Why I Can’t Get Into Final Fantasy

-by Dylan DiBona

Zelda comes to mind when you think action-adventure, Mario when you think platformer, and more than likely Final Fantasy when you think JRPG.

Have you ever had a video game series you so desperately wanted to like, but just couldn’t? A prime example for me is Square Enix’s Final Fantasy.

Now before we delve in I want to make my experience with the series known. Final Fantasy I, Final Fantasy IV, Final Fantasy V, VI VII, IX, X, and XV; I have tried by giving almost every one of those games hours of my time, and they just don’t do it for me. The ones I did end up liking (obviously not enough to see the credits) were I, IV, VII, and XV. Hell I’ve even tried Tactics a few times (didn’t get very far) and I’m always shocked by just how many people praise its complexity. The things I list and discuss are not objective flaws, just things that keep me from enjoying these games as much as others.

Active Time Battle

A battle scene, with four of the heroes on the right and two larger four-footed monsters on the left. The figures are displayed on a green field with mountains in the background, and the names and status of the figures is displayed in blue boxes in the bottom third of the screen.

So one common complaint from non-JRPG fans is the “boring” feel of turn-based fighting. Okay, fair enough. So how do you alleviate that? By creating a battle system in which time is always moving and you always have to think.

It sounds great on paper, but every time I actually experienced it, I didn’t have fun. In Final Fantasy games you can usually set your battles to “Wait” or “Active”. Active allows enemies to constantly attack you while you’re selecting a move, in exchange your teammates will always be charging up for their next move. Wait makes it so time freezes while you’re selecting a move, allowing you to strategize a bit better. While I prefer Wait mode for the ability to think harder, I never found the idea of time to be engaging in battle. Waiting for the bars to fill up never makes me excited, it makes me impatient. I actually don’t get how this battle system is supposed to be more exciting than traditional ones, when you still spend most of your time waiting.

In Chrono Trigger it’s not terrible and the same with I am Setsuna, but in my experiences those games were a bit easier than the early Final Fantasy titles. If you purchase Final Fantasy VII on PlayStation 4, you get the option to basically cheat the game in three different ways. You can speed up the game, make it so everybody is always healed, or have everybody’s Limit bar filled. Some battles got so boring I had to keep the speed up feature on.

There is a bit of contradiction in my complaints though; as I’ve said that the ATB isn’t even that different from traditional battles, it was still enough of a bother that I had to note it. It’s like being handed a green apple when you wanted a red one; they may look similar, have the same texture, but there’s a clear difference once you start eating.

Melodrama

Okay I have what is probably a very rare opinion, but Episode VII of Star Wars is my favorite. Why? Because it’s a Marvel movie. By that I mean the film conveyed a serious story of conflict, while taking breaks during action for a sense of comedy and humanity, much like the classic superhero brand. One minute in Persona 4 you’re trying to stop a serial killer, the next and you’re having a swimsuit competition at school. Final Fantasy doesn’t have too much of this.

Image result for final fantasy tidus and yuna

Now that’s not to say the series doesn’t have a few light moments, it does. When you throw at me with every game a new kingdom, cast of characters and antagonist, I need some reasons to care. Show me that these are people. In the Tales series you can stop exploring for a second and speak to your teammates, usually for humorous reasons but every now and then for serious ones. In the recent Fire Emblem games you can do the same thing as well.

It’s this constrained sense of seriousness that makes people look in any direction for a joke, and that’s why they pounced over the awkward Tidus laugh scene in X.

Turtles Pace

Out of curiosity I decided to start up Super Mario RPG on SNES, in less than five minutes I was already in a battle with Bowser. The game begins you on a straight path, teaching you how to battle.

Final Fantasy VI does practically the same thing, straight path to a cave. FFVI is marginally slower than Super Mario RPG. Maybe it goes back to the Active Time Battle System, but some of these games feel as slow as dripping molasses.

I hate disliking things, and I wouldn’t say I avidly dislike the Final Fantasy franchise, it’s just something I wish I could enjoy as much as others.


Any diehard Final Fantasy fans want to counter my complaints? Let me know down below and I’ll try my best to reply. As always, thanks for reading.

This article is a part of JRPG JULY, a celebratory month where I post JRPG themed articles every Monday, Wednesday and Friday

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9 thoughts on “Why I Can’t Get Into Final Fantasy

  1. I’m with you on finding the turn-based battles boring. It takes a lot to suck me into a good JRPG. Exist Archive that I finished about a month ago was incredibly engaging, I don’t know, something about it just stuck with me. Chrono Trigger I loved and I’m sure I’ll feel the same with I am Setsuna when I get it.

    FFX’s battle system was the only part of the game I really liked. That’s not being totally fair to the game but the melodrama, as you put it, can be a real slog.

    The biggest issue I find with JRPGs is simple: I don’t give a crap about story. I really don’t. I’m 100% gameplay all the way. Yeah yeah, set the stage and then let me have my fun. I only have x amount of hours for playing games, so I want to spend the most amount time _actually playing the game_. That’s why, throughout the years, I have been totally turned off at the prospect of playing one of these epic long games.

    Aside from Xenoblade Chronicles, which is heavy on story but also heavy on freedom and letting you enjoy the world, I don’t plan on playing very many franchises that are more than ~25-30 hours. Just don’t have the patience anymore, and let’s be honest – I’d rather tear through enemies in a Diablo-esque or Dungeon Siege-y type of game than sit around and pick “Attack!” and then watch an animation of a guy swinging a sword. Come on.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Final Fantasies are usually too large of a time commitment for me. It’s hard for me to find the time to play a 60 hour single-player campaign these days.
    As for the ATB system, it’s alright? My favorite version was FFX, but that was also my first Final Fantasy, so it could be that I’m remembering it with a heavy dose of nostalgia. I haven’t played a Final Fantasy game in a loooong time (I think I played the first 10 hours of FF13 awhile back before I couldn’t take it anymore), so I think it’s safe to say that they aren’t quite my favorites either, lol
    But I do appreciate the worlds and characters in the games! Probably my favorite part of playing the FF games was exploring the worlds and meeting all the goofy characters you could party up with.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I can understand if that’s what your thoughts are on a lot of the classic Final Fantasy games with ATB. You mentioned XV though, and that’s very different. What did you think of that and how different it was? On that note, XII is very different, though it probably falls into the same traps you mentioned, so I wonder if you’d like it.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Final Fantasy VI is the game that got me into RPGs. I’d never experienced a game that was so incredible, to me. I’d picked up a copy of the GBA cart just because the latest issue of Nintendo Power had come with a mini-guide to the game, and I thought it’d be an easy push-through. I didn’t expect to utterly fall in love with the story, the gameplay, and the characters. This rebuttal (of sorts) is sorta going to deal with FFVI mainly, because that’s the one I have the most experience with.

    FFVI is easily my favorite game of all time, only marginally beating The World Ends With You or the Professor Layton series (Diabolical Box is a KILLER!). I was so incredibly gobsmacked that I could basically play a novel that I researched every way to play it (which consisted of staring at the two articles Nintendo Power wrote on it in early 2007!). The characters, to me, had such deep backstories and were so different than the other video games I’d played.

    The ATB system is a little strange, I’ll admit it. It’s very different some modern RPGs, which usually let you go straight into smacking things, a la Skyrim, without taking you out of the action. But it does add another layer of strategy. Are you fast enough to get in two attacks before your enemy counters you? Do you have your fastest person heal the party, or attack the boss? Should you equip the magicite that gives you a speed boost on leveling up, to boost your speed, or should you just tough it out and hope your grinding brings you up enough that the bosses won’t run circles around you? It adds some strategy that I haven’t seen repeated in other RPGs I’ve played.

    As far as melodrama goes, FFVI has some, yes, but you have to realize this is what JRPGs do. The world is ending, most of the time, or someone is coming very close to ending the world, and if there’s anything I’ve learned from modern day dystopian novels, it’s if that the world is ending, there’s not a lot of light hearted moments. The moogles give us some of these, and there’s a few entertaining cut-scenes in FFVI (and some of the others games, too), but there is some drama. Why wouldn’t there be? There’s a cataclysmic event coming up! Kefka destroys the world. The bad guy in FFIV (whose name I’ve terribly forgotten) tries to do the same thing. There’s some dark things going on, and everything can’t be suns and roses all the time. Skyrim’s certainly got its fair share of drama, too. Zelda’s more on the lighthearted side, to be sure, but Breath of the Wild has some pretty dark shit in it.

    You also have to realize that a lot of these games are 20+ years old. I was born the same year FFVI came out, 1994, and I feel like it’s aged very well, compared to something like I or II, maybe even III (the Japanese original, not the SNES-version that’s really FFVI). Games were different back then. The FF series is evolving as best as it can, but whenever SquareEnix gets too far from its roots, fans bash it. When they go back to their roots, fans bash it. Nobody can be 100% satisfied all the time, it seems, but you have to give things some wriggle room sometimes.

    I’ve only played the FF games from I-VI, and VI is by far my favorite. I don’t have a system (or a good enough computer) to play the newer games, although my boyfriend & I are working on building me a gaming computer soon. I’ve watched him play XV and XIV, and while they’re entertaining and flashy, there’s just something great and nostalgic about using your imagination to play your way through the pixellated worlds of the great RPGs of yester-year.

    I prefer story over gameplay. Sure, if the gameplay is shoddy, but the story is great, I’ll have a few complaints but not many. On the other hand, if the gameplay is incredible but the story is crap, I’ll shelve the game and never play it again. Hotel Dusk: Room 215 reminds me of this. It’s an interesting story as you unravel it, but it’s rather poorly executed. I’ll always choose story over gameplay, maybe because I’m an English grad student (can you tell by how long this comment is?) and I know the merits of a good story. There’s only so much you can do with a purely action-driven gameplay game. There’s so much you can do with a good story.

    Plus, Kefka is hands-down the best video game villain of all time. He’s one of my dream cosplays.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I guess it’s what you’re used to, as well. I’m playing Final Fantasy 13, and I’m enjoying the story more than anything else. I think my issue with it is that I’d like to be able to move my character around while I’m waiting for the bar to fill up. I don’t quite understand the draw of active tactics if your feet are nailed to the floor and you either need to commit to a string of commands early, or wait until the last minute to respond to whatever is really happening and risk getting clobbered some more as you think about it. But I didn’t grow up on Final Fantasy, so maybe if I did, that type of gameplay would be second nature to me!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I totally agree with you on every point. I really don’t like the battle system, although weirdly I like playing Pokémon and that’s turn based but I suppose there’s nostalgia value for me there. The story bores me quite a lot and I find that when they do try and be funny it feels very forced, I find that with a lot of anime sort of stuff in general though.
    Another thing is that I know they come under an RPG style of gaming but I don’t find it to be that Role Playish, if you know what I mean, you have no control over what happens (or if you do not in one that I’ve seen yet), you are watching and occasionally controlling through battle a group of people who are on a set path already, you can’t create a character and mould the story around them therefore becoming a part of it yourself. I suppose there’s different types of RPGs though. So when I tell people I want to get a new RPG game to play and they recommend a JRPG and say it’s basically the same thing I’m like “no… It’s not thought is it” I know I’ve done a few posts about FFX recently but if my partner hadn’t been playing it with me there’s no way I would have bothered but now that I’ve played X he’s lining up more for me to play and I don’t want to!

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