How I Told Square Enix To Fix Final Fantasy

In the wake of the euphoria surrounding Square Enix's latest (and stunning) tech demo, the Tokyo-based game company launched a website for the demo. On it, there is a survey in which Square Enix asks people to give their opinions. You know, be honest. And honest I was.

The tech demo didn't specifically say Final Fantasy and the above image is not of a Final Fantasy character per se, but the tech will, no doubt, find its way into future FF games.

The first questions in the survey were the following:

• Did you enjoy this movie? • Did you feel that Agni (the heroine) was an attractive or appealing character? • Were you interested in the vision of the world portrayed in the movie? • Did you find the movie to be visually attractive? • Were you impressed by the real-time computer graphics from a next generation perspective?

I answered the same to each question: "Very much" (the highest rating). And I was being honest. Square Enix creates impressive visuals. Square Enix always has impressive, cutting edge visuals, and it will continue to well on to the next generation.

The last question on the survey read: Is there any other feedback you would like to provide? Here's what I wrote:

"You guys really need to improve your combat mechanics in favour of something more action based and less passive. Even way into the end of this generation, Square Enix games still feel old-fashioned and clunky. I'm not saying you guys need to copy, say, games like Mass Effect. But realise, those types of games are your rivals and they are kicking your asses."

Granted, Square Enix wasn't really asking what I thought of their Final Fantasy games, but that's exactly what I was speaking to (I'm looking at you FFXIII!).

Because those rivals will continue to kick Final Fantasy arse well into the next generation if Square Enix doesn't do more than simply update how pretty it can make video games. This isn't the movie business, and real-time tech demos are only skin-deep. Video games are not.


Comments

    Their games ar eclunk by design. MOre than likely the author is talking about making the game more like KIngdom Hearts. FF13 had plenty of action. You always had to keep on your toes but in a different way.

    Hopefully Square Enix values Brian Ashcraft's opinion about as much as we do, that is, not at all.

    I gave most of the answers a 1 to 3. This doesn't appeal to me as a final fantasy game. It looks to modern.

    Why is this article about the author, rather than an otherwise interesting tech demo and piece of market research?

    It’s sad that my comment turned out longer than the article, but this really got to me. Apologies in advance, if you don't like it, don't read it. Rant begin:

    Opinions, man. Real time tech demos aren't skin deep to me... I love how it looks and the world they have created with the engine. It makes me want to visit the world, meet the people, see the sights, hear the stories. You have entirely missed the point of Final Fantasy. I am the proud owner of every single one (yes, including all the spinoffs, seriously, my collection is unhealthy), and the things that set all of them apart in my mind are: 1. Ground-breaking graphics for their time, 2. Intricate, flexible and fun character development systems, and 3. Amazing stories and characters.

    Let me break this down for you: Combat mechanics? In a traditional JRPG that prides itself on its battle/RPG systems? Let's turn Halo into an RTS, because that's just what you think would be cool (that went down well, didn’t it). Besides, Versus XIII will satisfy your childish, ADHD-I-can't-sit-still-fueled lust for Call of Battlefield: Final Fantasy, so stop whinging. If you can’t wait, play any Kingdom Hearts game, or maybe Pandora’s Tower/Xenoblade Chronicles/The Last Story. Old fashioned and clunky? Given that the opposite of old fashioned is recharging health, blood on your screen, hand-holding tutorials and just generally "babby's first video game", I think I'll stick to old fashioned, thanks. “This isn’t the movie business, and real-time tech demos are only skin-deep. Video games are not.” And what is Heavy Rain, sir? Not a video game? Sure seemed like one to me when I played it through multiple times.

    Final Fantasy has always been a higher class of video-gaming for me. It's like reading the book instead of watching the movie; not for everyone, but a far more authentic, rich, deep experience without a doubt. Final Fantasy VI had the bad guy WIN halfway through the game. Final Fantasy VII had mind blowing visuals at the time and a great story with a well thought-out and constructed world. Final Fantasy IX had a storybook fantasy feel to it that was unforgettable for me, the story was crazy and twisted, and the characters were awesome. Final Fantasy X/X-2 has one of the most convoluted, intricate and well-crafted stories I have ever experienced. The graphics were insane at the time, and the battles were just endless fun for me. I could go on and on, but my point is, to meddle with what is already a great formula, especially with such undeveloped, borderline remedial ideas like making a JRPG “more action based and less passive”, is to court the death of a series.

    Instead of a health bar, a magic bar and six character defining stats in total, we are given a complex system by which we grow our characters and though this system is different in each game, generally it allows us to sculpt said characters in many ways and build a team of protagonists we are connected to as they experience the story. Of course, not every game has been so in-depth, some are more convoluted than others, and some more simple (like the first few games) but each has its own strengths and weaknesses. Like, the simple things that make some of the systems great: Materia in VII, learning abilities via equipped weapons in IX, Gambits in XII, I could go on. Final Fantasy XIII looked nice, the story was just average, and the character progression was very limited and linear, whereas Final Fantasy XII: International Zodiac Job System had a job system so good, people translated the entire Japanese game into English just to play it and mould their characters in the way they wanted to, so each game has its own ups and downs. No Final Fantasy has ever gone to the role-playing extent of Disgaea, but that is the other extreme if you still don’t get what I mean by a system that allows characters to be developed.

    What Square Enix need to do is finish Versus XIII (which will be great in its own way), and when making the next instalment, focus on the things that have made previous games great – visuals, the world, the story, the characters, and an awesome, versatile yet flexible battle system with fun character development. We all saw what happened when they tried to make the game more action oriented and less “boring”; it’s called auto-battle, and it was the kick to the face Final Fantasy XIII didn’t need when it was already down for the count. I actually enjoyed XIII, but the story could have been better, the character development could have been better, the world design could have been better, and the battle system could have been more flexible and malleable, allowing more than just auto-battle and the use of a few items. The last thing it needed was a more action and less of what makes the game what it is: a Final Fantasy game.

    I think your problem is, you saw the trailer, and thought “Wow, that looks awesome. But it’s made by Square Enix, and that means it may require patience, thinking, strategy, a bit of intelligence and possibly even *gasp* some reading so that I understand the story a bit better. Those are things I just can’t submit to! All games MUST be casual, little-effort-big-reward, epic fighting, spellcasting, ass-kicking explosion-filled killfests that make me feel like a badass all the time, every time I play!” Some people, like me, want a good story, some great characters, and a system that intricately defines those characters and their ability to fight, topped off with mind-blowing visuals that make the fantasy feel as real and unique as possible. The feeling of badassery is when you kill the (hidden) most powerful boss in the game (not the final boss, he’s usually easy comparatively) with the characters and techniques you spent hours refining and practising, levelling and developing. Stuff like using a reflected Reflectx2 Flare spell on Kuja in FFIX is so satisfying…

    It’s people like you who end up denying people like myself (there aren’t many of us, unfortunately) the pleasure of video games that have been carefully crafted to be great in as many ways as possible while remaining true to themselves and the genre. This cry for simpler, more instantly-gratifying video games needs to be stopped. Stick to your own games that already give you what you want with very little effort, and leave mine alone. Don't play it if you don't like it. Your Assassin's Creeds and Call of Dutys will graphically catch up eventually. Like I said, we’ve already seen the result of trying to cater to people who simply cannot appreciate these types of games in the form of Final Fantasy XIII, and it was not pretty. Let’s not go back there. The day Square Enix chooses to take your feedback as advice is the day I lose faith in them. They already lost Sakaguchi and Uematsu (mostly), it’s going to be hard to stick to making a great game over making one that just sells.

    But seriously, look up and read the plot for Final Fantasy X/X-2. It’s brilliant.

      You get it. I'm sick of people saying "You have to read to understand the game" with FF13, I know people who gave up because Eidolon fights were too hard for them. Personally, 10, 10-2, 12 and 13 have all had great game mechanics.

      And I agree wholeheartedly with you about 10/10-2's story, it's a masterpiece. I think Square Enix are fine.

        +1, thank for rewriting this article the way it should have worked
        final fantasy has always been the opposite of all of the 2 second attention span games that have been progressively taking over for the last 10 years
        these days, we celebrate when something takes more than 10 hours to complete. I remember investing over 150 hours into FFIX and over 250 into FFX. These are games you truly got lost in, that didnt just distract from your mundane exist for 2 seconds to allow you to "rape" some 12 year old on the other side of the world on a battlefield for 2 minutes, but instead allowed you to build and shape a world where the characters drove the story line and where replay value was based on how good the game was the first time around rather than constantly having to come out with shit DLC content to try to keep you amused for another 2 seconds.

        Do not change FF square enix, stick to the thing that differentiated JRPG games from the rest of the cookie cutter FPS games that have flooded the market today

      I agree mostly with your post though i haven't really been into FF games since FFX. All the FF games that came after FFX seemed rushed and so-so attempts to give gamers "what they want" when most of the time gamers don't even know what they want until they get it.

      The tech demo blew me away though. I hope Square Enix focuses on what made FF what it was/is and not what others want it to be.

      I think this comes off a tad elitist. Even in the way you compare books to movies. You're going out of your way just to say one thing is "better" than the other. Books are "better" than movies, final fantasy is "better" than other games. This is a completely regressive mentality. It inhibits any kind of change or experimentation, your idea of "better" isn't everyone's and it'll inhibit you into thinking that if final fantasy changes in any way, it's worse. Even your view on films is ignorant. Do you know the kind of artistry that goes into making a rich film? Even the biggest pieces of garbage take an incredible amount of craftsmanship. If you're so ignorant to compare one storytelling medium as being "better" than another then all this is is elitism.

        I don't think my implication is that one is better than the other, what I mean to convey is that some types of entertainment are for different tastes. I am in no way denying the fact that even crap films take "an incredible amount of craftsmanship". My point is, in order to consume the content of a film, you just sit there and watch it. I work at a cinema while I'm studying, and the bogans I see coming through to watch films to escape their crappy lives would not pick up a book for five seconds. Some of them can't even read, I kid you not (it's in a pretty low socio-economic area, I've had people ask me to read their ticket for them, it's awkward). The comparison between books and films is perhaps better illustrated with Harry Potter. Try and tell a Harry Potter fan that you're just as much of a fan as them because you've seen all the films when they've read the books multiple times over. It's not "worse" or "better", but in choosing to read the book, you get more out of the story, it's more fleshed out and intricate - that's just one of the conventions of writing, and films are limited in this regard, in order to pack in the amount of detail, lore, backstory etc. that a book has, a film would need to be 20 hours long. Films are consumable, 2-second attention span instant-gratification blasts of information, in the same way Call of Duty is. Neither are better, but I prefer a whole experience rather than a dumbed down one.

      While I don't disagree with everything you've said, I will say this: It's because of fanboys like YOU that the Japanese game development industry has become so stagnant.

      For starters you've rambled on for paragraphs rebutting criticisms that the author didn't even make. I might be f**king blind here, but can anyone point out where in Bashcraft's article he asked Square Enix to stop making games that have amazing stories and character development? No? I didn't think so. What Mr Ashcraft is asking for is INNOVATION, for lack of a better word. I wasn't aware that sacrificing stories and characters was a pre-requisite for innovation? Are you trying to tell us that Square Enix isn't capable of doing both?

      You've said it yourself Elod, FFXIII failed on all counts. Character's, story, world, battle system.... all of them "could have been better" right? And the solution you present to us is to do the same thing they've been doing for the last 12 games.

      All your response does is tell us how much of a fanboy you really are, since it's basically the automatic copy-paste argument that EVERY FF fanboy comes up with. "Oh you don't like Final Fantasy? You musn't like well written stories, or character development, or using your brain. You just want mindless shooting and you probably enjoy kicking puppies too."

      How do I know this? Because I'm a Final Fantasy fanboy.

      Like the Pokemon games, all the Final Fantasy fans know something needs to change. I know it, you know it, Square Enix knows it. Until then, we'll just keep buying every FF game that comes out, hoping that it'll improve with the next iteration. Adding more action is just one solution to evolving the JRPG genre, and it's closed minded fans like you that jump on the defensive every time someone proposes something, that culls the growth of the franchise.

      Final Fantasy X is an ABSOLUTELY brilliant game, but it came out 10 FREAKIN’ YEARS AGO and Square Enix hasn't made a blockbuster Final Fantasy since. The series needs to be fixed, so kudos to Brian for putting forward a possible solution.

        I think my point did get a little off track, but it's a reflex response to articles similar to this that I have read before, and a general assumption that with a focus on something as trivial as non-passive combat, the author is implying that none of the other things are important. Also where he said "This isn’t the movie business" kinda hints at his want for good "gameplay" above and beyond everything else. Clearly the author doesn't enjoy the current types of gameplay being offered by Final Fantasy, and feels that they are boring and need more explosions etc.

        I think innovation has occurred, I already discussed that, with the part about the different levelling systems that made each game different and their features like Gambits (allowing you to sculpt the AI of your characters and give them automatic commands), Materia (modifying weapons in a variety of ways) et cetera. They stuffed this part up in XIII, and need to go back to the way they were doing it before, but actually innovate, instead of "innovating" by dumbing the battle system and levelling system down for casual gamers. You couldn't even grind in XIII, really. People don't like the idea of working hard to level a character enough to beat something insanely powerful? Lets just take that need out and make the whole game linear and hold your hand the entire way through so you can beat everything without having to level your characters up through hard work. Sure, grinding and the battle systems may be a little stagnant, and I agree, some innovation is required, but not innovation where things become simpler and easier, innovation where the system is fleshed out more and you can level up your characters by grinding, but it doesnt feel like grinding because every battle is so dynamic you cant just keep pressing X, you need to focus and use your brain. I don't have all the answers, I'm not the developer, but I think you get what I mean. It just seems like the next logical step after dumbing down the battle and levelling mechanics is making the story more Halo or Call of Duty, and if Square Enix head down that path, it will be catastrophic.

        I'm okay with being a fanboy, but in all honesty, I have enjoyed every single one in its own way so far, some have let me down, but made up for it in other regards.

      I'm sorry? Final fantasy has "amazing story lines and character development"? Fuck me have you ever read literature or perhaps just a good novel? FF storylines are like anime abortions full of androgyny and angst. Big pretty FX doesn't make good plot line. Go read War and Peace, then try and say FF has good story and character development bahaha

        Cool opinion bro. I'll be sure to make sure the stories I enjoy are up to the standards of your literary tastes before enjoying them in future. "Good" is subjective. I said nothing about the special effects making the story good.

        In its own way, in a medium Tolstoy couldn't possibly have conceived of, FFX is just as good a work as War and Peace. I've played probably 500+ hours on FFX and I've read War and Peace. By your crudely reductionist assertion about FF I would assume you've never played X or VII.

        But 13 was shithouse.

    I am thankful that Ashcraft isn't running Square-Enix.

    I don't like ff game mechanics either. But I also don't like the menu in skyrim! I also don't like health bars that recharge while I back-peddle. What we want it to be engaged and for me (and the original author), the ff mechanics don't work for us. A ranter compared the ff series to book reading. Exactly! But if I want to read a book, I will read a book.

    It's the stereotypical girly men characters and stories about the power of friendship that ruined this series. Perhaps too much nomura

      *influence

        Yeah, like I said in the article, since losing Sakaguchi, the games have gotten a little funny. As soon as he left they made FFX (with his help, and it turned out great somehow), but after that it was XI online (which was kinda terrible in comparison to other MMOs), XII (which was good in it's own way but failed in may other ways), and XIII (which was just silly). XIV seems like a money grubbing attempt to me, and it was so bad they re-coded half the game and re-released it to compete with WoW. It's still pretty average and I don't get the obsession with SE trying to break into the MMO market. They should stick with what they know and work to perfect it.

    I don't think the gameplay mechanics are the problem at all. They were fine in XIII (granted, I miss the days when you had direct control over each character as opposed to letting the AI handle it...the AI can be dumb at times). What most people I believe didn't like about XIII was the closed off world.

      that, and I didn't find the story particularly compelling. then I found out XIII-2 involved time travel lol

        XIII could have been improved if the battle system were more flexible. You've got all these characters dynamically running around, doing AoE attacks and such, but automatically. If it were like XII where you could switch between characters and they worked harder on giving you more options when fighting other than simple magic and standard attacks, coupled with it's visuals (which are already great) it would have been 100x better.

        I agree, the story was okay, but pretty lacklustre overall. XIII-2 was better, but still not up to the standards of some of the older games.

    ewww. Keep your mass effect out of my final fantasy.
    They just need to go back to having character's and lore you are interested in again circa FFX.
    Instead of focusing on the graphics and trying to create a "dystopian FFVII like" environment like they have been.

    I had no problems with the battle system in XIII it was the yawn worthy story and shallow characters that ruined it.

    Also you know I think the problem with the final fantasy series was the loss of the "Summoner" Character.

    Out of curiousity any word of the ffx remake at e3?

    Just something I've noticed; no one here seems to be talking about any games older than X and in some cases VII. II through to VI were great too, and should not be ignored. Most people only discovered the franchise with VII or X, but every other game has been great too. Even FFI was fun to play for me in its own way. VIII and IX are amazing games, Uematsu and Sakaguchi (who have been there from the start) both are quoted as saying their favourite is IX. You guys need to play some of the other ones, I implore you.

    Didn't read any of the comments but the article says it doesn't make mention of Final Fantasy.

    It specifically says at the end "A Final Fantasy Tech Demo". Did I miss something?

      It is a Final Fantasy tech demo. It is more than likely something that may become Final Fantasy XV or it may just stay a tech demo for the engine. It's a lot of effort to generate a world, character and a context for a free to watch demo though... I'd think it will become a game in some way or another... Maybe.

    Man, Bashcraft's feedback is exactly what I'm hoping Final Fantasy doesn't do. Final Fantasy fills a different niche than Mass Effect, etc. - and you know what? That's okay. In fact, that's great!

    I have no interest in a combat system like most Western RPGs. It's why I play JRPGs (and my love of cheesy cliche plots and character archetypes). Every step JRPG developers take in the direction of WRPGs pushes me away. I'm sure I'm not the only person in this basket.

      Amen, sir.

    "Did you feel that Agni (the heroine) was an attractive or appealing character?"

    This question reveals exactly why SE is out-of-touch with the common Western player. The tech demo was a few minutes long with almost no dialogue and zero characterisation. How could we possibly have any meaningful connection to the character?

    If you're asking if we find her physically attractive, then it's obvious that SE is still targeting the creepy male Otaku demographic and probably won't change as long as this answer remains "Yes" to people who buy their crap out of the hotness of its lead.

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