An Inside Look at the Final Fantasy Flamewars.

In 1987, Final Fantasy was conceived by a, then unknown, company known as Square. They were financially on their last legs and decided to create their final game and close their doors for good. They settled on the name Final Fantasy, a game that would reflect it as their final game, and how they wanted to create a fantasy. Ironically what was supposed to be their swan song 25 years later turned into a multi-million dollar franchise and spawned 14 sequels and countless spinoff titles. As one of video game’s most beloved franchises in the past 25 years, Final Fantasy has shown that even after all these years, they still have fans that are dedicated to the series… a little too dedicated.

Final Fantasy has gained a bit of infamy over the years, not from the games themselves, but from how viciously broken their fanbase is. While it’s not unheard of, or impossible to find a fan who likes most, if not all, of the games, the fanbase is famous for how ferociously they despise specific games within the main series. It’s not to say that they are the only broken fanbase, not only in video games, but in entertainment in general. Zelda has its broken bit, as does Pokemon, and even the Fallout series has its broken base (despite only having about 4 games), it seems that Final Fantasy fans are the most hard headed and the most “violent” when it comes to their games. But why does it hit Final Fantasy harder than a series like Zelda which is about as old and itself has several entries.

It largely has to do with the fact that the Final Fantasy series tends to try and reinvent itself with every installation in the series. While series like The Legend of Zelda and Pokemon tend to have several familiarities with them, Final Fantasy feels like a new game every time you play a different one. Some of the early ones are a bit similar to each other, after FF6, they went for basically redesigning the game from scratch with only Moogles, Chocobos, spells, and sometimes the summons as the only familiar faces. It’s gotten more diverse with its later games where they even go and redesign the battle system every game. This explains the strife between the different fans are so strong, you’re almost defending different games.

Another problem with the series, is that until recently, the series was spread over several consoles. While luckily after several ports/remakes (and the Playstation classics on the PSN), the first 9 games are available on the PSP/Vita and most of them are available on the PS3 (excluding 3, and 12). With this, you can play most of the games with ease. Prior to this, it was spread over several consoles, and many people don’t have the space, or money to keep all of their previous consoles, much less own multiple consoles. So to play much of the series was a bit of a hassle. With the series spread over several consoles, many fans are really only exposed to a small handful of the series. So with this in mind, it explains why many of the fans defend one or a couple of the games in the series as they’re really the only ones they know. So this brings the endless question, are you really a fan of a series if you’re only familiar with one or two games? That’s something that really has no answer, and thus fuels the never ending flamewars.

The fanbase is largely divided into three main camps: Final Fantasy 1-6, Final Fantasy 7, and Final Fantasy 10. Liking anything else means you. Are. Wrong. If you are a Final Fantasy fan, it’s wise to take note which camp is near you to prevent yourself from having a massive headache. Though despite these main camps, there are still several possibilities to still be wrong. As we have the polarizing Final Fantasy 8 and the even bigger breaker, Final Fantasy 13. Let’s dive into these main camps to see why they’re so dedicated to each one.

The Final Fantasy 1-6 camp is somewhat hypocritical in and of itself. The big part is that many of these people haven’t actually played all 6 of them.So while they feel justified to lump them all together, it seems very silly to try and defend games that you haven’t even played. Out of these 6, Final Fantasy 1, 4, and 6 are the most well-known and are all 3 landmarks in RPG’s. 2, 3, and 5 are the least played of the 6, and you could say the least played in the entire series. This is largely to do with the fact that the original versions of these games weren’t released outside of Japan until several years after their release, especially with FF3 being released 16 years after its original release in Japan. With that information aside, we can go back to how many of these campers either haven’t played all 6 of the games, or actually only like 2, maybe 3 games at most in this group. So when you sit down and think about this, it makes the entire camp seem like a complete joke.

Why are they defending this group as a whole if they’re either not familiar with all of them or don’t even like all of them? Nostalgia is a big factor in this group, and also “defending the classics”. We must also take note that the series, and RPG’s as a whole, were mostly a niche in gaming culture at the time of their release, with many American localization teams thinking that RPG’s themselves were money pits because nobody wants to play a long game, which seems silly today, because today we have the Elder Scrolls, MMO’s and sandbox games that go on forever. Since the series was a bit “underground” on the 8 bit and 16 bit days, they feel that the series was ruined by popularity when they moved to the PlayStation and became a massive hit. This ideology fits the same bill with certain music fans that after a band hits the big time, they are no longer a good band. The same goes with video games.

Now for group 2, the Final Fantasy 7 camp. As the most well known and most popular in the series, and the game that brought not only Final Fantasy to the mainstream, but also RPG’s in general, so it’s unavoidable that this game alone has its own camp of dedicated fans. For most gamers that missed out on the game as late comers to the series, they probably won’t get the big deal with this game. Nostalgia also plays a massive role in this camp, because for many dedicated FF7 fans, this was their introduction to the series, and without this game, they feel that they would not be interested in the series. For many fans, their first experience with a franchise tends to make the biggest impact on them, and anything after that will never live up to the expectations as their first experience. Sort of like how a drug user’s best high will almost always be his first time.

From a modern standpoint, this game looks and feels very uninspiring, and will definitely confuse people with why this game is a big deal. Its graphics feel very archaic, even for a Playstation game, and the story itself is riddled with JRPG clichés. Sadly this is an aspect that many will miss out on if they didn’t play the game when it was new. Originally praised as the first 3D Final Fantasy, it was also one of the earliest 3D RPG’s on the PS1.It was also highly influential with its setting and story, and in its wake has been followed with several games that have more or less “ripped off” aspects of the game. So if you’re a modern gamer and compare it to recent titles, this game brings nothing new to the table. But if you if you think about all these firsts that the game brought to the table, it’s easy to see why this game is held in high regards. It’s like the Nirvana album, Nevermind, of the RPG’s. Comparing it to today’s music, the album brings nothing new to you, they sound like every other gritty rock band on the radio today, but if you rewind to 1991 when it came out, this was a radical departure from the radio back then. In the 80’s Hair Metal and New Wave were all the rage, and nobody outside of a college campus had any clue with what the hell Alternative was. Fast forward today, apparently everything is alternative. Well back to Final Fantasy…

Since FF7 started a second generation of Final Fantasy fans, it started the original, and the deepest split in the fanbase. This sort of “generation war” suffers either from whose nostalgia is the strongest, or how the FF7 fans are noobs because the game made the series popular and brought what was once a well-kept secret into the eyes of the public.

Now for the final camp, Final Fantasy 10. This camp shares some of the same problems with the FF7 camp, though the large difference is that it’s not as highly influential. Like FF7, FF10 was also many people’s entry into the series. Just like many FF7 fans first console was the original Playstation, FF10 fan’s first console was the Playstation 2. Despite this, the game is still heralded as one of the best RPG’s, if not one of the best PS2 games and heralded many firsts in the series. Even though the game is 10 years old now and is starting to show its age, it still holds its own visually to many gamers whereas Final Fantasy 7’s deformed sprites and awkward navigation shies newcomers away.

As ushering a new generation of Final Fantasy fans, FF10 is hated by the PS1 generation and the S/NES gen as those fans being “tainted by the evils of modern video games”. The FF10 fans are only into fancy graphics and voice acting and can’t handle the “purity of the classics”. And also in a slight hint of hypocrisy, the second gen view the third gen into ruining their well-kept secret, since they feel that the PS1 games are allegedly obscure and FF10 is too popular because it has the first direct sequel in the franchise’s history. All ignoring the fact that Final Fantasy 7 sold more copies than 10. Another criticism is over Square’s merger with rival company Enix. The older fans claim this game is ruined because the original company is no more. The biggest irony of this claim is the fact that the merger happened in 2003 and FF10 was released in 2001 and every non-greatest hits copy of the game’s packaging says Squaresoft and even the title screen lists Squaresoft in every version of the game. Clearly a company that has yet to exist can’t “ruin” a game, but many people ignore these facts.  A lot of people make the same claim saying Square Enix ruined the series with 10-2, even though Squaresoft developed the game, not Square Enix. Though this situation is kind of a trick question, as the game was released in North America after the merger, and only the original Japanese release says Squaresoft.

So what about some of the other games? Why are they hated? Why are 8 and 13 so polarizing? Also what’s the deal with FF3 being hated despite being a missing entry? While I can’t go in depth on some of this, I can do a simple breakdown with why the Final Fantasy fans rage massively hard over these games.

Let’s start with Final Fantasy 3:

Final Fantasy 3

As mentioned earlier, this game was relatively unknown to most of the fans. Only the most hardcore of fans played the fan-translated roms on NES emulators, while others patiently waited for Square (later Square Enix) to release the game outside of Japan. So in 2006, their prayers were finally answered. Many of the fans were expecting a mass epic and thought Japan never released it to the rest of the world for this very reason. Many were sadly disappointed to find out that this game was incredibly archaic in story, and gameplay, and felt rather betrayed. They ignore the fact that this game was released on the NES and it’s quite silly to expect a very deep and rich story when later games like FF4 and 6 were the ones who pushed the envelope in storytelling, not an NES title. Another major flack FF3 got was that it was released on the DS, not the PS2 because Final Fantasy is only on Playstation.

Final Fantasy 8

Once the most polarizing game in the series, Final Fantasy 8, while largely praised by its graphics from the fans introduced by FF7, the gameplay itself gained some flack. It had a lot of radical gameplay changes for every Final Fantasy fan. Its junction system (look it up yourself) is confusing to many newcomers to the game. It also added an unorthodox way of gaining money, and the fact that the monsters level up with you. To counter this, one must use the Junction System to hoard magic to increase your stats. Your stats increase every 10 spells you use, so if you use too many spells, it actually affects your stats. The story, depending on who you’re talking to, is either heralded as a rich tale, or loathed as convoluted and too “lovey dovey”. While the confusing gameplay changes are legitimate reasons for not liking a game, there are still many fans who hate FF8 because they were expecting it to be a sequel to FF7, but discovered it was a completely different game and have never forgiven it ever since.

Final Fantasy 9

Squaresoft felt that FF7 and FF8 were getting too futuristic and scifi, and created FF9 as a sort of throwback to the more fantasy aspects of the older games. Sadly for Square, this did not bode well with fans. One big criticism is that the game was given a more cartoony storybook-like artstyle to match with its fantasy setting. Many fans felt that their “mature series” was becoming too kiddy and Square are trying to appeal to children because “mature gamers play mature games, and don’t want to play Disney shit”. All of them tend to ignore the fact that FF9 probably has one of the most mature storylines in the franchise. This game also doesn’t get enough attention as FF7 or 8 as it was released late in the PS1’s lifespan, and came out a month after the launch of the PS2.

Final Fantasy 11

MMORPG, enough said. More points because you have to pay monthly for it.

Final Fantasy 12

While heralded by professional critics upon its initial release, FF12 has gained a backlash from its fans. Similar to FF8, 12 gained some heat from fans for changing a lot of gameplay aspects. From its gambit system, not earning money from battles, and the MMORPG inspired battle system, it has its fair share of legitimate reasons why people dislike the game. Though a lot of fans hate it because it’s “too medieval” and Final Fantasy games aren’t supposed to be medieval (ignoring that the majority of the series has a medieval setting).

Final Fantasy 13

The whole game breaker. FF13 has two main grudges against it: the fact that it was released on the latest video game console generation (so basically why FF7 and FFX are hated by older fans), and how the gameplay is unorthodox from other FF games. The only universal agreement with this game is that the graphics rule.

The first criticism is in its story; some praise it to ungodly levels, and other feel that it has no story. No matter what anyone tells you, the game does have a story, and is fairly straightforward through most of the game and does very little to stray away from that. Arguably one of the most straightforward stories in the series as it’s not riddled with multiple plot twists. The reason why people probably feel it has no story, is that instead of being story driven like the others, it’s largely a character driven story and copes with how the various playable characters cope with themselves. It even features some very mature situations: like how Lightning is coping with raising her little sister without her parents help, and Sazh coping with his missing son.

The main criticism is in the gameplay. First off with how about it’s linear for much of the game. Some people want their RPG’s to have a lot of exploration in them, while this is a legitimate reason to dislike the game, the problem is that a lot of those people praise FF10 which is just as linear. The second criticism is the battle system. Like the story, the battle system is either praised to godly proportions, or hated with a passion. The battle system does take several hours of gameplay to finally open up and show what it’s really about, but prior to that, you don’t really do much in battle. Another aspect of the gameplay is that you automatically heal after battle and you have unlimited magic. Many feel that Square Enix is trying too hard to cater to “those filthy casuals”, but ignore that the battle system itself makes things tricky and the game itself is no walk in the park as they have level caps and force you into using strategy in boss battles more than the previous games that mostly require you to just grind your level higher.

Final Fantasy 14

As the second MMORPG with paid services, FF14 suffers the same fate as FF11, though this time it’s different. Out of all the 13 previous games, FF14 is the only one that’s universally considered to suck, and this is not from idiot fan opinions. Riddled with glitches, design flaws, and broken gameplay, the consensus was that the game felt unfinished. Luckily Square Enix noticed its universal hatred and decided to completely redo the entire game and to reveal it as FF14: A Realm Reborn. A Realm Reborn was finally released and has gained very positive reviews, but it suffers from the same fate as FF11 with being a paid MMORPG.

As a series that spans generations of gamers, its fanbase incorporates several types of fans. With its ongoing flamewars between its various factions, there are still many sane fans that either love their preferred game, or most/all of the games. Though we could all think that if everyone had the same opinion, the world would be a fairly boring place.

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One thought on “An Inside Look at the Final Fantasy Flamewars.”

  1. I’m happy to say I’ve played and beaten most Final Fantasy games. I’m not a huge fan of 3 (I have the DS version) but 4 – 6 (especially 6) were fantastic. VII was okay but I played it after playing VIII – X, which I think effects my judgement. All in all, VI, IX and X are my favorites in the series.

    In a way, Final Fantasy is built to be decisive. I mean, Zelda spans many generations of systems, too. A lot of big game franchises do but many incorporate the same ideas. Like you said, Final Fantasy reinvents itself with every game. It’s almost expected there will be a variety of favorites.

    Personally, I don’t feel I am violently for or against any game, I just wish I could find merchandise about more than VII and X. I’d love to have some VI or IX themed stuff.

    Like

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