Pushing the Envelope

In Japanese, the word for magazine is 雑誌 "zasshi."  Literally translated, it means "miscellaneous(雑) documents(誌)," and sometimes that is all we end up with.  This week did not bring any coveted Final Fantasy XIV info, and in fact, the game fell off of the Most Anticipated list in Famitsu.  There is still a lot of activity from Square Enix though, especially the immense success of Dragon Quest IX. 

Something that is interesting to note is that the two Final Fantasy-related titles coming out this year appear to be at opposite ends of the spectrum.  We have the wildly hyped Final Fantasy XIII, which is the first numbered entry on the Playstation 3.  It is undoubtedly going to push the series (and the hardware) to new technological heights.  On the other hand, The 4 Light Warriors: Final Fantasy Gaiden for the Nintendo DS seems to be a complete leap back into the past.

At E3, developers for Final Fantasy XIV stated that more than creating a bigger and better MMO, they wished to create a bigger and better "Final Fantasy."  They said this new generation of technology will give them the opportunity to represent the Final Fantasy series more accurately than ever before.  What does that mean though?

Well, in the spirit of miscellany, let us take a look at what Square Enix is currently willing to allow us to drool over in anticipation and see if we cannot form an idea of what Final Fantasy XIV might become.

Once you're finished, discuss this article in the ZAM Forums!

Could there be more racial diversity in Final Fanatsy XIV?

At this time, Final Fantasy XIII is probably the best image we have of what Final Fantasy XIV will be visually.  In terms of graphics and animation, both games are being designed using "Crystal Tools."  This is a set of development tools created by Square Enix to allow for maximum control over the process of creating a game.  There will be advancements in customization, reliability and flexibility.  Apparently, this will allow for a much broader range of characters (facial expressions, hair styles, body types) and monsters (for those weary of crab hunting).

Spinning Slash, PS3 Style

The battle system is another big mystery of Final Fantasy XIV.  Developers of Final Fantasy XIII stated in this week's Famitsu that magic and special attacks will be very explosive and flashy.  Looking at the scenes from the trailer for Final Fantasy XIV, we have a massive melee taking place on a ship and an intense battle in the sky between flying didgeridoos.  It looks like there will be no shortage of action in Final Fantasy XIV, but if this is the case, Square Enix needs to implement much more control for PC users to reduce the load on their machines in order to attain a desirable frame rate.

Hope left, Vanilla right

Another way Final Fantasy XIII is breaking away from the traditional is through combat.  Two of the main characters were featured this week, one fighting with a boomerang, and the other with fishing wire.  Apparently, there is going to be a lot more technique involved, something that sounds similar to what Final Fantasy XIV developers said about the vision for their MMO at E3.  They expressed their desire to make combat more cerebral, and the growth of each character would be tied to the player's weapon of choice.  Now, in Final Fantasy XIII, the main character Hope, who uses a boomerang, fights by accumulating damage with multiple strikes, while Vanilla, equipped with fishing wire, hooks multiple lines into the enemy for big damage.  Interesting, to say the least.  In Final Fanatsy XI, you basically just smack the enemy ad nauseum no matter what the weapon.  Will Final Fantasy XIV afford the player this level of variety when controlling the actions of their character in battle? 

One more thing we know about Final Fantasy XIII is that it will be a single-player experience.  It will be an RPG through and through, with a long, engaging story.  Developers for Final Fantasy XIV have also been clear that Final Fantasy XIV will provide much more robust solo play and be much more story-driven like the Chains of Promathia expansion for Final Fantasy XI.  However, there has been lots of talk recently about MMO-addiction and the way online games can eat into personal lives due to the immense amount of time their require from their players.  Will an MMO that is story-driven require a lot of time to get the full experience and be satisfied with the story?  Exactly how solo-friendly Final Fantasy XIV will be is unknown, but we can be sure Square Enix will want to avoid some of the negative press it has received, both in Japan and abroad, about players' lives being negatively impacted by Final Fantasy XI.

White Mage, complete with hood

Now, on the flip side of the Final Fantasy coin, we have the upcoming DS title, The Four Light Warriors: Final Fantasy Gaiden.  One look at the screenshots, and you can tell this is intended to be a game that reaches back to the roots of Final Fantasy.  There's a four character party of "Light Warriors," the game utilizes a job system and comes complete with adorable lil' costumes for each one.  These costumes that represent jobs, dubbed "Artifact Armor" in Final Fantasy XI, have been a favorite among players, though not always for their stats.  Regarding Final Fantasy XIV, we have seen a glimpse of what could be Black Mage Artifact Armor in the concept art mural, but their inclusion has not been confirmed.

"Could this be a Black Mage?" Famitsu writes.

While Final Fantasy Gaiden appears to keep the tradition of job specific costumes alive, there is also a marked change in style.  We have not seen much of the Final Fantasy XIV clothing, so one has to wonder if they are going to make some creative alterations to what we are familiar with.  Some players have complained that the races are too similar to Final Fantasy XI and it makes the new MMO feel like somewhat of a rehash.  Would recycling Artifact Armor styles also generate criticism, or would the absence of the Final Fanatsy fashion we are so accustomed to be even worse?

Characters speculated to be a White Mage (left), a Witch/Shaman (top right), a Magic Knight (bottom right)

This week's Famitsu also gave a glimpse of a "Crown" system that will allow Final Fantasy Gaiden players to change jobs.  Developers for Final Fantasy XIV have also shown their interest in maintaining a job system of some type.  While they wish to deviate from the Final Fantasy XI job system, they still want to keep the flexibility it provided.  It could be that changing a piece of equipment, such as the weapons said to be so integral to one's growth, could facilitate the changing of one's job.

As a DS title, Final Fantasy Gaiden will have full access to its Wi-Fi capabilities.  According to reports, the game will allow for 1-4 players.  In Dragon Quest IX, players can join up their main character with other people to complete short quests in the game.  This is also similar to White Knight Chronicles, where players went through the main story-line themselves, but could perform side-quests with the help of other players online.  As an MMO, Final Fantasy XIV will undoubtedly have party-play, but it is unknown how vital a party will be.  Final Fantasy Gaiden, from the looks of the simplified story (save princess, please) and multi-player capabilities, looks to take emphasis off the main story line and focus on presentation and gameplay.  Could Final Fantasy XIV also utilize this model?  Perhaps in Final Fantasy XIV the main growth of a character can be effectively done solo, and other certain tasks will require the use of a party.  This might shift the focus from a long main story line to a series of smaller, party-oriented tasks that are each satisfying in their own right.

As always, feel free to discuss your own thought in the ZAM forums.  Would you like Square Enix to push the envelope forward, focusing on creating a technological marvel that attempts to revolutionize the Final Fantasy series for the current era of gaming?  Would you rather they push it back towards a more nostalgic era, instead aiming to give new life to what they felt the Final Fantasy series always should have been?  In regards to Final Fanatsy XIV, which aspects would you like to preserve, and which other ones do you feel need to be let go?

Thanks for reading!


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