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A Solid Reason to Hate Final Fantasy XI
By Cyril Lachel     |   Posted on May 23, 2007   |   Episode 11 (Show Archive)  

   

Oh don't get excited, nothing in Final Fantasy XI is as cool as this poster!
With a dozen sequels, more than twenty spin-offs and twenty years under its belt, Square's Final Fantasy series is one of the best and most respected video game franchises of all time. While some may argue that this role-playing series does not hold the same weight as it did a decade ago, few can argue that Final Fantasy has helped to influence and define what kinds of games we play. With the amazing visuals, stories filled with complex emotions and beautiful soundtracks, Final Fantasy is an important part of the video game landscape.

But even if it didn't get all of the good press and hype, Final Fantasy would still be one of my favorite video game franchises. While not every game is a genuine classic, more times than not the Final Fantasy name means that you're going to experience something amazing. I'm not afraid to admit that I look

Even though I can't stand Final Fantasy XI, I do have to admit that it's always cool to see women dressed up like this at conventions!
forward to every new adventure, regardless of the system, story or wait. There is nothing like a quality Final Fantasy game, and that's an opinion I'll stand by until the day I die.

Unfortunately there's one Final Fantasy game I can't stand by, a sequel that aggravates me so much that it actually made me think twice about buying the next installment. That game is Final Fantasy XI, the one Final Fantasy game that all role-playing gamers should avoid like the plague.

My problem with Final Fantasy XI has nothing to do with its quality, as a Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game I suppose it's a solid game. It's no World of WarCraft, but it's a solid experience all the same. In fact, I don't have a problem with them calling it a Final Fantasy game, there are certainly enough throwbacks to other games in the

See all this cool stuff from Final Fantasy VII? You get none of this when you play Final Fantasy XI!
series to warrant that name. Instead my problem has to do with the number. Not the actual "XI", per se, but rather the fact that Square decided to feature what should have been a Final Fantasy spin-off as an official sequel. As far as I'm concerned this is not the sequel to Final Fantasy X, but rather a leap into a new genre using the prestigious name.

This point is not without prior examples. Whenever a game has attempted to take the Final Fantasy series in an entirely new direction (or even genre) Square has made sure and given it a different name, something that would not be confused with the long-running series of Final Fantasy sequels. Just look at Final Fantasy Tactics which could have easily been called Final Fantasy VIII. Or the action/adventure game, Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicle, that could have just as easily been called Final Fantasy XII. And we aren't just limited to recent examples, the Super NES version of Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest could have just as easily been named Final Fantasy III (at that time American gamers didn't even know that the Final Fantasy numbers were all messed up).

Those are just a few of the many examples of Final Fantasy spin-offs that attempted something different and weren't confused as being one of the official sequels. To this day we see Square Enix using these spin-off games to attempt new ideas and explore other genres. This year alone we have Dissidia: Final Fantasy (the fighting/combat game), Final Fantasy: Crisis Core (an action/adventure

I guess it must be a Final Fantasy game, it has those adorable Chocobos!
game set in the Final Fantasy VII world), and Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings. Nobody is going to confuse these games with the regular Final Fantasy series, yet their sales will no doubt be helped by the big name attached.

So why didn't Square call their first Final Fantasy MMO something different, something that wouldn't split the market and confuse RPG fans? Would a name like Final Fantasy Online Adventure or World of Final Fantasy have been so bad? Not only would it have made more sense but it would have also been a lot less confusing to the average gamer who only buys a few name brand games.

There are a few things you should expect from a numbered Final Fantasy game, such as an epic story, complex characters and plenty of plot twists. Judging by the first ten installments you should also expect a fantastic single-player campaign that will take you dozens of hours to complete. These

The hot women are not the reason why World of WarCraft is doing so well month after month!
are things you don't get in Final Fantasy XI; instead the game offers you a full world where you are no longer a major player. Like all MMO titles, Final Fantasy XI is all about working as a team, taking on major (and minor) quests in any order you want, and continuing to level up your character. Needless to say, if you bought Final Fantasy XI expecting a great single-player adventure, then chances are good you felt robbed when you finally discovered what it was.

Don't get me wrong, I'm certainly not suggesting that Square made a mistake releasing a Final Fantasy MMO. While it's definitely not my cup of tea, I don't see the problem in dabbling in this popular genre. But if you're going to turn one of your most popular franchises into an online game why do what all of the other companies do and name it something else? Blizzard didn't make this mistake, when they released

Let's just hope that no matter what direction they take Spider-Man 4, it will have to be better than Spider-Man 3!
their groundbreaking MMO a few years ago they opted for World of WarCraft and not WarCraft IV. By doing this Blizzard figured out a perfect solution so that people wouldn't expect this WarCraft game to be like all the others, which helped to turn their game into the most popular MMO of all time.

To a lot of people who don't care about the Final Fantasy series my complaints may not sound very important; after all, what's in a number? But one of the reasons we go out and buy sequel after sequel is because we believe that we already know what we're getting ourselves into. And it's not just video games, we do the same for movie sequels and even TV shows. Take Spider-Man as an example, after three

You saw it hear first: This is your very first look at Lego Grand Theft Auto!
action-packed summer blockbusters how do you think people would react if Spider-Man 4 was a low-budget musical? Or what about 24? Let's say the next season of 24 ditched the counter-terrorism plotline and all of the violence in order to focus entirely on the love affair between Jack Bauer and Audrey. Do you think people would be confused or disappointed? You better believe they would, just like Final Fantasy fans were disappointed when they realized that the eleventh installment was going to be an MMO you had to pay for every month.

I can only hope that future video game installments don't decide to follow Square's lead. I would hate to see that upcoming Halo real time strategy game called Halo 4 or Grand Theft Auto IV controlled entirely as a first-person shooter. We have a certain expectation for our sequels, and even if they do radically change how you play the game there still needs to be enough there to remind the player why they bought the sequel in the first place. As far as I can tell Final Fantasy XI doesn't offer enough to warrant the numbered title, and that's why I feel that Square made a huge mistake putting this never-ending adventure in between Final Fantasys X and XII.
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