That's a fair question isn't it?
Whenever you think Final Fantasy began to take a downturn it's hard to get away from that conclusion, at least from the perspective of a lifelong fan. Maybe it was the MMO style battle system of FFXII , maybe it was the automatic battles of FFXIII , or maybe it was the loss of series staples like a world map, towns, full party control, lack of a coherent story, etc.
I could probably go on all day but for the purposes of this article I'm wondering just when these games that are coming out with the Final Fantasy name on them cease to be even remotely worthy of the name bestowed on their predecessors. Maybe it has already happened for you, or maybe it's about to.
This editorial comes hot on the heels of E3 and some new disturbing revelations about the future of the series that at one time could do no wrong. Before proceeding to that though I think we have to deal with the elephant in the room, the not so epic, not so RPG-like conclusion to the beleaguered Final Fantasy XIII series. While the first might have slipped by as a not so stellar entry in a beloved franchise (hey this happens in every series right?) Square-Enix decided to push the envelope right off the desk. They followed it up with a sort-of sequel that was plenty of fun but narratively challenged, disorganized, and repetitive. As if that wasn't enough the game was plagued with DLC that you had to buy in order to see the whole story.
And now Lightning Returns is in the pipe. I'm not seeing any news outlets raving about how great it is during their E3 floor demo, in fact the general consensus seems to be that it is a somewhat recognizable party-less experience with a couple of new tricks. So I must ask, what is Final Fantasy without a party?
Now we have the news that Final Fantasy Versus XIII has been unceremoniously renamed to Final Fantasy XV and I hope you can excuse me if I say that that is the ultimate cop out move. Let's face it, they knew that with all the resources put into the XIII saga and the XIV MMO that if they kept it up at this pace we wouldn't see a real Final Fantasy XV for a further five years or more after the release of Versus , which could place it into the PS5 generation.
I'm still looking forward to FFXV but with the full on action battle system inside a main entry I again must ask, is this really “Final Fantasy?” Even XIII could have been somewhat considered a command based game. Will FFXV even be an RPG in any sense of the term? Is it “Final Fantasy” if it isn't an RPG? Sure we've had Final Fantasy spinoffs like Dirge of Cerberus , but they were spinoffs for crying out loud and Versus was meant to be another of them.
Lastly, that disturbing news I mentioned above. Square-Enix has, in a moment of continued tone-deafness, come forward to say that they plan to continue the story of Final Fantasy XV with some type of sequel or sequels. The first FF sequel was of course FFX-2 , though many considered it a kind of spinoff. The fact of the matter was that FFX was a self-contained story that did not require you to play the next game to get everything out of it. That has always been the case with this series. Even as Square-Enix has gone back to add in bits and pieces to portable titles and such you never lost anything from those original experiences. Since the story of FFXIII-2 has almost nothing to do with the story of the original you can even say that XIII was self-contained to some extent. Now we are told long before the release of FFXV that that game won't even attempt to continue the old tradition of having a single epic tale encosed in one game.
No, we are faced with a game that does not have an ending and then some inevitable DLC or sequels that just keep on stretching things out. Is this right? How much can a series change before it ceases to even be the same series?
Perhaps the most terrifying thing about all this is that Final Fantasy was always able to reinvent itself with every new entry and long time fans will forever be left hoping that somewhere just around the corner there will be a reinvention that finally makes our fantasies come true.