My Ideal Final Fantasy Game

On my Youtube channel TheFFFanatic, I have consistently expressed my displeasure at the quality of Final Fantasy games that Square-Enix has been making since 2003.  In the 1990s, this video game series did the most to try to revolutionize the way Role Playing Games told their stories.  These games did it without relying on top of the line graphics and utilized simple but powerful battle systems and immersive plots to keep the player going.  Nowadays, the games are just style over substance more interested in promoting shit singles and special editions.  A somewhat decent battle system in Final Fantasy X-2 was overshadowed by the most mentally disgusting plot and characters I have ever seen in a video game.  The somewhat decent plots in Final Fantasy XII and XIII were drowned out by annoying or pointless characters along with battle systems that were utterly different from its predecessors and insanely frustrating to use.  And worse, since at least Final Fantasy 8, not much has been done to shore up the plot holes many of these stories have.  Versus XIII might prove to reverse some these trends, but it hasn’t come out yet.

My vitriol against men like Yoichi Wada, Yoshinori Kitase, and Motomu Toriyama, the people chiefly responsible for this decline, has certainly caused a backlash.  Wada’s goal has been to make a product that will sell X million number of copies regardless of the quality of the game.  Motomu Toriyama has directed and helped write games with stories that often flout the basics of storytelling.  And in my eyes, Kitase let much of the bad that has happened happen without argument.    I am often chided for criticizing these people.  This has been immensely frustrating to me.  As someone who fell in love with these games very early on, I have had to watch these titles rise to greatness, and then willingly slip into mediocrity.  Nowadays, lesser games (in my opinion) like the newer Zelda games, The Elder Scrolls series, and other American RPGs like Mass Effect, Dragon Age and Persona have utterly surpassed even the best attempts of Square Enix.  When Squaresoft merged with Square-Enix, the amount of FF games produced rose exponentially, while the quality of these games plummeted.  Innovation, the best word I could use to describe the series, no longer existed in these games.  Of all series, Final Fantasy does not deserve this and I should not have to accept it.

In response, I am asked: how would you do better?  (More often, I am accused of being a hypocrite, since the Square-Enix guys know much better than I do, and I haven’t made a game, so there!)  Well, if I had the millions these companies had to make a Final Fantasy game, this is the game I’d make.  And I assure you, if one of you gave me the $15 million I’d need, I would make this game in a heartbeat!  I can only base this on the knowledge I have accrued from playing all of these games, and cobbling together what I thought was the best aspects from all of them.  Feel free to debate this stuff in the comments:

The Battle System

1)      Fully Customizable Characters

I’m not asking for the materia system again, but I do want it so that any character can do anything and you can customize them however you want as in FF7 and FF8.  Characters should only be distinguished physically by their limit breaks, the weapons they use, and another attribute I’ll get to in the next paragraph.  I don’t mind the job system, but I find that unless you’re a stickler for completeness, there aren’t many reasons for you to switch jobs or master them all.  Generally, you find one good class and you stick with it.  I also hate the systems where one guy is a summoner and the other guy is a warrior and never the twain shall meet.  When times are dire and only one character is left standing, there is often very little you can do.

My tweak is that I would add a bit of randomness to the characters so that every time you play the game, it’s a bit different.  One of your lead characters could have stats more in tune with a magic user, and then in the next game, the same character receives stats more in line with a fighter.  Something similar should be done with all of their stats.  Not only would the player have to find out who’s the optimum player this time around, since their special abilities are also somewhat randomized, the need for strategy is enhanced.

I liked the fact that in PlayStation Final Fantasy games, there weren’t 5 types of armor you had to wear for each character (except in FF9), and in FF8 you could junction spells to stats.  But if I had to choose, my game would have a mixture of FF8’s GF abilities and FF9’s ability point system.  Characters could learn the GF abilities for themselves, while each armor or weapon taught characters abilities to protect them from status effects.

2)      ATB or something else: You decide

I am a huge fan of the ATB even though many people hate it.  (And if you don’t play on Active, you suck!!)  When it’s good, the battles are fast paced and feel like a chess match at the same time.  You make your party members do something, and then you have to wait to see whether or not the bad guys are going to decimate you.  It’s great in harder battles (though I admit it’s a bit tedious in easy ones).  I’m even one of the few guys that likes drawing spells for this reason.  Not only does the junction system eliminate MP (Hallelujah!!  You don’t need MP to cast spells and you can cast as many as you have without interfering with everything else), it adds another level of difficulty.  You must draw those spells and kill the monster before it kills you.  It was also a great idea to be able to switch characters in battle, but I did not like the fact that you knew the order the heroes and villains would attack; I prefer the suspense.

You Final Fantasy guys can invent some other system that I don’t like as much, like the things you had in FF12 or Kingdom Hearts.  The innovation I want is that I should be able to choose.  I should have the option to play the classic FF ATB mode, or the new thing you invent.  That way, if I think your new way sucks (which I usually do) I’m not stuck with it.

There should be not gambits or auto scripts either.  The more buttons you have to press to do something, the more involved you are and I hate games that play themselves.  I always thought FF battles could be more involved if the Limit Breaks or even the generic attacks were more like a fighting game, or even like Legend of Dragoon, where if you time the controls right, you could (after you select attack) hit the guy more than once, achieve a critical hit, etc.  That’s why I kind of liked what FF10 made you do when you had a limit break: press a series of buttons.  But personally, I would only confine that stuff to limit breaks.

3)      The Limit Breaks

I would do what FF10 did with limit breaks in every aspect.  The best thing they did was that they allowed you to set a mode for each character that would determine how each limit break gauge rose. ‘Healer’ mode would raise the gauge each time you healed someone, while something like ‘Stoic’ would make it rise each time you were hit, and so on.  There should also be several limit breaks for each character that serve strategic proposes.

However, there is a tendency for Final Fantasy games to make you dependent on limit breaks.  In games like FF8, if you used your limit break constantly, you essentially won the game, and worse, there was a magic spell that did nothing but give you limit breaks.  Omnislash over and over again gets dull.  Therefore I think it should be fairly hard to get a limit break.  But I would never do what they did to limit breaks in FF9.  In that game, they were so weak they were useless.

4)      Refining Items

Every RPG should have had the ability to do what you could do in FF8, refine items into better items, weapons and spells.  I was a great idea and it is a shame it was not repeated more often.

5)      Leveling Up

Please god, no overly linear Sphere Grid or Crystarium Nonsense.  I don’t want to waste hours of my time moving slowly on a predetermined path, slowly inserting spheres when you could have made a simple function to auto-fill it for me.  You only want to me to learn the spells in a certain order anyway!  Supposedly, the benefit in all this was that you could eventually learn the abilities of all the other characters.  Unfortunately, this came so late in the game, you had no real reason to do it anyway.  If you are going to make a new leveling up system, make it so that I can choose which abilities I would like to learn and the order I can learn them (in some sort of queue), like any tech tree.  If there is a path, the path should splinter and intersect, not just be a huge maze.  You give me an option of Fire1, Bolt1, Ice1, HP + 1%, Atk% + 1, whatever, and I can select which spell or attribute the character learns.  Just give me a simple leveling-up experience point system that we all understand.

But I also want what you guys did in Final Fantasy 8.  When you level-up, the enemies level-up with you.  That way, the game maintains a certain difficulty.  Enemies you fight at the start of the game, are still a bit hard when you fight them again at the end.  The higher level you are, the harder they fight, the better items and money you get and the game remains a challenge even when you’re at level 100.

And why stop at Level 100?  That’s just an arbitrary number.  When RPGs started, computers were hard pressed to handle numbers bigger than 64, 100, 255 and 9999.  This problem doesn’t exist anymore.  I could, if I wanted to, be able to level up to level 321 and get 569,467 HP.  And when I do, then I could fight some really hard fights.  If you want an extremely hard Final Fantasy game, you can level up to level 948 and then you’re in for it.

Better still, the higher level you are, the harder the bosses will be.  I hate the fact that the final bosses become easy as hell if you defeat a superboss.  There should be a variable in there that says, if you defeated the superboss, make the final boss do x, y, and z instead.

6)      A Battle Arena

FF7 perfected the battle arena, where you could just go and fight insanely hard bosses in endurance rounds.  That was fun and you could win prizes.  FFX had an even better battle arena, with around 30 of the hardest bosses ever.  I like that idea… so put it in the game!  But remember what I said for the last point.  If you do manage to defeat those bosses, I don’t want the final boss to be insanely easy.  And please… no more Yiazamats please.  50,000,000 HP is just so ludicrously high its stupid, and I don’t have 12 hours to fight 1 battle.

The World

7)      Bare Essentials

I preferred the games with the more futuristic settings.  I thought it was pretty innovative to transplant the fantasy genre onto a futuristic world and still have it work.  The cities of Midgar and Esthar remain vivid in my imagination for their distinctiveness.  FFX was great for many reasons too.  First, it had a great concept of sending someone to a place in the 1000 years in the future; I love every story like that.  Second, it had a great of idea of starting with a futuristic setting, and then having it backslide into something more medieval.  This allowed us to discover the new world while seeing how much it had fallen as well.  No matter what you thought of the game, that was certainly a boon for its fantasy element.  With a futuristic setting, you can blend the past and the present into a more unique world.

Nevertheless, I would prefer it if this hypothetical game was more medieval (and not steam punk like FF6 or FF12 either).  It would be a welcome change of pace.  The monsters and magic, and the swords and arrows would seem less out of place.  You can have intriguing court politics and you’d get more of a sense of a quest.  Dungeons and forests would be more menacing.  Plus it would set it apart in a lot of ways.

But no matter what it is, don’t waste your time on making a game with graphics better than what a PS2 has.  I don’t care about graphics (unless they are unbearable to look at and interfere with me being able to play the game).  And if the graphics force you to take 20 years to make the game, it’s not worth it.

8)      The Music

For me, the music might be the best part of Final Fantasy.  Though this is sacrilege, I’m going to say it: Nobuo Uematsu doesn’t have to write the music for the game to be good.  It would help, but there are plenty of other good composers.  None are better, but that’s beside the point.  Uematsu has sort-of semi-retired from Final Fantasy so more than likely, someone else is going to have to do it.

But Uematsu’s spirit has to live on in a new Final Fantasy game, something that every game since FF X-2 has lacked.  Uematsu’s style is very Wagnerian.  He usually makes character themes that are very distinct, and have a variation or two.  His world map themes also have these variations.  When you go from town to town, the music changes revealing that you are in a new place.  Too often, I’ve played an FF game where the music just blends together into an indiscernible mess, and you can forget it exists. That can’t happen anymore.  The Prelude, Staff Roll and Victory Fanfare should be there.  There should be real character themes.  The airship theme must kickass as it always does.

Uematsu also had a wonderful talent for making battle themes out of instruments that shouldn’t work but do.  Uematsu’s music was repetitive and looped after a minute and a half or so, but you never noticed.  I can listen to songs like Wutai, Cosmo Canyon, Over the Hill, To Zanarkand, the Battle Themes to all of the PSX and SNES games over and over again and not get tired of them.  I only wished that in FF games, there could be more than one general battle theme and more than one general boss theme.  My wish came true for Final Fantasy XI and XIV (I much prefer the battle themes and music in XIV).  My ideal FF game would do the same.

In my opinion, the worst soundtrack to any FF game was Final Fantasy X-2.  It has a great song at the beginning: ‘Eternity – Memory of Lightwaves’, but that’s it.  All the effort was expended to wow you at the start.  The rest of the songs were lazy and generic 30 second loops you might have found in any other game that could be played in any other situation.  The character themes said nothing about the characters; the battle themes sucked; at least 6 or 7 of the songs were exactly the same; the bad guy themes had no menace and the music was constantly happy and bubbly.  The music never took you anywhere.  And don’t even get me started on that god-awful pop song.  My ideal FF game would be the opposite of that.  Hell, I’d prefer it if you just reused the old music rather than make some pseudo-cinematic orchestral crap again with only one or two good songs.  I’m looking at you FF12.

9)      Cheats?

I never cheat the first time I play a Final Fantasy game.  But I had many hours of fun with Final Fantasy games using a Game Shark or an Action Replay Max with them.  I could level up to Level 99 at the start and just play the game for the plot.  I could cheat in FFX so that I could get Wakka’s ultimate weapon without wasting 100 hours playing Blitzball, a game I didn’t much care for.  I could also translate Al-Bhed from the start.  I could do similar things in FF8 and FF9 to avoid the Chocobo sidequests or the Card games.  FF8 in particular is frustrating:  you can’t get the Ribbon unless you waste your life playing Chocobo World, a game you can’t play without a Pocketstation only available in Japan!  And trust me, you don’t want to play that game.  I’ve been in the Debug menus of all the games for many hours.  I’d love to be able to go back in there.

Games are about having fun, and if you like the game but don’t want to put up with the boring and frustrating stuff, then you shouldn’t have to.  With codes, you don’t have to cheat, but you can.  And unfortunately, the PS3 is too encrypted for a Game Shark device to work on it.  How many of you guys would have loved to have the option of a game shark in FF13?  This is just me, but I miss cheat codes and Game Sharks….

10)   Platforming

Final Fantasy X-2 had a good idea to include some level of platforming into the RPG.  When I read that on the box—just before I committed the ultimate mistake of actually playing that game—I got excited about that.  I didn’t expect a Mario game, but I did expect something like Shadow of the Colossus where occasionally, you would have to climb up a wall, a ledge or jump to avoid something.  Think how much more interesting that would make dungeon levels!  Final Fantasy XII would have been a lot better if you could have done this in its immense world.

Of course, X-2’s platforming was incredibly lazy.  You’d get to a pit and you’d press X: that’s it.  That is no different from any other FF game.  A more interesting platforming element might make the experience of playing the game a bit less monotonous.  This isn’t necessary, but it’s something to consider.

11)   World Maps and Airships!

I think it was when I first got control of the Highwind when I realized it didn’t just like the game, but I loved it.  That triumphant song kicked ass!  I was flying this huge machine chasing down a gigantic purple Godzilla monster!  I could finally fly anywhere once I had visited all the towns and dungeons before.   And most importantly, the plot sped up and the situation got more intense.

Many people lament the fact that the world map is missing from the newer games, and they believe that that is the solution to fix the new FF games.  FFX however worked without a world map.  You were on a pilgrimage, so you went in a straight line from town to town, from dungeon to dungeon.  It got kind of annoying after a while, but the feeling that I was on a great quest was certainly not lost on me.  FF12 tried the same thing, but the world was so huge, it was overkill: almost like The Elder Scrolls Oblivion but only half as immersive.  Hey Square-Enix, I didn’t come here to play Oblivion!  I don’t want 1000 side missions to distract me from the plot!  This is a Final Fantasy game!  You have to have some focus!  FF13 was the worst in this respect:  I got tunnel-vision just looking at the game.

A world map has the opportunity for the player to save anywhere, and listen to a great theme for a while.  With modern graphics, a world map could be much more detailed and picturesque than it ever has been before.  If you ever played Shadow of the Colossus you can get an idea of what I mean.  But you don’t have to move from town to town on a world map anymore.

What is important is that, just like in all the Final Fantasies up to 10, I should be able to travel from town to town without an airship for a while (like 20 hours), and then I get access to the world map and an airship FOR A LONG TIME (another 20 hours) while the plot is still happening.  I don’t want to receive an airship just so I can go to the final dungeon with it.  I also don’t want an airship just to do insanely stupid mini-games like in X-2.  I want to be able to DO something with it!

What is also important is that I get to ride an impossibly kickass airship with a great theme for hours on end.  The airship should also be part of the plot.  Final Fantasy 6, 7 and 10 had many scenes where the party could discuss what was going on and express their hopes and fears.  I truly miss that in Final Fantasy games.

12)   No Voice Acting

Video game voice acting isn’t that great.  The performances aren’t given by real professional actors most of the time, and they are usually recorded out of context.  The actors cannot interact with the other characters or the environment.  The computer program runs through the lines of text like a CD playlist.  There are awkward pauses between lines and it just feels unnatural.  And it is soooo prone to bad acting and anti-subtlety.  I will never forget how stupid Tidus sounded every time he asked a question.  The director must have said, “Hey James Arnold Taylor, you’re confused.  Ask this question like you’ve never seen anything before in your life!!”  And he’s like “CHOCOBOS!?!  What are… Cho… co boS?!!”

The benefit of voice acting was supposed to be that you could experience the game more like a movie.  The problem is a movie has to be shot with technical competence, awareness for framing shots and pacing and many other skills the makers of FF10 and FF12 simply did not have.  You find yourself squirming in your seat waiting for some of these scenes to end.  There are so many awkward crappy angles and panning shots in FF10, it became a joke.  The next time you play FFX, count how many times the camera just zooms in onto someone’s face from 100 feet away right up to the tip of their nose when something important is happening.  Better yet, couldn’t how many times the camera moves from left to right not focused on anything moving around in some arc, or focusing on someone’s ass.  Half the time, it felt like a computer is randomly selecting where the camera’s going to go.

I liked it better when the dialogue was just text.  You could get through it at your own pace.  You could imagine how the character would deliver that line and what their faces looked like.  You weren’t forced to sit through painful unskippable scenes where two characters laugh like morons, ruining what could have been a wonderful scene between them.  FF13 improved it somewhat, but it was still bad.  You are going to have to get a movie director to make it look good, guys!

At the very least, if you must have voice acting… PLEASE GIVE ME AN OPTION TO TURN IT OFF!!!  OR SKIP IT QUICKLY!!!

13)   No Cards, No Moogles and No Chocobos….

This minigame crap has always detracted from Final Fantasy games for me.  It really limits and interferes with the story you are trying to tell if you are forced to come up with moronic ways to insert Chocobos or Moogles into your story.  Sure, these are iconic Final Fantasy symbols.  But for me, they are done best when they don’t interfere with the story, and don’t just pop up to remind you: Hey, it’s a Final Fantasy game!

Chocobos were originally a stupid idea in FF2 to add yet another vehicle to Final Fantasy games.  They used to appear when you were about to going to traverse a particular difficult area.  You didn’t have to find them.  Now they force you to use them.  And I hate moogles…. I just hate moogles.

If you must have your cards or your Blitzball or your Sphere Break, or your Hunting Missions or your Chocobos, please, make it so I don’t have to play or use them.  I didn’t come here to play anything else but a Final Fantasy game.  Sidequests should only exist so that: 1) I can learn something new about the character or the story; or 2) I can get a special item and fight a strong boss.  I don’t care about collecting all the cards or trying to convince EVERY NPC in the game to go out with some loser.  And if I want to fight a strong boss, I don’t want to waste 5 hours in a sidequest just so I can get the chance.

I have no problems with minigames like the Crazy Motorcycle chase or the Snowboarding game in FF7, or to a lesser extent, the stuff you did in FF8 when the Garden was attacked.  They were part of the plot and they were fun.  There was even an amusement park in FF7 where you could play that stuff again.  I don’t mind breeding chocobos (well, I do, but I’ve learned to live with it), because at least I get items and stuff throughout the whole process.  I do mind being forced to play minigames for no reason, like when you are forced to give the villain a massage.

I want the new FF to be very plot-driven.  Don’t waste my time with side quests you thought up during your coffee break.

The Plot

When I was a kid, I often imagined I would grow up to make one of these games.  I started to write the plot to one.  I later realized it would work better as a novel.  I’m still mulling it over and I don’t really want to talk its story or characters here.  That’s the only original story I have in my head, so unfortunately, I don’t have an exact plot to delineate for this game.  But this might be better in the long run.  Kazushige Nojima and Tetsuya Nomura have always been able to invent interesting and original concepts (even if they don’t always play out well), so I’ll leave that to them.  Furthermore, the company can always get a professional fantasy writer to invent a plot if they get stuck.  I just want to put some guidelines down anyway.

14)   An intimate link between Antagonist and Protagonist

It’s kind of pointless when all you do is fight a monster at the end.  For me, the villain has to be the result of the themes that have played out in the story.  The conflict with the villain has to make the main characters, and the player, grow as people.  Such a story lets your brain work on all levels while you are having fun battling CGI monsters.  The best Final Fantasy games made you care about the protagonist.  But more importantly, they gave you a villain that was not only a direct challenge to their goals, they shook them to the core of their being, and made them question who they were.

Regardless of what you thought of Tidus, I thought it was a great idea to make the villain of the game a representation of his father.  Tidus, in a moment when he finally overcame his adolescent hatred of his father, at once realizes he has to kill him.  That was a very powerful moment.  In FF9, the hero and the villain learn that they are brothers who were constructed to bring about the apocalypse.  They both have a psychological breakdown, but Zidane is able to surpass it.  At the end, the villain realizes the hero is the better man because of his friends.  The hero, just a disc previously, had to learn this for himself.  But remember, the hero and villain don’t need to be blood-related.

The best example for me is Final Fantasy 7, where you have a hero and villain who went down similar paths.  Both of them are victims of a ‘constructed-past syndrome’: Cloud stole Zack’s past and used it for himself to gloss over his insecurities at his failures; Sephiroth was never told that he was the product of an experiment.  Once it is revealed to them, Cloud and Sephiroth both end up questioning whether or not they are human.  Sephiroth, when he seeks out help for his problems, only finds the documents on the Jenova Project, and falls into insanity.  He resolves that he is not human, humans are scum and therefore he should become an immortal god to restore the correct order of things.  Cloud begins to believe he is not human too and allows himself to be controlled.  Because he isn’t sure, he allows himself to be forced to give up the Black Materia and to beat up Aeris in the Temple of the Ancients.  Both of them might have circumvented their problems had they asserted their humanity.  That is what heroes do.  But at critical points, they don’t.

Despite being physically strong, they were both mentally weak.  But Cloud, through his own mentality and the help of his friends proves to be the stronger one.  He is restored as a new man who is no longer living a fantasy, but can move on… and then Advent Children happened.  But that’s beside the point.  There was never a question of Cloud not being human.  He could feel sympathy when Aeris died even though Sephiroth couldn’t.  Sometimes we need to be reminded.  But the key thing is Sephiroth and Cloud are similar and mutually dependent characters.  Their experiences inform both of them about themselves.  That’s what I mean by an intimate link.

15)   Questioning Humanity

That leads me into my next story point.  A great RPG has to inform us about the human condition somehow, just like a good novel does.  The characters have to have a sense of doubt, or at least undergo a challenge that makes them uncertain or makes them reinforce their moral compass.  This gives the character an arc and makes them memorable.  Vivi is probably the best example I can think of.  His whole race is a bunch of killing machines.  Is he human?  Does he exist?  What is the point of his life?  We see Vivi ask these questions and answer them for himself.  He also has the help of characters that must discover their own humanity and mortality too, like the Black Mages and Zidane.

Barret from FF7 and Ramza from FF Tactics are good examples of how the beliefs of a character can be changed.  Barret believed he was doing the right thing by attacking the Shin-Ra and destroying Mako Reactors.  Then he saw Dyne, his old friend who lost his soul doing what Barret did.  Ramza grew up being an aristocratic thug and mercenary, believing that that was the righteous path.  But when the political strife destroys the world around him, he has to learn what it truly means to be brave and heroic, and that one should be a hero even if they are not remembered for it.

It also helps when characters with utterly alien beliefs are forced to work together for different reasons are forced to reconcile themselves.  This is why I like Yuffie as a character, even though that bitch stole your materia.  You never knew why she stayed with you.  Even she didn’t know.  She had she own greedy motives, sure, but I think she did grow at the end.  It gives the characters something to talk about, and most importantly, something for you to think about.  Shakespeare did this all the time.  Two opposing equally valid points of view would fight each other, and very often, neither would come out the victor.  It is this struggle that makes stories and characters memorable.  Sadly, none of this even exists in the never games.

I hate it when this opportunity goes to waste.  In FF7 (yes, I’m going to say something bad about FF7) there were many great characters, but Red XIII could have been so much more than he was.  We are talking about a character that not only grew up wrongly despising his father , but was experimented on by Hojo, just like Cloud was.  There are moments where Red XIII is afraid that he might turn out as deformed as the Sephiroth clones, and that, for me, is when he became interesting.  Although the father thing is resolved, the Hojo thing isn’t.  I would have loved it if his character was developed a little more to force the character to deal with that issue.  I hoped in vain that the sequels would do something with his character, but they did nothing.  And how did he get those kids?

16)   SUSPENSE!!! FOR THE LOVE OF GOD!!!!

The Final Fantasy games have, ever since FF8, felt it necessary to spend on ungodly amount of your time being boring, not advancing the plot, and not incentivizing me to keep playing.  I want some suspense in my FF games.  Make me give a shit about the characters, the fate of the world and the story and do it quickly.  Who the hell cares if you want to be a Sky Pirate, especially if you didn’t tell me what it is at first!  Make me excited to get on the next mission or fight the next boss.  Give me some consequences if my mission fails.  Even when I’m in a city or a town, there should be a sense of urgency ever present.  Don’t just put a dungeon in front of me and say, ‘Hey you, go through that now, because… um… it’s in front of you.’  Don’t have characters that say, “Ah yes, I will give you the item you need.  But first, you must waste your time in this cave for 5 hours because we couldn’t think of anything else for you to do!”  Something should be happening at all times.

17)   A Simple Story that gets really difficult set in a time of Strife and Fear

It hate it how in the later Final Fantasy games, you don’t know what’s happening until you play the game for several hours.  FF12 was the worst example.  I’d like to know who the bad guy is and what the fuck is going on fairly quickly.  FF9 took too long to get good in my opinion for this reason, as did FF8.  Many players who hated Final Fantasy 8 hate it because Disc 1 had no real sense of purpose.  You heard that you were supposed to defeat a sorceress, but it took forever for her to show up and the problems to be made clear.

An ideal FF game should take a note from FF4 and FF7.  From second 1 we knew what the stakes were: you are a team trying to protect the planet from evil or you are a soldier doing horrible things for your king that has inexplicably starting killing innocent people.  Of course, the plot should develop.  Villains can emerge from the consequences of your initial actions, and the situation can get worse and worse and more complex.  But there must be an initial premise, a donnée, which does not change from beginning to end, so that the quest has a point.  SeeD must defeat the sorceress.  Sin must be defeated.  Frodo must destroy the ring.  You must destroy the Dark Wizard.  Something like that.

18)   No irrelevant Villains

We all like recurring villains, but most of the time they came back for no good reason at all.  Seymour from FFX is the worst example.  He was thoroughly unconvincing as a bad guy who seems good to the party and is being bad on the side (who didn’t see through him immediately?).  He detracted from the main story of fighting Sin so much, he became unbearable for me.  The plot of the game was that the party learned they would have to destroy Sin by other means, and those means would destroy Spira’s whole way of life.  Seymour was just a bad guy that wanted to copy Sephiroth who kept popping up once in a while.  Plus, every time he showed up, you killed him in a snap.

At least the Turks were tracking you, and Seifer was a rival helping the sorceress.  Seifer served as foil for Squall who changed as a person at the end.  But for me, if you are going to have a side villain, make him like Hojo.  Let’s watch him do worse and worse things throughout the game, perhaps even fight his lackeys off, and then kill him in one huge fight.  Hojo is essential to the plot.  After all, he caused all this crap.  He’s not there just to be a boss.

19)   No Stupid Plot Twists

Every FF game has what I call an “Epic Twist”: a cheesy plot twist that is put there to make the story seem good.  Almost all of them utterly fail to be impressive.  I would rather have an exciting plot and a big finish than find out that Sephiroth is actually Luke and Vader’s second cousin.  Most of the time, these twists weren’t set up well and come out of nowhere.  And if they were set up, they were set up in such a half-assed manner, you could end up hating the game for it.  The good ones made the twist a seminal part of the story.  Cloud actually was there in Nibelheim.  Terra is half-esper.  Those twists at least explained things and added to their characters.  The others don’t.

I don’t think I have to list the worst examples but I will.  They include:

  1. Everyone grew up in the same orphanage and the GFs made them forget!  (FF8)
  2. Tidus is a Dream of the Fayth and he must disappear at the end!  (FF10)
  3. Ex-Death is actually a tree!  (FF5)
  4. Cecil is from the Moon! (FF4)
  5. The Dark Knight is Maria’s Brother! (FF2)
  6. Garland is the real bad guy! (FF1)
  7. Shuyin is the real dream of the Fayth they were trying to dream up when they dreamt up Tidus! (FFX-2)

The ‘Laguna is Squall’s father’ plot twist is probably the worst one.  It isn’t important to the story.  IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN and I think it was supposed to be, but it isn’t.  Once it’s ‘revealed’—it is only ever implied and you can easily miss it in the game—Squall and Laguna never have a scene together.  Nor does Squall ever get any closure on those flashbacks he saw.  I always felt those flashbacks served a similar purpose as the flashbacks in Godfather II, showing the father and son at the same age and in similar situations, but one of them living life and the other learning that he must live life; but I had to make that up.  Please Square-Enix, stop trying to blow my mind and write something good this time.  If you want a plot-twist, make sure it doesn’t come out of nowhere and it isn’t frustrating and stupid…

20)   No romance and No cheesy song at the end

I don’t have a problem with a love story or the songs like ‘Eyes on Me’, ‘Melodies of Life’ or ‘Suteki Da Ne?’  My problem is that it feels like these romances and cheesy love songs are practically presupposed in the game before they even write it.  It sort of feels like the song exists because they wanted a lucrative contract with a singer and not because it’s warranted in the story at all.

I really miss just having an instrumental credit roll.  I miss believing the stories were organic and not packaging for mass consumption.   And there doesn’t have to be a romance in an adventure game for it to be good.

 

21)   Make the game more adult and plot hole free!!!

This is the most important for me.  When you play the Final Fantasy games nowadays, you find that many of them have a lot of plot holes and very cheesy dialogue.  This was forgivable when we first played these games at ten and fifteen years old.  It’s not okay anymore.  I want a game that is going to affect me as a person today.  I don’t want to be pissed off because of a childish plot or because of annoying stock anime characters you’d find in a TV show made for 7 year olds polluting the screen (cough, cough, everyone in FF13, cough).  Get some nitpicky asshole to check the plot.  Make the situation important.  Do that, and Final Fantasy will have restored its former glory.

And that’s my ideal Final Fantasy game.  Tell me what you think!

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