Will FFXIII bring the JRPG back in the West?

Final Fantasy is back in the headlines, but is it the last and best of a dying breed?

By Edwin Evans-Thirlwell, December 10, 2009

No it won’t, because Final Fantasy hasn’t tapped into current online networking trends.

Square Enix has been courting the fledgling “casual” mainstream in the past few years, as a slew of “lite” sims, strategy games and RPGs for iTunes and WiiWare attest, but the publisher is missing one crucial piece of the puzzle: Facebook apps and the multi-billion-dollar social gaming biz in general. Most western operators are getting in on this action: in particular, EA recently bought Facebook app heavyweight PlayFish and has commissioned big name developers like Visceral and BioWare to produce promotional browser games. If it’s going to re-capture Western hearts and minds, Square Enix needs to follow in those footsteps. As far as Final Fantasy XIII is concerned, it doesn’t appear to be doing so. And this is true of JRPG makers across the board.

What happens when two ice goddesses get touchy-feely? Motorbikes, that's what.

What happens when two ice goddesses get touchy-feely? Motorbikes, that's what.

Yay-sayer’s response:

For all its millions upon millions of users, Mark Zuckerberg’s brainchild is not the be all and end all of marketing battlegrounds. Modern Warfare 2′s “official” Facebook presence is laughable, and Activision’s bottom line doesn’t seem to be suffering. Besides, the whole point of Facebook is that anyone can set up a product page or group, be it a savvy marketeer or some ardent fan. That kind of publicity is best left to create itself.

No, because the battle system is as conservative and inaccessible as ever.

Marrying menu-driven combat with real-time would have sounded impressive pre-Tales-of-Symphonia, but five years after the event? Please. If this is the cutting edge, the speartip of the assault on mainstream markets, Lord only knows what less adventurous JRPGs are capable of.

Yay-sayer’s response:

The greatness of Final Fantasy XIII’s encounters will lie not, strictly speaking, in the core elements, but in how they’re assembled: this isn’t a game intent on reinventing the Active Time Battle system, but one which joins everything up into the seamless whole players of the PS1 Final Fantasies could only dream of. No more random encounters. No more clunky results screens and preludes. Smooth transitions between physical and magical attacks, offensive, defensive and support roles. And that newly aerodynamic flow will attract those who might have been put off by the spreadsheet-like structures of older JRPGs.

Gestalt mode allows characters to fight alongside, or rather atop, their Summons.

Gestalt mode allows characters to fight alongside, or rather atop, their Summons.

No, because Final Fantasy is a law unto itself.

Placing the Final Fantasy games in context is a tad misleading. There simply isn’t another JRPG brand of this stature in the West – indeed, as far as most consumers are concerned there isn’t another JRPG brand full stop. When Final Fantasy XIII launches copies will be ripped from shelves in their hundreds of thousands, but little of that frenzied interest will spill over onto the role-playing cosmos. One game can’t reverse the fortunes of an entire genre.

Yay-sayer’s response:

The only JRPG brand of its stature? Methinks you’re forgetting about Pokemon, surely one of the most significant franchises in videogame history. But yes, I’ll concede that Final Fantasy is in a league of its own. That doesn’t mean the JRPG is dead in the water though. It’s finding a new albeit subdued lease of life in the form of DS, iPhone and PSP remakes, “lite” browser homages and, perhaps most importantly, hybridisation with other genres, as in Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time (1.39 million copies sold worldwide). All it needs, I suspect, is another triple-A release to reassert itself, and what more suitable candidate than a Final Fantasy game?

Only time will tell. The game’s out for Xbox 360 and PS3 on 17th December in Japan, and on 9th March next year in Europe, North America and Australia.

2 Responses to “Will FFXIII bring the JRPG back in the West?”

  1. Brush says:

    I think it has a chance to sell a lot of units as it’s going to be heavily marketed.

    But, you can see by looking at the videos of missions Japanese players have loaded up that it certainly won’t revitalise the genre, or take things forward (if anything it looks a step back from 12).

    Also, while the art style is beautiful, and in places it does look rather nice..videos of the characters running across the field show up a not so nice feature – monsters popping into view not very far in front of the player, such issues shouldn’t really be there in a game that’s cost so much to produce.

    So…it’ll shift a lot of units as PS3 and 360 owners show Square where the money is (clever Square), but it’ll be a false dawn imo.

  2. Alan says:

    Garbage article


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