Back in 2006, I wasn’t a videogame journalist yet. At that point, the PS3 wasn’t even out yet, and when it did come out, it was far too expensive for me to consider buying one. I mean, I was just a broke college student.
But one day, I casually walked into a GameStop and saw the trailer for Final Fantasy Versus XIII. Yes, this was the trailer that had debuted at 2006’s E3.
Between the HD graphics, the darker tone, and the protagonist who defeated a whole freakin’ army with his magical powers and looked bored doing it, I was blown away. I decided that I was going to need a PS3 and that I was going to have to set aside a good month of my life to lock myself in a dark room with this game.
Over the course of the next six years, I acquired a PS3, became a videogame journalist, and did a whole ton of research on Versus XIII because it was, you know, my job to know about this stuff.
The more I read about it, the more excited I would get. I mean, the return of the massive explorable overworld? A story that would have a darker tone? A vibe that I can only explain as “starting to remind me of the good feelings I had when I played Final Fantasy VII as a teen?” I’m sold. This could be Square Enix’s way of redeeming themselves from a lot of the crap they’ve been churning out.
And let’s be honest here. Final Fantasy’s had a tough run this generation. Final Fantasy XIII was this shallow experience that boxed us in for the first half, then completely lost its direction in the second half. Final Fantasy XIV was such an embarrassment that Hiromichi Tanaka stepped down from his role as Producer in shame, and Square felt so bad that they stopped charging a monthly fee. Final Fantasy XIII-2 was just a bizarre choice that may have worked a lot better had it not had the Final Fantasy XIII curse on it. (It gives a little weight to the superstition about 13 being an unlucky number, doesn’t it?)
A lot of the things that were making the Final Fantasy games suck so badly was going to be addressed by Versus XIII. (Except for that whole unlucky 13 thing, but I imagine that by the time the game was released, they’d drop that number from the title.)
But now we’re hearing rumors that the game may have been cancelled. And we’re also hearing rumors of a Final Fantasy XIII-3. What the hell, Square Enix? I’m so confused here that I’m finding it difficult to think up an appropriate simile/metaphor to express my bewilderment.
Back in the PSOne era, Square was this giant name in JRPGs that could practically do no wrong. Especially when it came to Final Fantasy. Final Fantasy VII? One of the best videogames ever made. (Yes, I will fight you over that.) Final Fantasy VIII? Not nearly as bad as we thought it was back then now that we’ve played XIII and XIV, right? Final Fantasy IX? Underappreciated masterpiece. Final Fantasy Tactics? One of the best grid-based tactical RPGs ever made. And the PS2 brought us Final Fantasy X, which was controversial but greatly beloved by many.
So what happened since then?
I really don’t know. It almost feels like, when it comes to Final Fantasy, Square Enix is no longer capable of making good decisions. Am I wrong here? Their recent history is one of just completely messing things up. Versus XIII was my last hope. In fact, at one point I had resolved that if Versus XIII failed to be any good, I was going to swear off the Final Fantasy franchise for good.
And now that’s cancelled too. (According to the rumors, anyway.)
What happened in those six years since that trailer debuted that made Square Enix so squeamish about the game? Was it just complete shit? I doubt it. Final Fantasy XIV stands as testament that Squenix isn’t above releasing a rubbish title under the once-respected Final Fantasy banner. Was development just burning up too many resources? Maybe, but it seems wasteful to completely trash a game after over half a decade in production. Was Squenix scared out of Development Hell by that Duke Nukem Forever disaster? Well, that’s actually kind of valid.
Whatever the reason for this alleged decision, I’m thinking maybe it’s time to give up on the franchise. I mean, the PSOne-era Final Fantasy games will forever be etched into my list of best games ever made. So it’s with a heavy heart I have to say this: Square, I think it’s probably best if I broke up with you. We had a good run, but we’re lying to ourselves if we think this is going to keep working out for us. I wish you the best in whatever you decide to do with your future, but that’s a future I no longer see myself as being a part of.
Besides, you have Enix now, and I have Uncharted.
Of course, Versus XIII could still be rolled up into Final Fantasy XV. In which case… Well, nevermind. I don’t think I’m ready to get my hopes up again.
UPDATE: I’ve been notified of a post on Twitter by Square Enix CEO Yoichi Wada. Now, I can’t read it because it’s in Japanese, but I’ve been told it basically confirms that Final Fantasy Versus XIII is still indeed in development.
So how does that change my feelings about the Final Fantasy franchise? Not a whole lot actually. I mean, if we ever see Versus on store shelves, I’ll be the first in line to pick up a copy. But I’ve learned that this is no longer a franchise that I should get too excited about prematurely, because, in this console generation, I’ve been nothing but let down by it.
Square Enix’s debunking of the Versus rumor doesn’t change the fact that the Final Fantasy series is in decline. It just means that we could see one great Final Fantasy game yet this generation (if this even ends up coming out this gen), and frankly, I think the past five years have proven that, as far as this franchise is concerned, we shouldn’t be too hasty to get our hopes up. Final Fantasy XIV had a super badass trailer too, you know.