Jesus, I know, two Final Fantasy posts in a row. I’ve had it on the mind for awhile, mostly thanks to the last post and, since then, listening to other FF soundtracks–like VII’s. It’s aged a bit–they were still using midis or something back then, so it’s all got this real weird electronic, beeping sort of sound to it. It’s also excessively grim. See for yourself–go and listen to the world map theme music and tell me if that doesn’t sound like the saddest thing you’ve ever heard. It’s like an old dog dying slowly on a porch, his last fleeting moments spent capturing nothing but the green grass lawn stretching far out to…

…that went to a strange place. At anyrate, it kinda makes you wanna kill yourself. FFVII was and is a very dark game. Akin to how the Dark Knight Returns is pointed at as the start of comic books becoming excessively dark and “edgy”, FFVII did much the same thing to video games, or at the very least, RPGs. Before FFVII, RPGs were generally bright, colorful, and rather silly. I mean, Jesus, just LOOK at FFV!

Compare this... THIS

The Final Fantasy series got a hell of a lot darker, but it wasn’t trying to start a trend–the writers just decided that this new story had to have a different tone than previous games. At it’s time, it was strange, edgy, new, and it blasted into popular culture like a flaming meteor.

People say it’s the best FF ever. I disagree, but I don’t want to get into that old argument now. Here’s the point I’m laboriously reaching at–FFVII felt genuine. It felt like it was inspired, that there was passion and energy in it. Everyone was giving their all because they really, truly were behind this. I’d argue that even FFVIII, easily the weakest of the PSX-era games, had at least a lot of fervor and passion behind it. The amount of ludicrously unnecessary detail crammed into that game’s encyclopedia is mindblowing. They were into this shit, and they were with IX and, honestly, X also.

X gets a lot of flack, but I actually defend it. It has some silly designs and silly characters and weird weapons, but I buy it. They wanted to start a new thing, shake off their old trends and go someplace different. They succeeded immensely in that regard, if you ask me. XI I won’t count because it’s an MMORPG and, well, the less you make me talk about those the better.

XII is where we hit a stutter. First off, I absolutely love FFXII. I thought it was incredibly charming and really, really fun to play. I love its battle system more than words can describe, and my greatest frustration is that the vastly, vastly improved International Edition has not been localized for American use. But FFXII had a problem. There was plenty of passion behind it, plenty of drive and hard work, but something was…missing. It seemed directionless, aimless. There was something it wanted to get at, but it couldn’t seem to figure out how to reach it. I still love the game for what it is, and found its story refreshing, if nothing else, to the series’ then-trademark sappy romances.

A headless Final Fantasy is better than a heartless one, at least, and that brings me to XIII. I have a laundry list of gripes against XIII–its lack of player involvement, its shallow, superficial customization, its completely linear nature, its absurdly tedious sidequests, its horrible pacing or even its bland, uninspiring music. But y’know what I hate the most about it? It has no soul. I’m sorry, I just don’t see it. It feels…empty. It feels like a flailing, confused attempt to appeal to as many demographics as possible and losing sight of any sort of creative vision. Though there’s a certain artificiality to FFXIII that truly sparks my ire–the sheer, unyielding attempts to tug at our heartstrings.

There are several things I enjoyed from FFXIII–its cutscenes were very pretty, it has amazing graphics, and its “story” is pretty entertaining, if badly paced. But the game has many, MANY scenes where it just gushes for your sympathies. It plays every old card in the book to make you cry or laugh, and even if it works, it feels hollow, insubstantial.

I feel that FFXIII wasn’t created so much as manufactured, assembled piece by piece–an aging giant piecing together its favorite toy, long after it had cast it aside. I think, somewhere in that mess, there was a real story–fuck that, a real game that somebody wanted to create. Damned if I can find it though.