Monday, October 18, 2010

Can We Really Stop Bashing Final Fantasy XIII?

We get it. There were a number of Western gamers that didn't like FF13. That didn't stop the game from selling 5 million copies within the first 2 months of it's release. Nor did it stop it from selling a million copies in it's first week of release in the U.S. And all of those reviews? Yeah a lot of them gave FF13 some of the best ratings of any Final Fantasy game.

This isn't a Final Fantasy fan raging. Rather, I'm trying to understand why there are so many people against 13 when the numbers and the reviews don't support them. I'd get it if all of the U.S. gaming magazines hated it. But almost every one of them gave FF13 a fantastic score. Clearly there is a good market in the U.S. for JRPG's.

In a recent interview with Game Developer, Motomu Toriyama and Akihiko Maeda knew that there would be conflicting opinions with the Western gaming market growing, and how that would work with Final Fantasy 13. While they had tested the game with a Western market, it was too late to make fundamental changes to the game to appeal to specific Western tastes. So, scrap a game that has taken years to make to appeal to a small niche, or stick with it? I vote for the latter.

I know that people have been complaining about how linear FF13 is. That it takes away from the traditional town settings and game play that is traditional to Final Fantasy. I've argued before that in many ways, FF13 is a Final Fantasy game. You need the linearity to keep the story in check. If you didn't have the linearity for the first 10 chapters, you wouldn't know what the hell was going on. Also, a big portion of the story is that the characters are trying to not get caught. They are enemies of the planet. They need to avoid being around others. Guess what happens when they enter a town in the 6th and 7th chapters? They get caught by an army. So of course it makes sense that the group wouldn't be jumping from town to town. That's a part of the story!

Yes FF13 isn't a Western game. But it wasn't meant to be. As the series evolves, it will take into account North American and European tastes and integrate them. Final Fantasy started as a JRPG, and that's what it does best. And there's nothing wrong with sticking to your guns with a series. Just look at Dragon Quest. Nine games and it's still plugging away at the same formula. The only thing that changes in DQ are names and some faces. But it's the same character designs, same situations, same monsters, and it still sells like crazy. (Sometimes keeping things the same and not jacking up the formula isn't a bad thing.) And if we're going to start throwing things at 13, what about 10, or 7? Those completely strayed away from the original Final Fantasy path and no one seemed to complain about those. There are a lot of moments in 10 where you were stuck on one path, following one road. It's very easy to see FF10 as a linear game. People didn't complain about it then, excluding some of the voice acting.

I think we all need to step back, re-evaluate the JRPG genre and keep an open mind. Final Fantasy is the godfather of RPG's and JRPG's. Without it, we wouldn't have the gaming environment that we have today. If there is anything that FF does well it's taking risks. SE is aware that they need to allow for the series to grow if it is going to survive. And I believe that the next iteration of Final Fantasy will take Western tastes into consideration. It's ok to look at a game from one perspective. But to be a good analyst, you need to look at the item from all viewpoints. Is Final Fantasy XIII a good Western RPG? No because it wasn't made as a Western RPG. If Final Fantasy XIII a good Japanese RPG? Big yes on all accounts.

I promise not to have anymore SE oriented posts for the next few days. Seeing the article on Kotaku riled me up. Unless super incredibly major happens. >.>

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