I don't think there's any arguing the fact that Final Fantasy is on the decline. Tragic but true.
And as Square Enix shows no indication of being able to pull the storied franchise out if its tailspin, most expect the downward trend to continue. But here's an interesting question for the long-time faithful: Precisely when do you think the fall began? Where did the slide start?
A great many will immediately say Final Fantasy XIII as it was the first official FF entry this generation and marked the largest departure from the series we all came to know and love. Then again, one could make "tipping point" arguments for many different installments; for instance, some might say Final Fantasy XII , as it was also a significant departure and actually featured the most open-ended design of any FF title to date. That was a bit of a shock.
Others will actually go all the way back to Final Fantasy VII . As incomprehensible as it seems to me, they will say the series was only great in the Nintendo days; i.e., up to Final Fantasy VI , which many do claim is the best FF title ever. Still others could stand up and say that it's undoubtedly Final Fantasy X-2 , as it was the first actual sequel in the franchise and it hinted at a grim future for the franchise. Personally, I'm not down with any of this and I return to the original viewpoint:
It began with FFXIII.
Saying the downward spiral began with FFVII is too absurd for words. I won't even explain why; if you don't know why, you're not qualified to be a fan of the franchise. I'm sorry but it's true. FFX-2 has a bit more legitimacy because as the first sequel, we all got a whiff of a change we didn't like. That being said, the fact that FFX-2 was actually a damn good game has been overlooked far too often. I still say it boasted a wonderfully refined version of the combat mechanic we had in FFX, and is arguably one of the best RPG mechanics ever .
As for FFXII, it was my least favorite in terms of story and it did indeed feel a bit more like a "Western" RPG just because it was more open-ended. But it was still a role-playing game through and through, was it not? And the mechanics, despite being different, still worked almost perfectly. No, I believe the answer really is FFXIII. It marked the start of Square Enix's complete and utter confusion as a company, and it was the first time I actually noted significant flaws in a Final Fantasy fighting system. It was also the first FF that really did feel significantly watered down.
They tried to redeem themselves to some extent with FFXIII-2. And I do believe they succeeded in some respects. But the core of FF is still left behind in the past and I'm convinced we'll never see it again.
What do you think?