Just before the start of E3 2013 I told the rest of the crew of Gamer Horizon that I was really hoping Square Enix would show up at one of the press conferences and wow us with Final Fantasy XV, Kingdom Hearts III or SOMETHING. Their last appearance at the PlayStation 4 reveal event was less than spectacular; all they showed then was a video that we had already seen before. “Please be excited,” eh? I don’t think so. But then, they did exactly what I wanted them to do, and announced both Final Fantasy XV and Kingdom Hearts III! Why then am I filled with a growing sense of dread instead of excitement? To be honest, I’m even more worried about Square Enix now than I was before the games were revealed.
It probably has a little to do with the games Square Enix has been releasing lately. Despite having actually enjoyed Final Fantasy XIII and it’s spinoff sequel Final Fantasy XIII-2, I’d still place them towards the bottom of a “best to worst” list of Final Fantasy titles. And while Final Fantasy XII was a great game, the last Final Fantasy I really loved was Final Fantasy X. Though some may argue this point by naming games like Dragon Quest IX and The World Ends With You, I feel as though Square Enix—the company formed by the merging of the two best RPG developers of my childhood—has forgotten how to make RPGs.
It seems their focus has shifted from role playing to action. I won’t hold this against Kingdom Hearts III, which should be an action RPG according to its roots. But Final Fantasy XV on the other hand, well… just take a look at the E3 2013 reveal trailer.
When the trailer finally gets to the gameplay we see the main character taking cover, avoiding gunfire, and fighting enemies while moving around in real time. If this trailer is a representation of the majority of the gameplay in Final Fantasy XV, it’s safe to say that it is an action game through and through. Beyond that, our hero is seen climbing up walls and fighting on the side of a building. It would not be an exaggeration to say that the trailer is more reminiscent of Devil May Cry, God or War, Assassin’s Creed and Uncharted than Final Fantasy—at least in terms of gameplay. If it weren’t for a brief mention of crystals, some awesome CGI, a few magic spells and airships flying through the skies, it would be difficult to find the “Final Fantasy” in this trailer at all.
Of course, unlike the persistently traditional Dragon Quest series, Final Fantasy is known—especially in recent years—for radically reimagining itself with every installment. For example (aside from Final Fantasy X-2), we haven’t seen the Active Time Battle system since Final Fantasy IX, and every game since has had a unique battle engine. But no matter how the series evolved, one thing remained consistent: Final Fantasy games are always RPGs.
I am really struggling to find the “RPG” in Final Fantasy XV.
There are hints of an RPG here and there throughout the trailer. We can see numbers that presumably represent the hit points of the characters in a party of 3, and we can assume that there is a leveling mechanic that determines how the characters grow. It’s also clear that there is still a heavy focus on storytelling. But aside from that, we don’t see many RPG mechanics in the trailer at all.
Perhaps they shouldn’t have changed the name. As a spinoff, Final Fantasy Versus XIII had every right to be an action game. But as the fifteenth numbered Final Fantasy game, it seems disappointing. Who knows? Maybe it will be a great game. Despite the concerned tone of this article, I am looking forward to Final Fantasy XV. I just feel like Square Enix decided to rename the game because three years since the release of Final Fantasy XIII (and disregarding spinoffs and Final Fantasy XIV because it’s an MMORPG), they had nothing else to show to the diehard Final Fantasy fans at E3 this year.
Beyond that, did you know Final Fantasy Versus XIII was originally announced in May of 2006? That’s 7 years of development already! What’s going on? In only 4 years between 1997 and 2000, Square Enix (and Squaresoft) managed to release Final Fantasy VII, Final Fantasy VIII and Final Fantasy IX. Yet Final Fantasy X, Final Fantasy XII and Final Fantasy XIII came out over the course of 10 years from 2001 to 2010. With Final Fantasy XV likely to be released in 2014 it seems we can now only expect a main series single player Final Fantasy game once every four or five years. I know game design has become much more expensive and time consuming as technology has developed, but it still seems ridiculous that after 7 years of development, all we’re getting from Final Fantasy XV is a renamed spinoff.
Still, I can’t help but to wonder if there was or is another Final Fantasy XV in development. If so, it’s probably safe to assume it has been renamed Final Fantasy XVI, but I get the feeling we won’t see or hear a peep about that until E3 2015, and we’ll be lucky to see it released by the end of the decade (we’ll probably get Final Fantasy XV-2 or something of the sort between now and then though). I just hope when Final Fantasy XVI is revealed that it’s an RPG.
So yes, I got what I wanted from Square Enix at E3 2013. Kingdom Hearts III and Final Fantasy XV are coming. But can you blame me for being worried about the future of what was once my favorite RPG developer?