I know that Final Fantasy gaming fans will read the above title, and point to the new online title, as well as FF Versus XIII for evidence that SquareEnix is back somehow. To a certain extent that would be a valid observation. Except for those who have left the fold it’s a wait, and see thing. Gamers who are into FF games are used to waiting for months, and years for morsels of information. Hype get’s built around every single aspect of a new title. Who’s scoring the music, the art-style, the period fantasy piece, direction, and team on the titles. Granted this is always great pertinent info we gamers, and journalists love. Except, in the case of Final Fantasy games they tend to be a crutch that many gamers use to justify the long waits, and often times misleading rumors. My dig on the Final Fantasy series is not the ancillary stuff such as media content for marketing, and PR side. My gripe tends to be with how the games are expressing themselves in these current times. The anticipation of a new game in the series is meet with suspicion, and indifference from me. Why? Well the past several games in the franchise have suffered major set backs in presentation, gameplay & design. SquareEnix has steadfastly held onto turn based gaming in a fashion that has not taken modern RPG gaming into account. The visceral wonder of big budget cut scenes…wait for it…Doesn’t cut it anymore. Not when title series like Mass Effect are clearly pushing the RPG genre forward in their own way. Then you take into account MMO games like World of War Craft have blown right past SquareEnix’s own, and the future for Final Fantasy games is looking thorny.
The difference between western rpgs, and eastern ones shows a clear difference in design philosophy. Nothing wrong with that at all. Before you jump up, and down saying finally, duh. They are only different in nuance. I believe that has to do with immersion. Yet, let me not only classify this as a merely west vs east debate, rather let us look to nearby neighbors such as Korean developers who are creating RPGS that are truly immersing gamers into their titles with robust gameplay. Even if they are stylistically not much of a departure from Japanese developed games. These titles are invigorating even if still lacking in polish. Anticipated games like Rift: Planes of Telara are being anticipated because they are pushing the genre forward. Maters not if they are on PC, console, or handheld. The fact remains that RPG genre is drastically evolving, and Final Fantasy games must do so for the series to be relevant on a high level. Where, how, and when remains to be seen. I’m not concerning myself with the FF ‘Stans’ who think every game in the series is cataclysmic because it’s new, and shiny. No what is needed is a fun new approach to the series gameplay. SquareEnix needs to experiment outside their tried, true, and sleep inducing turn based formula. It’s antiquated. Gamers are bored with it. In light of peripherals such as the Xbox 360 Kinect, and Playstation Move. SquareEnix has at it’s disposal ways to really kick start one of gamings most prized gaming series. So why not think outside the box?
The new PSP 2 offers opportunistic avenues for SquareEnix, in the handheld space. Now’s the time to jump on the platform, and be one for the first publishers to push the platform. This can be done with a new Final Fantasy title that takes advantages of the systems myriad ways to control, and operate. When you have one of the best games in the RPG genre being Microsoft’s “Lost Odyssey” (created by the father of the Final Fantasy universe) on the Xbox 360 then we are witnessing the changing of the guard. Sure the title will never be what Final Fantasy is. The new series has to grow more legs, I get it. Except, impact is impact, and the last Final Fantasy game didn’t have the impact like the Leona Lewis marketing game blitz would have suggested. Does it mean the series is in the hole? No, I’d say it’s a dry spell, and a reboot can totally fix things before there is a further descent. Possibilities are endless if SquareEnix decides that a change is more than necessary. It’s a new wonderful day in gaming, SquareEnix has more than the resources to truly push this last part of the current gaming generation. Taking the steps to revitalize the Final Fantasy series now will only create even more anticipation, faith, and dollars for next generation. Final Fantasy can rise again.