I mentioned before that I was a little bit of an obsessive gamer when I was a child. Part of the reason for this has to do with the game genre that I discovered when I was 11. In 1996, Nintendo published a new Super Mario game for the SNES. Being a diehard Mario fan, just like everyone else who discovered gaming in the early ’90s, I wanted to play it. So I got my mom to rent it for me, and I was enthralled right away. It played a lot like a typical Mario game, except you were on a 3D isometric field, there was dialogue, and jumping on enemies took you to a battle screen instead of killing them outright.
That was the experience of Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars. It was my first Japanese style RPG. It was also, coincidentally, developed by Squaresoft, the company that created the Final Fantasy RPG series.
Super Mario RPG was an amazing game, and I still have very fond memories of it. I can say definitively that it was my gateway game into a genre that really thrived for about a decade after that point, though it had been going strong before then too. It wasn’t long before I became a fan of Final Fantasy.
Just to pad out my gamer cred, I was into JRPGs before Final Fantasy VII had even been announced. Of course, once it came out, that game revolutionized the genre. It’s not a stretch to say that VII made JRPGs a mainstream genre in the American market. Sixteen years later (Final Fantasy VII was released in 1997), JRPGs are not as strong in the marketplace as they used to be, but there’s still a very devoted following in the gamer community. I don’t play as many JRPGs as I did when I was a kid, mostly because the genre relies on a fairly standard set of tropes, and I’ve gotten bored with playing the same story over and over again. Despite that, I’m still a fan of the Final Fantasy series, and I look forward to each new iteration.
The last traditional game in the series, Final Fantasy XIII, was a bit divisive. Detractors refer to it as “one long hallway with fights.” The game is extremely linear, and it does little to disguise this fact. Despite that, I thought that it had a story that was fairly interesting, once you got past all the weird terminology. Still, I took it as a sign that my tastes had truly changed when I realized that I wasn’t so ridiculously excited about the game that I had to play it right away. I think I waited six months before even opening my copy after I got it for Christmas a few years ago. On a positive note, I thought that the female characters were generally well written, with no overt damsel types included in your party (that honor was saved for the heroine’s sister, who you spend most of the game trying to save).
All of this long-winded history is to say that I have a solid fondness for JRPGs, particularly the Final Fantasy series, but I just don’t get excited about them anymore.
Though that’s not the case with the new Final Fantasy that was announced at E3.
Well, I say “new,” but I mean “old with a new coat of paint.” Final Fantasy XIII was supposed to be the start of a grand sub-franchise in the Final Fantasy series. It did spawn two direct sequels, which I haven’t played and can’t comment on, but it was supposed to go much farther than that. A companion game to XIII was supposed to be the aptly-titled Final Fantasy Versus XIII.
Yeah, I think the Japanese have some weird ideas about how to use English words too.
Square Enix announced that game at the same time as Final Fantasy XIII back in 2006. It became something of a running joke after about the fifth year in development that Versus XIII was just never going to happen. And now I guess technically it never will, since they renamed the project Final Fantasy XV.
I’m okay with that. The trailer looks fantastic, with some interesting character designs, a setting that looks more urban fantasy than any previous iteration, and a battle system that appears quite dynamic. I’d say the visuals are impressive too, but Square Enix is a developer known for its emphasis on beautiful graphics, so there’s nothing really surprising about the quality there. I’m not going crazy with frenetic game lust, but based on what I’ve seen, I’m looking forward to playing this game.
What about you? Do you have any games that you remember fondly? What about upcoming titles that have you psyched?