For The Final Time: Final Fantasy Is ALWAYS Different
Normally, we don't bother responding directly to opinions from other sites, but this almost falls under the category of "false news" because of the falsehoods stated. After all this time, we would've figured that avid gamers could've understood the Final Fantasy franchise, and even if they hadn't played it, they wouldn't accuse it of being rehashed or recycled. But sadly, certain stereotypes and assumptions are almost impossible to kill off.
GamerNode recently ran a column entitled, "Enough Already," listing out series that are believed to be old and/or tired, or as it's put in the intro, "series with too many sequels that should probably call it quits or change significantly." Final Fantasy is on the list. Don't anybody buy into such nonsense: not only has every last FF entry since FFVII changed almost entirely, but none of them - save FFX-2 - can be considered "sequels." In the column, Square-Enix is accused of "re-implementing much of the same old tired gameplay and conventions of the franchise, which they have begun to do in recent years." Not a single word of this rings true.
The differences between the last half-dozen FF installments have been almost more significant than comparing any two completely differently-titled RPGs. Each game is defined by its gameplay system, and in no way is the Draw and Junction in FFVIII similar to the Materia in FFVII; FFIX may be considered similar to an SNES FF where you'd learn skills from items, but that's about where it ends. We didn't even use levels in FFX and used the Sphere Grid for character advancement; we also sacrificed the free-roam world map and instituted a more linear road-to-road progression. In FFXII, the entire look changed again, as this one was a hybrid real-time/turn-based game that was more open-ended than any other entry before it. The characters constantly change, the worlds constantly change, the stories are entirely different, and character advancement and battle/gameplay mechanics turn every FF since FFVI into an entirely new title.
Perhaps if we were comparing the Nintendo era of FFs only, we could say the same ol' turn-based gameplay was being used; how we played those games wasn't much different. FFIV wasn't too dissimilar from FFVI, for example. But FFVII, VIII, IX, X, and XII (discounting X-2 as being the only sequel) have offered radically different experiences. You can't really make RPGs much more different from one another. We're sick and tired of the idea that just because it says "Final Fantasy" on the box, that people assume it uses "the same old tired gameplay." Nothing could be further from the truth, so please don't buy into it. The chances of FFXIII being anything like any previous FF are slim to none. And the same will go for XIV and XV and so on. Those in charge of the true FF series (not those silly spin-offs like Crystal Chronicles) will never let the series go stale. Period.
P.S. If they do, I'll know about it, and be upset. But it sure as hell hasn't happened yet.
5/25/2008 Ben Dutka