What went wrong with Final Fantasy 13?

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TL;DR?: Final Fantasy 13 and most current JRPG's suck because they have crap characters, poor exploration mechanics and terrible battle systems. What urks me is that Final Fantasy has already covered how to make these systems fantastic, yet JRPG's have been left to rot recently.

Don't fancy reading an essay? listen to my British-ness here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fBaJRdBVbus

Before we begin a quick disclaimer: You might have liked Final Fantasy 13, I did too, easily the most graphically stunning of any game I've played. But graphics don't count for much without good game play and it is hard to deny that Final Fantasy 13 lost alot of elements that made the earlier Final Fantasy's so compelling, effectively becoming a portrait that begrudgingly lets you play it. 13 whilst good, not being a classic game like the preceding instalments. And IMHO that stemmed from trying to be the next Final Fantasy 7, a game that attempts to be the next big thing in graphical perfection. Forgetting what actually made Final Fantasy 7 stand the test of time.

In the news recently is Square Enix stating how they can't afford another Final Fantasy 14 level disaster and it got me thinking. How did a company, whom were able to belt out classic games consistently, fall from grace?

Looking at the old library of Final Fantasy games up until Final Fantasy 13, Square had the system nailed. But then it dropped the ball, perhaps due to the troubled development of Final Fantasy 13, things didn't go so well and as a result after a long development cycle FF13, nicknamed Final Hallway 13 was released to a mixed reception.

So what went wrong? FF13 seemed to lack the level of content and polish present in the older Final Fantasies.

Stories and epic worlds were reduced to a text dump, FF13 felt like a game that played itself, everything interesting happened when the player wasn't looking.

Lets break down the anatomy of a disaster then and in doing so provide recommendations for how Final Fantasy versus 13 should be.

First of all the obvious one: Characters.

Lets look at Final Fantasy 9 and its attempts a characterization of the main protagonist Zidane and its antagonist Kuja, versus their FF 13 counterparts protagonist Lighting and antagonist Barthandelus

At the outset of the game Zidane is a plucky thief, who in contrast to the tired plot of bad guy kidnaps princess, is off on a plot by a group of thieves to kidnap and steal the princess of the Kingdom of Alexandria. Shit hits the fan and Zidane finds himself embroiled in a plot by the Queen to take control of Eidolons, magical monsters who possess immense power.
Along the way Zidane meets an array of colourful characters, and battles his to save the world from the sinister forces that conspire to control it.

What makes Zidane so compelling as a character is he seems to be having as much fun as the player is, joking and laughing his way through the game. And his infrequent outbursts of sadness, traditionally known as JRPG Emo syndrome, hold weight. And even then he has good reason to be sad! A few mid game curve balls reveal that Zidane is a genetically engineered being, an "Angel of Death" designed to wipe out life itself as part of a plot by the villain Garland to merge two planets together (Too complicated to explain here).

Kuja's story is tied directly to Zidane's. He too being one of the aforementioned "Angels of Death", only this time he's a failed one. Abandoned by his creator, he seeks out to overthrow Garland and becoming the self proclaimed ruler of the planet Terra. Again after a similar curve ball, he finds out that he'd living on borrowed time and as such his ambitions shift from a schiming Vizier eying up the throne, to an attempt to gain an omnipotent power to wipe out all life.

The beauty of FF9 in its approach is how it deals with the characters experience life changing events and developing from them as a result.
The player can see that Zidane and Kuja are both act fundamentally differently to their situation. And both draw empathy from their respective situations. We see the normally upbeat Zidane go through an existential crisis, and the villain actually have a reason for initiating the plot

Final Fantasy 13 on the other hand includes no such characterization. The main character Lightning starts off as an Ice Queen with a strong sense of liberty and ends as an Ice Queen with a strong sense of liberty. She doesn't experience any big character moments, her sole motivation is the safety of her sister and the freedom to choose her own path as she likes to remind us. Her character isn't inherently unlikable just has little noticeable change over the course of the game.

And how does FF13 deal with villains? There basically none existent. There is no colourful personality to deal with, the villain being the Cocoon version of the Pope. Even 13-2 a game seemingly created to solve the problems of the first game fails to in characterization, reducing the party to only two members. There was no sense of dynamic and I miss the days when a Final Fantasy party was broad and diverse collection characters.

If Versus 13 ever gets made, I'd like to see a return to fighting colourful personalities. The players and party's actions mean that much more when they are in opposition to a tangible entity that is trying to thwart them. Bartandalus just pops up periodically to attempt to manipulate the party and is probably one of the most dull Final Fantasy villains ever.
Also hopefully Noctis experiences some kind of meaningful character development. Emo to happy is a dull arc to follow we want to see characters experience hardship and become stronger as the result of it.
Also there needs to be a cast of characters, kinda like the Avengers. Some should get along well, others don't so much. Some of the best moments from the older FF's were the Aerith, Tifa and Cloud love triangle and the interactions between Steiner and Vivi and their unlikely partnership. Unfortunately Lightning returns looks to repeat the mistake of 13-2 reducing the cast of characters down even further. Having said that it looks like its going to be based around the Crisis Core system, and Crisis Core was good game.

Perhaps the biggest complaint about Final Fantasy 13 is that it was almost totally linear, with only one wide open area in the entire game and virtually no side quests barring 1 (admittedly long) hunt based quest.

This is at the core where Final Fantasy 13 fails to deliver on a scale equal to its predecessors, the ability to go off the beaten path and find secrets and optional weapons. 13 - 2 attempts to do this but fails to live up to the precedent that Final Fantasy 12 set. Some of my favourite moments in 12 and the other older Final Fantasy games came from finding those secrets and Easter eggs that made my party that much stronger. Or a sidequest which endears me to the characters even more. Moments like finding Anima in FF10, or the Golden Chocobo side quest in FF9, getting Ultima Weapon or the Knights of the Round in FF7. Final Fantasy 13 gets rid of the open world for a more funnelled experience, substituting the brilliance of discovery for a barrage of confusing, vapid cut scenes. Its this element in Final Fantasy 12 is fleshed out into an entire game. You could purely stick to the main story without ever touching upon the side quests and see less than half of the content. You'd miss out on a host of totally optional bosses, a handful of which pose some of the greatest challenges in Final Fantasy. A ton of Esper summons, the best in game weapons and even more story and world building. The feeling of a side quest falling into line and getting some kind of tangible reward is second to none and really helps the player feel satisfied.

13 - 2's system on the other hand, whilst not bad, isn't exemplary. There isn't really any big secrets to find, a hidden boss which is even more of a threat than the most recent discharge of the local insane asylum.

Final Fantasy versus 13 & Lightning returns needs to allow players to explore off the beaten path. Let us stumble upon hidden challenges and bosses which dwarf anything we'd see in the main game, dangling a legendary sword or two as a reward. Heck give us a new summon to totally wreck things up with ala Final Fantasy 10. It gives the world so much more depth from a story stand point, making you feel like a small part in a much larger world, and from a gameplay point of view allows you to develop your party without dully grinding up levels.

Turn based and ATB RPG's have always been seen as bit of a love it or hate it genre. Final Fantasy 13's paradigm system was about as far removed from how an actual fight would work as interpretive dance would be.
You have 6 job roles: Commando (Fighter), Ravager (Mage), Medic (Healer), Sentinel (Tank), Saboteur (Debuff), And Syntheist (Buffer). And you can only swap between 6 pre set combinations before every fight.
Add to this the stagger gauge, a system that allows you gain bonus damage for weakening an enemy with magic before moving in for physical moves. The system didn't really work, you could only control the party leader directly, and the other two AI partners you had limited control over, performing their roles in a peculiar manner without any direction.
This lack of player control prevented the system from gaining any real depth. Between the AI's pre-programmed movements and the infamous auto-battle button players didn't really have a lot of options in how to approach a battle, instead just shifting between a set of behaviours. The system acted like you were telling someone how to fight instead of being in direct control.

Even summoning, which were a fun part of Final Fantasy's of yore were pretty useless. It wasn't like 10 where you could summon an over powered monster and have fun wrecking stuff up. I get that Square were trying to do something different, but the essence of a good fighting system is control. As the entirety of gaming history shows there are few good AI partners, and the ones that are usually semi invincible gods, see Alyx Vance.
The classic Final Fantasy's have always been defined by the level of control and customisation that players have over their parties development.
Take FF7's materia system, its a simple system for customization which has a lot of depth to it, the player never feels lost when customising it and its satisfying to play around with. This goes double for the sphere grid system in FF10, sure it took some getting used too and the advanced sphere grid could be a little confusing but it too was a great way to give players the ability to customize their play style.

The Crystarium system on the other hand, like the rest of FF13, is just a linear progression, no decisions need to be made just what class you want to level up first, and by the time that you've finished levelling one you have time to do the other. No grind or decision making needed, open up the Crystarium screen, hold a and wait till the little bar is done.

For Versus 13, Square Enix really need to return to the old system of levelling. Give players options and multiple ways to tackle a challenge, whether that be with a clever combination of magic and abilities.

Ultimately most classic JRPG's have this in common: A great narrative which creates audience sympathy. Set in a well realised and fantastic world that the player can explore. It would be wrong to say that Final Fantasy 13 is a complete disaster, but its mediocre receptions shows that Square should get back to the elements that made Final Fantasy a stand out in the gaming world.

That combat in 13 didn't bother me that much, I actually found it fairly fun...however it was a tad on the easy side.

The stuff that got me, was that the story was a bit complicated and didn't make much sense, took me hours to figure out just what the hell was even going on. Compare that to a game like FF7 (one of my favorites), where the initial setup (merc blowing up reactors to save the planet) was fairly clear and easy to understand after about 15 minutes of play (Barrett explains in the elevator).

I didn't even grasp what a L'Ci or Fal'Ci...or whatever the hell they were all called even was until about 3 hours into the game, this meant that my first couple hours were just going through the motions...waiting for the game to tell me why I should start caring, it came eventually, but took WAY too long.

There were some annoying characters (Hope!!!!!!!) that I could have lived without, as well as the fact they basically introduce all the playable characters within the first hour. FF7? New characters to play popped up hours later. Like Cid, Yuffie, Vincent, Cait Sith...all came much later in the game. 13 gives you everyone at the start, then limits how and when you can use them. Limitations on character choice should be used VERY sparingly, either at the start, or during situations where there is no choice (capture, someone went missing, etc). 13 just says so the player: "Okay, now you can use this person....okay now THIS person", it completely removed the choice from the player until the last act of the game, which was mistake.

The narrow corridors got old very quickly. The game is basically just combat and talking only for the first like 20 hours of playtime...with a weird and difficult to grasp story (I beat it and I still have no idea what was happening). I played until I was able to kill those giant turtle things (that hardest enemy in the game), then I quit and traded it in.

So basically, nearly EVERYTHING went wrong with 13.

First off, Wow that's a lot. I'm going to attempt to converse with you about this because you've obviously put a lot of thought and effort into it.

Tomaius:
TL;DR?: Final Fantasy 13 and most current JRPG's suck because they have crap characters, poor exploration mechanics and terrible battle systems. What urks me is that Final Fantasy has already covered how to make these systems fantastic, yet JRPG's have been left to rot recently.

I think you are being a little judgmental on this point, I agree that JRPGs have gone downhill, but I wouldn't go as far as to say they "suck because they have crap characters, poor exploration mechanics and terrible battle systems". Most modern JRPG battle systems are pretty much the same battle systems we've seen before with maybe a minor twist here or there. Star Ocean: The Last Hope, uses the same battle system we've seen in every previous Star Ocean game. Lost Odyssey has a turn based battle system with some added shoulder button usage. The only dramatically different battle system that pops off the top of my head is Xenoblade Chronicles and it was a system I liked.

On the subject of Final Fantasy 13 battle system, I can at least understand why Square made it (To keep the action going, it's unrealistic for characters to stand on opposite sides and take turns hitting each other, like you find in turn based battle systems) and I didn't actually feel it was broken, or at least not terrible.

***
I also don't feel most modern JRPGS have "crap characters" but rather rehashes of the same tired archetypes we've all seen before. Even beloved JRPGS like Tales of Symphonia are guilty of this. I don't believe the characters are any crappier than we've already seen, but they feel like they are because we've already been down this road so often.
***

As for poor exploration mechanics, this isn't the case with Xenoblade Chronicles, Lost Odyssey, Star Ocean: The Last Hope or even Infinite Undiscovery. The only recent games I've noticed this being an issue is Final Fantasy 13 and Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. Skyward Sword because the whole world is broken into segments and Final Fantasy 13 because it's too liner up until you reach pulse at which point the exploration shows up in full force. (Not that I'm justifying having to slog through the linearity to reach pulse mind you, it should have been that way from the start).

Tomaius:

Before we begin a quick disclaimer: You might have liked Final Fantasy 13, I did too, easily the most graphically stunning of any game I've played. But graphics don't count for much without good game play and it is hard to deny that Final Fantasy 13 lost alot of elements that made the earlier Final Fantasy's so compelling, effectively becoming a portrait that begrudgingly lets you play it. 13 whilst good, not being a classic game like the preceding instalments. And IMHO that stemmed from trying to be the next Final Fantasy 7, a game that attempts to be the next big thing in graphical perfection. Forgetting what actually made Final Fantasy 7 stand the test of time.

I agree. Square seems to like to make movies, almost to the point that they forget they're making video games.

Tomaius:
In the news recently is Square Enix stating how they can't afford another Final Fantasy 14 level disaster and it got me thinking. How did a company, whom were able to belt out classic games consistently, fall from grace?

Looking at the old library of Final Fantasy games up until Final Fantasy 13, Square had the system nailed. But then it dropped the ball, perhaps due to the troubled development of Final Fantasy 13, things didn't go so well and as a result after a long development cycle FF13, nicknamed Final Hallway 13 was released to a mixed reception.

So what went wrong? FF13 seemed to lack the level of content and polish present in the older Final Fantasies.

Stories and epic worlds were reduced to a text dump, FF13 felt like a game that played itself, everything interesting happened when the player wasn't looking.

Square's downward spiral didn't start with Final Fantasy 13, it's been going much longer than that. Final Fantasy X was the beginning of the end. Although most people love X now, in the beginning (and I still feel this way although I have more respect for the game in retrospect) it was too linear, it was the first Final Fantasy to take away the world map in favor of a "move from point A to point B, watch a cut-scene" style game play. They tried to be different with Final Fantasy 12 and we saw a brief return of open spaces, but the game flopped in comparison to other entries in the series, so back to narrow corridors in Final Fantasy 13 we went.

I believe 13 was Square's attempt to take the best of Final Fantasy X and VII and combine them into one super game. Square is an ambitious company, that's why they announce so many games long before the development isn't even close to being finished. Final Fantasy 13 was originally intended to be three games, two of which are giant projects (the original Final Fantasy 13) and Versus 13. In planning this way, Square bit off more than they could chew and result was the Final Fantasy 13 we ended up with. To make up for the loss, I suspect is why we also got Final Fantasy 13-2 and 3, In the end, it's still three games, but not the games we were promised.

Why is Versus taking so long? I believe that Square actually does take into account fan reaction, for better or worse (and sometimes misinterpreted), when Final Fantasy 13 got so much backlash, it probably prompted Square to take a long hard look at Versus 13 and overhaul some major aspects. At this point they're probably pretty much changing the entire game.

Tomaius:

Lets break down the anatomy of a disaster then and in doing so provide recommendations for how Final Fantasy versus 13 should be.

First of all the obvious one: Characters.

Lets look at Final Fantasy 9 and its attempts a characterization of the main protagonist Zidane and its antagonist Kuja, versus their FF 13 counterparts protagonist Lighting and antagonist Barthandelus

At the outset of the game Zidane is a plucky thief, who in contrast to the tired plot of bad guy kidnaps princess, is off on a plot by a group of thieves to kidnap and steal the princess of the Kingdom of Alexandria. Shit hits the fan and Zidane finds himself embroiled in a plot by the Queen to take control of Eidolons, magical monsters who possess immense power.
Along the way Zidane meets an array of colourful characters, and battles his to save the world from the sinister forces that conspire to control it.

What makes Zidane so compelling as a character is he seems to be having as much fun as the player is, joking and laughing his way through the game. And his infrequent outbursts of sadness, traditionally known as JRPG Emo syndrome, hold weight. And even then he has good reason to be sad!

Urg, the spoilers.

*Eyes her copy of Final Fantasy IX, all 4 shiny discs of it, mourning the fact she's only on disc 3. She takes the last remaining disc (#4) and chucks it out the window.*

I suppose I deserve that for not clearing the game sooner.

Tomaius:

The beauty of FF9 in its approach is how it deals with the characters experience life changing events and developing from them as a result.
The player can see that Zidane and Kuja are both act fundamentally differently to their situation. And both draw empathy from their respective situations. We see the normally upbeat Zidane go through an existential crisis, and the villain actually have a reason for initiating the plot

Final Fantasy 13 on the other hand includes no such characterization. The main character Lightning starts off as an Ice Queen with a strong sense of liberty and ends as an Ice Queen with a strong sense of liberty. She doesn't experience any big character moments, her sole motivation is the safety of her sister and the freedom to choose her own path as she likes to remind us. Her character isn't inherently unlikable just has little noticeable change over the course of the game.

Lightning's change is subtle, but it's there. She does improve over the course of the game, they just aren't major improvements, but you can't expect a character that's so stuck in her ways to have a complete revelation and come out... a completely different character. She does change her outlook and improve, that's still character development. Even Zidane despite all the tragedy he goes through and he has some moments that shake his sunny disposition is still in the end, Zidane. Lightning too has moments when she rethinks her actions (see her whole time spent with Hope as an example) and realizes "Okay I really shouldn't be rubbing my jaded outlook onto other people."

Tomaius:

And how does FF13 deal with villains? There basically none existent. There is no colourful personality to deal with, the villain being the Cocoon version of the Pope. Even 13-2 a game seemingly created to solve the problems of the first game fails to in characterization, reducing the party to only two members. There was no sense of dynamic and I miss the days when a Final Fantasy party was broad and diverse collection characters.

They tried to take a more abstract approach to the story, with the whole "defying fate granted by the gods" idea, it had potential but wasn't executed properly. Again Square was a victim of their own ambition, the story had potential, the world had potential, it was wasted by lack of proper thought and development time constraints.

Tomaius:

If Versus 13 ever gets made, I'd like to see a return to fighting colourful personalities. The players and party's actions mean that much more when they are in opposition to a tangible entity that is trying to thwart them. Bartandalus just pops up periodically to attempt to manipulate the party and is probably one of the most dull Final Fantasy villains ever.
Also hopefully Noctis experiences some kind of meaningful character development. Emo to happy is a dull arc to follow we want to see characters experience hardship and become stronger as the result of it.

I wouldn't even consider Bartandalus the main villain, but rather just another obstacle standing in the way. Remember that the story was supposed to be abstract, they didn't quite know how to pull that off, so we got Bartandalus instead.

Tomaius:

Also there needs to be a cast of characters, kinda like the Avengers. Some should get along well, others don't so much. Some of the best moments from the older FF's were the Aerith, Tifa and Cloud love triangle and the interactions between Steiner and Vivi and their unlikely partnership. Unfortunately Lightning returns looks to repeat the mistake of 13-2 reducing the cast of characters down even further. Having said that it looks like its going to be based around the Crisis Core system, and Crisis Core was good game.

An Avengers style dynamic would be interesting. Final Fantasy 9 had wonderful character interactions not just between Steiner and Vivi, but also Steiner and Zidane. Steiner comes off originally as an obnoxious character, but I warmed up to him. He's almost a parody of duty driven characters like Lightning.

Tomaius:

Perhaps the biggest complaint about Final Fantasy 13 is that it was almost totally linear, with only one wide open area in the entire game and virtually no side quests barring 1 (admittedly long) hunt based quest.

This is at the core where Final Fantasy 13 fails to deliver on a scale equal to its predecessors, the ability to go off the beaten path and find secrets and optional weapons. 13 - 2 attempts to do this but fails to live up to the precedent that Final Fantasy 12 set. Some of my favourite moments in 12 and the other older Final Fantasy games came from finding those secrets and Easter eggs that made my party that much stronger. Or a sidequest which endears me to the characters even more. Moments like finding Anima in FF10, or the Golden Chocobo side quest in FF9, getting Ultima Weapon or the Knights of the Round in FF7. Final Fantasy 13 gets rid of the open world for a more funnelled experience, substituting the brilliance of discovery for a barrage of confusing, vapid cut scenes. Its this element in Final Fantasy 12 is fleshed out into an entire game. You could purely stick to the main story without ever touching upon the side quests and see less than half of the content. You'd miss out on a host of totally optional bosses, a handful of which pose some of the greatest challenges in Final Fantasy. A ton of Esper summons, the best in game weapons and even more story and world building. The feeling of a side quest falling into line and getting some kind of tangible reward is second to none and really helps the player feel satisfied.

13 - 2's system on the other hand, whilst not bad, isn't exemplary. There isn't really any big secrets to find, a hidden boss which is even more of a threat than the most recent discharge of the local insane asylum.

I've already been over this I'm just going to put it here again for reference.

"Square's downward spiral didn't start with Final Fantasy 13, it's been going much longer than that. Final Fantasy X was the beginning of the end. Although most people love X now, in the beginning (and I still feel this way although I have more respect for the game in retrospect) it was too linear, it was the first Final Fantasy to take away the world map in favor of a "move from point A to point B, watch a cut-scene" style game play. They tried to be different with Final Fantasy 12 and we saw a brief return of open spaces, but the game flopped in comparison to other entries in the series, so back to narrow corridors in Final Fantasy 13 we went."

Tomaius:

Final Fantasy versus 13 & Lightning returns needs to allow players to explore off the beaten path. Let us stumble upon hidden challenges and bosses which dwarf anything we'd see in the main game, dangling a legendary sword or two as a reward. Heck give us a new summon to totally wreck things up with ala Final Fantasy 10. It gives the world so much more depth from a story stand point, making you feel like a small part in a much larger world, and from a gameplay point of view allows you to develop your party without dully grinding up levels.

That would be interesting.

Tomaius:

Turn based and ATB RPG's have always been seen as bit of a love it or hate it genre. Final Fantasy 13's paradigm system was about as far removed from how an actual fight would work as interpretive dance would be.
You have 6 job roles: Commando (Fighter), Ravager (Mage), Medic (Healer), Sentinel (Tank), Saboteur (Debuff), And Syntheist (Buffer). And you can only swap between 6 pre set combinations before every fight.
Add to this the stagger gauge, a system that allows you gain bonus damage for weakening an enemy with magic before moving in for physical moves. The system didn't really work, you could only control the party leader directly, and the other two AI partners you had limited control over, performing their roles in a peculiar manner without any direction.
This lack of player control prevented the system from gaining any real depth. Between the AI's pre-programmed movements and the infamous auto-battle button players didn't really have a lot of options in how to approach a battle, instead just shifting between a set of behaviours. The system acted like you were telling someone how to fight instead of being in direct control.

It seems the battle system in Final Fantasy 13 is a love it or hate it thing also. You obviously don't like it, but I didn't have an issue with it at all, and many people actually considered the battle system the only GOOD thing about Final Fantasy 13. Also...

"On the subject of Final Fantasy 13 battle system, I can at least understand why Square made it (To keep the action going, it's unrealistic for characters to stand on opposite sides and take turns hitting each other, like you find in turn based battle systems) and I didn't actually feel it was broken, or at least not terrible."

Tomaius:

Even summoning, which were a fun part of Final Fantasy's of yore were pretty useless. It wasn't like 10 where you could summon an over powered monster and have fun wrecking stuff up. I get that Square were trying to do something different, but the essence of a good fighting system is control. As the entirety of gaming history shows there are few good AI partners, and the ones that are usually semi invincible gods, see Alyx Vance.
The classic Final Fantasy's have always been defined by the level of control and customisation that players have over their parties development.
Take FF7's materia system, its a simple system for customization which has a lot of depth to it, the player never feels lost when customising it and its satisfying to play around with. This goes double for the sphere grid system in FF10, sure it took some getting used too and the advanced sphere grid could be a little confusing but it too was a great way to give players the ability to customize their play style.

The Crystarium system on the other hand, like the rest of FF13, is just a linear progression, no decisions need to be made just what class you want to level up first, and by the time that you've finished levelling one you have time to do the other. No grind or decision making needed, open up the Crystarium screen, hold a and wait till the little bar is done.

Yes, although certain characters work better in certain roles and it's impractical to level them up in roles that they don't work well in. Regardless, I found myself grinding monsters on Pulse to keep myself leveled appropriately.

Tomaius:

For Versus 13, Square Enix really need to return to the old system of levelling. Give players options and multiple ways to tackle a challenge, whether that be with a clever combination of magic and abilities.

We'll just have to wait and see what happens, I predict something more like Kingdom Hearts though.

Tomaius:

Ultimately most classic JRPG's have this in common: A great narrative which creates audience sympathy. Set in a well realised and fantastic world that the player can explore. It would be wrong to say that Final Fantasy 13 is a complete disaster, but its mediocre receptions shows that Square should get back to the elements that made Final Fantasy a stand out in the gaming world.

I wouldn't say "Most classic JRPGs", there are TONS of JRPGS. Quite a few of them are horrible abominations, and quite a few more are just mediocre. It's those games that are set in a realized and fantastic world, with a good story and cast that are worth remembering and striving to be. I do believe Square as a company has lost it's way and should return to it's roots, but with all the complaints about JRPG stagnation, can you really blame them for trying to be different?

Zenn3k:
as well as the fact they basically introduce all the playable characters within the first hour. FF7 New characters to play popped up hours later. Like Cid, Yuffie, Vincent, Cait Sith...all came much later in the game. 13 gives you everyone at the start, then limits how and when you can use them.

I'm going to argue dramatic structure. All the important characters should be introduced during the "Exposition" portion of the story. Square however probably felt all of the main characters were important, so introduced them all in the beginning. If a story changing character comes in during the final act and you've never heard of them up until then, it feels tacked on.

This is also the case in Final Fantasy 7, Cloud, Sephiroth, Tiffa, Arieth, Barret are all introduced early on. Yuffie, Vincent and Cait Sith, although they add flavor to the story, aren't necessary.

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Sorry for the double post, my first post is pretty long.

Eclipse Dragon:

Zenn3k:
as well as the fact they basically introduce all the playable characters within the first hour. FF7 New characters to play popped up hours later. Like Cid, Yuffie, Vincent, Cait Sith...all came much later in the game. 13 gives you everyone at the start, then limits how and when you can use them.

I'm going to argue dramatic structure. All the important characters should be introduced during the "Exposition" portion of the story. Square however probably felt all of the main characters were important, so introduced them all in the beginning. If a story changing character comes in during the final act and you've never heard of them up until then, it feels tacked on.

This is also the case in Final Fantasy 7, Cloud, Sephiroth, Tiffa, Arieth, Barret are all introduced early on. Yuffie, Vincent and Cait Sith, although they add flavor to the story, aren't necessary.

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Sorry for the double post, my first post is pretty long.

Yes, the primary people are introduced fairly early in 7, however, its common in older RPGs to add in characters a bit later in the plot when appropriate (like Cid).

Sephiroth is actually the last person introduced before you leave Midgar, until then they make you think the real villain is Rufus or the Turks. It takes roughly 5 hours to get through Midgar at a standard play through pace (not rushing). 5 hours to introduce just the core characters to the plot vs 1 hour to introduce EVERYONE in the plot, pretty huge difference.

When you throw everyone at us at once, we quickly pick a favorite and tend not to care about the rest of the group. When you do it more slowly, you allow time to get to know the characters and make choices on their like-ability without bias.

It also seems a LOT less forced to meet people in an natural progression of plot, rather then everyone dumped everyone in 1 spot and just HAPPEN for them to all be involved in a giant plot that you don't yet understand at the exact same time....feels incredibly forced.

Zenn3k:

Yes, the primary people are introduced fairly early in 7, however, its common in older RPGs to add in characters a bit later in the plot when appropriate (like Cid).

Sephiroth is actually the last person introduced before you leave Midgar, until then they make you think the real villain is Rufus or the Turks. It takes roughly 5 hours to get through Midgar at a standard play through pace (not rushing). 5 hours to introduce just the core characters to the plot vs 1 hour to introduce EVERYONE in the plot, pretty huge difference.

When you throw everyone at us at once, we quickly pick a favorite and tend not to care about the rest of the group. When you do it more slowly, you allow time to get to know the characters and make choices on their like-ability without bias.

It also seems a LOT less forced to meet people in an natural progression of plot, rather then everyone dumped everyone in 1 spot and just HAPPEN for them to all be involved in a giant plot that you don't yet understand at the exact same time....feels incredibly forced.

I think this also might have to do with the length of the exposition. I'm pretty sure the exposition is supposed to be the longest part of the plot because it takes time to properly set things up, but you're right. Final Fantasy 7 does take it's time introducing the characters whereas Final Fantasy 13 seems to throw them all in there in the first hour or so. Final Fantasy 13 rushed the exposition (Maybe because Square was afraid players would get bored?).

Zenn3k:
Snip

Know what you mean. I get FF goes for an in media res story, but in 13 it came at the expense of all context.

Eclipse Dragon:

I think you are being a little judgmental on this point, I agree that JRPGs have gone downhill, but I wouldn't go as far as to say they "suck because they have crap characters, poor exploration mechanics and terrible battle systems". Most modern JRPG battle systems are pretty much the same battle systems we've seen before with maybe a minor twist here or there. Star Ocean: The Last Hope, uses the same battle system we've seen in every previous Star Ocean game. Lost Odyssey has a turn based battle system with some added shoulder button usage. The only dramatically different battle system that pops off the top of my head is Xenoblade Chronicles and it was a system I liked.

Sorry I made a sweeping statement there, sacrificed detail for brevity.

But I would like to see a return to battles which are more puzzle like in approach. Starting off as simple rock, paper, scissors and ending as this vastly complicated web of different skills, magic and abilities.

Eclipse Dragon:

***
I also don't feel most modern JRPGS have "crap characters" but rather rehashes of the same tired archetypes we've all seen before. Even beloved JRPGS like Tales of Symphonia are guilty of this. I don't believe the characters are any crappier than we've already seen, but they feel like they are because we've already been down this road so often.
***

Fair point. But if you stick to formula you need to make up for it in other areas which FF13 fails to do.

Eclipse Dragon:

As for poor exploration mechanics, this isn't the case with Xenoblade Chronicles, Lost Odyssey, Star Ocean: The Last Hope or even Infinite Undiscovery. The only recent games I've noticed this being an issue is Final Fantasy 13 and Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. Skyward Sword because the whole world is broken into segments and Final Fantasy 13 because it's too liner up until you reach pulse at which point the exploration shows up in full force.

Guess your right. Found Star Ocean to be unplayable however. Thats another story though poor combat, overly camp voice actors and ridiculous premise are a big factor. Not played Xenoblade unfortunatly.

Lost Odyssey's 4th disc does a good attempt at what I was trying to describe, gives you lots of optional stuff to do to buff up your party. In hindsight probably should have mentioned it in my analysis, but it was 2000 words and I didn't want to over complicate things. My mistake.

Eclipse Dragon:

Square's downward spiral didn't start with Final Fantasy 13, it's been going much longer than that. Final Fantasy X was the beginning of the end. Although most people love X now, in the beginning (and I still feel this way although I have more respect for the game in retrospect) it was too linear, it was the first Final Fantasy to take away the world map in favor of a "move from point A to point B, watch a cut-scene" style game play. They tried to be different with Final Fantasy 12 and we saw a brief return of open spaces, but the game flopped in comparison to other entries in the series, so back to narrow corridors in Final Fantasy 13 we went.

I believe 13 was Square's attempt to take the best of Final Fantasy X and VII and combine them into one super game. Square is an ambitious company, that's why they announce so many games long before the development isn't even close to being finished. Final Fantasy 13 was originally intended to be three games, two of which are giant projects (the original Final Fantasy 13) and Versus 13. In planning this way, Square bit off more than they could chew and result was the Final Fantasy 13 we ended up with. To make up for the loss, I suspect is why we also got Final Fantasy 13-2 and 3, In the end, it's still three games, but not the games we were promised.

Why is Versus taking so long? I believe that Square actually does take into account fan reaction, for better or worse (and sometimes misinterpreted), when Final Fantasy 13 got so much backlash, it probably prompted Square to take a long hard look at Versus 13 and overhaul some major aspects. At this point they're probably pretty much changing the entire game.

Great point. Hadn't thought of that, assumed it to be stuck in developmental hell. (Much like what 13 was in) Really looking forward to what VS13 could be, I've said since I first saw the Trailer in 2006 that it was going to be the game that makes me buy a PS3. I'm still waiting. :P

Eclipse Dragon:

Lightning's change is subtle, but it's there. She does improve over the course of the game, they just aren't major improvements, but you can't expect a character that's so stuck in her ways to have a complete revelation and come out... a completely different character. She does change her outlook and improve, that's still character development. Even Zidane despite all the tragedy he goes through and he has some moments that shake his sunny disposition is still in the end, Zidane. Lightning too has moments when she rethinks her actions (see her whole time spent with Hope as an example) and realizes "Okay I really shouldn't be rubbing my jaded outlook onto other people."

Your right, but personally I'd like to see it be more pronounced. Zidane went through a character arc, his ideals tested and his resolve shaken. I never really got that feeling with Lightning other than shes less of a miserable cow by the end.

Eclipse Dragon:

They tried to take a more abstract approach to the story, with the whole "defying fate granted by the gods" idea, it had potential but wasn't executed properly. Again Square was a victim of their own ambition, the story had potential, the world had potential, it was wasted by lack of proper thought and development time constraints.

Eclipse Dragon:

I wouldn't even consider Bartandalus the main villain, but rather just another obstacle standing in the way. Remember that the story was supposed to be abstract, they didn't quite know how to pull that off, so we got Bartandalus instead.

The key word here is presence. Something that all effective villains have is a strong sense of presence throughout the story. I agree with you in that the concepts is strong but Square could have made it so much more effective if their iconography was much more apparent and a constant theme throughout the game. Lightning and her party are moving through a world created by these god-like beings, defying the rules of existence that have literally been created by them.

It sounds like an epic idea, but I never felt that playing through the game.

Eclipse Dragon:

It seems the battle system in Final Fantasy 13 is a love it or hate it thing also. You obviously don't like it, but I didn't have an issue with it at all, and many people actually considered the battle system the only GOOD thing about Final Fantasy 13. Also...

"On the subject of Final Fantasy 13 battle system, I can at least understand why Square made it (To keep the action going, it's unrealistic for characters to stand on opposite sides and take turns hitting each other, like you find in turn based battle systems) and I didn't actually feel it was broken, or at least not terrible."

Fair play. Different strokes for different folks.

Eclipse Dragon:

I wouldn't say "Most classic JRPGs", there are TONS of JRPGS. Quite a few of them are horrible abominations, and quite a few more are just mediocre. It's those games that are set in a realized and fantastic world, with a good story and cast that are worth remembering and striving to be. I do believe Square as a company has lost it's way and should return to it's roots, but with all the complaints about JRPG stagnation, can you really blame them for trying to be different?

Your right. Again sorry for my sweeping statement at the start. Perhaps it ties into different trends within the gaming industry but I do wish we saw more AAA RPG's in the older Final Fantasy vein.

Thanks for your response. :)

Zenn3k:

Eclipse Dragon:

Zenn3k:
as well as the fact they basically introduce all the playable characters within the first hour. FF7 New characters to play popped up hours later. Like Cid, Yuffie, Vincent, Cait Sith...all came much later in the game. 13 gives you everyone at the start, then limits how and when you can use them.

I'm going to argue dramatic structure. All the important characters should be introduced during the "Exposition" portion of the story. Square however probably felt all of the main characters were important, so introduced them all in the beginning. If a story changing character comes in during the final act and you've never heard of them up until then, it feels tacked on.

This is also the case in Final Fantasy 7, Cloud, Sephiroth, Tiffa, Arieth, Barret are all introduced early on. Yuffie, Vincent and Cait Sith, although they add flavor to the story, aren't necessary.

--------
Sorry for the double post, my first post is pretty long.

Yes, the primary people are introduced fairly early in 7, however, its common in older RPGs to add in characters a bit later in the plot when appropriate (like Cid).

Sephiroth is actually the last person introduced before you leave Midgar, until then they make you think the real villain is Rufus or the Turks. It takes roughly 5 hours to get through Midgar at a standard play through pace (not rushing). 5 hours to introduce just the core characters to the plot vs 1 hour to introduce EVERYONE in the plot, pretty huge difference.

When you throw everyone at us at once, we quickly pick a favorite and tend not to care about the rest of the group. When you do it more slowly, you allow time to get to know the characters and make choices on their like-ability without bias.

It also seems a LOT less forced to meet people in an natural progression of plot, rather then everyone dumped everyone in 1 spot and just HAPPEN for them to all be involved in a giant plot that you don't yet understand at the exact same time....feels incredibly forced.

Totally agree with you. Though for pedantry's sake I must say that Fang is left pretty ambiguous until later on. And characters like Cid are introduced and have little relevance to the plot.

Actually thats another thing, there are few NPC's in 13. And even fewer of those have a backstory or contribute to the plot. One of the main NPC's Cid Raines, has at most 10 mins of screen time. He does all his actions whilst the player isn't looking and is killed when the player isn't looking.

Delete! My bad for triple posting! (My internet went really weird :/)

Delete! My bad double post.

No, I didn't read all of that. Forgive my puny brain.

I think the problem with Square Enix in regards to Final Fantasy is that they can't think small anymore. I'd say most triple A games have this issue. Everything needs to be fucking huge, epic and BRAAAAWGH. In Final Fantasy this appears in the form of everything on screen screaming for attention to a point were it all starts to appear ludicrous. This was already sort of happening with Final Fantasy 10. I don't need to remind you of Seymour's hair, do I?

With each iteration it just becomes more of a nonsensical fireworks display.

Square Enix needs to stop making FF games for a while and really figure out what the hell they want to do with this franchise, because from what I've played of FF13 it doesn't seem like they know anymore.

Tomaius:

Sorry I made a sweeping statement there, sacrificed detail for brevity.

But I would like to see a return to battles which are more puzzle like in approach. Starting off as simple rock, paper, scissors and ending as this vastly complicated web of different skills, magic and abilities.

Have you ever played Fire Emblem? What you just described is almost exactly how that game fights. It's a tactics JRPG though, so only if you can stand that type of game. I recommend Path of Radiance for the Game Cube as a good starting point. It has one of the strongest stories in the franchise (In my opinion).

Tomaius:

Guess your right. Found Star Ocean to be unplayable however. Thats another story though poor combat, overly camp voice actors and ridiculous premise are a big factor. Not played Xenoblade unfortunatly.

I can understand that about Star Ocean, I really didn't like The Last Hope, for those exact reasons, especially the characters and voices. Till the End of Time is my favorite in that series, and even that one had a silly plot twist that pretty much throws the whole story out the window.

Tomaius:

Great point. Hadn't thought of that, assumed it to be stuck in developmental hell. (Much like what 13 was in) Really looking forward to what VS13 could be, I've said since I first saw the Trailer in 2006 that it was going to be the game that makes me buy a PS3. I'm still waiting. :P

Just don't get your hopes up too much... I had high hopes for Final Fantasy 13 and look what happened.
I'm afraid Versus might suffer Duke Nukem Forever syndrome, even if Square makes it the best JRPG that's ever been released, too long of a wait and people won't feel the wait was justified.

Tomaius:

Your right, but personally I'd like to see it be more pronounced. Zidane went through a character arc, his ideals tested and his resolve shaken. I never really got that feeling with Lightning other than shes less of a miserable cow by the end.

You're also right.

Tomaius:

The key word here is presence. Something that all effective villains have is a strong sense of presence throughout the story. I agree with you in that the concepts is strong but Square could have made it so much more effective if their iconography was much more apparent and a constant theme throughout the game. Lightning and her party are moving through a world created by these god-like beings, defying the rules of existence that have literally been created by them.

It sounds like an epic idea, but I never felt that playing through the game.

It would have taken more thought and work, which would have delayed the development even further. It's important to be organized from the beginning and stick to the original concept. Many developers change their mind halfway through and end up scrapping huge portions of a game or shoehorning in aspects "just to make the fans happy", Square is guilty of both of these things and in the end it was between "release an unfinished product duct tapped to look finished" or "release no product at all".

Tomaius:

Your right. Again sorry for my sweeping statement at the start. Perhaps it ties into different trends within the gaming industry but I do wish we saw more AAA RPG's in the older Final Fantasy vein.

Thanks for your response. :)

You and me both.

Casual Shinji:
Snip

Thats a really good point. Hadn't thought of that.

Tomaius:
The mighty snip!

Fantastic video, I didn't like the game, but I know what I did like..

Let's get one thing straight, the music, graphics and mythology are top notch! The world is also very cool, I loved Cocoon, Pulse and the transformers eidolons looked!

Now, the characters, I like Lightning, but she wasn't very compelling, fun to play with and follow, but not a great protagonist.

Snow is a freaking dumbass, but I don't mind him overall. He is constantly calling himself a hero, proclaiming heroes don't need plans (which is incorrect) and believing everyone likes him when many do not. He let's his emotions get the better of him, resulting in him getting knocked on his ass three times with each encounter with Barthandelous.

Vanille, her voice actor made it embarrassing to have her in the party and the step-ford smiler (the person who smiles but is hiding something) isn't anything new and they do nothing with it.

Sazh was the most enjoyable character, but I can't help but feel that since he is comic relief, he is not meant to be taken as seriously, but I cared more about his story than anyone else. His scene in Nautilus with Vanille and getting his eidolon...by god, brilliant.

Hope was a little shitbag who blamed Snow for killing his mom (Snow and the mom fell from the same height but the mom died and Snow got up with barely a bruise on his ass) instead of blaming his mom for abandoning her child in a warzone with her "moms are tough" bullshit instead of protecting the other refugees (and her son) when a gun was offered. His constant pessimism made him an unenjoyable character, I loved his "I fought so there was no time to think about my moms death" that was rally good, but then he says shit like "No hope for L'cie" which made me wanna backhand the twerp. He get's better after he comes to terms with the man who didn't kill (and actually tried to save) his mom.

Fang, I liked her but there was little to her character, I can barely remember much about her.

The biggest thing for me was the combat, it was tedious, the auto attack selects the best possible commands in that respective paradigm, using abilities only slows you down, simply switch paradigms and hammer auto attack. The only time you won't use auto attack will be to raise someone (which characters will only do if everyones HP is in the green) and to use the special abilities which are only available at the end of the game.

The story didn't give us exposition, meaning I had to thumb through the datalog and the wiki, but I didn't dislike the story, it just wasn't as compelling.

TizzytheTormentor:

Tomaius:
The mighty snip!

Fantastic video, I didn't like the game, but I know what I did like..

Let's get one thing straight, the music, graphics and mythology are top notch! The world is also very cool, I loved Cocoon, Pulse and the transformers eidolons looked!

Yeah, even though it was text it was excellently written fluff.

Also thanks, it took me a while to put together, still has lots of room to improve. (Needs better editing, I need to be more engaging as a narrator) But thanks :)

TizzytheTormentor:
Snip

Agreed.

TizzytheTormentor:

The story didn't give us exposition, meaning I had to thumb through the datalog and the wiki, but I didn't dislike the story, it just wasn't as compelling.

Show don't tell. Its the rule that FF13 thought was optional.

image

I'm not sure I have anything to add to this topic. I feel like all of the essay-length posts I've made about Final Fantasy XIII in the past have just been compiled, trimmed, and edited into this OP, who somehow also managed to read my mind about how Final Fantasy IX is so excellent.

Congratulations, OP. You managed to make a thread about Final Fantasy XIII that I couldn't say anything in other than "I agree."

shrekfan246:
Snip

Thank you very much. This is has really brightened my mood.

Though it still needs work if you asked me. The only reason I stopped writing being I was at 2000 words and I thought adding anymore would be overkill, and 2000 words seemed a tad long TBH. It could be better written too, it was initially a script for the youtube video in my initial post that converted into an essay (Which itself is 13 mins long).

I would have liked to have talked about 13-2 in greater detail, a game which in my own opinion was created through stalling for time for Versus 13 and to help make up for the financial troubles caused by FF14. (I can't prove this however) It was a game that was seemingly designed around the issues of FF13, and yet it still missed the mark of a great game.

I haven't played FF13-2 all the way through though so any attempted at a similar analysis would be rather flawed.

Tomaius:

shrekfan246:
Snip

Thank you very much. This is has really brightened my mood.

Though it still needs work if you asked me. The only reason I stopped writing being I was at 2000 words and I thought adding anymore would be overkill, and 2000 words seemed a tad long TBH. It could be better written too, it was initially a script for the youtube video in my initial post that converted into an essay (Which itself is 13 mins long).

If I were to combine all of the posts that I've made about how I think Final Fantasy XIII stumbled in the past, it would probably come out to be much longer than 2000 words.

I would have liked to have talked about 13-2 in greater detail, a game which in my own opinion was created through stalling for time for Versus 13 and to help make up for the financial troubles caused by FF14. (I can't prove this however) It was a game that was seemingly designed around the issues of FF13, and yet it still missed the mark of a great game.

I haven't played FF13-2 all the way through though so any attempted at a similar analysis would be rather flawed.

Honestly, I do think XIII-2 is a better game than XIII. It doesn't recapture the glory of the older titles, but it did at least make attempts to rectify the largest issues from XIII, and for good or bad it tried reconciling the differences between the older and newer Final Fantasy games.

I suppose to actually add something to this topic, the fact that XIII is so crushingly linear isn't really what kills the exploration aspect of the game. Final Fantasy has always been incredibly linear. In IX, you don't have the freedom to really explore the World Map until you're in Disc 3 of 4. You get a boat, but it doesn't allow you to travel to the truly exotic locations and there are plenty of extremely high level monsters that discourage running around in random locations.

But, the World Map alone adds a feeling of vastness that's just not present in XIII (or X, for that matter). You see that there are all of these locations for you to explore, you know the eventually you'll be able to scour every inch of that map for secrets or secondary locations and quests, and it's always interesting to see what the developers might have snuck in that you wouldn't expect.

My biggest issue with Final Fantasy XIII was that, while the quiet character moments were actually done pretty well, not enough was happening to justify them. If they'd actually had more game there, Lightning and Hope's chat near Carbuncle might have worked. Same with Sazh and Vanille at the amusement park.

The story/gameplay debate can take a lot of different points from FFXIII but I'd say one is diminished by the lack of the other.

Oh, and the battle system sucked. From start to finish. That didn't help. 5-minute fights against basic enemies is not fun.

I think the biggest problems with the Final Fantasy titles as of late, is the lack of a world map. All FF games have been a linear hallway. There was generally only one place to go at a time to progress the story. With a world map to run from point A to point B though you are given the illusion of freedom. Type 0 returned to formula and according to Japan, it is one of the greatest ever made. Versus 13 is supposed to do the same, with a world map and such, when and if it ever gets finished. I really wish Type 0 would get released over here!!! I would probably buy a Vita if it is coming to it. PsP is fine too though. :D

Umm.... there are a lot of opinions on here... and really long ones at that.

Instead of that, I'll try brevity. Final Fantasy is a victim of its own success. Everyone was amazed with VII because it looked a million times better than VI did, but VII and IX still had that huge world feel to it.

Unfortunately the era of the cutscene meant that Square kept having to up the graphics to attract people (or they seemed to think that was what people wanted). When X came out I thought it was gorgeous but it soon turned out that for the most part it was all corridors. And they seem to have gotten stuck. As the OP said, the game looks great. The thing is that no one remembers just how fugly VII and IX were compared to other games of that era. All they remember is how much prettier is was than VI.

Skip ahead a decade and Final Fantasy has some of the most gorgeous graphics as compared to any game. That is where the focus went, and the rest be damned.

They need to take a page from Rockstar. A lot of people love most of their games, but not one of them is particularly good looking when compared to its contemporaries. Its the game that people love.

Oh well... so much for brevity.

As much as I actually enjoyed the game, the one thing that really stung me was the J pop music forced down our throats. Final Fantasy was known for its music, but this one was easily the most forgettable and awful.

Tomaius:
Snip

First off, love that you use FF 9. I love 9. It is my favorite. Now by the time X was released and Square joined with Enix, many of the old FF team had left including Nobuo Uematsu which is why, in my opinion, the music took a hudge drop in quality. Thats why we had X-2 (about a girl band that had to save the world but only if it did not get in the way of the singing and arsing around having fun), XII (Return of the Jedi without lightsabers) and XIII (a game that looked incredable but was shit everywhere else).

I could have lived with the battle system we got in XIII, if only it had a good story and likable characters but as we had a bad story and 3 of the worst characters ever conceived by human kind (Vanille, Hope and Snow, King of Douches), I never even finished the game. I got to Grand Pulse and just gave up. And I Played X-2 from start to finish. 4 times.

A time was I would buy a FF game without question but now I will not touch one until at least 2 months after release. Now I have made myself sad so I am going to play the only good jrpg to come out in the last 6 years. Lost Odyssey.

Excellent post, OP. I think some of the biggest troubles the new dev crew have run into are that of an identity crisis. They want to carve out a new direction for the franchise, doubly aware that you don't want to step on the toes of longtime fans. I think they would be really well served by choosing one of those paths. Lost Odyssey played a lot of JRPG tropes and mechanics straight, but decided to maximize the excellent writing and character development, and I feel that it was well served by that approach. Square doesn't need to re-invent the wheel, but they do need to either remember why people came to the JRPG for years, or make a first mark besides "interactive cutscene generator".

People go to WRPGs to put themselves into a world in order to mold it, and to JRPGs to vicariously experience the life of a pre-built and well written world. Graphical fidelity isn't what makes that world worth learning about. They just need to realize one thing: There's a reason that I've had vivid memories for years of Cecil becoming a paladin, and mentally discarded everything about XIII the instant I shut it off.

You have a lovely voice.

Ghostwise:
I think the biggest problems with the Final Fantasy titles as of late, is the lack of a world map. All FF games have been a linear hallway. There was generally only one place to go at a time to progress the story. With a world map to run from point A to point B though you are given the illusion of freedom. Type 0 returned to formula and according to Japan, it is one of the greatest ever made. Versus 13 is supposed to do the same, with a world map and such, when and if it ever gets finished. I really wish Type 0 would get released over here!!! I would probably buy a Vita if it is coming to it. PsP is fine too though. :D

I think you're being somewhat unfair. Final Fantasy XII was pretty damn non-linear by anyone's standards. OK, the story was largely on rails, but the actual world exploration was ridiculously open to the player, as was the ability to customise characters to whatever sort of build and behaviour you wanted. In that at least, it had a lot of WRPGs beat, even if didn't offer the same sort of non-linear storytelling that western gamers seem to have a thing for.

OT: I think it's somewhat unfair to lump the entire JRPG genre in with FFXIII. While the Final Fantasy series has somewhat lost its reputation as the hallmark of JRPG quality (rightly or wrongly), Xenoblade is one of the most acclaimed games of this gen, and as good as almost anything the genre has offered in the past. We've had other stone cold classics this generation like The Last Story, Lost Odyssey, Valkyria Chronicles... it's not as if every WRPG that comes out is a flawless classic. Heck, just look at the nosedive recent series like Mass Effect and Dragon Age have taken. There's been amazing stuff and terrible stuff coming from both Japan and the West. To try and paint it as a Japan-only problem seems incredibly blinkered to me.

Regarding Final Fantasy XIII and Square-Enix in general... Squenix just need to decide what direction they want the series to go in. They're still a great development company, as evinced by the likes of Kingdom Hearts and The World Ends With You. I personally think they simply need to scale back the number of FF-related games they're releasing, and start focusing on core titles that will establish where they want to take the series in terms of design. Right now, the series is a mess of dozens of different games all getting developed and released, with drastically different design philosophies and directions. Some games are more willing to experiment with player choice in storytelling, some are still completely linear, some are true role-playing games, some are more like visual story games...

They just need to reign everything in, sit down at the table and decide what Final Fantasy can still bring to the RPG table that we haven't seen before. If they could just focus on that, they've still got the staff to make a truly brilliant game. Their writers can still be utterly brilliant when they want to be, and their art teams can be incredibly creative when they're not overdesigning stuff that would look more at home in a J-pop video.

This is kinda 3 years late but anyway...

Anyone ever consider that the SE devs don't want to make similar FF games? Every FF a game was a unique experience and maybe 13 wasn't to everyone's tastes but look at it this way: 3 years have past and people are still complaining.

I think that because it was the first FF in a new console generation everybody expected it to be like FF7 which tainted their expectations.

Look at it this way: Would you rather have the Final Fantasy franchise to develop COD syndrome? Always a rehash of the stereotypical "best ones" 7 & 9?

FFP2:
This is kinda 3 years late but anyway...

Anyone ever consider that the SE devs don't want to make similar FF games? Every FF a game was a unique experience and maybe 13 wasn't to everyone's tastes but look at it this way: 3 years have past and people are still complaining.

I think that because it was the first FF in a new console generation everybody expected it to be like FF7 which tainted their expectations.

Look at it this way: Would you rather have the Final Fantasy franchise to develop COD syndrome? Always a rehash of the stereotypical "best ones" 7 & 9?

This is truly one of the biggest reasons I have always loved the Final Fantasy series. No two games are alike and that is why it is unique. I for one enjoyed FFXIII a great deal as well as XIII-2. My wife actually bought them for me for Christmas! (Had em' and beat em' on 360) I mean the game sold like 6 million copies so it's not like it bombed or anything. :D

I have no nostalgia for Final Fantasy. XIII was the first one I played. I have since tried 1-10, 12, and 13. I hated all of them but 13 and its sequel. Here's why I liked the "worst one".

FF XIII is a Persona game. Really. FF XIII and Personas 3 & 4 have identical narrative structure and character archetypes. XIII even takes the Shinjiro-Ken subplot wholesale from 3. The entire thrust of the narrative in all three games is character development with the villain reveal at two thirds of the way through at the earliest.
Stoic Bitch---Mother Figure.(Lightning)
Whiny Brat---Determined and Confident.(Hope)
Lone Wolf----Team Player.(Fang)
Stepford Smiler/Compulsive Liar--- Honest and Open.(Vanille)
Manic Depressive/Suicidal--- Mentally healthy and Optimistic.(Sazh)
Leeroy Jenkins--- Protector.(Snow)

Every aspect of these games revolve around a core principle. Just like a persona game.
"Free will does not exist". The linearity enforces the metaphor by only allowing the player minimal and inconsequeltial choice. Forks paths on the map lead to treasure and a dead end. Branches in the crysarium cost more CP to obtain than the main path but will eventually be paid for anyway. Your choice can only delay or hasten your progress slightly. In the sequel all of your choices come back to the same end. Cocoon will fall. The extinction of humanity will happen. Etro's gate will open. Reality will be swallowed by chaos. Etro will die. "Free will" can, at best, tweak the details. There are eight optional endings in 13-2. Two are joke endings that are not unlike the Silent Hill 2 joke endings. The other six are Caius winning in a different fashion, or the extinction of humanity without his involvement. You have no free will.

This even extends to the combat. It only matters that the roles are being performed. The specific person really doesn't matter. Some are better than others at different tasks. For example: Fang is an abysmal medic, Hope and Lightning can't guard, Sazh and Snow are too specialized in their elements to be primary ravagers, and Valille is only situationally useful as a synergist and never learns Haste. At first each party member knows only three roles out of six, but everyone will learn every roll eventually because there are permanent increases in HP, attack, and magic stats when in leveling in each role. Who performs what role after that point only alters ease of performing the combo. The details have changed, but the result is the same. You have won because you do not have the free will to fail. According to the narrative anyway. This does not extend to the actual combat mechanic itself as all of the post Lake Bresha encounters can be rather hard if the player is not thinking strategically about their paradigm combos and death will be frequent.

About the linearity in 13...
The lack of typical RPG towns in 13 is common sense within context of the story. The party are magically conscripted terrorist agents on an suicide mission to commit the genocide of two species(Sanctum Fal'cie and Human) WITH A TIME LIMIT! Their faces are known to the general public. Why would anyone do anything other than shoot on sight or run? Unless you wanted stealth sections, the hallway was the only plausible way to do civilized areas. Also, the cocoon wilderness is maintained by Fal'cie, which have contact with humans, who will come in droves and kill anyone in their way just to slow you down. Nowhere on Cocoon is safe. Which is why as soon as you get to Pulse, a land without Fal'cie that give a damn about you and devoid of human life, the game becomes a sandbox.

13-2 also deconstructs protagonist centered morality and the power of love. Caius in mentally and emotionally unstable and wants to slay the goddess of Reality/Chaos/Life/Death, Himself(Via Noel), or every other human in existence in one cataclysmic fireball of extinction... but he has love for his surrogate daughter as his motivation. Serah and Noel have a task from the avatar of Etro, Lightning, to restore time so that Etro can be awakened and undo the damage from the Deus Ex Machina at the end of XIII and bring Lightning back into sync with time. LOVE WINS. Lightning, sort of, commits suicide. Serah dies. Noel is left alone in a void after having failed someone he was sworn to protect... AGAIN.

The two problems I have with the game is the party leader death problem and its abysmal exposition. The former was fixed in the sequel and I can only assume it was implemented in the first place because it was in Personas 3 & 4. The exposition also gets a pass with me in hindsight because the narrative does assume that the player did pass an elementary school novel study assignment can remember the facts of a linear story with a self updating jargon glossary. However, I will concede that the number of cutscenes needs to be cut roughly in half. Especially in the Hanging Edge before everyone gains their l'cie brands.

Ghostwise:

FFP2:
This is kinda 3 years late but anyway...

Anyone ever consider that the SE devs don't want to make similar FF games? Every FF a game was a unique experience and maybe 13 wasn't to everyone's tastes but look at it this way: 3 years have past and people are still complaining.

I think that because it was the first FF in a new console generation everybody expected it to be like FF7 which tainted their expectations.

Look at it this way: Would you rather have the Final Fantasy franchise to develop COD syndrome? Always a rehash of the stereotypical "best ones" 7 & 9?

This is truly one of the biggest reasons I have always loved the Final Fantasy series. No two games are alike and that is why it is unique. I for one enjoyed FFXIII a great deal as well as XIII-2. My wife actually bought them for me for Christmas! (Had em' and beat em' on 360) I mean the game sold like 6 million copies so it's not like it bombed or anything. :D

Same reason why it's my favourite franchise too:-)13-2 only sold about 2mil so I guess it's a fail for the ff7 fanboys...

I get why people hate 13 but it wasn't 100% bad.

Folksoul:
I have no nostalgia for Final Fantasy. XIII was the first one I played. I have since tried 1-10, 12, and 13. I hated all of them but 13 and its sequel. Here's why I liked the "worst one".

FF XIII is a Persona game. Really. FF XIII and Personas 3 & 4 have identical narrative structure and character archetypes. XIII even takes the Shinjiro-Ken subplot wholesale from 3. The entire thrust of the narrative in all three games is character development with the villain reveal at two thirds of the way through at the earliest.
Stoic Bitch---Mother Figure.(Lightning)
Whiny Brat---Determined and Confident.(Hope)
Lone Wolf----Team Player.(Fang)
Stepford Smiler/Compulsive Liar--- Honest and Open.(Vanille)
Manic Depressive/Suicidal--- Mentally healthy and Optimistic.(Sazh)
Leeroy Jenkins--- Protector.(Snow)

Every aspect of these games revolve around a core principle. Just like a persona game.
"Free will does not exist". The linearity enforces the metaphor by only allowing the player minimal and inconsequeltial choice. Forks paths on the map lead to treasure and a dead end. Branches in the crysarium cost more CP to obtain than the main path but will eventually be paid for anyway. Your choice can only delay or hasten your progress slightly. In the sequel all of your choices come back to the same end. Cocoon will fall. The extinction of humanity will happen. Etro's gate will open. Reality will be swallowed by chaos. Etro will die. "Free will" can, at best, tweak the details. There are eight optional endings in 13-2. Two are joke endings that are not unlike the Silent Hill 2 joke endings. The other six are Caius winning in a different fashion, or the extinction of humanity without his involvement. You have no free will.

This even extends to the combat. It only matters that the roles are being performed. The specific person really doesn't matter. Some are better than others at different tasks. For example: Fang is an abysmal medic, Hope and Lightning can't guard, Sazh and Snow are too specialized in their elements to be primary ravagers, and Valille is only situationally useful as a synergist and never learns Haste. At first each party member knows only three roles out of six, but everyone will learn every roll eventually because there are permanent increases in HP, attack, and magic stats when in leveling in each role. Who performs what role after that point only alters ease of performing the combo. The details have changed, but the result is the same. You have won because you do not have the free will to fail. According to the narrative anyway. This does not extend to the actual combat mechanic itself as all of the post Lake Bresha encounters can be rather hard if the player is not thinking strategically about their paradigm combos and death will be frequent.

About the linearity in 13...
The lack of typical RPG towns in 13 is common sense within context of the story. The party are magically conscripted terrorist agents on an suicide mission to commit the genocide of two species(Sanctum Fal'cie and Human) WITH A TIME LIMIT! Their faces are known to the general public. Why would anyone do anything other than shoot on sight or run? Unless you wanted stealth sections, the hallway was the only plausible way to do civilized areas. Also, the cocoon wilderness is maintained by Fal'cie, which have contact with humans, who will come in droves and kill anyone in their way just to slow you down. Nowhere on Cocoon is safe. Which is why as soon as you get to Pulse, a land without Fal'cie that give a damn about you and devoid of human life, the game becomes a sandbox.

13-2 also deconstructs protagonist centered morality and the power of love. Caius in mentally and emotionally unstable and wants to slay the goddess of Reality/Chaos/Life/Death, Himself(Via Noel), or every other human in existence in one cataclysmic fireball of extinction... but he has love for his surrogate daughter as his motivation. Serah and Noel have a task from the avatar of Etro, Lightning, to restore time so that Etro can be awakened and undo the damage from the Deus Ex Machina at the end of XIII and bring Lightning back into sync with time. LOVE WINS. Lightning, sort of, commits suicide. Serah dies. Noel is left alone in a void after having failed someone he was sworn to protect... AGAIN.

The two problems I have with the game is the party leader death problem and its abysmal exposition. The former was fixed in the sequel and I can only assume it was implemented in the first place because it was in Personas 3 & 4. The exposition also gets a pass with me in hindsight because the narrative does assume that the player did pass an elementary school novel study assignment can remember the facts of a linear story with a self updating jargon glossary. However, I will concede that the number of cutscenes needs to be cut roughly in half. Especially in the Hanging Edge before everyone gains their l'cie brands.

But it's not exactly like FF7 or IX!!!! Therefore it's the worst by far!!!

Man, I wish people would stop comparing it to the others.

I know I should probably first read the first posts to say as well a more complete opinion why I HATE FF13, but as we say "A picture is worth a thousand words", I will just leave this pic here:

The Final Fantasy series used to feel quite different to other JRPGs, I think it was the characters and art style as much as anything but since 10 I feel (and most do) there has been a decline with this drop culminating in 13, the last Final Fantasy game I will invest in. Too much of it is now annoying rather than endering, with more characters I actively hate than like.

I've never really liked JRPGs though, I consider them some of the worst games going and FF was very much the exception for a long time.

Sorry to say that I haven't read every part to this yet.

I think that the parts that FFXIII did right I enjoyed. I enjoyed Lightning has a character, I enjoyed the scenery (keeping in mind the whole linear thing) and I thought that the Vanille/Fang vs the rest of the Party was an interesting twist. Though these are incredibly minor positive points that are well shadowed by its negatives. The lead character actually had an aggressive edge rather than Tidus.

I haven't been able to force myself through a Final Fantasy game in years and it took me months to get through 13. I didn't like FFXII, FFX and FFIX at all, I liked FFVIII when I was younger though in retrospect it made no sense after disk 1.

I'm kind of done with the series, I cancelled my preorder for FFXIII-2 and wont buy the next one. Considering the mass hatred towards the game, the most positive response i've heard was "Eh, it was alright" surely they must realise that while it sold doesn't mean that it makes a good game.

Snow and Hope did give me the shits.

IMO, Final fantasy 13 had many problems, both mechanical and story/character wise. The mechanical problems could at least have been easily fixed by taking systems from each version of final fantasy. In my mind, 12 had by far the best combat system although the level system was pretty poor. The materia from ff7 were well thought out and I feel that adding a similar one would benefit a ff as well. However, story and characters were dirt poor in 13, featuring 2 mind meltingly annoying characters, a story so confusing they had to give you a guide book to make heads or tails of it and a linear progression system that did little more than make you feel a nodding bird toy and a piece sellotape could accomplish the same thing as you.

captcha: skynet watches
...
oh dear

Folksoul:
Snip.

Thats a really good way of looking at it. Hadn't thought of that, but the theme still isn't strong enough, and restriction isn't the way to make a good RPG.

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