Dimensions - The first time I've felt tired of Final Fantasy
So, Square-Enix have just released their latest Final Fantasy entry; Final Fantasy Dimensions. I think most of you know plenty enough about it already, with it being an mobile version of the long running series that is bundle in a sort of retro style. A send up to the 8 and 16-bit versions of the game.
Now, I haven't played much. I've played about 1 hours worth actually, so it's merely a trickle as far as Final Fantasy games go, but regardless, It's not something I'm feeling right now.
Fortunately, the Prologue is a freebie, so no money has been slapped down yet. But I'm the kind of mobile gamer that will buy (and has) King of Fighters, Street Fighter, Chaos Rings and so on, $5.99 - $6.99 priced games. So I don't mind paying if it feels justified. I have no bias against platforms. But if I'd paid for it, I'd be disappointed right about now.
The intention of the game as far as I am aware, was to go back to the roots of the series and bring out something that could resonate with the older player base. Now, it looks like it has. There are some reviews for the game where people are saying things like "this is Final Fantasy" and "a real Final Fantasy". It's obviously doing something right.
I've played a lot of Final Fantasy, and not just the outings post SNES era. I've also replayed all of the older titles in the series. I love the series, it's without a doubt my favourite series in gaming. Just seeing the words "Final Fantasy" over an article will make me click. But you know, sometimes enough is enough.
Like I said, I've barely moved a finger towards even beginning to scratch the content, I would assume, but that doesn't change my current impressions. Bar the sub-par visuals and presentation, it doesn't play well. Well, no, it plays like and old Final Fantasy game, so it's rigid and stiff. Some enjoy this formula, but I don't like it so much and I would class it as mediocre considering after the first 3 battles I switched to Auto. That's not a good sign.
But even with the faux-retro visuals not doing it for me, and the battle system being old hat, this wasn't what really bothered me. I could get past this. I have gotten past this before. So this wasn't something that was really going to turn me away. No, the problem was that as soon as it started, it felt familiar, but this time not in a good way. Formulaic.
How the game opened, the characters that appeared. Seeing the skills in the menu, the weapon layouts. The general flow of the game going to the village, to the castle and the way the conversations panned out. This, this is what put me off. I really did not want to do this again. I didn't want to learn Fire 2/Fira. I didn't want to get a bunch of Eye Drops, Potions and Hi-Potions. I didn't want to wander around dull dungeons and fight an obscene amount of random battles and pseudo-medieval like setting of the Final Fantasy of old. I didn't want there to be a Crystal. I had done this before, too many times before.
All my mind did, was predict the rest of the game. How I would get jobs, which weapons I would collect. What enemies I would see, what challenges would appear. As much loved as they are, and how the early entries of Final Fantasy were new for their time, the subsequent entries made that formula old. The progression was needed because the range of play was also so limited in the series. The changes were not huge, but because they were so similar, the changes were necessary. Dimensions has no changes, and it's painful because of it. It just made my heart sink as I felt I might need to go through this game. That's not how a game should make me feel, certainly not a Final Fantasy game surely?
People often say that the last good Final Fantasy was VI (some say VII, but those people are generally skewed towards being fans of VII rather than Final Fantasy as a whole). They will say this, and although some of it is simply said in spite of VII, it also implies that every game beyond that is also inferior to the series prior to and including VI. They want a classic Final Fantasy experience, one with the high-fantasy like emulation. No science-fiction thrown about (although the entries to FF are always fantasy...), no contemporary settings. They want something like Dimensions. Some of the reviewers are clearly stating that too. And this, this mentality, this is just makes me shake my head with disappointment. This is what you want Final Fantasy to be, this is why you have spewed hate on the Final Fantasy entries beyond VI?
Final Fantasy VII, VIII, IX, X, XII, XIII, the MMO's, the spin-offs. These are what Final Fantasy should be, they are what it needs to be. Final Fantasy needs to be a progressive, dynamic franchise that twists it's familiarity into new and bizarre shapes. It needs to bring new things to the plate, so we can all sample it and although it may not always taste good, it's a different taste. This is so important. A buffet of choice, of delicacies, some I can try, some I can leave. And new dishes are added as they are made. Freshness, diversity, change.
Change; this is often seen by many as the biggest problem with Final Fantasy. Some do not want it, Final Fantasy IX went to prove that to an extent by calling back just enough familiarity. But as disliked and untrusted as change is, it's essential to a series like Final Fantasy. It's ironic in a way considering that it's the same franchise, so why would change be so important? Well, if you play Dimensions you will know. You will know why the Junction system and the floating schools were needed, why Cloud rode a bike and why Wakka played Blitzball. If you play Dimensions and you have any hope for the future of Final Fantasy, you will understand why change is so necessary and calling for it to go backwards needs to stop.
Final Fantasy Dimensions was made for a reason. It was/is supposed to be a blast from the past to appeal to those gamers that grew up with the series. It's not trying to define the direction that Final Fantasy could take. It's likely to have no lasting impact on the series at all. But I think it should have an impact on the mentality of the vocal fanbase.
This game is not what Final Fantasy should be, emulating the past is not what Final Fantasy should be. Final Fantasy should retain an air of familiarity, while introducing the player to a new and exciting world. A new story, with new ways to play, and new characters to play alongside. It should feel like a different game when you pick it up, but it should make you feel as though you are in for a wild ride. With Chocobos, Phoenix Downs, Cid, Bahamut and Moogles, change is the greatest necessity for the Final Fantasy series.
Look forward Square-Enix, do not look back.