Editorial: The Best and Worst
Three Final Fantasy Games.
Hello, everyone! I am actually still all in a tizzy over E3, which is why we have another editorial here. I thought about doing a five best (which would have almost certainly included Final Fantasy XIV) and then later a five worst (which would have almost certainly included Final Fantasy VII), but I elected, instead, to take this somewhat more concise approach.
As is usually the case in Final Fantasy editorials, I am counting Kingdom Hearts, I think that's just logical. I am not including All the Bravest, although rest assured that if I did it would be bloody topping this list, both because I've not played it and because I don't think it counts as a game, in the same way a child weeping in the corner doesn't count as a game no matter how many times you wave an Xbox controller at it.
... Don't know how well that analogy worked out. Eh. Let's roll on.
Winning Bronze with 3rd Best: Kingdom Hearts II.
While I have some very strong views about the direction that the franchise has gone in, Kingdom Hearts II remains, to me, the pinnacle of the series. It's not a perfect game, by any means, but it's a fun hack-and-slasher with some nice RPG elements (even if I wish there was a way of extending your Drive meters infinitely) and a storyline that, while a bit hackneyed and awfully paced in areas, is coherent and emotional and gets the job done. I respect getting the job done.
Kingdom Hearts II could have quite happily functioned as the end of that storyline - it wraps the entire storyline up quite elegantly - and I recently found myself wishing that it was. Birth by Sleep and Dream Drop Distance would be far less offensive if they weren't horrifyingly overcomplicating what was an already perfectly serviceable storyline, and the lengthy development cycle of Kingdom Hearts III would have been much less distasteful if it wasn't the long-awaited conclusion to a storyline that could have been wrapped up a decade ago.
Winning Wood with 3rd Worst: Kingdom Hearts - Birth by Sleep.
Speaking of Kingdom Hearts, whoever thought that Birth by Sleep was a good idea - let's face it, it was Tetsuya Nomura - can go perish in the fires of Hell.
It's not the gameplay that is the problem. An adjusted form of Crisis Core's gameplay, the game plays slightly awkwardly but certainly not in any way that is an impediment to one's enjoyment. Nor, really, is it it the characters - Terra is a lot of fun, Aqua has rapidly become a fan favourite for good reason, and villains Vanitas and Xehanort.
There are two problems with it. Firstly, with three characters going through the same worlds you end up covering a lot of ground repeatedly. That's not great. But an even bigger problem, the problem that puts it on its list, is that it's a side game that massively overcomplicates the storyline of the main series. As my good friend Reecey pointed out in her own post on Kingdom Hearts III, if you were following straight on from the second game, as many people will, you will be utterly confused as to who the two figures playing chess are, and probably a lot more.
Don't put your important storyline details in side games, guys. And don't turn your plot into a tangled rat king of story.
Winning Silver with 2nd Best: Final Fantasy X.
Final Fantasy X was my first Final Fantasy game and my first JRPG, and I was entirely unsure as to what to expect from it - it wasn't a game I had bought, per se, it and Final Fantasy XII came with my used PS2, along with True Crime LA and a few more games that I don't well recall.
But it's a fan favourite and with good reason - Final Fantasy X is an archetypal Final Fantasy game in all the best ways, combining a deep and epic story with a techno-fantasy setting and a cast of interesting characters, with some strong turn-based gameplay to boot - in fact, it is, I think, the last of the main series games to have turn-based gameplay, which is terrible.
It's a fantastic entrance to the series, and it still holds up well today - it is a game that ages slowly, and I would recommend it to anyone.
Winning Bromine with 2nd Worst: Final Fantasy VIII.
Final Fantasy VIII stayed more or less off my radar until recently - I knew of it, and I even knew a chunk of details about the story (enough that I could reasonably discuss its story with people), but I had never played it, nor watched anyone else play it, which left me wholly unprepared for how unspeakably terrible it is when I actually did watch someone play it.
A game that has profited heavily in fan regard from the presence of beloved fan icon VII and underappreciated gem IX on the other, and profited even more from nostalgia, Final Fantasy VIII is a game that people praise as being great while apparently forgetting the horrendously clunky, often broken gameplay; the plot that borders on nonsensical at times; or the wooden, unlikable characters who often behave in bewildering ways.
Essentially, I'm saying that I don't like it. It did not live up to the expectations fandom had given me of it.
Winning Gold with 1st Best: Final Fantasy XII.
Final Fantasy XII is the most under-appreciated gem in the series and I will fight anyone who disagrees.
It's not a perfect game, by any means - the ability to pause and give your team commands while paused would have been very much appreciated - and its development cycle was a shambles, but it's one of the most unique games in the series, a political epic in a vast and mostly open world, with a plot that absolutely never gets boring and a cast of characters that are all deep, intriguing people with their own agendas.
Except Vaan. I don't know why he's even there.
It's a game that, like X, has aged very well, and will most likely continue to look and play as sharply as it ever did for years to come. Frankly, it deserved a sequel more than XIII. Speaking of which ...
Winning Highly Dangerous Uranium with 1st Worst: Final Fantasy XIII.
Every time I mention not liking this game, someone remarks that it was their favourite, which I suppose is understandable. Some people actually liked Assassin's Creed: Unity, after all, and I very nearly put that at the top of this list instead just on principle.
XIII could have been a good game - it has an interesting cast of characters, an intriguing setting, and the paradigm system has a lot of potential. What killed it was both the utterly incoherent, tortured story that never seemed to have any idea where it's going, and the gameplay.
Square's obsession with not having turn-based gameplay struck again in this game, as it sacrificed gamer involvement for, essentially, cinematic prettiness, having your gameplay contributions come entirely down to changing you party's paradigms. But in a good game, that would only be a part of the gameplay, in the same way that Bravely Default's gameplay doesn't consist solely of changing your party's classes.
Combine that with the game being extremely railroaded until nearly the end, bosses that will cast Doom on you if they think you're taking too long to kill them (I'M SORRY DID YOU HAVE SOMEWHERE TO BE?), and two unnecessary sequels, and this was an easy choice for the top of the list.