Lightning is returning (see what we did there?) for the last time, in the the closing chapter of the Final Fantasy XIII saga. As such, Dusty Cartridge has brought together its two biggest Final Fantasy fans to see what they think of the upcoming title. Is Lightning Returns at all necessary? Will it be successful? Read on to find out!
Do people care about this title?
Mark: Some people definitely will. While no logically justified opinion is necessarily wrong, anyone who likes any of the Final Fantasy XIII games is completely and utterly incorrect. See, the problem with the ‘popularity’ of FFXIII, despite the sub-franchise’s ever decreasing sales, is that the game is an average JRPG, and by that I mean a fairly terrible game. To say I love JRPG’s is an understatement. I think, until very recently, they were the only titles that properly conveyed any kind of recognisable human emotion or immense and complex narrative with any precision. The JRPG’s in question were Final Fantasy and Chrono titles, but I tried my hand at all that I could get my hands on. Phantasy Star, Xenogear, Golden Sun, Tactics Ogre – none of them held even an ounce of the pleasure that could have been found in FF or Chrono. But JRPG fans love these other titles because, quite simply, they like the genre. And the genre, at its very core, is pretty forgettable.
So yes, people will care about this title, but not the right people. Not the people who actually want to see another memorable FF game.
Jackson: The simple answer to this question is of course “Yes.” Final Fantasy is one of the world’s mega-franchises. In terms of popularity it might not hold a candle to the likes of Harry Potter or Twilight, but there is a distinct place for it in the world. There will always be people that care about new Final Fantasy games even if they are simply .99c ports to a roll of toilet paper. Final Fantasy will always mean something to the masses of 20 and 30-something year olds that lived through its golden era and they will always care when something like this is announced.
But you really wanted to know if *I* care about this title, right? The answer to that is yes.
Square Enix have, like a sniffer dog, carefully tread their way through a minefield. The mines they’ve avoided, XIII and XIV, had the potential to completely unravel the franchise. Somehow that sniffer dog came out the other side of the minefield with all four limbs intact. Now, with Lightning Returns, the dog has to navigate the minefield one last time. The dog is on its final tour of duty. I care about this game because I don’t want it to explode in the dog’s face. I care because it seems like Square Enix are trying to do something different. I care because I want them to know it’s okay to do something different. I care because I want something different to succeed and I care because success will hopefully lead to a Square Enix renaissance.
Was it a necessary release?
Mark: For pride, yes, for fans, no. This game was inevitable. FFXIII, despite being a horrible piece of trash, reviewed and sold well. The second installment received similar reviews but sold less copies. Not enough however, to stop Square Enix from seeing dollar signs. This third one will undoubtedly be garbage, and will sell enough for Square to think it was a worthwhile endeavour, while alienating every fan it used to have.
The original was only a ‘necessary release’ insofar as they’d announced somewhere around thirty thousand FF titles and they had to fulfill on at least one of them. To put it in perspective, Lightning’s ‘grand imagining’ was game director Motomu Toriayama asking character designer Tetsuya Nomura to make a ‘female Cloud.’ I can’t even imagine what the seventeen kinds of slow office day that was.
Jackson: Ha, you would have to define ‘necessary’. Is it necessary to make a Call of Duty every year? Not in the slightest. Yet Activision still does it because it makes money. I guess this is a similar situation because the first two games in the XIII series shipped over 9 million copies. That’s quite ridiculous when I think about it because it seemed like those games were so divisive. Did it seem that way to you? Do those figures surprise you? If you’ve created something that sells well you might as well stick with that. What is important about this release is that it bears the name Final Fantasy XIII and utilises its heroine but it is fundamentally a different game. It will apparently run like an action RPG. It’s not a necessary release, but it is one that Square Enix have forecasted would make a ton of money. It’s only necessary for their bottom line.
What does this mean for the franchise?
Mark: I think the question is ‘what franchise?’. Final Fantasy, in its current form, is completely alien to previous instalments of FF. I’m not complaining about it being different, I’m complaining about it being crap. It’s not good, and there’s no passion left in any of the story. If anything, FF XIII-3 (even typing that out makes me want to vomit all over my lovely Razer keyboard) has shown that Square just don’t care about FF anymore. Ultimately, what it means from here on out is that every game that has a big ol’ Final Fantasy stamped across the front cover will be just as subpar and unimaginative as a poorly thought out crappy game, only with the benefit of having two decades of previous excellence to hold it up.
Jackson: It means the franchise is not going to lie down and die. Can I take you back to the sniffer dog? I mean, the success of this game is definitely a massive indication of where the franchise will head. This is an experiment for Square Enix to see just how people latch on to this new experience. They seem to be making this vibrant, constantly-changing world taking cues from a number of successful western RPG’s and most importantly, PUTTING IN A GOD DAMN DOOMSDAY CLOCK! IS THIS MAJORA’S MASK? MY GOD I LOVE THAT GAME. Essentially, this game will either retire the sniffer dog as a war hero or see it K.I.A. Though, I also have to ask the question: if Square Enix are doing something so different, why are they bothering to stick with the Final Fantasy name at all? If it is purely to move units, like I said in my previous article, it will stagnate creativity, innovation and the production of a good game.
Does it have potential?
Mark: Nope. Lightning = female Cloud. No chance from the start.
Jackson: I think I have partly answered this, but for the sake of completion, yes, it does have potential. The ideas behind it (so far) seem sound. They seem like Square Enix is throwing fan reaction to the wind. XIII-2 turned out to have such an apologetic tone that it seemed so forced at times. It seemed like they added elements purely because the fans wanted them there, not because it improved the story or gameplay. Lightning Returns has the potential to do something different. There is no precedent. There’s never been a third game in a roman numeraled installment of the franchise. Plus, revealing so many of their intentions for this game early gives them a chance to, if they really want to, to deal with anything that arises during the development process. It seems they are learning from their mistakes of the past few years. For this reason, this game has potential.
What do you think it needs in order to be successful?
Mark: To be a true success, this game needs to be so god damn awful that Square think “Holy mother of Zeus riding a segway, how did this ever make it past the door? Did we get the work experience student to make this?” If this game is going to go down in history, it’s going to be as ‘The Final Fantasy that was so bad it caused Square to start making the franchise good again.’ I like to use hyperbole because hey, I’m that kind of lovable exaggerated fellow, but I really mean it. To be successful, this game has to be bad. It needs to be buried so its rotting remains can become the nutrients that feeds the tree of quality, and I can go back to looking forward to Final Fantasy releases.
Jackson: Square Enix don’t need my tips to be successful. This game will be successful. What I think it needs in order to be a critical success though is to recapture the spirit of exploration, of discovery and of wonder that the earlier games had in spades. It needs to not get wrapped up too much in being a seriously ‘hardcore’ experience. It needs to work on release day. It needs to finish the story without the need for DLC. It needs to sweat innovation from the cover’s plastic. I have faith that this will be a great action RPG because it will be balls-to-the-wall, we-dont-give-a-shit-if-we-fail, Square Enix glory days creativity.
So what do our DC readers think of continuing the Final Fantasy XIII saga? Are you pumped for Lightning Returns? Couldn’t care less about about the sequel? Let us know in the comments!