Friday, 9 September 2011

End of the road for Final Fantasy?

Contrary to intuition, Final Fantasy refers to an inaccurately named RPG series rather than some sort of adult film. The first I bought was VII, for the original Playstation, and, like most others, I loved it. The game had a great villain, an innovative battle system (I really liked the materia), good music and decent range of characters and was nice and long. Since then I’ve played I, II, IV, V, VII, IX, X and XII (the first four were re-releases for the Playstation).

And yet I wonder whether the series might be waning now, perhaps terminally so.

I was less impressed with X and XII, for the PS2 and PS3 respectively, missing out XI as it was an online game. There were some good elements, but also some bad ones.

X’s lead character, Tidus, had an irksome voice and character, and the lack of a proper central villain (yes, there was Seymour but he wasn’t the real enemy) was displeasing. Auron and Kimahri were quite cool, but I was never enthralled with the game. It was great to look at but felt superficial.

XII had a party of just six (three active at anyone time) and two of them (Vaan and Penelo) were not very interesting. There was an intriguingly political plot, but it was sadly underdeveloped, and whilst cinematic graphics were as excellent as ever the in-game graphics were surprisingly not up to scratch.

I decided not to buy XIII. Reading previews and then reviews it appeared to be a graphically beautiful but linear game whose greatest selling point was the title. Three and a half stars on Amazon for a game with a huge fanbase is not very impressive either.

And why should people go for Final Fantasy? Dragon Age: Origins provided great player-character customisation, a good party system with excellent banter and great voice acting throughout. Oblivion (and, soon [although not soon enough], Skyrim), is a great first person RPG with a huge free-roaming world to explore and literally hundreds of hours of gameplay.

Now, it’s not an either/or choice. You can, obviously, buy all those games. But if I want a party-based RPG with top notch acting and some freedom of movement I can get Dragon Age. If I want a first person mammoth game that offers no linearity and total free-roaming, I’ll get Oblivion/Skyrim. Final Fantasy probably has the nicest graphics, but that’s the only area of excellence I can recall from reviews and the like.

Maybe it’ll become a great online series, but that’s not my thing. Even if my PS3 were hooked up to the internet I wouldn’t want to play those sorts of games.

Final Fantasy won’t drop dead. It’s been around for decades, has a massive fanbase and I’m sure it’ll go on for a while yet. Maybe it’ll reinvent itself like Tomb Raider, but with the likes of the Elder Scrolls to compete with it’ll have to be a bloody big change.


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