Here’s an interesting story on Square’s response to the reviews for Final Fantasy Ex-Eye-Eye-Eye
The tl;dr version is this: Western reviews of the game have been unfair because we’re looking at it from a Western perspective. We don’t ‘get’ it. Which is hilarious, really. I mean, practically every other game in the series has received glowing reviews, despite being looked at from the exact same perspective. And if you look at Metacritic, it’s still right up there with an average of 86 – 14 points shy of perfection. Which, by anyone’s standard (assuming you’re not using the ‘anything less than 7/10 = absolute garbage’ method of grading) is pretty damn good. But because this isn’t being hailed as the greatest thing since mouth first met genitalia, we’re doing it wrong.
Can’t help but think that this is what happens when you get complacent, Mr. Toriyama. Not that this hasn’t been a while coming. I mean, while critical acclaim has been generally as high as ever, the fanbase has been grumbling for a while. FFX was probably the start of it, with frequent complaints about the voice acting. Then X-2, which had many of the same bad voice actors (looking right at you, Hedy Burress), but with the bonus of extra cringeworthy scenes and dialogue. Arguably its biggest sin (aside from, y’know, that Sin) was that it wasn’t the sequel to FF7 everyone wanted, and that was unforgivable.
Then Advent Children came out and it proved itself to be a pile of wank.
I could go in-depth on what made it so bad (and may well do so at a later date), but the short version was that it was shallow, heartless and didn’t tell an engaging story. There was nothing here that couldn’t have been told in a spin-off manga or drama CD. And while it certainly looked nice, it was all spectacle and no substance. It went from ‘Only through friends can you overcome life’s hardships’ (FF7) to ‘No one could wipe themselves if Cloud wasn’t around, also did we mention Vincent, the only character with an extended cameo is starring in a new game? Buy Dirge of Cerberus, kids!’ (FF:AC).
Then came FFXII. Oh dear. Oh dear, oh dear. The scores in the press were still almost universally above 90%, but the fans were definitely not pleased. In attempting to reinvent the wheel for the 7th or 8th time, Square seemed to forget what made the games fun in the first place. It’s all very well and good being revolutionary and making waves, but if you’re not using them to, I dunno, make things more fun, who cares? FFXII was an MMO without the MM part (or the ‘O’) but with all the stupidity. Just you, wandering the landscape looking for rare lewt with robot buddies that you had to pre-program down from ‘Huurrrr Duuurrr’ to simple ‘hurp de durp’. It was like those robots you got in school where you had to program the directions to make it go in a square in advance, only you weren’t doing it for 120 hours at a time.
The point that I’m trying to make, in between taking none-too-subtle digs at the series, is this: Square-Enix have developed a sense of entitlement that, of late, hasn’t been well-deserved at all. And I say that as someone who has been with the series since Final Fantasy Mystic Quest on the SNES. I can say with no doubt in my heart that FF6 is one of the best games on that machine. Similarly, I can say with as much certainty that FFXII is one of the most boring RPGs I’ve ever played, and has two of the most worthless characters it’s ever been my misfortune to encounter. You two fuckers made me miss Tidus. Tidus, for fuck’s sake! The scores are still high, but they’re not high enough, and it’s not because the game’s not good enough, it’s because we don’t appreciate it right.
Y’know, I think there’s a couple of guys from Activision you might get along with. Ask them about Tony Hawk, they’ll set you right.
As I said before, this has been a long time coming. The backlash, if you can even call it that, isn’t as severe as it probably should be, but it’s starting. Whether they take this as an opportunity to marshal themselves and return to the greatness the series was once known for, we’ll have to wait and see. Once upon a time, the release of a Final Fantasy title was an Event. You marked it down on your calender, you counted down the days, and you waited for it. Now? It just means it’s Wednesday.