got very confusing at times.
After FFXIII I was getting a bit worried SquareEnix had lost it's touch with what made Final Fantasy games so special. Deep story, engaging battle system that made you think tactics, versatile characters and relationships between them that delved deep into the story itself, and a villain you loved to hate. But with the release of FFXIII-2 my hope was kindled again. I loved the story, extremely engaging. The battle system was much much better and felt like it still had a bit of the FFVII and FFIX touch to it while still keeping the innovation of FFXIII. I enjoyed how both Sarah and Noel played so well into the story and were central to what happened in the world. The time travelling element, though inconsistent at times, brought back the feel of open world exploration that was missing in FFXIII. And I especially loved Caius as the anatogonist.
Now I'm not saying FFXIII-2 was a return to glory, it wasn't, but it surely seemed to point in that direction. I am definitely hoping for a FFXIII-3 that brings everything full circle.
Last note is the fact that the one area where all the FF's have never failed are the amazing graphics and wonderous cutscenes.
I miss the sandbox like style of the previous Final Fantasy games. Bring that back please. FFVI for the snes was my first FF game and that game will always be the best in my eyes. When FFVII came out I loved the hell out of it but I felt it took alot from FFVI, like for instance instead of espers it was the cetra(Ancients), and so on and so on. FFIX makes honorable mentions. FFVIII had a great interesting world to explore, and especially liked the side story of Laguna. Wish they would write a novel based on Lagunas Travels. Anyways, bring back the sandbox style of the previous FF games.
FF13, the only final fantasy game that I didn't finish. Got too boring and stopped playing it half way. What's happening to the series.
After FF10, every final fantasy has been crap. I miss the turn based fighting system, the open world exploration, the amazing graphics and storyline. Ever since squaresoft became square enix, the franchise has never been the same.
To respond to the question 'should the changes be welcomed, or the old ways reborn?' (or something to that effect).. I think there needs to be a change in the Final Fantasy name with these newer games. It no longer looks or feels anything like a FF from before VII. I've been around since FF1 was first brought to the NES everything has changed so drastically that I almost feel like I may have given the newer games a fighting chance if they had gone under a different name. I say that because FF has already been etched in my mind in a specific and profound way. The newer games take away from those great experiences and memories rather than enhance them.
I don't agree with everything you say but have watched a couple of your vids and have really enjoyed them. Great stuff Jonathan.
Final Fantasy is just a brand. Everyone of importance who worked on the classics left Square during or shortly after the merger. What I would love is for Mistwalker or Monolith Studios to put out another expansive 16-bit jrpg with all the same attention to design, story, and music that the old Squaresoft teams are capable of.
I have only played from FFX onwards and still feel that FFX is the best. Not only in story-telling and character development (as well as having awesome characters like Kimahri), but also the combat system and other meta-games such as Blitzball.
FFX-2's fighting system (the semi-real-time battles), excluding the silly dress-spheres is probably the best system I have seen. I couldn't get into FFXII, and FFXIII's fighting engine was a simplified and dumbed-down version of FFX-2.
I think a nice blend between FFX and FFX-2 would be the best kind of fighting system. And I think there needs to be more asian themes (like in FFX) in future FF games - most seem to be based on Euro.
I love the FF series! Well,all but the recent two,I think they should be more like the older games;however, you can't fault them for trying something new. That said, I saw a playthrough demo on YouTube of ff Versus, and thought, ''this does'nt look like a FF game!'',but it's still in the making so mabe they'll fix the combat,mabe I'm the one who cares about that,as oppose to the more flashy,here today,gone tomorrow games,that this ff Versus looks like it's headed;hopefully we see it in this century!
The games were best before they became 3D in my opinion. IV is my favorite, but I do think that V and III are very under appreciated. Every game after VI was okay, but not as good as the classics on the NES/SNES. I've always been under the opinion that the 16 bit era was also the golden age for RPG's.
I think Square Enix did well to release FF Dimensions recently so gamers can re-live the "traditional" style Final Fantasy. For a series that spans 14 iterations (excluding spin-offs) I think it is nice to have some variety, for better or worse. Can't wait to see what they will do in Lightning Returns.
@Miannucci Let's just hope XV is all its hyped up to be. From the trailers, it looks like it has that feel, but I could be wrong. I agree with you about them becoming Enix and taking a down slope, though I did like 12 (ALOT!!! For the battle system though :) ) And I think for 13, they had the right idea with Lightning, but screwed it up royally. Hopefully Lightning Returns will be good :/
@Darri That's Final Fantasy II for iOS.
@jenovaschilld agree with you in so many ways
You seriously need to play FF VII. It's cheap on psn and can be bought on the pc as well. The game is all kinds of awesome as far as story and music go. In fact, I can't stress enough how incredible the music in that game is. There's a reason One Winged Angel is so popular. It's not Sephiroth's main theme, or it didn't start out as that, but that song evolved into his theme over time because people associate it with Sephiroth because of how awesome it is. One person beat his first form and said, "I beat him! YAY!!!" (cue One Winged Angel) "Huh, wha, what tha???"
@Cybermoja 13 had an addictive combat & leveling system but the mechanic of driving the story forward was an entire character-focus fest.
& the problem with that, was that even for a Final Fantasy game the characters were over-anime'd up in behaviour: Over-angst, over-insecure, over-weepy, over....VANILLE, it just got so WTF I had to ditch it
@Metallicwolf29 Real Time bla.....
@Metallicwolf29 Dude, 10 had the magnificent turn-based system.
Still waiting to hear that they have finished the remastered edition that I can get for my ps3
or failing that, hoping sony finally pulled their heads out of their asses & added the ps2 emulator in this new slim ps3
@BSEE10 Aside from the strange use of English, that's a good question!
@Scorpion1813 FF10 was great but the best will always be 7
@Scorpion1813 Then you need to go back and play the previous FF; you've missed some of the best games in the franchise. Play from FF6 all the way through 9.
@Scorpion1813 agree on that system it def has the FF feel to it, also bringing back the open world, sidequest and secrets would be nice to see along with some amazing fantasy scenery, after all it's called FINAL fantasy not random fantasy
@majinjet I actually think the decline happened after FF10. FF9 and FF10 were great games and kept a lot of the original FF formula intact.
@koentjethebest I don't mind them being linear instead of open-world. To be honest the story in FFX was that amazing that I barely noticed , and didn't mind at all, that the game was so linear.
But there are other games where I will really put down a game just for this one thing. I think it has to do with feeling like you are actually in another world. FF games do that well.Most other series usually fall short and the linear paths are unnatural and quite predictable.