It’s getting tiring to hear so-called avid fans dictate how much life a certain video game franchise has left in it, or determine if it has any at all.
Square-Enix is probably getting annoyed about hearing it too, because every time they release a new Final Fantasy installment, thousands of negative and offensive voices are sprawling out on social media and forums, and maybe some individuals within the development team are reluctant to go back to the drawing board and assess issues that will catapult them to make a better game.
Truth be told, director Hironobu Sakaguichi and the rest of the developers of the first Final Fantasy game never had this problem because they went in with an idea that probably would have failed. At the time, the company known as Square were creating a lot of games that just weren’t making hits, so they made Final Fantasy thinking it’d be their last try, but it turns out to be the beginning of the company’s luxurious career.
With an assortment of characters, an interesting take on battling enemies and a storyline to boot, Final Fantasy games sold like hotcakes and ice cream during the ’90s as the game industry made its giant transfer from cartridge to disc-based entertainment. However, each one was different. Final Fantasy VI, VII, VIII, IX, X and so on…all versions of the series had undergone some type of change—something that many feel is the root of the series’ poison.
Like many angry fans, this idea seems to have been advocated by Wired writer Chris Kohler, who asserted that Final Fantasy is dead due to the lack of original creators, the decline in sales and of course a somewhat valid take of ‘the fatal turn’ at Final Fantasy X-2 release.
“The problem with X-2 is that it taught Square-Enix that a Final Fantasy product with all the corners cut away would still sell, and thus began the Great Cheapening,” Kohler wrote.
“Final Fantasy X-2 was the breaking of the seal, a recognition that Square Enix could use the name without doing any of the work. And it was only after years of such beatdowns and the release of Final Fantasy XIII that, upon the appearance of the inevitable Final Fantasy XIII-2, I played it for an hour or so and was just defeated; it was the first major console release of a Final Fantasy game that I just couldn’t bring myself to play.”
While the argument that Final Fantasy X-2 gave Square-Enix the idea to compose something without even trying is plausible, the other half of his argument stating that this further spurred, in his opinion, horrid projects like Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII, the movie Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children and Dirge of Cerebrus: Final Fantasy VII is highly absurd. Aside from the fact that these Final Fantasy VII expansion experiences were well-received by fans and the media, its broadened storyline upheld the qualitative style that Kohler says the series lacks. If anything, Final Fantasy X-2 should be praised for giving Square-Enix the idea to improve on the experience of their titles, hence Final Fantasy XIII-2 and Final Fantasy IV: The After Years.
Kohler is also wrong on the apparent death of Final Fantasy due to the lack of the original creators present through the development of later installments. While I have earlier expressed that the lack of Hiranobu Sakaguchi, Nobuou Uematsu and Yoshitaka Amano may have been a bad business move on their behalf, it should be noted that their visions of Final Fantasy games have since been taken into account and expanded upon long after their unfortunate departure from the company. I would like to think that these three masterminds of role-playing games have not only influenced other developers, programmers and directors within Square-Enix to make better games, but it should also be noted that non-Square role-playing games have bit off from much of their original concepts, thus the Final Fantasy series remains alive to this day as the go-to game for all role-playing gamer’s needs.
Lastly, the argument of the distaste for constant change is what really seems to be causing a lot of stir not only within Kohler, but within many individuals who claim to be so-called fans of the hit series. Forums and YouTube comments are flooded with phrases like “Final Fantasy was dead when they released XIII,” “Final Fantasy IX was the last of this great series. Screw Final Fantasy X!” or my personal favorite “OMG, FF7 is overrated, I want a remake of FF6.”
These ‘die-hard’ fans are in the right in expressing their opinions about which Final Fantasy is their favorite, but stating a huge hate for another edition with or without any real reasoning behind it leads us to the source of why there is this negative stigma surrounding this very topic. The turn based battle system may switch to a Kingdom Heart’s free-roam style, the linear story may not have any side quests and the characters, deviating away from their SNES-sprite counterparts, will more and more resemble members of a K-pop boy band.
If fans are so set on keeping their nostalgia alive in today’s generation, then they should wholeheartedly share it with the world like they’ve already been doing. However, times have changed and the idea of revamping or reinvigorating a series by using new game structure and today’s technology shouldn’t be the primary reason as to why anyone would think that Final Fantasy has gone to hell and died. If anything, it has improved and will continue to do so—Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn and the newly crowned Final Fantasy XV is proof of that.
The fact that there is a raging decline in annual sales with every release of the franchise is scary. However, fans must remain confident in Square-Enix to take those numbers to heart and reassess some of their core values in order to deliver an even greater project than before—at least that’s what any true fan would do. They don’t need another developer handling the franchise and they certainly don’t need make the game become something it clearly isn’t. If anything, a simple talk with the creators ought to help SE employees with some inspiration and possibly a new-found drive, but this isn’t to say that they have lost hope.