Final Fantasy, as a series, hasn’t changed much over the years. It is a collection of Japanese-RPG’s, without the often incredibly complex and irritating mechanics contained in them. It has, almost certainly, been aimed towards a western audience, over the years, whereas many other such titles have not even left Japan.
And, again, it is a series that I used to love, before it became a disappointing shadow of all that I thought it once was. There have been several amazing games from this series, despite the often predictability of certain aspects of the narrative, the gameplay which has barely changed in years and, when the developers did change said gameplay, they changed it for the worse, and the sheer length of the games made the constant grinding less of a pleasure and more like a torturous adventure to see how far you could stretch your patience.
Of course, one of the things that Final Fantasy, as a whole, have typically done well, are creating iconic characters, who stick in the mind long after you’ve moved on to another title. What person, who thinks to call themselves a Gamer, doesn’t know, at least, Cloud or Sephiroth, Aeris or Tifa?
Whether these are simply another example of characters being exposed to us for so long that we believe they are well-written, like Master Chief, or are simply a remnant of the ever-looming threat of nostalgia, from which most Gamers suffer, or, even more simply, are actually varied and interesting enough to be worthy of remaining in the minds of those who followed their journey, it is truly difficult to say.
The main problem with writing anything on a game which can, even ironically, be called ‘Retro’, is particularly difficult when it is a game you played yourself which, in a way, makes a mockery of my whole shtick. I imagine, if I played FFVII now, that it would not have such a lasting effect on me as it did when I was a child, that those characters would not sink their teeth into my soul and refuse to loosen their jaws.
But, ignoring my doubts, when the title went on sale on Steam, I felt compelled to dive on the opportunity. I mean, I still have the game (two copies actually, from when one of the four disks broke) on the Playstation 1, but now I can play it between lectures. Obviously, this isn’t a good idea. To start with, it has that delightful (and increasingly archaic) feature where you could only save your progress at save points which if you’ve ever played a game like that, plays absolute hell with portability.
Secondly, it is far too long. I’ll happily lug my laptop around to play the game, but when I can only play a few minutes here and there, even playing save point to save point, it is going to take me weeks to make a sizeable dent in the narrative! I have yet to even reach the point where I would have to swap disks on the original version, and I have been playing it for a fair amount of time this past week, (when I wasn’t home on GTA that is).
This week, I actually missed a lecture in my desperate search for a save point, swearing to myself that I remembered one being just around this next corner. No, wait, I meant the next one. Whoops, wrong again, maybe the next one? And before I knew it half an hour had passed and I was still sat in the Library.
All in all, Final Fantasy has had great commercial success but, in my eyes, VII was the peaking moments of the franchise. The earlier games were great, and even FF IX would rank amongst my top-hundred, but since then the series has stagnated, becoming either convoluted and unnecessary, more of a cinematic experience than a game (I’m looking at YOU XII!), or simply, like the spin-off of X, X-II, nothing more than a piece of fan service.