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I should start off by saying that this editorial is actually a cleverly-disguised multi-rebuttal, rant, and thinly veiled insult at the RPGaming population. It's not that I didn't think anyone would notice right away, being that I tend to write caustically; I just don't want anyone to be surprised when I refute or support points from a multitude of seperate documents. With that said, let's begin, eh?
Obviously, this is concerning the jewel of every RPGamer's eye: our beloved Final Fantasy series. Whether it's aggravating our "hardcore" (see also: neurotic, delusional) gamers or wooing our "newbies" (see antonyms of words in previous parentheses), Final Fantasy is always pissing somebody off. Hell,
I'm going to refrain from outright name-calling, but there are a few points I'd like to refute. The first one is that NONE of the Final Fantasy series (1-9) have been bad games. Some have shone more brightly than others, but all of them have been great experiences. That's not to say I don't have my own qualms with the series, or that I think Square didn't make any mistakes. But simply put, Square has yet to make a truly horrible Final Fantasy.
"Hardcore" gamers need to realize that graphics are not a bad thing. Storyline has yet to be shafted in lieu of them. Just because a game has visuals appealing enough to catch a mainstream consumer as well as an RPG fan does not make that game a "sell-out." I think it's commendable that Square continues to push the hardware on the Playstation, because I happen to enjoy gorgeous visuals. I don't think they're essential to making a successful RPG, but they never hurt. Ever.
Which brings me to my third point: as graphics improved, Square had a chance to experiment with new settings that, due to previous hardware limitations, would have impossible. Many "hardcore" (yes, I will continue to use the quotation marks to denote just how stupid these people are) gamers are angry with Square and the Final Fantasy series for moving into a technological atmosphere--downright post-apocalyptic with Final Fantasy VII. I can't even begin to fathom why gamers would be angry for a change of pace. It's not as if the premise of the game shifted from fantasy to Auto Shop 101. The game remained true to its roots, but brought something completely different to the table along with those roots. It was refreshing and exciting, not outrageous, to see Squaresoft explore new territories. I *cheered* when Cid Highwind had his dream fulfilled, and reached outer space. Final Fantasy VII's innovation is beyond description, but I will say that it rekindled that "new game" spark that I hadn't experienced with any RPG since Final Fantasy IV.
But now we have people protesting the move back to a fantasy setting. WHY?! What is wrong with these people; is there some sort of hypocrisy drug that I don't know about? Games are all about evolution and innovation; why does a sequel have to be a bedamned COPY of its predecessor to be accepted? I find this same debate popping up in the Chrono Cross/Chrono Trigger discussions. If you want to play Chrono Trigger, then by all means, play Chrono Trigger, but don't find fault with Square for trying to make something new! A wise man once said that the key to happiness is to "be mindful of the past, but do not live in it." I can't stress this enough to the Final Fantasy fans: let Square do what they want to with the series; simply because the game is not a duplicate of its ancestor does not wholly guarantee its demise.
Squaresoft is not trying to cater to any audience, as was brought up earlier with a somewhat stretched reference to a failed political regime. The series' previous two games, VII and VIII, both had technological settings and a third in that vein would have been repetitive. (Mostly because VIII didn't do anything new with it.) As this is the last single-digit Final Fantasy, Squaresoft is entitled to, and justified in, returning to its fantasy roots.
And also, since no one seems to be doing it, I must step up in defense of Final Fantasy VIII. (As I had to with VII, so long ago...) This mentality of insulting the newest game in the series until an even newer one comes out must stop. Final Fantasy VIII was a good game, people. The graphics were outright amazing, the storyline was as mature as Square will ever risk getting, and the combat system was enjoyable. Personally, I think it was the weakest in the series in terms of gameplay, but its story was masterfully written. The characters were well-rounded, and the budding romance gave the game a heightened undertone: it was the first time in my gaming experience where I was actually hanging on the words the characters were exchanging, and not the general text. Final Fantasy VIII was the first RPG to ever fully utilize dialogue. Very few people realized this because it did so almost seamlessly, but Final Fantasy VIII's *protagonists* advanced the story, whereas in every other game, the antagonists have been the plot-developers, so to speak. Part of VIII's appeal, which is too often overlooked, is that your entourage of characters really is a group of different people, and not a party of characters who jump from one event to the next in an attempt to catch up with the big bad guy. I think that if Square can keep that level of intimacy, between the player and the characters, in IX, and refine the gameplay so that it becomes fresh once more, then we may see the best one yet.
So, in summation for the "hardcore" gamers: shut up and have enough sense to accept the games Square puts out. Judging a game solely on the performance of its prequel is beyond retarded, and that goes for Chrono Cross critics as well. Let the game shine in its own light, and we shall almost never be disappointed.
((A note: this is not to say Square does not make bad games. They do. God knows, they do.))
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