There aren’t many game series that have managed to not only survive, but thrive as long and as well as Final Fantasy. Final Fantasy has practically become synonymous with the JRPG genre and in many ways, is its mascot. That doesn’t necessarily mean that Final Fantasy is without sin, though.
I find it hard to call myself a longtime Final Fantasy fan in light of just how long it’s been around, even in the States (1990) but I have been a fan of Final Fantasy for just over a decade now, and I have played most of the main series games and many of the sequels, prequels, and spinoffs. In other words, I know my way around the franchise well enough to know exactly what I want from it. Ever since the release of 15 I’ve been thinking a lot about things I’d like from the franchise since it’s been changing so much in its last few entries: New concepts that could be interesting, old ones that I’d like to return, things it should hang on to and let go of, and so on. So without further ado, here’s my wish list of things I want to see in Final Fantasy.
Remake or Re-Release of Crisis Core
Since Final Fantasy 7 is getting remade, it’d only be appropriate if its wonderful prequel, Final Fantasy VII: Crisis Core, got a remake, too. Or at the very least re-released. It was originally released for the PSP in 2007 (or, if you live anywhere but Japan, 2008) and is, in fact, the tenth best selling game on the PSP. Despite being a clearly well-loved and well-selling game, a very crucial part of the Final Fantasy 7 story, and yet on a handheld console that was largely overlooked and underrated, Crisis Core never got a re-release of any kind. Not even on Steam, where you can find a sizable portion of the Final Fantasy franchise, for better or for worse. I’ve been playing a lot of Final Fantasy 7 lately, and the only thing it’s making me want more than to sink my teeth into the remake is a chance to replay Crisis Core. Not only is Crisis Core simply a wonderful game, but it fleshes out 7’s story entirely–but sadly, unless I want to go buy another PSP, I can’t do that unless it’s re-released. Once the remake is out, we’re going to see a flood of new Final Fantasy fans wanting to get into the series and older fans wanting to relive it. Crisis Core is a large part of reliving the joy of Final Fantasy 7, and Square Enix can bank on that easily. There’s no reason for them not to re-release it.
3D Remakes of Final Fantasy 5, and 6 (or at least 6)
Currently, Final Fantasy 5 and 6 are the only main series Final Fantasy games that were never made or remade in 3D, despite 1-4 all getting 3D remakes on the DS (7, of course, is when they started getting made in 3D right off the bat.) Final Fantasy 5 I can sort of understand why it was never remade in 3D: It’s not one of the particularly more well-loved Final Fantasy games, generally has okay reviews at best, and is generally only well-known for being the first Final Fantasy game to expand the job system and add more customization options. In other words, it’s easy to see why it wouldn’t be high on Square Enix’s priority list for Final Fantasy.
The reason Final Fantasy 6 hasn’t been remade in 3D escapes me completely. There’s no reason for it not to have been remade in 3D. Final Fantasy 6 is constantly hailed as one of the greatest entries in the series. Many fans agree that its antagonist, Kefka, is the best in the whole franchise, the gameplay is more polished and perfected in 6 as opposed to the other 16-bit Final Fantasy games, the characters are very well-written, this was the first time a Final Fantasy game dug this deep into its story, it was emotionally gripping, the list of reasons why this game is so beloved can go on forever. This makes it all the more curious why it never got a 3D re-release or remake of any kind, sans a very poorly made mobile port with some slightly 3D sprites (which, in case you’re wondering, doesn’t constitute being called a 3D remake.)
If I haven’t made it clear enough, if only 1 of these games were to get a 3D remake, it should be 6. It confounds me how it hasn’t been remade in 3D yet. The gorgeous visuals and jaw-dropping atmosphere are 2 of the biggest hallmarks of Final Fantasy. So why not, Square Enix, bank on one of your most loved games and make it the visual indulgence we’ve all imagined it to be for over 20 years now? After the 7 remake is done, 6 should, without a doubt, be the next to get remade. If Square Enix wanted to take the next decade or so and not make any new Final Fantasy games and focus on remaking some of the classics instead, I honestly wouldn’t have a problem with that.
A return to turn-based combat
If this were a numbered list, this would be number 1. If only one thing on this list were to happen, I’d want it to be this. I didn’t care for the combat in Final Fantasy 12. It got worse in 13. I give 14 the same leeway I give 11 because they’re both MMOs and therefore should be played differently because they’re a different genre of game, and of course, I’m not a fan of the gameplay in 15. One of the hallmarks that made early Final Fantasy stand out was its turn-based combat with a timer that was used in the first 9 games. In 10, the timer was removed and it was purely turn based. Final Fantasy 11 is when the average player could start noticing some pretty large changes to the traditional Final Fantasy combat, but as I already said, it’s an MMO–obviously the combat would be different. Enter Final Fantasy 12, which in terms of gameplay, feels like an identity crisis from start to finish. The timer from the early games is still there, but it’s not turn based–it’s a Frankenstein of gameplay elements. It’s the game that transitioned the series from its traditional turn-based combat to action JRPG combat.
Make no mistake, I like action JRPGs. In fact, there are many I love–most notably the .hack//G.U. trilogy which is one of my all-time favorites. The problem lying in Final Fantasy as an action JRPG series is that the gameplay is messy, gimmicky, and in many cases, needlessly complex. It had its time to experiment, but has failed not once (12), not twice (13 and all its spinoffs), but 3/3 (15) times now. Many fans miss the turn-based combat this series branded itself with–including myself. Change can be good, sure. And yes, there is a shortage of popular turn-based JRPGs (as opposed to action JRPGs) in recent years. I think that’s all the more reason Final Fantasy should return to its turn-based roots, especially if they choose to bring back the style from 10 which (in my opinion) was the best gameplay the franchise has ever had. Not only will several older fans be happy, but it’s an effective way to dominate the sizable niche of fans who prefer turn-based JRPGs (which is likely to be become bigger real soon with the release of Persona 5 on the way) and improve the overall quality of the games in general.
If you’re going to require watching an anime to understand a game, at least attach it with the game
This has been brought up on the podcast a number of times, but if your game–Final Fantasy or otherwise–practically requires you to watch an anime, please attach the anime with the game somehow. Put it in the case. Attach it with the files on Steam. Put an option to watch it in the main menu. Something. The original .hack// series attached DVDs with the .hack//Liminality anime with the games, so why can’t Final Fantasy do it, too? If it’s more of a spin off (like Advent Children) then this isn’t necessary, but in Final Fantasy 15 they practically make it a necessity to watch Kingsglaive and Brotherhood–yet they’re no where to be found with the games. Luckily, Brotherhood is available on Crunchyroll but Kingsglaive, however, isn’t. You have to pay $13.99 to stream it or buy it on DVD/Blu-Ray, unless you’re okay with pirating it. (Square Enix certainly isn’t, which makes it all the more baffling why it’s not more accessible.)
In summary, I don’t mind watching an anime to better understand the world of a Final Fantasy game–but if you’re assuming your audience has seen the anime (as Square Enix does with Final Fantasy 15) then give them access to the anime. There’s a difference between using an anime to help your storytelling and requiring the anime to help your storytelling–Final Fantasy 15 is the latter. If you’re going to do this, attach the anime with the game. It highlights its importance to the story. If you’ve bought the game, you’ve bought the anime with it. Square Enix doesn’t even have the courtesy of making Kingsglaive more accessible, which is, for lack of a better phrase, a scummy thing for them to do–not to mention confusing. Is trading accessibility for a higher price honestly more profitable for them in this scenario? Anime is one of the easiest things out there to pirate or stream illegally. I honestly think that if they charged a reasonable price for Kingsglaive, Square Enix would see many more people more willing to pay the extra few dollars to support it. But by asking so much to see it–especially after paying for the game with a retail price of $60–that seems like more money than necessary. Again, this wouldn’t be a big deal if it were a spinoff like Advent Children was, but unless you want to be left without context several times in-game, watching not just Brotherhood but also Kingsglaive is a necessity.
Keep the camera from Final Fantasy XV in future entries
There isn’t anything in Final Fantasy 15 that puts a bigger smile on my face than when I see Prompto has taken more pictures. It’s charming, culturally relevant, and a good way to share the game and get some free publicity and discussion on social media.Final Fantasy 15 is the first time we’ve seen such a large integration with modern technology in a Final Fantasy game, and for the most part, makes it work really well! Whatever direction Final Fantasy 16 takes–traditional fantasy (EX: 10), futuristic/dsytopian fantasy (EX: 7), or something with a more modern feeling (EX: 15) I really hope that Square Enix finds a way to integrate the camera. In fact, photographer can be a permanent class in Final Fantasy for all I care. Regardless, it’s a light hearted break to see our protagonists having fun during the rest of the despair and tragedy going on in the rest of the game–I hope it stays. In fact, I hope we’re eventually able to take our own in-game photos as well.
Bring back the questionable fashion choices
If you’ve played almost any Final Fantasy game before 13 you know exactly what I’m talking about. Skirts made out of belts, hats the size of your torso, a new character sporting a midriff for each day of the week, and who can forget the indescribable “style” of the blitz ball uniforms. With a few exceptions (most of the characters from 7 and 8 and a few other miscellaneous characters here and there) up until Final Fantasy 13 most characters in the series had wonderfully bad fashion taste. But of course, most of their attire fits in well with the universe–if anything, it helps build the universe. A glance at any character from Final Fantasy 9 will tell you that we’re dealing with a very traditional fantasy game–just as a glance of any character from Final Fantasy 15 will tell you that there’s less traditional fantasy in this entry.
But man oh man, despite that, I still miss the wildly imaginative–often over imaginative–designs given to characters. I consider these over-the-top fantasy designs practically a part of the Final Fantasy branding because they were used for so long. There’s nothing wrong with not having them, though–like I said, in a subtle way, it helps build the world. Such as in 15, they might not be necessary. But to someone who’s become so accustomed to the questionable designs of Final Fantasy–which is likely the vast majority of fans–it’s a little disappointing playing a game like 8, 13, or 15 and not needing to pause for a minute to wonder how someone’s hair is staying the way it is and how many hair products they consume in a daily basis. Or how part of an outfit was even crafted or where it was bought, let alone staying on their body. Or feeling pure shock and awe seeing a cosplay of it and wondering how the hell they did it. In 13 is when I think we saw the transition. If you went out dressed light Lightning, Vanille, Serah (her 13-2 costume, not her 13 one), or Noel you’d probably get some strange looks, but in the right environment (I say because of Fang) I think you could get away with dressing up as anyone else without anyone batting an eye. Will we ever see a character with hair as gravity defying as Cloud or Seymour again? God, I hope so. I miss the sensation of being able to look at a character design covered in 50 fabrics, a few unnecessary pieces of armor here and there, a dozen belts and zippers, probably either a midriff or a deep v-neck (maybe even both), and hair that would make Marie Antoinette jealous and without knowing anything else being able to identify that it’s a Final Fantasy character.