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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

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Final Fantasy

Not everybody enjoys JRPGs and that is totally okay. If you’re keen on the freedom offered by games like The Elder Scrolls, or the focus on reactionary tactics of rogue-likes, the idea of being saddled with a cast of largely un-customisable characters and made to follow a linear path likely won’t appeal to you. Maybe you hate grinding. Maybe you hate anime aesthetics. Maybe you just can’t handle games that require you to select from menus rather than prove your manual dexterity with analog sticks.

“Japan produces a wealth of rich, affective narratives; colourful worlds; and even more colourful characters, often wrapped up in complicated combat systems.”

For everyone else, Japan produces a wealth of rich, affective narratives; colourful worlds; and even more colourful characters, often wrapped up in combat systems more complicated than the terrible proliferation of “RPG mechanics” into every genre would have you believe. Several franchises have stood the test of time and held onto players’ hearts – Secret of Mana, Dragon Quest and Suikoden, to barely scratch the surface – but Final Fantasy is the titan of the lot, the most recognised and recognisable.

Everybody has their favourite Final Fantasy. Final Fantasy 7 was the one that blew the series into mainstream gaming, with its 3D graphics and non-traditional aesthetic perfectly timed to take advantage of the PSOne generation’s desire for non-nerdy, grown-up gaming. You’ll still here fans swear black and blue that the messy, rushed plot is a work of genius, and that the death of Aerith (spoilers? Oh my god, go home) was an incredibly moving moment at the heart of the entire game and not something Hironobu Sakaguchi came up with almost at the last minute. I’m teasing you a bit – I love it, and Sephiroth remains one of my favourite villains of all time. The first day I got it, I played for so long that when I finally went to bed the blue menu screen popped up behind my eyelids when I closed them, and my entire party had 255 in every stat thanks to hundreds of hours of morphing in the sunken submarine.

Final Fantasy 15 is the future of the series – but with Final Fantasy 7 character designer Tetsuya Nomura at the helm, it’s also a welcome return to the franchise’s past.

For those who disdain Final Fantasy 7, Final Fantasy 6 remains the last “true” Final Fantasy. Strong female leads, an opera scene as beautiful as the limitations of 16-bit consoles allowed, a cast of diverse, troubled characters, and a story in which the world actually suffered apocalypse – now that’s a game, you have to admit.

My heart belongs to Final Fantasy 8, a much sleeker effort than Final Fantasy 7 which lost some series fans with its broken magic system and confused themes, set in a bizarre universe where school children fight wars, monsters bleed from the moon and buildings float about. I have more than a little fondness for Final Fantasy 9, Sakaguchi’s last personally-led project, with its deliberately traditional stylings and beautifully memorable touches – Dagger’s emotional crisis is a real highlight.

“The franchise’s greatest strength is its insistence on constant evolution and re-evaluation, as Square Enix explores the far-reaches of the RPG space.”

Final Fantasy 10 we’ve discussed in detail recently, so I won’t repeat myself, but Final Fantasy 12 needs a champion. Its troubled development is well-documented, with major personnel changes and last minute decisions resulting in a product arguably less strong than previous entries. The gambit system is particularly interesting, though, and much more flexible and satisfying than the paradigms that followed in Final Fantasy 13 – itself an interesting and much-maligned game, although its sequels can piss right off.

That’s not even touching on the five early games, the MMOs or the plethora of spin-offs that have turned up, especially in recent years. Final Fantasy fans sometimes complain that Square Enix has lost sight of what made the franchise great, and is flailing around attaching the name to anything it can find, whether it deserves it or not – but that fails to account for the franchise’s greatest strength, which is its insistence on constant evolution and re-evaluation, as Square Enix explores the far-reaches of the RPG space.

You can love things and still have criticisms for them, and the perhaps thousands of hours I’ve invested in Final Fantasy games over the years don’t prevent me from finding faults with the franchise. But there’s simply no denying its place in the canon of the industry’s greatest properties. The upcoming Final Fantasy 15 has made the jump to next-gen, and we can’t wait to see what Square Enix does with the power at its disposal.

Share your memories of Assassin’s Creed and Final Fantasy below. We’d also love to hear which franchises have meant the most to you over the years.

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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 4 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 4 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 4 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 4 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 4 months ago

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