The Final Fantasy series, long one of gaming’s most polarizing franchises, has had it rough lately. After a less than stellar debut on high definition consoles with the lackluster Final Fantasy XIII, Square Enix has been mired in Final Fantasy related issues ranging from the disastrous first launch of Final Fantasy XIV to the insultingly shallow Final Fantasy: All The Bravest. Even today, the awkward roller coaster development of Final Fantasy Versus XIII turned Final Fantasy XV is nothing short of confusing.
In an interview with Official Xbox Magazine, Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII director Yuji Abe said that recently acquired western studio Eidos Interactive could potentially develop a Final Fantasy game. “That’s certainly been discussed within the company, the possibility of say, Eidos or someone else to look after or take on the Final Fantasy series.”
The fact that this option is on the table bodes well for the growth of Square Enix in providing entertainment that can bridge the disparate gap between Japanese and Western tastes. Often Square’s games are accused of being a tad too Japanese with a penchant for flair over function. Final Fantasy in particular has become a bit of a punchline in the west with critics citing the games need for large hair and large swords.
Testsuya Nomura’s character designs aside, I have long supported the Final Fantasy series and adore its incredible lore and deep systems that each game takes the time to properly craft. If anything, an influx of western thought could push Final Fantasy out of the corridors of Final Fantasy XIII and into a hybrid game that could feature the strong narrative and technical systems the Japanese adore, married to the open world freedom that western gamers crave.
Think of it like Skyrim with spiky hair.
No matter who Square Enix entrusts the Final Fantasy series to, they need to remember not only its reputation for visual flair and techincal systems, but also that exploration is key to a impacting adventure. I’ve been dabbling in the original Final Fantasy for iOS and after the first dungeon there are only slight clues as to where to go next with your options limited to an entire continent to explore. Square Enix needs to remember how to be fearless, rather than making their experiences so sterile. For heaven’s sake, this series once let you pilot a school.