01-16-2012, 05:48 AM
Well i played the demo of Final Fantasy 13-2. I have to admit it is good in my opinion. Whenever we are on the cusp of a new FF game release i have to admit i get a little nostalgic. In a good way though. But this thread is about the game series in general.

I look over the series and i haven't played every last game in the series. In fact i avoided the online games because i don't care for mmorpgs. So i can't speak too well for or against them. I first entered the series with Final Fantasy VII and i've been hooked ever since. As i've played and watched over the years i am impressed and have no regrets about becoming a mainstay RPG player.

The first thing i have noticed is how the series has changed over the years. We started out with a quasi-medieval European society with swords and sorcery. Now the games have become futuristic sci-fi fantasy games, with the games embracing a large story that is actually an analysis of certain things in our human society such as religion, government, belief systems, and even racism. To me it's interesting to see such things. In my mind though it all started with XenoGears which was the first game in my mind that really came out in full force with a challenge to the religious-social constructs in our society. Final Fantasy and numerous other RPG series have taken that lead and run with it, and just about every RPG since then has raised the question of whether we can trust our perception and beliefs of the world we live in, with FF10 and FF13 being the two games that embraced this ideal the most.

One of my biggest gripes at one time was the bishounen or bishomen (as i like to call it) stereotype that was supposedly rife in the FF series since FF7. The thing is if you look at the entire FF series there aren't any bishounen or even really emo characters until we meet Hope Estheim in FF13. After playing through the game i realized that Hope wasn't bishounen or emo. He was a 15 yr old kid who was shipped off on a train to die, his mother was killed before his very eyes, and now he's been branded as a disease-ridden monster and stuck with a group of adults who have no idea where they are going, what to do next and seem hell-bent on charging into a fight they can't win. And to top it off he's been raised on a artificial world where his every need is taken care of, and his 'gods' are right there to be viewed and they treat him like a pet, and he knows it. Hope isn't bishy, Hope is in a fucked up situation that any kid his age would be in tears about, and most adults would just give up and die in. Looking back on the whole game, Hope and Sazh are the only truly realistic, and human characters in the game and in much of the series to date. Sazh reminds me so much of my father and a lot of hard working, middle-class people in the world. They know the world is fucked up, they know their government is wrong, but they have families, responsibilities so they can't go rushing off to try to change the world. So they smile so their children don't worry and keep moving even though their hearts are heavy and their minds weary, their only hope is that the youth they are raising and protecting can change things for the better.

So why have the games changed? Because change happens that's why. To a certain extent the change is surprising, given how rigid and culturally homogenous Japan is and has almost always been. American fans of the series have bitched endlessly about the changes and i for one actually had that few when i was younger until i reached my thirties and had to accept that i was changing myself. Getting older can actually do that to you.

The games have also changed, because the times have changed. The world is now connected via the internet. Time Magazine named the now eponymous anti-government/capitalist, pro-socialist, vapid 20-something 'protester' as Person of the Year, and people are questioning their leaders because the world economy is in the toilet. We live in a consumer culture where we want our every whim provided with as little pain or work as possible. People crave realism yet constantly look for escape from reality. If you look at the FF Series 7, 10, 12, and 13 reflect the youthful mindset of today. It seems that each game tells the story of a small band of truth-seekers rallying against the brainwashed masses for said masses sake. Fighting for freedom, truth and an end to totalitarian regimes, the rabble-rousers are blessed with extraordinary power to deal with the hordes of enemies that serve the evil in the world and only they can defeat said evil. But have you ever noticed that the so-called evil or totalitarian regime never gets noticed until it does something horrendous. Its another fallacy of humanity in it's own fantasy world. Where the forces of evil always do something drastic and world altering suddenly to call attention to itself. Unfortunately or perhaps fortunately this doesn't happen in the real world.

One thing you must also note is that a lot of the fans and gamers in general now are older and wiser. Just 10 years ago the age of the average gamer was 4 to 20 at best. Now it's 4 to 35 as a general rule. Because of this the games have had to move from fanciful middle-age European world to more modern settings. Because older gamers are generally more sci-fi and realism oriented. In the end though I think change is good. I miss Uematsu and his music, but things change and people move on. The original creator of Final Fantasy has moved on as well and a new generation has come in to try their hand at the wheel. Instead of bitching and moaning about how great the past was, lets see what the future holds and be glad we can play with it.

01-21-2012, 01:12 AM
Its not so surprising that there should be strong elements of wanting to overthrow or break free from oppression etc. Writers of all kinds tend to free spirited souls who want to be heard, and the East is not always the most accepting of freedoms for the populace. JRPGs have always concentrated on the wish to be free of controlling institutions, aggressive foreign countries and organised religions etc, so FF13 is at least in that sense as familiar as always. And we must not underestimate the psychic wound that the bombs caused on the Japanese.

There are often powers, artifacts etc that are representative of nuclear weapons and radiation poisoning etc in the games (the various kinds of crystals, Sin, the Mist etc etc etc) and this shows the scar that those events left. Games like FF6 and other JRPG series like Shin Megami Tensei go futher and actually have an apocalypse in game. There is also the fact that so few of their games depict characters who actually look Japanese in any kind of militaristic or aggressive posture. The japanese are very keen never to appear like they are promoting themselves in any kind of military sense, lest something like Hiroshima happen again. To us in the West, it seems curious because we just can't see it ever coming to that again, but then we didn't experience it.

To me, from as far back as the movie 'Akira', I have seen these products as Japan trying to come to terms with it all. Trying to sort out why it was done, whether it was justified and who they are as a people now (a great many JRPGs see the villains proposing some kind of world ending calamity, stating that a new better world will be born afterwards). The focus on young, idealistic characters is something I think they need, because it represents hope and vitality triumphing etc. Or you get the truly bizarre campy experiences that are cleary escapism from reality.

Meanwhile in the west, we're generally more jaded and decadent (in that we haven't any major catastrophes, and our fairly liberal governments have allowed us to overdose on media and entertainment in reletive comfort and safety). So we tend to gravitate more towards products that offer us something we haven't seen before for the visceral shock value, or towards products that are the pinnacle of technical perfection (i.e that only the smoothest running, best looking games need apply etc). We have no particular issues that we care about, we just want to be entertained and empowered by games that make us seem like the best and most powerful person ever.

I guess what I'm saying is that our cultures are very different. Expecting Japan to adapt to us is typical Western arrogance, but the fact remains that unless Japan can start offering us things that we want, its going to be hard for them to regain any ground. Final Fantasy (and other JRPGs) currently do not offer the kinds of characters and stories that modern western audiences want. And there's no easy answer on how to change things around - either they'll get it right or they won't. Final Fantasy won't get back to where it needs to be until we put in the new game and think 'Woah - I wasn't expecting anything like *this*!'

Something that strikes a chord with people from East and West, and isn't just the same old FF experience that they think they know. And you can't just create something like that at the drop of a hat. Its one of those 'We'll know when we see it' things.