Chocobos, airships, summons, crystals, and separate screen battles, all of which have been a staple of Final Fantasy games throughout the years. Though each iteration of the series never connects through the story (not counting the X-2, XIII-2, and spinoffs) there’s usually certain elements which have become a mainstay in the Final Fantasy series. Throughout the last decade or so, some of those elements have been through so many changes that they’re nearly unrecognizable or they may have disappeared all together. Here is our list of things that Square-Enix needs to bring back in the next Final Fantasy game. Which would probably be Final Fantasy XV…
The Sudden Death of Central Characters
When Final Fantasy VII came out, internet usage was on the rise. Thousands of Geocities and Angelfire websites were created solely for the purpose of discussing the resurrection of Aerith, the playable character in the game who met her sudden demise right in the middle of the story.
Unfortunately, these were all rumors and the beloved heroine could never be resurrected without the aid of a Pro Action Replay device. Final Fantasy VII was not the first game in the series to feature the unexpected death of a playable main character. In Final Fantasy IV, there were a few characters that would join your party for extended periods of time, only to be killed off or be incapacitated in some manner. Was it frustrating to lose a member that you spent hours grinding and leveling up? Yes. But did it make an interesting story? Absolutely!
Recent Final Fantasy games feature playable characters dying or disappearing after the game has ended, but never in the middle of the story. This is usually done to prevent the aforementioned frustration of losing a character you spent a lot of time leveling up. Final Fantasy V solved this by having the skills and levels of one of the main characters be transferred to his granddaughter upon his death. I can see most players chucking their controllers at the TV upon the death of a main character, but doesn’t that just make the story more compelling?
Classic Jobs and Classes
Not counting the online games, we’ve only seen tiny hints of the classic Final Fantasy classes in its most recent outings. The odd character may have the ability to jump off screen like a dragoon, or may be able to cast a few spells like old school mages, but there haven’t been any outright classic jobs in the games recently. Sentinel? Ravager? Medic? I want back my warrior, black mage and white mage. Final Fantasy IX went back to having characters with these defined jobs, but then it all started to get convoluted again by Final Fantasy X. Sure, Kimari could jump off screen and land on enemies, and Lulu had a ton of black magic in her arsenal but it just wasn’t the same. As lame as it was, where the heck has the bard class been?
If you look at the class choices for your characters in Final Fantasy XI Online, it’s clear that Square Enix has a definitive list of defined job classes from past games. Ninja, Summoner, Samurai, Monk, Red Mage, Paladin, Dragoon. It’s a nice and huge list that screams classic Final Fantasy, but why haven’t we seen any of these well defined roles on characters in the newer titles? Instead we end up with a muddied version of the old jobs which usually combine some skills and abilities from a few of them to create something as debilitated as a… sky pirate. Or worse, we end up with dresspheres *shudders*.
The Overworld Map
The last time we saw an overworld map was Final Fantasy IX. Since then, the towns have been connected by paved linear areas, or through a series of menus and plotted lines. I’m not saying the shift from the overworld map to detailed pathways connecting towns is a bad thing, but video game technology today could definitely support a huge overworld. Just look at sandbox games like Grand Theft Auto or MMORPGs like World of Warcraft. A giant detailed overworld with lots of nooks and crannies to explore would be a good thing. They may have to keep towns and dungeons separated by a loading screen, but that transition would be a nice nod to past Final Fantasy games. For the overworld, I’m thinking of something like Gran Pulse but on a much larger scale.
Think of it this way – having the overworld back would let us have different modes of transportation too. We haven’t had a fully controllable airship in a long time. And what ever happened to the canoe?
More Playable Characters
Final Fantasy XII and XIII had 6 main playable characters. X had 7, IX had 8, VII had 9 (including Aerith), and VI had 14. Yes, fourteen! I’m betting with this current trend that we’ll end up with only 4 playable characters pretty soon much like the original Final Fantasy. A bigger cast may not make a better game, but having more choice certainly does. I wasn’t really into swapping and grinding all those characters in VI but if they had a system like XIII where all your characters leveled up whether in battle or not, then having more characters would be welcomed.
It appears I have ignored the fact that VIII had 6 main playable characters which would skew the order I had above. Sometimes I forget that VIII ever existed. I’m sure you do too.
My first experience with Final Fantasy in 1990 was marching with my characters (all named EDDE, after myself, but hey we had a 4-character text limit on the NES game back then) up through the marshland and into some old abandoned castle with bats everywhere and getting my ass handed to me by some caped demon named Garland. If this scenario were put into one of the newer Final Fantasy games, it would be my character walking up some floating highway to a giant metal tower with neon lights on it. I’d then make my way to a corner office in the tower where I’d have to fight some guy named General Garland who would wear a yellow space suit with leather straps and chains, have spiked fuchsia hair, and probably have a letter opener that doubles as a laser gun. Oh, and instead of bats, there would be little flying droids.
Final Fantasy producer Yoshinori Katase has said that if the game ever went back to a European medieval setting, it wouldn’t help the development team advance their skills or advance the technological progress that happens when each game is being developed. I disagree, and I’m sure the developers of Skyrim would also disagree. Just because your game takes place during an older time period doesn’t mean the technology behind the game is going to stay old too.
Bring back the castles, the villages, the swamps, the caves, the wooden pirate ships and air ships. More importantly, bring back the damn canoe!
So there you have it. That’s my list of 5 things that Square Enix needs to bring back into the series to inject some life back into it. I could go on and add Black Chocobos and Moons to the list, but I’ll quit while I’m ahead.