I make no secret of my love of the Final Fantasy series. As far as RPG games go, it is one of the best series I’ve played. Some stand out more than others, with VII and VIII being my favourite titles despite their age. Part of it is nostalgia but it is more that even now, with games two generations later, they are still fun and challenging to play. The story in each is also a lot more involved and easier for me to get into than some of the other titles in the series. Like many fans, I’m hopeful for a remake of FFVII but nothing definitive has been confirmed. The closest thing I remember seeing was that it would possibly happen if a current collection of Final Fantasy could hit the same numbers and popularity as VII. Since we are still dealing with Final Fantasy XIII, and will be for some time, I thought I’d take a look at what has come from this instalment so far, and what is yet to come.
Final Fantasy XIII looked, as you may expect, exceptional. The detail and visual aspects of the game are brilliant, delivering an immersive experience into a completely new world. The progress that has been made since FFVII’s (now very basic) graphics is a big factor to the success of the series. Unfortunately, for me, that’s the only truly enjoyable thing I can say about the first title in XIII’s universe.
One of the things I have always loved about the Final Fantasy series is the freedom to wander away from the story and explore, complete quests and mini-games. This wasn’t an option in XIII until much later in the game, and while there were things to do later on, there was a lot of grinding to do if you wanted to have a chance of being successful before completing the story. In this way, it was reminiscent of X. I also was not a fan of controlling only one character, although this has been happening slowly since XII. The AI did not do what I wanted it to do most of the time, and it took a lot of effort for me to stick it through and complete the game.
The sequel was a lot better. Final Fantasy XIII-2’s visual quality was still there, if not vastly improved. It utilised the style of the XIII universe and kept it consistent while still looking fantastic. Unfortunately, you still had control of only one character and there were only two playable characters at all! The third member of your party is a monster that you can switch in and out of depending on the battle and your opponent. It gave a little more control of your paradigms but still had you focus on one character.
The biggest improvement was the freedom of the game. Rather than taking place in world at one time, there are various locations to explore in different time periods. Your actions in one can affect another and at times, if you fail or make the wrong choice, you will have to reset that location and do it again. You can also visit different places in the order you want, however these locations are small and linear in themselves. It is an improvement but still lacking in the complete freedom I loved from the earlier games.
Most characters return at some point but your search to find Lightning is the theme of the game. The Coliseum has downloadable enemies to keep you advancing and unlocking new monsters and items for your party. Grinding still plays an important role in this game if you want to go off in your own direction.
The third title for the XIII universe is Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII. If you haven’t, take a look at the official website for a few bits of interesting information. One piece says Lightning is THE playable character. Does this mean she is alone throughout the whole game? No party? That would make sense with an evolved combat system in keeping with what we’ve seen so far. With her being in the title, we know she’s important but I like choosing my characters, not being forced to one. This game is not a sequel to the other two games. Its set 300 years in the future and we’ve been told there are real world time elements to come, and more rumours about social media links. This is interesting if it’s true but after looking at the short trailer, I’m left thinking this is Final Fantasy meets Assassin’s Creed. Am I excited by this? Not particularly, but it could be decent. Dirge of Cerberus: Final Fantasy VII wasn’t a bad game, but limited in what they did with it. Tomb Raider meets Final Fantasy in an uninspiring idea. To see the trailer, click here.
Finally I come to Final Fantasy Versus XIII. I have been interested in this game for a few years now. When I learned of its involved in the XIII universe before playing XIII, I wasn’t overly bothered. My disinterest continued even after playing XIII until I came across some information saying that while it would follow the XIII mythos, it was not going to be like XIII. This gave me hope.
The game has fallen into dispute about what is happening, with very few official announcements being released other than the game “still being in development.” That’s great and all, but six years on, I’d like a bit more, right? There are rumours that resources have been folded into another project, and we don’t know if that’s staff, game material or what. With the lack of announcements, it is entirely possible the game will fade into nothing, but I think it’s more likely to appear in another series if not in the XIII universe.
All the talk of something new and the few details we’ve seen lead me to believe the game will be something new, regardless of what series it comes with. This could be a strange marketing plan that will come to fruition somewhere in the future. All I know is, besides a possible VII remake and the Kingdom Hearts HD Collection, Versus is a game that I really want to see finished and play.