Why XIII Was My “Final” Final Fantasy for a Long Time

It’s been a long time since I played a Final Fantasy game. I’ve actually played almost every game from Square Enix’s long running JRPG franchise. Like a lot of neophytes, my first encounter with the series was on the Sony PlayStation with Final Fantasy VII. I actually didn’t fall in love with it until we reached the end of the first disc when the unthinkable happened and one of my party members (you know who) bit the dust permanently. Also like a lot of gamers at the time, the death hit me like a ton of bricks as it was totally unexpected. After that moment, I was hooked. I snatched up Final Fantasy VIII, IX, X and XII on the days they were released. And in between the years of their released, I went back and tried out the older games to find out what I was missing all those years. In fact, I would say Final Fantasy VI is still my favorite game from the franchise!

But something happened later on and it was something I didn’t realize until much later. I just stopped playing Final Fantasy games. It didn’t really occur to me until I realized I had no urge to replay any of the older games. Yes, even Final Fantasy VI, the one I said was my favorite! I just didn’t have the stomach to go through it again. And a big contributing factor to why I soured on Square Enix’s long running series is because of one game: Final Fantasy XIII.

Now, I don’t exactly foist all of the blame on Final Fantasy XIII as to why I basically quit the series for quite a while. My frustration with the series had been bubbling up some time before that, in retrospect. I will say, however, it was pretty much the straw that broke the camel’s back for me.

But before I do get to that point, let’s go back to why I started to tire of the Final Fantasy games before then. Now, I loved Final Fantasy X. It was one of the reasons why I desperately needed to get a PlayStation 2… besides Metal Gear Solid 2 and Grand Theft Auto III anyway. These three games were going to be exclusive to Sony’s brand new console, so of course I had to get the system. I did play Final Fantasy X to all heck. I normally don’t try to 100% a game. I generally don’t have the patience for that kind of thing. As much as I loved Final Fantasy VII, I didn’t bother taking out the Ultimate Weapons and whatnot. I did go to all of the trouble to get the Knights of the Round Summon Materia because it was the most powerful summon of the game but fighting the Ultimate Weapons just felt like too much work.

This wasn’t the case with me when I played Final Fantasy X, though. This was a game I was determined to get each and every secret just so I could squeeze as much game from it as I could! This meant having to do all of the side quests and go through all of the tedious jobs in order to get the Celestial Weapons for each character! Yes, this included having to dodge 200 lightning strikes in the Thunder Plains! I can remember really tensing up and my eyes starting to water by the 150th dodge! I did dodge the required 200 and booked out of there! Worth it!

So I was super happy with Final Fantasy X. Unfortunately, I couldn’t play Final Fantasy XI because Square Enix decided to jump onto the MMORPG bandwagon and make that entry an online only game. I didn’t mind too much because I play Final Fantasy games for the engrossing story and enigmatic characters anyway, two things I wouldn’t get in an MMORPG. But I was all ears for any news for Final Fantasy XII.

Eventually, Square Enix released Final Fantasy XII and, well, something was just off. I was excited to play it because I loved the idea that there were no more random encounters since you can see the monsters off in the distance now, a thing that bugged me to no end in earlier entries. But it just felt wrong to me. Maybe it was the story where the main character, Vaan, didn’t feel like the main character and more of an observer of the grander events happening around him. Maybe it was the new Active Dimension Battle system which had you issuing commands indirectly to your party and just felt less action-y than it looked. Maybe because the character designs, while cool looking, wasn’t all that colorful when compared to earlier entries. Maybe it was because it was so difficult to level up because, in an ironic twist, random encounters were taken out of the game. Most probably, it’s a combination of these factors.

I know there are people who positively love Final Fantasy XII and that crowd is big enough to facilitate it getting and HD re-release with The Zodiac Age. It just wasn’t for me. In fact, this was the first Final Fantasy that I just plain did not finish! The game just didn’t click for me and I just stopped playing it after couple of weeks. Granted, 2006, the year it was released, was a pretty stocked year. Games like Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence, Bully, Kingdom Hearts II, Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories and more were vying for your time then. Heck, Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence already had the main game as well as the first two Metal Gear games built it! That’s a time sink in itself!

But I was still undeterred. Final Fantasy XIII was on the horizon and it was going to be on the PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360. It took a while but I did get a PlayStation 3 and a copy of Final Fantasy XIII. I was still really jazzed for it because the trailers looked good. The characters all had snazzy looks to them, unlike in Final Fantasy XII. I was actually looking forward to Lightning and the gang! It also looked like Square Enix sort of went back to their roots with the battle system as XIII was going to have a pseudo version of the Active Time Battle system, which I can appreciate wholeheartedly. Perhaps they can bring it back with XIII?

I was enjoying myself for something like the first quarter of Final Fantasy XIII but, the more I played it, the more repetitive things started to feel. This new version of the Active Time Battle system was too wonky and the AI controlled characters weren’t up to snuff during the more difficult battles, even with the correct pre-combat instructions programmed in before the combat. But things really came to a head during the halfway mark when Lightning leave Cocoon and the land below the floating city.

This should’ve been the point when I would be enjoying XIII a whole lot more. Instead of exploring cramped corridors, I now had a vast world to go explore. Except it had the opposite effect on me because I was already enjoying my time exploring those cramped corridors! All of a sudden, I had to go explore this giant world, a world where there already isn’t much to do, and walk around aimlessly! In retrospect, if I was a little more patient, I might’ve gotten my bearing and figured things out. But by this time, the combat system was already grating on me. Having to do pretty much everything because my AI partners were worthless just felt more like work and babysitting them rather than feel like a fun time with my buddies. Not only that, I started to also dislike a lot of my party members, specifically the emo Snow and whiny Hope. I wished I could leave them to die at times! I pretty much quit the game at that point and I never looked back.

Basically, this was also the time when they announced XIII was going to get a couple of sequels. Yes, Square Enix was going to make Final Fantasy XIII a trilogy of sorts! Fabula Nova Crystallis Final Fantasy! XIII-2 was going to focus on Lightning’s sister, Sera, and some unknown dude while Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII focuses on the titular character in a more action based game than RPG. But why would I be interested in playing either of them when I didn’t even care for the first game?

Then came the announcement for Final Fantasy XIV, which was going to be another MMORPG. Okay, fine. But what about the next “real” Final Fantasy? Well, that was going to be Final Fantasy XV. And I just wasn’t enthused by it.

There were several things I didn’t like about Final Fantasy XV right off the bat. The story of an heir to the throne trying to reclaim his or her kingdom harkened back to Final Fantasy XII, a game wherein I didn’t care for all the political intrigue already. But my biggest concern was how you could only control one character throughout the entire game! They were going to reuse the system that Final Fantasy XIII used? Well, that was basically it. I pretty much tuned out of any news from Final Fantasy XV. And, for the longest time, I thought Final Fantasy XIII was going to be my final Final Fantasy.

But there is a twist to this story.

Perhaps Square Enix also knew people like me were leaving the franchise. After attracting us with Final Fantasy VII on the original PlayStation all those years ago, the series was starting to lose some steam. So they probably thought of how to get us back. How could they bring us back to playing Final Fantasy games again?

The answer was simple: remaster Final Fantasy VII.

I did get Final Fantasy VII Remaster the instant I could buy it. It wasn’t easy as the world was all crazy at that time but I did it! And I loved it! Playing it made me relive all of the fun times I had with the original games, like way back when the original was released, made me crave to see what Final Fantasy games I’ve been missing all this time. It did make me think that I was too hard on Final Fantasy XII and maybe I should give it a second chance. Maybe Final Fantasy XIII gets a whole lot better but I just didn’t have the patience to wait it out. I also heard Square Enix revamped Final Fantasy XV with the Royal Edition, which now allows you to switch between characters in combat.

So, yes, it just so happened Final Fantasy XIII was nearly the last game I played in the series. It was a close call but it certainly won’t be my last Final Fantasy.

What is your favorite Final Fantasy game? How about your least favorite? Let me know what they are in the comments section below!

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