Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Final Fantasy Isn't Dead. It's Tropes Are.

Wired is getting so much backlash from the article they posted regarding Final Fantasy being dead. Or on the brink of death. New images of FF13-3, aka Lightning Returns, and the introduction of a bustier heroine with boob physics, well a lot of us flipped a table. (And then the next day they showed Lightning in Yuna’s FF10 yukata as an alternate outfit just to screw with our heads some more.) 

As a Final Fantasy fan and a feminist, I do think the change to Lightning is appalling and disrespectful not only to FF13 but to the franchise as a whole. What made FF stand out from so many other games on the market were the strong female characters that didn’t prance around in their underwear and act helpless, ditzy, or were purely there for the male gaze. Tifa from FF7 may have been busty, but she was covered. Even her mini-skirt didn’t allow for panty shots. And she was still one of the best characters overall when it came to battles with her brand of Limit Breaks being able to cross all types of monsters (fire, water, earth, it didn’t matter, Tifa could handle it). The only thing skimpier I can think of prior to FF13-3 would be Leila from FF2. Not many people have played this game in the state or know of this character so I’ll lay it out for you. Leila is a sky pirate captain who wears a bikini top, a skort, and a head scarf that goes on for days. She is also incredibly strong willed and focused. She doesn’t allow herself to succumb to the pressures of the world around her to be a prissy woman who has to find a husband. She defy’s those stereotypes and does things her way. And while yes, she does want love, she doesn’t fall into the damsel in distress mode where she falls all over herself just to get a man. Nor does she wait on fate to do it for her. If she likes someone, she’ll march up to them and tell them so.

Lightning in 13 and 13-2 did wear a skirt and had some short shorts with her armor, but she still carried herself in a manner that we respected. But the teaser image SquareEnix released of her in her new outfit, hand on the hip, butt up, chest out (we call it the “hoe pose” in photography) her entire demeanor has completely changed. No longer this hardened warrior, she has been reduced to eye candy. This isn’t a rant against fanservice. I can enjoy boobs and butt shots/jokes as much as anyone else when it’s done in an appropriate manner. But in Final Fantasy it feels as though everything we loved about the franchise is being taken away. “Fanservice” for an FF game can be appropriately seen in the Final Fantasy 14 reboot. The game is bringing in elements of past FF products, such as armor, magitek, and memorable phrases, all to pay homage to the series that bears it’s name and to give fans a “thank you” for sticking with them. FF14 has developed into a fans game with fanservice of its own kind. Final Fantasy never needed to stoop to boob physics to get our attention.

Unfortunately that is what it’s becoming. What I hate about all of this is that it’s continuing to happen: i.e. the focus is on the women as an object and not as a character. No one at SE stood up and said “Hey guys. There’s this huge movement going on with people back-lashing at developers for not creating strong female characters. Maybe we shouldn’t slut-up Lightning.” But they did and they spent an entire Q&A session discussing it because people wanted to know about the jiggle physics. It’s disgusting and appalling.

I don’t believe Final Fantasy is dead. The franchise is going to continue for years to come, possibly decades. But what is fading is the nostalgia factor. The series is moving away from are the tropes that made the series what it is. Final Fantasy is adapting to today’s culture and this need to be “more Western.” I know a number of people look to FF9 and FF10 as the last “true” Final Fantasy titles. I’ll still argue that FF13 is part of the series and is the last “true” FF game that we have seen to date (FF14 hasn’t "technically" release yet). It exhibits a lot of aspects, such as character development, persistence of vision, etc. that we want from an FF game, while still propelling the series forward with innovation (not in gameplay or graphics, but in story telling as well). What we’re seeing with 13-3 and 15 is that the series is no longer sticking to its guns. We’re finding ourselves longing for a past (have you seen how well the FF old-school releases on PSN have been doing?) that is starting to fade out. What is dying is the old Final Fantasy. The series itself is going to continue. But we also change as gamers as we grow older. Our tastes and styles evolve over time. Some people love the direction FF13-3 and 15 are going. Some of us don’t. Maybe it’s time for us to move on to new games, new series, new franchises to find our happy place.

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