So the release date for Final Fantasy XV has been announced recently. Am I excited? Am I writhing and riddled with rampant anticipation? Am I constantly staring at my figurines of Cloud Strife and Sephiroth as I think of what has transpired before and pondering what could be again? No to the first two questions, and a yes to the third.
In my youth I was gifted a Sony Playstation; what a brilliant Christmas that was! A console that, for me, opened up my eyes to numerous games bristling with brilliance and good times, and it did not take long for me to discover the gem that was Final Fantasy VII. I had played the likes of Tomb Raider, Resident Evil, Spyro the Dragon and Tekken 3 but FFVII was something different. It was like a giant missing piece of the jigsaw that was my hobby and it turned me onto the path of the Role Playing Game. A genre that would become and still is by far my favourite type of game to this day. A plethora of RPG’s would follow in the wake of me fervently playing this game such as Grandia, Breath of Fire 3, Lost Odyssey, Fallout 3, Oblivion, Skyrim and of course the next Final Fantasies, VIII and IX, that followed this masterpiece during this era.
Final Fantasy VII was a masterclass in turn based combat, levelling mechanics, exploration and storytelling. From Midgar to Cosmo Canyon, Nibelheim to Wutai and from the Temple of the Ancients to the Crater in the North I roamed and conquered (with the exception of Ruby Weapon; that bitch was hard!) as I rode my Golden Chocobo. From the moment I witnessed the end of my journey, it was set in my mind how epic a Final Fantasy game should be. Final Fantasy VIII then became my next gaming passion, followed thereafter by number IX and neither of them disappointed. I thoroughly enjoyed them both from beginning to end.
Then came the beginning of the decline, at least in my humble opinion. Final Fantasy X was unleashed for the PS2 and I both played and completed this as I had the others. But I do not feel the same way about this game as I had done its predecessors. Perhaps it was the design of the irritatingly chirpy and overtly feminine main character Tidus, perhaps it was the lacklustre story. I don’t know. What followed then was the agonisingly long wait for Final Fantasy XII. As I waited for this game to arrive over the hilltop as it seemed ever so far away, I got my first true taste of the Western RPG that was the Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. It was a taste I very much savoured as I devoured this game through the 200 plus hours that I played it. By now my gaming preferences were changing as I started to appreciate a different kind of RPG and as I finally delved into the world of Final Fantasy XII, I was starting to feel like the series was beginning to age quite poorly as it lost some of its glisten, some of its charm.
Onto the PS3 era. I bought but never bothered with playing Final Fantasy XIII. I had been put off by the endless comments and reviews that compared it to an 80 hour long tutorial before finally opening up. I was and am an adult now, I do not have the luxury of wasting my precious free time on games that plod and ponder needlessly; so I passed on by. Final Fantasy XIV then began to rear its head. I was intrigued by the concept of a massive open world filled with the archetypal Final Fantasy concepts that made the series so popular (I did not possess the ability to play FFXI, so I had to give this one a miss). But it failed, miserably. So bad was its failure, it had to rebuilt from the ground up to become anything even remotely enjoyable. And so it became, but once more I found myself asking why I should bother spending my time and money here.
Fast forward to today and we are all awaiting the release of Final Fantasy XV, a game that was originally proposed in 2006 as Final Fantasy Versus XIII. Ten years later and it is beginning to see the light of day. I have watched the trailers, the gameplay footage, some of the demo and have read into what it is that we can expect, and I honestly do not think that I give a damn anymore.
I am sick of Square Enix playing it safe with their games. I do not want a check list of what they think consumers will want to play as or with. Publishers and developers rely to much on surveys and testing as they try to gauge what they believe people will want to play and this is why we have the endless clones of crap being spewed out every year by publishers who value profit over consistence of quality products. Though I firmly believe that this costly trend is coming to an end. I do not want to utilise characters that are derivative, boring or ridiculously androgynous. Lightning was an unoriginal and unashamed female clone of Cloud, the developers admitted to this fact themselves. I do not want to play a game that has spent far too long being dragged through the visuals department and not enough time in the ‘this is actually a damn fun game to play’ wing. I once read an article in a magazine some years ago now that stated that they bore witness to someone in the development team that had, honest to gods, spent an entire day making a rock look like a rock. A bloody fine looking, sexy as hell, slap you in the dick and call you a sissy ROCK! Most importantly I do not want to wait ridiculous amounts of time in between games for what will likely become a poor return on my monetary investment. I don’t mind waiting if the game will blow my mind into fragments of joy because it is such a fine game to play. This is why I can wait patiently for the next Elder Scrolls game; this series almost guarantees quality. But after waiting for too long to get my hands on Final Fantasy XII on the PS2, my desire and patience levels had begun to wane. Probably to an irreparable state.
I am also aware that nostalgia is a powerful thing. For me personally the trilogy of PS1 era Final Fantasy games, VII, VIII and IX will likely never be topped. Final Fantasy VII is quite literally my favourite game of all time. They were then and will forever be in my mind ‘gaming perfection’, so it would be ignorant of me to dismiss my idealistic notions and say that they are having no affect on how I feel about these games today.
I hope that Final Fantasy XV for the PS4 era will be a resounding success. I want it to dominate sales figures and destroy the critics initial perceptions as it climbs high in the rankings of Metacritic that every major publisher seems to gush over these days. I want a reason to return to the series that made me fall in love with Role Playing Games in the first place. Square Enix owes it to itself and to its legions of fans to get this one right, so far though I am unimpressed but I actually want to be proven wrong about this one. Here’s to hoping,
Forged From Reverie.