So at this point (that point being after FF7), my relationship with the Final Fantasy series…changed.
Firstly, this gem came out.
Technically, this is not part of the Final Fantasy numbered series. It’s a totally different game, and did not have any real tie-ins to previous titles. The gameplay is a huge departure from the normal Final Fantasy. The game barely looks like a PSX title; I think it probably could have been done on the SNES if the maps didn’t rotate.
It’s my favorite game of all time. Or at least tied for it.
I’ll write more about it another time, but let’s just say that the game isn’t perfect, but it’s perfect. That’s the best I can do without vomiting words for hours on end.
And it’s a good thing that Final Fantasy Tactics was so great, because it allowed me to feel OK largely skipping the next one:
Final Fantasy 8 is a hugely conflicted game. It feels like it’s trying to do too many things at once. It definitely is in love with itself. It’s almost as if the game is constantly trying to impress with cinematics and plot and this system and that system and oh here’s a gunsword oh my gosh I’m so amazing.
I feel this is the one where they got too cute. Too many cooks in the kitchen as well. There’s enough character customization systems for three games, all smashed into one. The boss fights are long summon-fests. It barely feels like a Final Fantasy game at times, with it’s real-word theming and regular-guy character development. While I personally detest the game, I acknowledge it as good in certain areas. The story seems fine (and have been told it’s the best love story told by Square, however that’s not saying too much). Non-boss-fight combat is good. It looks fantastic.
But it’s not enough to make up for its ample flaws. It feels that in order to top FF7’s materia system, they decided to add three customization systems all at once. This turned the game into a never-ending menu fuck, and also introduced more grinding into the game, which is never welcome. The boss fights rely on summons and little else. And much of the game just feels like a vehicle to make sense of the cutscenes, which I suppose is fine, but it felt very mechanical.
8 sucked. At least to me.
Then came a return to form, in my eyes:
Final Fantasy 9, mechanically, is very simple, and I feel that’s a direct response to complaints of too much complexity from 8. The development system is item-based and simple, characters have gone back to having unique abilities, and the tried-and-true staples of Final Fantasy returned. Good music (though not terribly memorable, outside of that Chocobo Hot-And-Cold music, good grief), excellent characters, a strong hero, a wily villain. And throwbacks to FF1!
I call this game good, but not great. It doesn’t really do anything wrong, but it’s a little odd thematically, and it doesn’t take too many chances on any front. I feel it’s gone from overrated to underrated and back to properly rated among fans, and I’m fine with that. A solid 7.5/10.
The only real complaint is that the summons are soooooo long, and that load times for battles are a bit much. Again, still good, not great, far from perfect.
I’ll stop here as well, since I have a cavalcade of thoughts about FF10. Stay tuned.