Lali-ho, readers! Welcome to the fifth and penultimate installation of the main series retrospective of the Final Fantasy franchise. Last time, I explored the PS2 era of the series, and made a rather foolish blunder. I mistakenly said that Final Fantasy X saw mixed reception, when in fact both critic and user reviews for the game were almost overwhelmingly positive, especially when it was first released. Many thanks to the readers and staff members who rightfully pointed out this mistake. To finish off the main part of this retrospective, let us now move onto a game that actually did receive mixed reviews, at least among the non-critic gamer.
Final Fantasy XIII was released in December 2009 for the PlayStation 3 in Japan, and in March 2010 for both PS3 and Xbox 360 in North America and PAL regions. It eventually received an International Version release for the Japanese 360 as well. Final Fantasy XIII tells the story of six people and their journey through the areas of Pulse and Cocoon on a convoluted and at times inexplicable quest to save themselves and the world around them. Final Fantasy XIII was not commended for its storytelling; the plot is at times almost nonsensical. Still, despite the flaws in its writing, Final Fantasy XIII does take place in a beautiful world, and is a game that definitely shows off the graphical power of the seventh generation consoles.
In terms of gameplay, Final Fantasy XIII draws quite a bit from its predecessors. The ATB system makes its first real return to a main series game since Final Fantasy IX; the player, however, only controls the party’s leader. Also returning is the job system, though the system is now broken down into six very basic job types. Final Fantasy XIII also brings Final Fantasy X‘s Sphere Grid back, though the system is changed up a bit. Each job (“Role”) for each character has its own grid in the Final Fantasy XIII progression system, the “Crystarium” system. Different nodes in the Crystarium unlock in stages as the player progresses through the game, making Final Fantasy XIII‘s leveling a very linear affair. Indeed, linearity is the defining term of Final Fantasy XIII, which is perhaps the greatest reason why Final Fantasy XIII has been met with a great deal of criticism among the Final Fantasy fanbase. Still, opinions of Final Fantasy XIII have, at least as far as I have seen, moderated slightly as the game ages. Only time will tell if Final Fantasy XIII will be remembered fondly or poorly.
Another heavily-criticized Final Fantasy is the series’ latest release, Final Fantasy XIV. Released on the PC worldwide in September of 2010, Final Fantasy XIV is the second MMO release in the franchise’s history. To say that Final Fantasy XIV was initially received… poorly… is a bit of an understatement. Like Final Fantasy XI, the series’ fourteenth entry featured a robust and flexible job system. Unfortunately, the game that was released played more like an early beta than a full game. Most of the initial Final Fantasy XIV team has been replaced, and Square Enix, to their credit, appears to be salvaging Final Fantasy XIV into something people actually want to play. Like Final Fantasy XIII, Final Fantasy XIV is too new to really have a legacy, and the game’s dynamic, ever-changing gameplay and storyline mean the game as it will end up is almost nothing like what the game is now. Whether or not the world of Eorzea is one that has the longevity of Vana’diel still remains to be seen, but the game’s once-lacking fanbase does seem to be growing.
At this point, dear readers, we have at last reached the end of the main series Final Fantasy retrospective. One entry remains, but this marks the current end of the main series games. What of the franchise’s future, then? It is difficult to say. So far, next-to-nothing is known about Final Fantasy XV; Square Enix seems at the moment to be far more interested in its sequels and spinoffs than in the main series entries. It seems obvious that Final Fantasy XV is coming, as it seems unlikely that the series will die so long as Square Enix exists. I am reluctant to speculate about Final Fantasy XV, though. Too little is known about the game, and Final Fantasy is a series that changes drastically between entries. What about you, faithful readers? Do you think Final Fantasy XV will be perhaps a throwback like Final Fantasy IX? Will it, like many others in the series, seek to redefine what it means to be Final Fantasy? And what of Final Fantasy XIII and Final Fantasy XIV? Will time vindicate Final Fantasy XIII? Will Square Enix save Final Fantasy XIV? Let me know what you think in the comments, fair readers. I look forward to reading your opinions.