Hi guys. I am a huge Final Fantasy fan, but I wouldn't say I am as nuts about the franchise as some people. Sure, I have a cool avatar, but I can't give you the most in depth information on Square like other members of this site. I can't list all the game designers, composers etc included in the Final Fantasy franchise. What I am sure of is that I love the games and that is what matters most. In this blog I will be discussing why the Xbox 360 is not to blame for Final Fantasy 13 playing the way it does. I am making the argument that Final Fantasy 13 is down to Square's ideas evolving and how they have fell from grace. Hopefully you will continue to read on and realise that I have made quite a compelling argument that is backed up by factual evidence. Have fun.
When talking about the decline of one of the internet's beloved franchise's, it is easy to see why people are quick to blame everyone but the true culprit, and it is no secret that the Xbox 360 was branded by fans as the reason Final Fantasy 13 gave us a sub par performance from what we have come to expect from the franchise. At the time, Final Fantasy's fall from grace wasn't an easy thing to come to terms with, but to be quite honest... I just don't think Square Enix had it in them anymore. I think it is highly unlikely that Final Fantasy's switch to multi platform hindered the game in any way and I am going to explain my reasons why.
We are going to have to go back in time around a decade. Squaresoft had released Final Fantasy X to the delight of both critics and fans alike. For the first time and on new hardware it seems Final Fantasy was ready to break away from the usual structure of previous games and try something new. Whilst Final Fantasy games have always been linear in a sense, it seems this was the first game to really put you in corridor like pathways. This game still managed to give you a great sense of freedom and exploration within these corridor's I can only assume that this was turning point for the franchise and many people would agree with me. What they also introduced was party member switching mid battle and a new levelling system where you had access to skills on a grid and was able to pick and choose abilities and passive skills to upgrade. The point I am trying to make out of all this is that a lot of the fans griped about Final Fantasy 13 actually originated with Final Fantasy 10. Changing the party mid battle to use a character with specific skills can be similar to paradigm shifting (a bit far fetched I know, but this seemed to evolve into the job shifting of FFX-2 which resembles paradigm shifting), The sphere grid has a lot in common with the crystarium system and the corridor pathways are present in Final Fantasy 13. Final Fantasy 13 didn't introduce these new mechanics, it simply took old mechanics and dumbed them down. I think it is safe to say that Final Fantasy was heading down this road way before Final Fantasy 13 was released.
Now, in-between Final Fantasy 10 and 13 we saw Squaresoft become Square Enix. During this time we saw some interesting design choices in all forms of media that would eventually shape Final Fantasy 13. Final Fantasy X-2 was the first time a direct sequel was made to a Final Fantasy game and labelled as a game in the main series. Also, the combat was much more fast paced and had a cinematic style to it than before with the ability to chain attacks. Final Fantasy Advent Children was also released and I see a lot of people go mad for this movie and personally I think it was garbage. However, the movie did have over the top action. It is not hard to see that there is a possibility for it to be included in a game. Final Fantasy 12 was totally forgettable to me (but a main point for the franchise is the fights are not random) and I wouldn't even mention Final Fantasy 11 if it wasn't for one important thing. A numbered Final Fantasy game was actually available for the X-box 360. I hate the fact a numbered Final Fantasy is an MMO as much as the next fan, but we just have to accept the fact it is. Not only that, but the title is available on Xbox 360.
Now for those of you who are keeping count I think it is fair to see this natural evolution of the franchise. For those who are not keeping count I will now build on my points and drive my theory as to why Final Fantasy 13 sucks home. Many would agree that Square Enix began disappointing and ignoring us before Final Fantasy 13. Final Fantasy 11 being an MMO, Final Fantasy 12 was loved by some and hated by others, Final Fantasy X-2 was a bit weird and not really the sequel we wanted. To nail the points in my previous paragraphs I have compiled a list of the features and trends in the franchise which would ultimately (to an extent) make their way in to Final Fantasy 13.
.Corridor type environments are Seen in Final Fantasy 13
.Sphere Grid (Crystarium)
.A FF title is available on 360 (FF11)
.Square becoming much more focused on action (Advent Children, Final fantasy X-2)
.Making switches mid fight (character and job) ultimately became Paradigm's
.No random encounters
.Final Fantasy X had a sequel. Final Fantasy 13 would expand on this concept with the mess that is the Fabula Nova Crystallis and later on FF13 got its own true sequel anyway.
And of course I have yet to point out the lack of a world map and the change in art style. I can't tell you how stupid it is to think that the 360 was the reason that FF13 doesn't have a world map. A traditional world map hasn't been seen in over a decade and it is obvious that’s Square have become more focused on visuals and wouldn't want to compromise how the game looked in order to include a world map.
Now that I have listed features that evolved to make up a bunch of Final Fantasy 13's gameplay and we can probably all agree that Square started declining not long after Final Fantasy X, is it that hard to believe that Final Fantasy 13 turned out the way it did? Regardless of if it was a Sony exclusive or a multi-plat I think it is pretty safe to say in hindsight that it is entirely possible and likely that this is more or less the game we were going to receive regardless. For the people who still don't see past all the evidence I just listed, I have one more ace in the deck. The official trailer for Final Fantasy 13 (when it was a PS3 exclusive)
Here we can clearly see that we ended up with a very similar game that was shown to us back in the day when this title was believed to be PS3 only. Enemy and art design resemble the final product. That is evident through the whole trailer. The beginning of the trailer is pretty much the start of Final Fantasy 13 in the train. Now, my next point may have been a change or it was originally shown as a concept as to how fights may look (similar to the Killzone 2 original trailer), but we see at 23 seconds in to the video that Lightning is fighting in a very fast paced fashion with attacks lined up just like the final version of the game. Even some of the animations are included in the Final Version. It seems that whilst not exactly the same, the final version of Final Fantasy 13 retains this battle system. Characters move about, queue up attacks and the user interface looks spot on. We just didn't see any party action for the trailer. Finally, another point I would like to make. At 40 seconds in to the trailer you see the start of a very long path. It is very much reminiscent of the corridor style environments of Final Fantasy X. Remember that this trailer was shown when Final Fantasy was in development as a PS3 only game. The path carries on for quite some time, includes a gap that looks jumpable (which are seen in the final version) and Lightning's overall look and animation fall in line with what we seen in the finished product. A big factor for this game was Sony fans believed Final Fantasy 13 couldn't run on 360. Fanboy arguments aside I think it is safe to say the 360 is more than capable of running the graphics in the trailer. I can see why people may have thought it would be impossible at first, but looking back at the situation I really underestimated the 360.
Now, we can sit here and debate weather or not the fact Final Fantasy 13 going multi-plat ruined the game or not, but I hope that you at least find all the evidence I have found convinces you that there is a chance that this is the actual game Square wanted to make. I am disappointed that one of my all time greatest franchises has been ruined, but the last thing we should do is engage in the fanboy wars and point the blame at places it doesn't belong. Even if Square Enix gimped FF13 because of the 360, isn't that still ultimately Square Enix's fault?
Ultimately, I believe that what we are left with is a game that was not gimped to be playable on a certain console, but a game that expanded on its previous features and trends in the wrong way and was developed by a team that is basically just a shadow of its former self. I see no reason as to why this game was planned to play any different when it was a PS3 exclusive. The fault should be solely placed at Square Enix for this game.
Thank you for reading this blog and I hope you enjoyed what you have seen. Obviously the decline of this franchise has disappointed many. You may not agree with me, but I don't have a problem with people who think differently. If you don't agree with me then please post your opinions below and we can engage in discussion. If you are going to be insultive, do me a favour and leave because I will not feed any troll and don't want this blog to be a place to congregate and argue. Please leave fanboyism at the door. Don't forget that many 360 owners are potentially long time fans of the franchise and are just as upset as the rest of us that Final Fantasy has turned out the way it has.