It tells a lot about Final Fantasy VII’s appeal that a rerelease of a game nearly two decades old was one of the big stories from Square Enix’s E3. Despite already having had millions of sales, two spin-offs and an animated film, people don’t seem to be able to get enough of the adventures of Cloud, Aerith and the rest of AVALANCHE.
But the recent rumour of another remake – this time of Final Fantasy XII – should be the one that causes more intrigue.
Final Fantasy XII was released in the dying days of the PlayStation 2, back in 2006. It was the product of a long development cycle and while successful – it sold 5 million copies – never quite reached the stratospheric heights of fame achieved by some of the other Final Fantasy games.
So it’s a surprise to hear it might get a remake – but perhaps it shouldn’t be. It’s certainly one of the stronger games in the series in recent years. As a largely open world with fast-paced combat and interesting characters, it certainly comes a notch above the Final Fantasy XIII series. Moreover, its release at the end of the console’s life means it didn’t get the boost from new technology that, for example, Final Fantasy X received.
To remake Final Fantasy XII would be an excellent move on the part of Square Enix because it would communicate that the publisher actually has some self confidence about it. “No” it would say, “we don’t just keep fishing in the pool of things that were popular. This game was great, and if people didn’t appreciate it as much as we think they should have, we’ll try it again.”
Too often in the modern games industry, developers and publishers, driven by fear of losing money, return again and again to the same wells. But with a new Final Fantasy already on the way, bringing back some of its more forgotten instalments is no bad thing.
The adventures of Vaan et al. in Final Fantasy XII can be adequately summed up as being Steampunk Star Wars, and that’s certainly no bad thing. Taking on board the fairly standard plot of rebels fighting against an empire, the game made sure its world and characters were intriguing enough to carry it through.
It certainly did not stray down the path of absurdity that many JRPGs find themselves on. There was no Kingdom Hearts-esque abstraction about manifestations of hearts or multiple universes crossed in a ship piloted by chipmunks. It wasn’t Final Fantasy X – a game about a sports star who doesn’t exist, travelling through time to fight his dad who has been reincarnated as a whale. It had fantasy elements, and all the best parts of Final Fantasy – airships, chocobos, Moogles, oversized swords – but with a cast-iron internal logic that helped to make its expansive and detailed world feel real. It would dispel the notion that Final Fantasy games are drama-filled soap operas for overexcited teenagers, but capable of using the established lore of a long-running series to create series plots, characters and games.
Gaming succeeds when it does not leave its good ideas behind. The also-forgotten Final Fantasy IX could do with a look in, loving tribute as it was to the games in the series that came before, and like FFXII released in the dying days of its console. Or how about Vagrant Story, the excellent PS1 RPG tangentially related to Final Fantasy but long since disappeared from the public consciousness? New IP is nearly always best, but if you must wallow in the past, make it something that feels new to the audience – many of whom were children or unborn when these games came out.
Final Fantasy VII may be good, but it isn’t the only game worth remembering, and Square Enix should heed that. Their contribution to gaming is long, illustrious and varied. They should remember it.