Lightning Returns, the third and final (a pun!) installment of the Final Fantasy XIII epic, has been met with mixed reactions to say the least. It’s really quite interesting to think how the once unflappable franchise is now a great, big question mark in the eyes of its fans. It’s not that FF is a bad series, these days, but it certainly feels like a misguided one. Let’s figure out how to get Square’s flagship franchise back in fighting form!
No More Project Runway
Why Square decided that all of its characters need to look like they stepped off of a fashion runway is confusing, to say the least. Simplicity is king, and it’s been years since any FF game has featured a cast that wasn’t garishly outlandish looking. As mimicked as Final Fantasy VII‘s cast might have become over the years, there’s no denying how iconic and clean their designs remain to this day. XIII was a step in the right direction, but its subsequent sequels strayed back into the realm of hyper-weirdness. Future installments would do well to take a more balanced approach to character design.
Focus the Narrative
Some of the most poignant narratives ever committed to pixels and polygons come from Final Fantasy games. Sadly, we’re far removed from the days when the death of Aerith shocked fans to a standstill. Where Square once dominated in terms of storytelling and building character relationships, FF has become more about spectacle and grandiose exposition. While the cinematics in recent years have become more and more stunning, there’s just not enough substance behind them to really suck players in. Let’s get back to the more heartfelt tales of FF’s past.
Shouldn’t Take a Textbook
I really don’t think it’s farfetched to say that the more recent FF games can be incredibly mentally taxing just trying to figure out how all the different battle and upgrade systems work. Don’t get me wrong, I had a lot of fun with the paradigms in the FFXIII trilogy, but there’s no ignoring that the accessibility of the series has taken a huge blow over the years. The tutorials can be useful, but too often it feels like the screen is a jumble of boxes and numbers that’s more convoluted than it needs to be. I suggest simplifying things with a little bit of reservation, because I know that many fans have a lot of fun learning the ins and outs of each game’s unique quirks and nuances. Regardless, a little streamlining wouldn’t hurt, and can be done so as not to alienate longtime fans.
FF XV is supposedly deep into development, so hopefully it won’t be long before we learn whether or not Square has learned from its mistakes. Perhaps more than anything else I listed above, Square can make FF supreme again by not being so hung up on its past. FF used to be all about marching boldly into the future, not slavishly trying to replicate what came before. If XV can be half as brave and creative as the best FF games, hopefully Square will be able to restore everyone’s faith in the brand.