If you’ve been following our Ranking Final Fantasy series you may remember that in the first post we admitted that we were doing this because we were too restless just sitting on our hands as Final Fantasy XV approached. But at long last here we are on the eve of that momentous day. The release of Final Fantasy XV, the first stand alone numbered Final Fantasy to be released in almost 7 years.
That’s right, XIII was released in Japan on December 13th, 2009. That’s almost 7 years(!) to the day. We’ll talk more about tomorrow (or as I call it ‘the day my life as I know it ends’) in a second but in what could be our final post looking back on Final Fantasy, we talk about what has happened between XIII and XV, and that is the failed yet born again hit that is Final Fantasy XIV.
Long story short, XIV came out and failed miserably as an MMORPG, but SQEX made a rather big decision to reboot the game, and thus the game was killed off, and “reborn” in 2013 as FFXIV: A Realm Reborn, to critical acclaim.
And one of the reasons that FFXIV: A Realm Reborn has worked so well is how well they finished off the 1.0 story line, with the Elder Primal Bahamut literally laying waste to the realm as the people of Eorzea fight off the Garlean Empire. Just check out the amazing video above, which shows the end of 1.0 in CG form, and the return of our hero (you!). This story line continues on in A Realm Reborn, with players taking on classic FF jobs such as Dragoon, Black Mage, Bard, etc, with content, monsters, bosses, and themes from previous FFs. FFXIV has also been a paradigm shift in not only how accessible the game is to players, but also how accessible the development team is, with live video updates, fan events, and patches occuring almost monthly. ASM has been a player of ARR from day one, and I myself joined in shortly after release.
For this post, given that FFXIV is online, and ongoing, we will limit it to our thoughts only, as there is simply too much to cover compared to previous games. FFXIV is available on PS3, PS4 and PC now worldwide, but note that PS3 support will be ending next year with the release of FFXIV’s second expansion pack, Stormblood.
ASM: So to start off, I was an old school XI player, which we didn’t touch on in our series. I played XI for about 3 years when it first came out in 2003, but it’s an aging MMORPG, of the “old school” that is nearing retirement. By “old school” I mean that when I played XI, it was all about the grind. I understand that they changed farther down the line to make it easy to level up and what not, but in my day (I sound like an old fart here) the grind meant you would shout for a party in Jeuno, and literally go beat up crabs for 3 hours to hope to level up once or twice. While this was great for someone who was in college and had a lot of free time, but once you’re out working, it’s not something you can fit into your schedule so easily. I did play the original launch of XIV for about a week, but it was incomplete system wise and hard to get into, especially with a new baby, that I dropped it and never came back. However, when XIV:ARR came along, I had the opportunity to try the beta, and I was blown away by a lot of conventions that didn’t exist when I played XI, as well as how everything had been improved from the lackluster XIV 1.0 launch. The duty finder, FATEs, the ease in leveling up and trying new jobs, the designs. I was impressed with how easy it was to play on the PS3, and how much more forgiving the game was as a whole for casaul adult players with families, that I picked it up on release date, and managed to convince GG to try it with me.
GG: This was tough for me. Battlefield 4 was scheduled to launch just after the release of XIV and when I met ASM in Akiba that weekend he pushed me, rather forcefully I recall, to pick up XIV while I waited for BF4. I gave in and purchased the PS3 version and played catch-up with ASM as my in-game guide. I loved the amount of customisation you had available to you when it came to creating your character and I took quite a long time painstakingly checking every option and combination as I knew my character would be with me throughout the many hours I would be playing. It feels like you can make yourself almost anything.
I really liked the game though playing it on the PS3 I was missing so much because I lacked processing power. I would participate in massive FATEs by myself because my ps3 couldn’t show all the other players on the screen. I could hear them but I was all alone whacking away at an invisible enemy. And so, I took the plunge and got the PC version. Night and day difference.
ASM: Yeah, BF4, it was hard to pull you away from that! We had come off our FPS kick, especially with CoD, so it was hard to transistion to something else. But one of things I found XIV to be easy to get into was that it was much more casual then XI, and that image of MMORPGs being time consuming. You could get online and do some story quests, maybe do some crafting or gathering. Or if you wanted, join in the FATEs, or Full Active Time Event, where random events would happen out in the world that would award you with experience points for completing objectives. You could do an hour of play and feel like you progressed. There is something for everyone, so to say. I also as well would move on from the PS3 version to the PC version, and this lead me to jumping back into PC building and customisation.
GG: There really is so much in that game. It’s massive. While players were busy maxing out all jobs for their character I was happy to build up my main job, the BARD.
I enjoyed the multi-party dungeons as well and we would be chatting quite a lot as we pulled big numbers when it came to damage and stealing hate from the Tanks. ASM is everything.
He goes hard!
No, really. Dude drops meteors.
ASM: One of the best things about this has been doing this together with a buddy. You could talk to your friends about that hard battle with so and so when playing FF in the past, but aside from some gimmicky second controller settings, FF has always been a single player experience. Now you can get online and progress with a friend, and some of the best moments have been playing this game with GG, on voice chat, as we have taken on some awesome challenges. The World Fates (the Behemoth!), or the Crystal Tower series of 24-man raids. The whole Heavensward storyline, and the fight against the Knights of the Round.
GG: It is truly an experience the likes of which I haven’t experienced. I had never played an MMORPG before so for me this was all new but being part of a party and challenging things as a team felt really rewarding particularly with Japanese players who are quite polite and seem very helpful to newbies like me (for the most part). I think my Japanese improved quite a bit playing this game.
ASM: Yeah, while the game is world wide and you can play on any server, we play on a primarily JP server, since we are located in Japan. I think it does help with the language skills. Sometime I feel like I learn more Japanese from this than at work! One of the major positive points about FFXIV has also been its music. While Uematsu came back and scored a majority of the music from the original 1.0 launch, Masayoshi Soken was tapped to take over sound duties from ARR, and I have to say he has brought some great themes to the FF series. From hard rock to classical, inspiring to homage, there is a plethora of music here that is wonderful. I have picked up every soundtrack on release due to the blu-ray format, which includes both the mp3s, as well as tons of movie clips, concerts, and more on disc.
GG: The music was all at once epic and new and true Final Fantasy and nostalgic. A lot of our favourite themes found their way into FFXIV and while it is a lot of fan service it was new and refreshing and very welcome. I would play the soundtrack in my car during rides and GG Jr. who, herself a white mage on the ps3, really loved it. As a 6 year old she taught herself to play the Garuda fight them on piano.
ASM: Probably the biggest paradigm shift that I have seen with FF and SQEX in itself, which you see other companies now doing is how the developers interact with the community. The developers are very hands on with the community, starting with the official forums, but extending further to regularly scheduled live letter programs, in which the developers announce upcoming news, new patches, answer questions, and more. That kind of interaction has vaulted the Director/Producer Naoki Yoshida to superstar level among fans, and I myself have had the opportunity to speak with him at Tokyo Game Show, during the gameplay events they were running. I truly appreciate this change in interaction, because it goes to show that on one level, SQEX has realized that it needs to keep people engaged. Gone are the days of finding a small blurb of update information in the back of your EGM mag, how you interact online can make or break a game now. FFXV has actually taken this concept and ran with it as well, with regular live stream and video updates.
GG: As much as it is a numbered game in the series, XIV is truly a whole gaming culture unto itself. From the live letters released regularly to the appearances at all the game shows, (oh and our trips to the Eorzea cafe.
FF XIV is always at hand and something is always going on for fans of the game. I admit, though, it is almost too much for me to keep track of everything. The amount of information they include you on is truly staggering.
ASM: So over our collaboration series, I’ve talked about how I’ve had peaks of FF fanboyism, and after 6, 9, 12, 14 is my new peak. Probably the ultimate peak, and that’s due to the full scope of swag/interaction/events that help you get pulled in. I’ve talked about the music, and the live stream letters, which they go around and do live in various cities as well, but FFXIV even has it’s own cafe, both in Tokyo, and a new branch opening in Osaka, as well as a massive Fan Festival held world wide every couple of years. I had the opportunity to go to the first one held in Tokyo in 2014, and am going again this year again for the 2016 Festival.
The give back from the developers is really awesome, and in a way, this is something you can’t see with a regular single story offline release. I guess that’s the best thing about being an ongoing thing. But also the worst thing (for my wallet!)
GG: That’s what I mean about staggering and, for myself, maybe a little bit too much. I love the single player offline FF games because there is a beginning and end and lots of side quests etc inbetween. With XIV it seems no matter how much time I put in I’m still way behind what is happening. If I had more time to devote to it I’m sure I would be up there with the leaders but, as I’ve mentioned, BF4 dropped weeks later and I played that constantly trying to enjoy it and get the bugs out. I should have avoided all that frustration and stayed in Eorzea.
ASM: Well, at the least, even if you are light-core or mid-core, it’s still easy to get involved. With any game there is always that hard-core layer but it still feels a bit easier to get into than in a FPS game. When you suck and go 1/22, then it’s hard to get the motivation to play. Still, there are always players around to help you catch up and learn in Eorzea. And for the record, I consider myself mid-core 😉 (leaning hard-core though, hah) Still, for those who haven’t checked it out, and are interested, there is a free trial available for both PS4 and PC, so feel free to join us in Eorzea on the server Durandal… Ah, but you may want to wait as XIV will be on the back burner from tomorrow.
GG: It will be interesting to see the length of XV given how long they’ve had to develop it. Maybe the storyline will be short and we’ll be back to XIV in short order. I want to play XII again first, though. Ha!
ASM: With that said, we will be finding out tomorrow, as we venture into the world of Eos for the first time. Fun fact, Eos is the name of one of the fairies the Scholar job can use in FFXIV. So here is hoping that XV comes back and re-captures the FF magic that we so sought to recapture ourselves in this extended series. I hope you all enjoyed our subjective ramblings! If you’re even in Eorzea, look me up. 🙂
GG: Or watch him on his youtube channel. Throwing that in there.
The Road Ahead
At long last, along with many millions worldwide, ASM and I are about to embark on the latest and certainly most technologically advanced Final Fantasy single player game to date. Actually, I have to wait a few days because I ordered the US version.
I prefer the artwork of almost every other version but this image isn’t terrible.
Back to the Classics
If you’re curious about the results of our rankings of games VII through XIII I’ll share that information here using a tried and true method, graphs!
Here’s ASMs chart comparing each game’s score in each category.
And here’s mine.
If you’re curious how those numbers were arrived at I assigned a numerical score to each alphabetic grade.
D 1 – 1.5
C- 1.51 – 2
C 2.01 – 2.5
C+ 2.51 – 3
B- 3.01 – 3.5
B 3.51 – 4
B+ 4.01 – 4.5
A- 4.51 – 5
A 5.01 – 5.5
A+ 5.51 – 6
I then averaged out the scores to get the final grade so while many games finish with the same grade their scores weren’t exactly the same. Here’s the chart (yes, I had some time on my hands).
IX gets the highest score from ASM at 4.3125 while X receives a 4.8125 from me. If you compare the average of both of our score then VII got a 4.34375 which just finishes above both X and XII’s 4.28125. It is interesting how our opinions were often the same but the differences are what raised a game up or brought it down. XIII was by far the lowest score and it wasn’t even close.
Let’s see where XV takes us!
Now back to your regularly scheduled Gunpla!