After five years of consumers waiting patiently, Square Enix released Final Fantasy XIII in late 2009. Its timing couldn’t have been more appropriate: current generation consoles were struggling with an RPG drought as developers turned to handhelds for less risk and a large mobile market in Japan. But if any series could bring the classic feeling of adventuring through a beautiful world with a vast array of interesting characters, it would have to be none other than the legendary Final Fantasy. Unfortunately, Final Fantasy XIII‘s release didn’t satisfy many people, and Japanese forums were flooded with disappointment within days of its release. Even with this negative reception, Square Enix has announced a sequel named Final Fantasy XIII-2, and as many are, we’re extremely confounded.
Final Fantasy XIII wasn’t exactly well received. We kindly gave it an 8/10, mostly due to its outstanding presentation and audio, but not all critics were so merciful. After all reviews were tallied, the game stood at an 83%, a number that main releases of the series had never seen before. Much of the criticism was planted on two things: unprecedented linearity, and a lack of towns to break the monotony. Surprisingly, based on what is known about Final Fantasy XIII-2, and what we played at E3, both of these major concerns haven’t been directly addressed. The same point a to point b style with cutscenes in-between is back for more, and I can’t help but feel that Square Enix is completely ignoring feedback. This same issue happened with Final Fantasy XIV, where all fans asked for was a more modern version of Final Fantasy XI, and instead ended up with a completely broken game (which I sadly purchased the collector’s edition of).
The last time we saw a second iteration of FF release on a PlayStation console was with Final Fantasy X. Some say that FFX was the last “good” release of the series, and while that’s debatable, its quality wasn’t. FFX was accepted extremely well by both media and gamers, and was one of the big releases that got the PlayStation 2 rolling into what would become a record-breaking platform. While Final Fantasy X-2 was a questionable decision, it was at least warranted by its predecessors success, awesome cast of characters, and likeable world.
So why should FFXIII get a sequel? FFVI through FFIX were all some of the best RPGs of all-time, and none of them ever received similar treatment. Heck, fans have been begging for a Final Fantasy VII remake for nearly a decade now, and Square Enix even teased the introduction cinematic in HD when the PS3 was first announced. This is compounded by the fact that this is a business where the sole purpose of the developer and publisher are to make money. Why not satisfy the audience? It’s profitable.
The most surprising thing that I saw from FFXIII-2 at E3 was that the paradigm system is back. Although the system isn’t terrible by any means, it truly needs to be supported by an open world and alternate features. Spamming the X button to auto-battle throughout a 40+ hour game isn’t any RPG fan’s definition of fun. The system is so uninteresting, in-fact, that FFXIII-2 was one of the few games at E3 that anyone could just walk up and play. That’s right, while hundreds of games had lines of people waiting to play, FFXIII-2‘s area was barren.
One of my biggest complains about FFXIII-2‘s existence is that it seems like Final Fantasy Versus XIII is being cast aside. Square Enix can surely see that people are exceptionally excited for Versus XIII, a game that is supposed to restore the series to its former glory with some degree of adventure and enjoyable gameplay. But no, we haven’t heard anything new about the game in months, while FFXIII-2 already has a release date planted later this year.
So why does Final Fantasy XIII have a sequel? I have no idea, and neither does anyone I’ve spoken to. Square Enix has been able to get away with ignoring feedback due to the popularity of the Final Fantasy series, but many people are waking up. Final Fantasy XIV sold over half a million copies, but has been struggling to survive since. We love chocobos, and summoning Bahamut, but if the series continues on its current path, the RPG genre will have a vacancy open at the top of the totem pole.