Now that we’re all on the cusp of buying yet another remake of Final Fantasy IV, I’m settling in for another round of somewhat frustrated jokes to the effect of, “Why FF4, again? Why not FF6 or FF7?” Because let’s face it — those are the ones everyone wants to see remade. We’ve all seen Advent Children, we all know how amazing the world and characters of FF7 can be made to look on modern consoles. And as for FF6? Well, I suppose everyone saw how nice the DS remakes turned out, and want the same thing done for their favoritest game ever.
For my part, though, I don’t feel like I need updates to FF6 or FF7. The former is a fan favorite, and sort of the platonic ideal of the 16-bit RPG. The latter has had so many spin-offs and sequels that the world sort of doesn’t need to be re-imagined.
No, I can think of at least three FF games that need some love first.
Final Fantasy XII
This game is only a few years old, but I’m more than ready for a remake. Not even a remake, even; just a port with a few extra features. Here’s what I want:
1) FF12 on a portable system, with
2) an in-game suspend feature, and
3) the ability to scale and re-play completed hunts.
I think a lot of handheld gamers have a nice, familiar “go-to” game. Everyone’s always playing whatever the hot new release is, of course, but folks also like something old and good to keep in their back pocket and just whip out and play for a few minutes at a time. I think FF12 has great potential to be that game.
When you boil it straight down, FF12 is very grind-y. Playing it is very much like running quests in an MMO; you slaughter monsters, reap the spoils, spend points on character builds, upgrade equipment at arbitrary intervals, and — this is key — you do all of this passively. Once you wrap your head around gambits, FF12 is very much a “fire and forget” game. Your eyes glaze over and roll back, your mind starts drifting, and your thumbs work on autopilot. The whole while, your little in-game guys run around cheerfully hacking a path through swaths of bad guys, rewarding the player with an endless flurry of bells, whistles, and minor rewards.
Does this sound like anyone else to be the perfect game to play for five or six minutes while waiting for a bus? Or sitting in a hotel lobby?
The flip-side of that coin are the hunts, boss fights and Esper battles, which are some of the most demanding experiences I’ve ever had in a JRPG. There is simply no way you can topple Zeromus or Gilgamesh without tapping and exploiting every single thing you know about the game. You must learn which buffs to use, and when. You will care about the properties of different weapon types, which in any other game would be inconsequential. You will painstakingly organize your gambits — and then re-organize them because “HP < 50%" and "HP < 40%" mean different things at different points in the fight. You will sweat. You will frantically swap characters out of the active party so they don't die. And remember: Zeromus and Gilgamesh are at the low end of the game’s long list of epic endgame boss fights.
Once you’ve cleared the game and toppled all the hunts, a button that lets you re-play much harder versions of them would be enough to give die-hard FF12 fans another hundred or so hours of game time. And you know, if they wanted to give us that International Zodiac Dealie while they were at it? I’d call it icing.
Final Fantasy VIII
FF8 has a lot going for it. It has these really deep and amazing game systems that tap into the part of your brain that is willing to experiment for hours just to eke out another +1 on the menu screen… but it was smart enough to have a button you could push to have the game make all those decisions for you. You could play FF8 as a number-cruncher, or you could just kick back and enjoy the ride.
Here’s the problem: the ride was real bumpy.
As a result, a lot of people hated FF8. People who didn’t care much about crunching numbers (i.e.: almost the entire JRPG market in North America in the late 90s) didn’t experience the game’s best attributes… and the game’s plot and characters weren’t enough to placate them. I think answer to many of these issues would be a competent re-write.
First and foremost, FF8 has probably the most unlikeable cast in the series. (By which I mean: I like them, but then I’m a nutbar fanboy apologist.) All six of the PCs are practically charactitures of themselves; Squall is the brooding loner, Zell is the crazy spaz, Selphie is the bubbly schoolgirl, etc. Taking a hot iron to these characters would smooth them out a bit, and make them more relatable. The game already does this to a small degree, but it’s not enough. By the time Squall isn’t a brooding loner anymore, 40 hours have gone by and everyone who hated him had already quit playing.
Second, FF8 tried desperately to sell itself on being a love story. This was stupid, bad and wrong. Squall and Rinoa were fine as colorful RPG characters, but they were not believable enough or mature enough to carry a romance plot all on their own. Anyone who didn’t quite playing early on because they got sick of Squall certainly did when the game tried to jam his sudden devotion to Rinoa own their throats.
Two ideas spring to mind. Either focus entirely on the sorceress plotline and include the Squall/Rinoa romance as a small footnote, or re-write said romance completely so it isn’t an embarrassment. There is one scene in FF8 where the love story pays off: where Squall storms the government facility where Rinoa is being held to the detriment of the world’s safety because his feelings for her are stronger than his desire to save the world. If they could somehow take the energy of that one scene and spread it across the entirety of Squall’s relationship with Rinoa, you’d have something.
Finally, the battle system needs a tune-up, if only visually. The characters in this game use gun swords, whips and magical boomerangs to attack monsters; they’re too dynamic to just stand in a line and wait for their turn to attack. Even just overlaying the standard ATB interface on top of something like sizzle and glitz of FF13 would do a world of good for the combat.
Final Fantasy II
This one’s the real challenge, isn’t it? This game has already been “remade” several times, and yet its underlying issues have never been addressed. What it needs isn’t a facelift or a series of tweaks; it needs to be overhauled completely. It needs to be gutted down to its component parts and rebuilt into something that works.
FF2 is a game that would have been amazing if it’d come out in 2002.
Literally every part of this game has been done well since its original release. The story about an evil empire and the crushed rebellion that stands against them? That could be expanded upon. The betrayals, setbacks and tragic deaths could actually mean something. The strings of fetch quests could be re-cast as adventures with actual plot relevance. The “use-to-level” advancement systems could be streamlined, diversified and documented. The password system could be extrapolated into branching dialogue and conversation options. The battles could be made quicker. The dungeons could be re-drawn. The monster closets could be surgically removed.
I realize that the resulting game would only superficially resemble the original FF2. But you know, if that’s what it takes, I’m totally up for it. It’d be less Super Mario All-Stars and more Metroid: Zero Mission. There is a lot of life in this game, waiting for someone to tap into it. Hopefully we don’t have long to wait before someone thinks to improve FF2 by doing more than just slapping on a new coat of paint.