With the release of FFXIII, I thought it was fitting that I wrote something about Final Fantasy. This is the series that I love since way back when FF7 hits the PS1. Before you ask, why FF7? Sorry, but the FF installments on the NES, never clicked with me. As for the SNES releases, I never had one, I had a PC back then. So it's always been PC/PS for me with the addition of the PSP handheld as my go-to gaming machines. I only had a chance to visit some of the earlier games through later ports.
I know alot have been said concerning FFXIII by various previews and reviews, some of them good, some of them bad. Like I've written before in a previous, FFXIII is going to polarize, both fans and critics alike, but we will not go there. Suffice to say, that there are several design decisions on FFXIII that I didn't like and some that I think that could definitely stand improvement.
Anyway this post, is about how I will envision the next main-entry Final Fantasy which is XV, if I were in the helm, irregardless of how many DVDs or Blu-rays I have to use. Think of it as my "Dream Version" of what a next-gen Final Fantasy is.
1. Party Group-
My Final Fantasy will have 4 members on the Main Group, instead of 3. While the total no. of characters would be increased to 8 instead of 6. All other members that are left, are in the Reinforcement Group.
XIII will have an overworld very much like the other FFs, but it will have a next-gen twist. This is similar to the ones you see in most FF game, where you control and see only the party leader, but instead of Random Battles, you will be seeing monsters roaming the field, and depending if you have the right item or Party Skill equipped you will see them encased in an Awareness circle color-coded along with an arrow denoting their heading. The Awareness circle is like a radar, if you don't want to engage the enemy, then you must avoid it. Strong enemies will be Red. Enemies at the same level as you will be Blue. Green enemies will be weaker than you. Yellow enemies will be extremely weak, engaging them will just give you experience and whatever items they drop without even going to a Battle Screen. Enemies that are way more powerful than you, cannot be seen, this one will be akin to a Random Battle. To combat this, there will be a party item and a Party Skill that will warn you when one is near, or you could just try to escape from battle. There will also be Hazards on the overworld map. EX: Fiery places, and if you want to explore it, you're Party Leader must have a Fire-resistant Trait.
3. Party Skills and Character Traits-
These are skills and traits that stack depending on what characters comprises your party. Let's say 1 character has a Trait called Myth Killer-giver his party damage bonus when attacking Monsters that are more powerful than you, and her Party Skill is Blitz-All enemies are -5% health if you caught them off-guard. While another has a Trait called Treasure Hunter-giving a huge plus to item drops and increasing the rarity value, and his Party Skill is Sneak Foot- this will lower the enemy's Awareness Circle, giving you a better chance to flank it. Mixing and matching your party members will be the key to solving situations and progressing in the game.
4. Towns, NPCs, Shops:
Yep, they're going to be included. Having none of this in a JRPG game, IMO makes it pretty lifeless. NPC interactions would be spiced up too. For the most part are rote by nature. In my version of FF, you can cajole, tease, threaten, queston, etc. the many NPCs you meet. And depending on you're approach, you can learn many secrets in the game, have store discounts, receive cool items etc. the many NPCs you meet. Not only that each one would have a different attitude towards you, depending on which Party Leader you're using. So if a particular NPC is taciturn, try using a more cheerful character as your Party Leader. After each chapter is finish, the game will show a short montage, showcasing what befalls the NPCs that you meet.
EX: A NPC you save on Chapter 2 is shown dying at the end of Chapter 8, after an upheaval you've cause. This is something I want FF to have, connection to the world at large through attachment and reflection.
FF games seems to have either obvious puzzles or something obtuse. Most of the time, it's too few and optional. I want my FFXIII to have "Organic" puzzles. Puzzles that are within the realm of the game's concept that both the implementation and the solution feels natural.
6. Airship/Other Mode of Transportation-
You can customize your Airship, with rooms, decors and weapons. Just like in FFVII, you can also breed a Chocobo for racing or to be used as a mode of transportation in the overworld.
Aside from the obvious Chocobo Racing, and other mini-games, there will be an Card Battling similar to FFVIII and FFIX. There will be an Arena too, where you can battle for prizes in different modes either with your group or solo or partnered with your Eidolon. There will also be Airship Battles and Racing.
Let's face it, as soon as FF made its way to 3D, it brought with it a ton of cutscenes. Some people don't like it, while others swore that it is the hallmark of what makes Final Fantasy, well Final Fantasy. To improve on this, my FFXIII, will have 2 kinds of cutscenes:
A.) Cutscenes ala MGS4:
where you can pan the camera, and interact with it, open up a small window so you could mess around with your character, or play around with a mini-game with a moogle or two. There will be a skip button for this type of cutscene, as well as for summons and big attacks.
B.) Cutscenes ala Uncharted 2:
You can control you characters during this time, it will be shown in a different and more dramatic perspective.
There are some characters in Final Fantasy that p1ssed me off. Take Snow from FFXIII as an example. Someone like him, would need to take sessions in psychotheraphy, and undergo a personality change, before he can be admitted in my Final Fantasy. I'd rather have a brooding silent-emo character than a overbearing, preachy one that constantly grates in my ears. Characters in my FF, are definitely more mature than the norm and not given to melodramas like the ones that seems to afflict every FF entry.
10. Original Songs Only-
If a song was not made with Final Fantasy in mind, then screw it. It would not be part of my game in any form, not even as a commercial to help promote it.
My FF summon system, would have the Eidolon replacing the character instead of it replacing your other party members. So in this, you'll be controlling the Eidolon instead of a normal character. Naturally, he would have a different set of skills. In that way, you can can have upto 4 Eidolons on the field, if you wanted to, granted all of the summon meter is filled up. After the meter has elapsed, the Eidolon would go into Gestalt mode, this time with the Character riding the Eidolon in its shifted form, and depending on how well you do you can unleash a powerful UNION ATTACK
UNION ATTACK-The most powerful attack posible by your character and the Eidolon.
EX: OMNI FLARE: In this one will use Cloud as an example. Cloud riding on top of Ultima Bahamut (Yep, a new one LOL) will perform his Omni Slash while Ultima Bahamut blasts out his Ultima Flare, together they destroy the earth into smithereens, in a maelstrom of fury and crescendo. Yeah, it's that bad azz!!! If you time it right, you can have one UNION ATTACK after another, each one as over-the-top as the other, just the way I like it in my FF games.
12. BATTLE SYSTEM-
I would keep most of the things in FFXIII like the Optimas for my Final Fantasy, but there are some that I would improve, some I would change and some I would add.
A.) Customizable Attacks- <br>On the course of the game, you're characters will learn different types of attacks which you can group into a set of strings. Though you can have any number of Attack Strings saved and named, the maximum Attack Set for each character can equip at one time is 4 Strings with 4 Attacks each. Each string can hold upto 4 attacks
EX: One character's 1st Attack String emphasizes speed with some debilitating properties like paralyze, so that you can get the first attack in, while giving you the chance to paralyze the enemy. 2nd Attack String, would emphasize on its heft and ability to interrupt an enemy's attack. 3rd Attack String, would prioritize combo damage, while the 4th would be for enemies with Strong Defense. Mixing this up, would be the key to victory.
B.) Contextual Animations and Damage Modelling-
Character Attack animations would differ, depending on the enemy you face. Enemies and characters would show damage depending on the area they got hit. There would also be gore, not much, but enough to convey.
C.) ENVIRONMENT and PHYSICS-
One thing I hated about FF, is that battles are so far removed from the environments you're in. If you're battling around a swampy area, you're character would get bog down if he happens to fall on it. There are also environmental hazards and some battles would have you fixing a machine, avoiding traps, etc. while you're being attack. Physics would also affect battles, a particularly powerful attack may leave you daze after being slammed on a rock. Likewise you can also use the environment and the things in it, to your advantage, like cutting a nearby tree so that it would fall into an enemy etc.
D.) REINFORCEMENT ASSISTS-
This works just like the assist on fighting games such as Marvel vs. Capcom and Tatsunoko vs. Capcom. Your party members can only equip 2 assists at a time. Some assists could be for attacking, healing, defending etc. Each of your Main Group party members would be paired with one Reinforcement Group member. Your main group would have an additional 2-tier gauge for Reinforcement Assists. Using this with only 1 tier filled will have a paired member from the Reinforcement group perform a chosen Assist. Using 2, will not ony have the Reinforcement member perform an Assist, but he/she would switch with the character with the Main Group. You cannot switch incapacitated Main Group party members, you can only do that if a character from the Reinforcement Group, possesses a Stalwart Heart Trait which he would do so after performing an Assist automatically, regardless if he is the paired member or has his gauge filled. You could also equip the Vanguard Party Skill, this one would switch all your Main Group members with their Reinforcement counterpart. You cannot perform an assist or switch, if you're caught in a pincer attack. During this, you can toggle between the 2 groups, while the AI would handle the ones you're not controlling.
E.) BATTLES ARE IN REAL TIME-
Yep, no transition to battle screens. I know alot of people hated FFXII's battle system, so before you bemoan this, try wrapping your head on my concept first. As I explained before during my Overworld preview, enemies on the normal screen moves and behave, very much like monsters from Monster Hunter, with the exception that they have AWARENESS CIRCLE. Once you enter an enemy's Awareness Circle, battle is initiated, the Awareness Circle will now turn into a Battle Circle. So it is important to try and flank you're enemy, or attack him from behind, as this will give you a free attack, since he has to try and reorient himself first. Killing monsters should be done efficiently and as quickly as possible, because the longer and more heated up the battle is, the more the Battle Circle will expand, this will attract more enemies to converge in your area, thereby overwhelming you, since Pincer Attacks would be a common occurrence. On the other hand, it would give you large bonuses in crystal points, more than the sum if you battle them separately, and rare item drops as well. In theory, you could actually fight all the monsters in 1 area, in a single battle, to exploit the bonuses it offered, but it will be very hard.
E.) No Healing after Battle/No Game Over Screen If Your Party Leader Dies-
Yep, if you suffer an ailment or wounds during a battle, you have to use magic or an item to cure it. You can now use, phoenix down on your Party Leader, to resurrect him.
F.) Battle Movements/Mid-Battle Member Switch-
Unlike FFXIII now, my version will allow you to switch which, character you want to control mid-battle. You can start an attack with one character then combo with another. You can also move during battle, to better blind-side your enemy, if he is focusing on one of your Main Group member, but be forewarned, moving might bring you to another enemy's awareness circle, forcing you to do battle an enemy while your having problem with your first one.
G.) Battle Theme-
Last is FF's Memorable End Battle Theme, would be in the game, and would play after a battle is successfully won. I'm actually curious, as to why this one is omitted. It really boggles the mind.
NOTE 1: SE, if you're reading this and want to make a real FF, CALL ME!
NOTE 2: To those of you, who were patient enough to read this, I would love to read your thoughts on this.