I’ve written one of these open letters before, and only do so when I feel the world is in peril. What greater peril than a direct sequel to the disastrous Final Fantasy XIII?
Dear Square Enix,
Once upon a time, you mattered. Remember those days? When you literally ended a world halfway through a game then gave the player control over what was essentially the fourth or fifth main character and it was one of the most awesome things that happened in gaming up until that point? How about that time you made a certain game that almost got banned due to its religious content, and the majority of the second disc was reading instead of gameplay, but it was still heralded as one of the best video game stories ever told? Do you remember when games produced by other developers were just things gamers played while waiting for your next title? Remember the stranglehold your main franchise had on the market, but you were so good at making games that your best title didn’t even have the words “final” or “fantasy” anywhere near their italics?
Those were good times for both of us, right? Didn’t we have a good relationship? We preordered all your games and even arrived early at midnight releases just to stand around with other fans and chat about your previous titles, only to return home with the exorbitantly expensive collector’s edition of your new game and forget that sleep is healthy practice. We gave you our money and praise and you gave us games we still talk about over a decade later. If I may ask you, Square Enix, what didn’t you like about this arrangement? With the official confirmation of Final Fantasy XIII-2, the direct sequel to your most disappointing game to date, you are now showcasing near-legendary levels of stubbornness, as well as following an odd trend.
After Final Fantasy XII seemed to breathe life back into your most beloved franchise, you turned right around and basically harassed your loyal fans with Final Fantasy XIII. According to a comprehensive Metacritic comparison of every main (read: numbered and direct sequel; not a port, re-release or remake) Final Fantasy, FFXIII was literally the worst-received installment, trailing even the excruciating Final Fantasy X-2, the game that was a direct sequel featuring the character that (at the time) held the privilege of being the Worst Final Fantasy Character, and also dedicated an entire chapter (one-fifth of the story!) to watching CommSpheres from a menu, which are basically boring webcam feeds of everything happening in the boring world.
There are three things we notice here, Square, and you aren’t fooling any of us.
- A disturbing trend that dictates only your worst games or characters get direct sequels. The worst main character (at the time) throughout the entire Final Fantasy series got her own direct sequel in Final Fantasy X-2. She was intolerable, so clearly, appropriate logic suggests a good move would be to release an entire other game featuring her. Final Fantasy XIII is the worst-received main game in the franchise, so obviously, appropriate logic suggests the good move here is to subject everyone to it again.
- You are stubborn, which seems to be a trend among Japanese game development powerhouses. Your fans have been begging you for either a remake or a direct playable sequel to Final Fantasy VII, the installment that many consider to be your most shining accomplishment, and instead you give everyone a weird action side-sequel, a subpar direct sequel movie, and a surprisingly good portable prequel. On top of that, you give everyone a direct sequel starring the Worst Final Fantasy Character, multiple ports and remakes (instead of the instant moneymaker FFVII remake) of older titles to portable systems, and now you announce a direct sequel to what is literally the worst main Final Fantasy—XIII–a game which took the prestigious award of Worst Final Fantasy Character from X and X-2 and passed it on to most of its characters. You are acting no different than an Internet troll, Square, except you expend years of time, work and a humongous budget to do it.
- You are out of ideas. Over the years, Final Fantasy has turned into a parody of itself, so much so that the plot and characters of XIII felt like someone wrote some complex code, entered a handful of oft-repeated Final Fantasy keywords, “fate, Bahamut, fate, destiny, hope, dumb hair, fate, big weapons, chocobo, fate” and allowed some sophisticated software to write the story and characters instead of humans. Every story is rehashed and every character has a direct equivalent in other installments. So, Square, you see why I’m not too thrilled when the question you want us to be asking about XIII-2 is “Why does mankind defy its fate?”
There’s a theory, of course: The worst Final Fantasy games are the only ones to get direct playable sequels because you are trying to salvage the games’ universes. Seeing as how X-2 was released before XII, and X-2 was your second worst-received main game while XII was your second best-received main game, wouldn’t common sense dictate that the formula to follow is to flee the sinking ship rather than spend another handful of years and a huge budget attempting to bail out an amount of flowing water much larger than your buckets can fit? Or, I guess, you can slap a single wing-like item onto your main character,
because it’ll trick us into thinking it’s just as awesome as it was the first time around in the Final Fantasy VII universe?
All of the above signifies why you are bordering on irrelevance, Square. Sure, you can still make money based on brand recognition. Maybe you’re simply content that your other half, Enix, the developers of the Dragon Quest franchise–Final Fantasy’s direct competition over the years–can still rake in the cash. You can still trick us doe-eyed fans of old into thinking “Maybe this time around it’ll be like it used to be!” But now, for some of us, your games have become things we buy with disposable income, rather than something for which we save. We no longer attend your midnight releases or pay extra for collector’s editions instead of groceries. Your games are becoming the games we play while we wait for other ones.
I wish you cared.
Having realized long ago that dumb hair, big swords and fate just aren’t enough anymore,