Final Fantasy has been a long-standing and highly influential series, starting all the way back in 1987 for Japanese audiences, and 1990 for America. Passing its 30th anniversary the series has released 15 mainline titles with several sequels, prequels, spin-offs and alternate games in the franchise. Setting the standard for most JRPGs and even WRPGs, FF has continued to change its formula with each release. Changing from turn-based to active time, X time, free-movement and hybrid systems. As such, the franchise has stayed relevant, not just because of the amazing stories told, but the spectacular gameplay that goes alongside said narrative.
While every game is not for every gamer, the series has sold enough copies with each release to warrant a continuation in the non-connected world story of FF games. Fan favourites like FF 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10, classics like FF 1 and 2, MMOs of 11 and 14 to the drastically different 15, there are entries that set themselves apart from the others, making the top of many fans and sites lists for RPGs as well as games in general.
Fans plead for remakes, remasters and sequels all over the internet, with plenty of fans, also bringing up valid points for said games to not be revisited in that manner. With the latest FF7 Remake undergoing development hell, it may be quite some time until we see another numbered entry in the series besides a remake, remaster or porting of a previous title. But what can the series do, where can it go that it hasn’t already, or for some time. There are many factors that lead to the next release and hopes from gamers all around.
First and foremost on any developers mind is money and return profit. If a game cannot break even and go even further beyond then they may see the series as a failing venture and put it on ice. Thankfully the series hasn’t hit a wall with FFXV, as it recouped its development costs within its first 24 hours. FF isn’t dead just yet with such a success of a game that was announced 10 years before its eventual release after shifting development, direction and name. FFXV is even moving into its 2nd season of DLC on console, releasing more content, testing the waters of FFXV, experimenting with DLC concepts and seeing how long a Final Fantasy game can last in today’s gaming world.
While it may seem that FF7R will be costing quite some time, alongside money, it is safe to say it will make the numbers up on release due to its fame. However, looking forward to the future, ahead of a remake, FFXVI will need to make yet another stride in the money department. 10 years will take a toll on Square Enix’s finances, time and patience, especially if the 3rd game in a row proves to be problematic, 4th if you count FFXIV a Realm Reborn and their reboot of the MMO.
The worlds and settings in FF have almost always blown away consumers, from their large pixel maps to the roaming fields of FFXV. But with the progression of technology, the shock of a bigger world becomes less impactful. FF has given us worlds full of medieval fantasy, Sci-fi travels, modern lives, not to mention time travel and dimensional travel. Both XV and XIII had somewhat futuristic feels to them, from the large cities full of flying machines to cheap as chips fuel costs.
Taking that next step, or one far back, FF should go full-on Sci-Fi for its next instalment to give a breath of fresh air to the series. Fantasy among the stars, fist-bumping the likes of Phantasy Star and Star Ocean. If the next game in the series was not to go Sci-Fi, then take it back to more of its medieval fantasy roots. Lands full of magic, low technology aside from rare airships with a lack of cell reception. In these parts of the universe, it would be nodding its head to games like The Witcher and Elder Scrolls.
In recent years plenty of developers have felt the need to do timed events, quests and DLC. While these can be entertaining, paying homage to the time of year or even a co-operative event with buddy developers, it can separate out fans. Not everyone will be playing your game 6 months after release, or may not have the 1-2 weeks spare to enjoy the snowy festival you throw in a major city. SE should change these practices to allow them to be played after the said date, which they sometimes do, to let those who cannot make the time find the time elsewhere.
This also goes for content that is later changed or completely rewritten, which thankfully they allowed with their “changes” to Chapter 13 of FFXV. You can easily select the additional content from the main menu, while some minor changes were thrown into the main-game portion. Regardless of fan outrage or Reddit posts, there will still be people who enjoyed the “original” and taking that away from those select fans isolates the audience. Keep up the good work with allowing choice in updates. Which leads onto the next point.
Something FF has never really done too well in its previous instalments is the free choice that players are normally offered in other RPGs. While you may get to choose between 3-4 options in crucial moments or decisions that have no consequences, it never goes deep enough in the core releases. FF is a ride of emotion, magic and adventure, but when you can’t steer their adventure enough some fans can become less invested as they are merely put onto a straight path.
Even back in the first entries, FF never gave you much choice, you went from town A to cave B with only the ability to buy items in-between. Several paths, endings or even being able to choose your own close friends or love interest would help steer the franchise away from commonality. They had a side affection meter in FF7 for the gold saucer date, alongside some extra scenes in FF10 for which girl would join you in cutscenes or events. Your teams are your friends and loved ones, so it would be cool to select a favourite among them to have preferential treatment within outside combat scenarios. Think Persona, but without drinking coffee for 2 minutes and never talking to them again.
A top priority in FF is the ability to change your party makeup, form the perfect team for that boss or side-mission and see your tactics pay off. FFXV took away this ability, with FFXIII restricting party management until way too far into the game’s story. FFX-2 also restricted you to their girl band setup, yeah, we had a girl band before a boy band. While a stricter party would allow for each individual to have more story development or time put into them, it is the unique team you roam around with that FF, as well as other JRPGs, are known for.
If we are not given a larger roster of characters to form our battle parties with, at least allow class customisation and selection like in previous titles. FFXIII had something similar with their paradigm shift mechanic but it wasn’t as in-depth as FFXII’s Zodiac system or class selection of earlier titles. Besides the ability to customise your party, changing to suit the enemies, players will once again be able to do playthroughs with all Black Mages or Thieves like the good old days.
Finally, SE should utilise more of what they already have. They continue to surpass in terms of quality, scope and size as the years go on, but so much is used as demonstrations, sales pitches or testing. SE continues to build hype or projects that are either scrapped or pushed on the back burner for far too long. Agni’s Philosophy, FF7 PS3 tech demo, Luminous Engine, so much hype and work put into projects that are moved around or put on the shelf. Besides projects and demonstrations, they have a massive company with separated teams. The next FF could be bigger, better and more complete if they used more of their resources in 1 project rather than having 1 head overseeing 2-3 different endeavours.
Alas, all of these potential steps to take, all the avenues available to SE and we may still be waiting something close to 5 years before the next numbered title is announced. FF7R is seemingly going to take a while, with a good portion of the team working on KH3 and smaller teams working on smaller releases. Now, let’s see Episode Kenny become a real DLC.