If you’ve been interested in games for a while — even in passing — you’ll know the name Final Fantasy and the weight that comes along with it. One of the most revered series of all time now, it has been chugging along since the initial game was released back in 1987. From there it has expanded into countless games and spin-offs, even major motion pictures, but I’m going to argue that there is something missing at this point in the franchise. The series seems to be lacking in direction and the soul that once helped to make it such a worldwide phenomenon in the first place.
There hasn’t been one of those big, momentous games in the Final Fantasy world that has been able to capture the hearts and minds of gamers far and wide since Final Fantasy VII way back in 1997. If that sounds like a long time ago, it is. It is about 16 years ago now since players were immersed in the world of Cloud Strife and Sepiroth, yet these characters still hold weight to this day as some of the most memorable in the Final Fantasy series. It is both because they were great characters and because there has not been a really memorable Final Fantasy since then.
The series has, to put it in simple terms, become bloated, weighed down by expectations and years of quality titles. My first real disappointment with Final Fantasy came with Final Fantasy X, when production values were really ramped up for the PlayStation 2 but it felt like they came at a pretty serious cost when it came to characters and story. Tidus was a rather unlikeable, whiny lead character, and while he was surrounded by some characters that fans latched onto (hence Final Fantasy X-2, etc.), the whole thing felt pretty flat in the end. The move to some of the Final Fantasy games being MMOs seemed like a good idea at the time and I’ll never fault them for that. I think that it seems like a logical way for the Final Fantasy series to move and have been curious as to why that hasn’t been the sole focus for the Final Fantasy series, then Final Fantasy XIV happened and it was clear that Square had no clue what they should be doing anymore.
Now that they’ve spun off into the “Fabula Nova Crystallis” mythos from Final Fantasy XIII with the upcoming Final Fantasy XV (formerly known as Final Fantasy Versus XIII) the whole mythos and expectations behind Final Fantasy have become muddled, confused and I’d argue tired. Branching off of Final Fantasy XIII we have Final Fantasy XIII-2, Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII and of course Final Fantasy XV. The company’s focus seems like it is scattered all over the place right now and that the fans are the ones suffering in the end by not getting games that were as complete or focused as those which they used to produce.
There is no real focus anymore. It is just a giant mess.
Right now it just feels like the Final Fantasy name is being thrown about on so many different games, split into so many different directions and placed on so many games of varying quality that it is only hurting the brand, especially when Western RPGs are gaining more traction in the game industry. The Japanese RPG is one of the purest genres in gaming and it feels like the most popular series of Japanese RPG needs to get itself back on track in a major way, or else it could help to bring the whole genre down.