Since I'm a huge RPG fan, most people are surprised when they find out that I've never beaten a single Final Fantasy game. It's nothing against Sony or SquareEnix or anything, but there's something about the games where no matter how hard I try to like them, I just don't get pulled into the story or care about any of the characters. After playing Bioware's incredible games, it's hard for any other game to even come close to how much I love things like "Star Wars: KotOR" or "Mass Effect."
I've tried to like the games. I really have. I'm not usually one to do something because everyone else does, but hey, some things are popular for a reason. And practically everyone I know raves about them. But I just can't get into them. I may not have beaten any of them, but I've played 3-5 hours of most, a little more than that on others, and I've had all the stories summarized to me, hoping that if I like the story enough, maybe I can keep playing.
Maybe it’s the female characters that get to me – how so many of them are totally flat characters without much of a personality, running around in a bra and a skirt the size of a belt. It seems like SquareEnix is just catering to boys who prefer their girls to be the pixel variety. So I try to just play the games, while attempting to shut down that part of my brain that protests to so many of the Final Fantasy girls either being pathetic (Aeris, Garnet, Ashe) or hardasses with big boobs (Tifa, Paine, Rikku).
But nope. It's still no good. And for a while, I asked myself, "why is it that you are such a rebel and don't like these supposedly awesome games? XIII is even going to have a female main character who might not be so annoying! Keep trying to get into the games and maybe they will someday not disappoint you!"
After watching the trailers for Final Fantasy XIII and XIV Online, both shown at E3 this year during Sony's press conference, I think I know the reason I just can’t play them.
Let me summarize the story of every game (with pictures!):
An evil government is doing something shifty, and only a ragtag group of adventurers can stop them.
The government has huge armies
and badasses, often with silver hair, working for them,
plus access to huge intimidating machines
and flying ships.
The heroes consist of either a wussy or badass princess (or princess-y girl),
a comic relief guy who acts like an idiot,
a rugged manly guy,
an overly-hardass guy,
a surprisingly-powerful or skillful child,
and girls in revealing outfits.
After hours of skipping merrily through very pretty areas,
the heroes are able to overcome the evil government by using their Teamwork!,
ridiculous angst and supreme pouting skills,
and their ability to stand in straight lines 10 feet from the enemy.
I used pictures from many of the games to emphasize my point that they are all the same freakin game. Maybe they're called FINAL Fantasy because there is only ONE "fantasy" left, so they keep telling its story over, and over, and over, and over...
Honestly I don't get the appeal. And I don't mean to hate on all the people I know who love these games (hi guys! sorry I'm bashing Sony again!), but what is the deal with repurchasing and replaying the same game over and over?
The story just always seems so, flat. As I described above, it seems to me like the same thing being told repeatedly, with a few changes to settings or characters thrown in every time to "spice things up." Why should I bother with this evil government? I don't know these characters. They don't have personalities that interest me or make me care about their plight. Sony seems to think that pretty graphics will distract us long enough to make us forget that they're rehashing the same things and selling us new $400 systems and $60 games just to play the same story again.
Though the battle system, as always, is my main complaint. The menu-based thing just does not work for me - it takes no skill. It's like Pokemon. I am not kidding. Here's a handy guide: Pick your most powerful move. Use it over and over until the enemy is dead. If the bad guy has an elemental attribute, pick something opposite. Protip: if the enemy has flames coming off of it or any reference to fire in its name, use a water ability and it should be a CRITICAL HIT! IT'S SUPER EFFECTIVE!
"But Impsy," you might say, "what about Final Fantasy XII? Didn't that switch things up?" I would reply, Yes, dear reader, but you can set Gambits, which are conditions for healing or damaging or ANYTHING, meaning that if you set it all up right, you get to sit there and watch your party do absolutely nothing. My friend's friend played the entire game this way - get to a boss, learn the boss's moves and let the party die, reload, set his Gambits up according to what the boss did, and sat there watching himself win.
To me, Final Fantasy games are not games. They're movies where you occasionally press buttons. You have no choice where you want to go - you are instructed to go to this city, this forest, this desert. You accomplish this task, then move on to this next one. If you have thoughts or opinions on characters or the story - too bad, there's no way to express them, and yelling at the tv does nothing (trust me, I've tried).
So when I saw these new trailers, sure I was impressed at how pretty the graphics are. Final Fantasy never lets us down with that, with their new stuff anyway. But as I thought about it later, I realized that as gorgeous as the trailer was, it gave me zero motivation to want to play it. Sadly, this is no big shock.
Even the switch they’re making in Final Fantasy XIII, which will feature a female main character for the first time, is not enough to entice me. The main character, named Lightning (that is a noun, not a name) and her probably-boyfriend Snow (again, USE NAMES), intrigued me at first. Then I did some research.
In an interview with 1up.com, several of SquareEnix’s bigshots talked about Lightning and the history of female leads in previous games. “Looking at the history of the FF series, there were already female main characters, like in FFVI, FFX, and FFX-2.” Nevermind the fact that the three girls in X-2 were set up as basically Charlie’s Angels, complete with the same image:
The article continues: “This time, one of the characteristics of this heroine is that she's not that feminine. I tried to make her someone very strong, independent. When I asked Mr. Nomura to design this character, I requested someone like a female version of Cloud from FFVII.”
Ok, so let me get this straight. The company realizes that most (if not all) of their female characters are extremely feminine, needy, and have to have someone take care of them. Then we have Lightning, who is the manly main guy from Final Fantasy VII transferred into a female body.
Is there no medium ground? Can there not be a feminine girl who can also take care of herself? Does an independent princess not exist? Do girls have to either be feminine and weak OR masculine and strong?
It seems to be that, like many other companies in the industry, SquareEnix can only see two kinds of gender: the manly man and the girly girl. This “manly girl” – since it is a male characterization with a female body – is not the same as making a strong, independent female character, especially when they go around describing her as a female Cloud! We don’t want a female Cloud. We want a female character who can be strong on her own terms, not strong based on some man.
SquareEnix, I challenge you, dare you, nay, Triple Dog Dare you, to change. Give us a story that isn't based on all the other games you've done. Give us a female character who can do her own thing and doesn’t need to be based on a male character to be validated as a badass. Everyone tells me that you're a good company. Now it's time to prove it by taking a risk and giving us something new and really great.
NOTE: This article is also featured on GirlGamer.com, where I am a writer/contributor. Check it out! :)