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Assassin’s Creed & Final Fantasy kick off our AAA franchise celebrations

Friday, 4th April 2014 08:26 GMT By Brenna Hillier

The Big Ones: Assassin’s Creed and Final Fantasy are the first two franchises to come under scrutiny in this series on the multi-title properties VG247 has grown to love over the years.

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Indie games are great, and we love innovation, but there’s something to be said for the big, triple-A franchise thing – and it’s usually said in chart-topping sales figures.

We all have a franchise or two that we hold near and dear. Maybe it’s just one very special series of games, or maybe like me you have a good half a dozen at least. In this series of features, we’re going to count off some of our favourite big names, starting with two that are very close to my own feeble but passionate heart.

Assassin’s Creed

Of today’s two franchises I’m starting with Assassin’s Creed because it comes first alphabetically, if not chronologically. My love for Assassin’s Creed is well-documented (I’m on my second Abstergo hoodie; I have an eagle-peak dressing gown; I lost my assassin’s symbol tablet gloves and literally cried) but I never actually get tired of talking about Ubisoft’s bizarre science-fiction slash historical fiction slash naval battle simulator slash stealth sandbox slash tech demo, so here we go.

“It’s easy to forget how revolutionary Assassin’s Creed was, with its groundbreaking crowd technologies and gloriously free movement.”

I’d love to tell you that I bought a first-printing copy of the original Assassin’s Creed because I knew, with powerful games journo instincts, that I would love it and it was going to be huge. Actually, I’d been sick in bed for a couple of years, during which time I missed a lot of games, and I decided to pick it up better to prepare for possibly reviewing the sequel now that I was well enough to go back to work. Also, my brother recommended it to me. “It’s got a lot of stabbing,” he said. He really knows me well.

The first Assassin’s Creed is often written off as a tech demo for the rest of the franchise but I love it. It’s far more tense than later sequels with its hyper-vigilant guards and limited stealth options. I understand it’s not fun for everyone, but I love the challenge of having to be anonymous. I love that you can’t just faff about and expect bystanders and guards to ignore you. Later games might have made the guards better and more tenacious hunters, but it also made them far more less likely to notice you in the first place, eventually watering down the already weakened notoriety system to that it may as well not exist at all.

The very first trailer for Assassin’s Creed, shown at E3 2006.

It’s easy to forget just how revolutionary Assassin’s Creed was, with its groundbreaking crowd technologies and gloriously free movement. I even enjoyed the puppet control system, where each button represented a different part of Altair’s body, and actions varied depending on your “profile”, which many have described as unnecessarily clunky. The modern-day sections were a revelation to me; I’ve always been the sort to go off poking into corners when a game tells me to run in a straight line, and to be rewarded for faffing about instead of getting back in the Animus made me feel like the developers and I were playing together, rather than them herding me to their narrative goals.

“Now that Assassin’s Creed has been annualised it’s easy to be cynical about it. But the fact of the matter is Ubisoft keeps trying new things within the series.”

Assassin’s Creed as a series has had its ups and downs since then, but there have been plenty of ups, and despite my love for the purity of the original I found plenty to love in later games. Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood in particular is a highlight; the unusual approach to multiplayer was a revelation, and the building up of an assassin’s guild was extremely satisfying. Assassin’s Creed: Revelations started to suffer from a bit of feature glut but provided some much needed extra colour to both Altair and Desmond’s stories, as well as letting us blow stuff up with bombs, which I rarely argue with. Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag took the fun naval section from the much-criticised Assassin’s Creed 3 and turned them into a sheer joy and delight to play. And Assassin’s Creed 3 – well, uh, you could pat animals, and I really liked that. Moving on.

Now that Assassin’s Creed has been annualised it’s easy to be cynical about it. But the fact of the matter is Ubisoft keeps trying new things within the series, has been very careful about guarding its canon, and very actively monitors feedback in order to keep improving and refining, with multiple studios given a go at hitting a high note. We’re genuinely excited about Assassin’s Creed: Unity for a variety of spurious reasons rooted in wild speculation, and Assassin’s Creed: Comet, if it is a real thing, is likely to be pretty decent too, because Ubisoft is über-protective of its baby.

Click through to the second page for Final Fantasy.

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5 Comments

  1. Johnny Cullen

    Oh God, that Assassin’s Creed trailer with the UNKLE track and the Richie Ashcroft vocals. Thanks for reminding me of that. That was an bloody awesome trailer.

    #1 6 months ago
  2. salarta

    I’m kinda skipping past the Assassin’s Creed part because while I’ve played all of them up until Black Flag (and didn’t play Liberation either), I’m refraining from the franchise since Ubisoft decided to dick over Desilets.

    I’m not sure what it is that makes some people think FF6 was the last true Final Fantasy when FF9 exists. I can see why some people don’t consider FF7 or FF8 to be Final Fantasy games though; they started getting more advanced in technology compared to older games. And FF13 really isn’t a Final Fantasy game, hence why I don’t list it with FF7 and FF8. :P

    I replayed FF6 recently, and once I had it beat (I was so ludicrously overpowered by the end, I beat all forms of Kefka in 5 minutes), it was both endearing and depressing to think of how far the series has fallen and how we’ll never have games like that ever again.

    One thing I have to say about FF6 though: with the U.S. script at least, the early parts had me scratching my head at the gender dynamics. Both Terra and Celes need to be rescued by Locke, and there’s a fair amount of dialogue and events that present this idea that both women are replacement-Rachels for him to protect. Terra starts out that way, but Celes takes that role from Terra once she shows up. So, Terra and Celes aren’t quite the strong female leads I remember them being as a kid, but for their time, they were stronger than any that came before them in video games. With the exception of Marle from Chrono Trigger, if that released first; I don’t feel like checking release dates right now.

    FF12 was a pretty good entry. It wasn’t the best. In fact, I would probably say it was an average Final Fantasy; better than FFI-FFIII, worse than FFIV-FFX, but definitely worth playing and definitely deserving of the Final Fantasy name. I think the faults in it came from corporate. Anyone that played Xenoblade could see how awesome Matsuno’s work can be when allowed to do things his own way, and one of the most heavily stated facts about FF12 is that Matsuno actually wanted Basch to be the main character, to suggest that he was forced to add and emphasize Vaan and Penelo by higher-ups more interested in gimmicks and trends than in quality.

    When I first played FF12 back on release, it seemed like the atmosphere had a very weird anti-sexual vibe. I don’t mean the game refrained from including sexual content, I mean it felt like the game had a sexual flavor right below the surface that was getting repressed. I can’t really think of any reason why I got that sensation. Maybe it was the lack of romantic relationships of any sort among the characters? Since FF4, every Final Fantasy had at least one such relationship either established or implied.

    #2 6 months ago
  3. Gheritt White

    @salarta At least your upset about a real-life human being getting dicked over this time, as opposed to an entirely fictional character.

    #3 6 months ago
  4. brotherhoodofthewolf

    salarta you don’t half talk some rubbish, and don’t know that much really, for someone so vocal about Sqenix. i think you have too much time on your hands and should lay off the heavy posting a bit.

    of course FF13 is an FF game.
    ff6 came out before chrono trigger.
    matsuno didn’t work on xenoblade.
    ff12 had a sexy vibe in fran, and the script treated her relationship with balthier very nicely – with a few nods and winks that they were more than just professional partners. this is explored further in revenant wings.

    #4 6 months ago
  5. salarta

    @brotherhoodofthewolf My bad on the part about Matsuno, it shows what happens when I don’t dig extremely deep into knowing everything about a game and a couple years pass.

    FF13 isn’t a real Final Fantasy game, it’s a concept for a new IP that had the Final Fantasy name and bastardizations of its concepts slapped onto it. Even Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest and Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, both abhorred for being seen as deviating too much from what fits Final Fantasy, have more right to be called Final Fantasy than FF13.

    As I said in my post, I didn’t feel like looking up the release dates of CT compared to FF6; which came first wasn’t important to the overall message. Thanks for sharing that information, though.

    Fran was fairly non-sexual too. The clothing they wear is just clothing, she doesn’t get flirty or suggestive with anyone including Balthier, and her relationship with Balthier was more along the lines of adventure partners than anything else.

    I know a lot about Squeenix, likely far more than you.

    #5 6 months ago

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