The Peril of Nostalgia: Final Fantasy's Battle for Creativity
Ah, Final Fantasy, the game series that brings back fond memories and takes us on unforgettable adventures. It's no wonder we hold it dear to our hear...
Ah, Final Fantasy, the game series that brings back fond memories and takes us on unforgettable adventures. It's no wonder we hold it dear to our hearts, considering how it single-handedly propelled Japanese RPGs into the international gaming scene. Decades later, its cultural significance remains unparalleled. This legacy has led to a wave of remakes, reimaginings like Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth, and continuous remasters and pixel upgrades for classic titles. We're all desperate to experience these games on modern hardware, free from the clutches of time. Nowadays, I can boot up my PS5 or Xbox Series X and dive into the vast majority of Final Fantasy games, with only a few outliers.
Spin-offs like Crystal Chronicles receiving remasters and rhythm games like Theatrhythm, which pay homage to the series' history, further cement just how much Final Fantasy means to us. We're fans, and we want to relive these stories and characters over and over again, even if it means discarding new ones. That's the peril of remakes – we risk being shackled to our own nostalgia, which can be a recipe for disaster.
Recently, in an interview, series veteran Yoshinori Kitase discussed the possibility of a Final Fantasy 6 remake. He admitted that a project of that scale and ambition, utilizing modern production values and technology, would likely take a whopping 20 years to complete. It simply isn't feasible to revive that story with the same grandeur without leaving a significant portion of it behind. Even Final Fantasy 7, the first 3D entry in the series and less complex in terms of scale and mechanics compared to its 2D predecessors, took three entire games to recreate and expand upon the original tale. It's a monumental task, and I wouldn't be surprised if similar resources were required for remakes of Final Fantasy 6, 8, or 9. Though personally, I'd prefer Square to take more experimental paths with visuals and gameplay, ensuring they don't end up feeling too similar to the 7 remakes.
The more I ponder potential remakes and the continual reliance on nostalgia, the more concerned I become about leaving behind what Final Fantasy truly represents. Despite its name, there have been dozens of Final Fantasy games, and each entry is a standalone experience. There's no "right" Final Fantasy to start with for newcomers because each one offers a completely different world and characters that stand the test of time on their own. It's all about finding the vibe that resonates most with you. However, as production times skyrocket and the industry leans more on remasters and remakes, we're sacrificing that sense of novelty.
When I was growing up, each new Final Fantasy game felt like immersing myself in a grand, epic adventure filled with unique characters, tones, and mechanics. It was as if Squaresoft used each installment as a vessel to experiment with an abundance of ideas bubbling within the studio. But as the formula grew outdated and the company, like many in the triple-A industry, became obsessed with visual fidelity over innovation, that magic slowly faded away, leading us to where we are now. It's not entirely fair, as Final Fantasy 16 attempted to breathe new life into the series by drawing inspiration from Western icons like The Witcher and Game of Thrones. Unfortunately, in borrowing so much from others, it lost sight of its own identity.
The days of Final Fantasy stunning us with fresh takes on the genre, introducing exceptional new characters and stories, are slipping away as we continue to retrace the past. We keep asking the creators to reimagine or revive their past successes instead of granting them permission to venture into uncharted territory. Perhaps they fear not living up to their past victories, while the corporate powers pulling the pursestrings understand that prioritizing remakes is both safer and more likely to generate sales. It's an unfortunate reality in the world of video game creativity and a storied series like Final Fantasy, but it's the truth.
So, even if a Final Fantasy 6 remake seems like a distant possibility right now, please, I implore you, don't give it to us. Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth, despite willingly treading on familiar ground, at least recognizes the importance of new ideas and subverting our expectations decades after the original classic. If future remakes fail to follow in its footsteps, I have little interest in them. It's time to break free from the chains of nostalgia and allow Final Fantasy to flourish once again with fresh stories, characters, and gameplay. Only then can it recapture its former glory and continue to captivate the hearts of gamers for years to come.