While everyone is mad at Blizzard (and rightly so) for basically being a giant bitch for the Chinese government, along with the NBA, I thought it might be worth bringing up how something that had the potential to be amazing got totally screwed because yet-another AAA game developer wanted to appease the Chinese, and in the process ruined what could have been the greatest Final Fantasy game ever.
I remember when the first trailer for Final Fantasy versus XIII came out. It took my breath away. The world looked so much like the modern world, and you have a very broody hero facing down an entire army. They open fire on him, when you see glass-like swords deflecting them. That was awesome! For a LONG time, there was nothing. Then in 2011 they released another trailer! This one looked even better. Again, so much like the modern world as you see the Prince and his father driving in a car, with the father ragging on him for being so glum. In the distance we see airships floating there! Then we see things get real with gameplay. It looked sick! You have this city where things are going to shit, with you having to escape with your friends.
The plot of this game had the makings of something unlike anything we’d seen before. A young prince, cursed with a deep bond with death. A young woman, with a connection to a goddess of life. Both star-crossed, but on opposite sides of a conflict. You have to fight your way out of the capital, with the goal being to find a way to take back your home. Some appearances that this may be a story taking some cues from Hamlet, and the makings of a masterpiece were all right there. Even when the game changed names and became Final Fantasy XV, it looked like there was still potential.
Then the game released, and we realized that it was mediocre beyond all reason. Clearly rushed out the door just so they could have it be done. There had been an amazing idea there. So what happened?! For years, this question dogged me, until recently I figured out that someone had answered it. It was discovered that the reason for the end product of all the years of work on this title being for nothing is because of China. Why am I not surprised?
See, there’s a thing about China – they have a TON of rules in order for a game to be marketed there. It’s the reason that Disney will never, EVER have openly gay characters in their movies. The rule on top of all the little nit-picky ones is – no ghosts, no gays. Either one and your work is dead on arrival. The reason this ties into Final Fantasy versus XIII is because the Prince and his family have a connection to a god of death. Noctis can see the light of expiring souls. But that won’t fly in China. And Square Enix wanted in on that sweet China cheddar. The way that so many other companies have been.
Which is why we got a final product that was rushed to market and felt half-baked. Which is a real fucking shame, if you ask me. Because I can only imagine what the original product would have been if it had actually been allowed to go to completion. Star-crossed lovers, forced to do battle because of their affiliation. A war over a power source to keep and empire alive. A prince working to retake his home after it’s captured. What that could have turned into is anyone’s guess. But no. I’m really starting to think that Square Enix has lost the spark of what made it great. Seems like the only stuff they’re putting out is remakes of classics, because they don’t have any original ideas. And since the remake of Final Fantasy VII is still gonna be released episodically (no joke, they said that’s still a thing), it leaves you to wonder if the spark will ever come back.
AAA gaming is really disheartening to me lately. Sony is the only one who is taking risks with huge ideas that may or may not always play out. Well, them and CD Projekt Red. I miss companies with big ideas and a foolhardy sense of passion to just throw whatever against the wall and see what sticks.
Cool game concepts going to die, microtransactions everywhere, games becoming gambling. It’s depressing to see the industry. But a guy can hope. Every now and again there are real diamonds released. Sometimes…
Until next time, a quote,
“Always, and never.” – Dwight, Sin City