The Final Fantasy Formula!

(Or The Final Fantasy Recipe)

Halleluiah and praise the Nine Divines, progress has been made!

Or, more specifically, Max and I have finally reached a point in Final Fantasy IX that we didn’t reach as kids OR see our older brother play to. We finally don’t know what the hell is going on (who bloody sweet Mary is Garland!?), and it is glorious!

Now I could very easily dissolve into a puddle of rampant fan-boy-ism at some of the stuff we’ve just seen (Alexander and Bahamut are so cool!!), but let’s avoid that for as long as possible. Instead, let’s talk about something that popped into my head as we started seeing some of these later plot developments, namely the ‘Final Fantasy Formula.’

As well as a good example of alliteration, the Final Fantasy Formula is the idea that all the mainstay/numbered Final Fantasy games share a series of common elements. Certain events or characters can be seen to at least some degree in nearly every FF game, and even some of the spin offs. This is hardly a new concept, and has been brought up in past by far more intelligent and eloquent folks then me (for example, it is brought up in TheRocketeer’s brilliant ‘travel-log’ review of FF12*).
*For those who are curious/have a LOT of time to kill.
http://www.escapistmagazine.com/forums/read/326.853286-Final-Fantasy-XII-A-Travelog-of-Ivalice-by-a-Raving-Madman?page=1

Before we dive into the particulars, however, it needs to be said that this isn’t a formula that’s written in stone: one of the main appeal of the Final Fantasy games is that every universe is different (barring the sequels and spin-offs), and thus each instalment operates on different rules. It should hopefully become clear as we progress that each game uses these common themes creatively, rather than just using them like a “winning formula”. Hell, “formula” might not even be the best word for it, since it’s more like a recipe. Yes, the cook book SAYS these things have to be included, but as long as the meat is cooked through and you don’t add rat poison, there’s a lot of leeway.

Anyway, I thought it would be a fun little exercise to go through some of the more noticeable themes and similarities. So, without further ado:

THE INGIDENTS OF A FINAL FANTASY GAME

A man (?) named Cid: expert engineer, and your main source of transport (sometimes)

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(Cid has really changed over the years*)

Cid is an odd character in the Final Fantasy series. He is most often associated with technology in some way or form, which usually translate into him being the playable party’s source of transportation (when he isn’t actually in the party as a playable character). However, his actual role and depiction varies widely.
His first appearance in Final Fantasy II had him simply piloting an airship, while the very next game had him be the actual inventor of airships in general. IV sees him be a kind of over-the-top madman engineer, while VIII has him as a much mellower headmaster. This seems to suggest that, apart from a link to technology, there are no hard or fast rules regarding Cid’s role. Hell, in Type-0, he’s actually the leader of an expansionist empire that murders the hell out of people with Magitek.

In this sense, Cid successfully avoids becoming a predictable character: rather than being a one-note cameo in each game, Cid can be whatever the writers need him to be. In one of looking at things, it’s almost more like a name being attached to already pre-determined characters, but that can be fun too. You can get a certain enjoyment from seeing how Cid’s character is going to be different in each instalment: take FFXV for example. I was super hyped on that idea that we’d actually get to see a FEMALE Cid (called Cidney, which shows someone at Square has a sense of humour close to my heart), despite that idea falling through.
Cid has a lot of interesting theories surrounding him: some joke that he might be the reincarnated soul of the same person in different lifetimes, or that he’s the same person in each universe (but shaped by said universe, hence the differences). Some have even used him in the argument that each Final Fantasy game is set in the SAME universe, arguing that Cid is just a common name that gets used through the ages, though that theory is quite an odd duckling already.

Regardless of how he’s depicted or how his character stands for each individual game, there is one solid fact that can we can be certain of: Cid is small but important part of Final Fantasy as a whole. He may just be a single character, and he always varies in role and importance, but he’s a familiar name in each new universe. By everything that’s holy, he was retconned into the first Final Fantasy game! He’s so well recognised that Square felt the need to make sure he was in EVERY game, even the only one he was originally absent from!
Sometimes friend, sometimes foe, Cid is definitely a name you’ll need to keep an ear out for.

Fun fact: The Cids from VII, VIII and IX all had severe issues relating to women close to them at least once in their lives! Might be why some of the later Cid characters seemed to avoid the topic of relationships…

The next ingredient for Final Fantasy is-
…Something that we’ll talk about next time. Because seriously, there’s a lot to talk about and we were never going to get through everything in a single entry. I’m not sure how long this will go on for, but look forward to my next set of ramblings in:

INGIDENTS OF A FINAL FANTASY GAME: BIGGS AND WEDGE

*It’s still seems to be a little in flux, but by the sounds of it, she’s not actually going to be the Cid of FFXV, and her name’s actually Cindy. Bit of a shame, since that Cidney joke gave me hearty chuckle.

Months later, and nothing has changed…

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Where does the time go, eh? In that same vein, where the hell have all the updates been?

First things first, I’m super, super, sorry (again). The checking and editing process of making updates has been slowed considerably thanks to some employment woes on my end, and I was struggling for a while to find someone to check them over for quality control. Now that both of those things are (more or less) on their way to being solved, updates should be resuming before too long.

As usual, I don’t like to leave the “oh god please forgive the lack of updates” posts too short, hence here’s another quickie for ya:

The importance of customisation, AKA more of that ‘player choice’ thing Oliver bangs on about most of the time.

I swear, I just need to make a master post about all the stuff I keep harping on about when I bring up the importance of player choice…Anyway, I’ve been musing about the Fable series, namely that it became an RPG where armour became a purely cosmetic thing. I remember getting the plate mail set in Fable I, and thinking it was the bees-knees. Who doesn’t want to look and feel like a walking tank, decked out in so much metal it’s a wonder you can even walk, let alone fight?  (Well, I mean, the mages and thieves probably wouldn’t want to, but details…)

In contrast, getting the ONLY armour set in Fable III was an odd experience. Yea, the armour did have effects on your reputation and how the world saw you, but that was it. You were just as vulnerable to damage decked head to toe in armour as you were running around the nude, and to be fair that’s a good summary of the Fable series’ sense of humour. However, it was quite jarring: Fable I was a pretty traditional RPG experience, since you improve your character’s equipment and stats from ‘rank and file’ to ‘saviour/destruction of the free world.’ While that is sort of still present in the later Fable games, the omission of armour having an effect on stats presents an interesting situation, namely that players could choose their attire nearly without consequence.

The Fable games are hardly the first series to do this, but they are one of the only examples of a game series where the stats were ditched over time, rather than just starting off as consequence free.

This is both kind of a good thing AND a bad thing. On one hand, this does mean that the player has as much choice as they want: rather than being forced to wear armour for the sake of the stats, I can just wear an over-sized chicken outfit and watch the game’s story turn into a farce. However, the opposing side of the argument is that that game may become a lot shallower ESSPICALLY in a series that started off as a stat based RPG. Getting a new outfit in some games hold some weight because that armour may give you a cool buff or just make you that much harder to kill, all while also looking badass. The lack of stats or armour that affects stats can make the impact of a new outfit a lot more limp if you have no reason to be excited other then it makes your character look like an idiot.

However, there is a reason MMO’s make a tidy sum of profit by selling purely cosmetic items. There is nothing unreasonable about wanting to make your player character look how you desire them to look: this is the guy/gal/horrible-demon you’ll be spending hours with, and so the least the game can do is let you dictate what colour of boots they’re wearing. This is especially true of games that let you decide the character’s dialogue, alignment, favourite Abba song; basically allow you to build the entire character. To that end, having no consequence to the appearance of your character allows you to have a lot more creative freedom.

This is something that is going to be largely a personal preference, though I would argue for a happy middle ground. Take Fairy Fencer F, for example: there are stat effecting items that might as well be armour, but your choice of cosmetics have no bearing on the character’s ability, and thank goodness: if Fang wasn’t running into battle with a slice of toast firmly in his mouth, what point would the game have?

There’s a good argument for both sides of the equation, and I think the type of game will be a fairly hefty factor  in whether it’s a good idea or not, but we can all agree that if such customisation is present, we BETTER be able to make our characters look at little silly. Yea, looking bad-ass is important as well, but dressing up in garish pink never quite stops being amusing.

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Just to tack on: Fable Legends continues to make me produce curious but worried noises, like a timid mouse considering whether the cheese before me comes with a free metal bar.
– “It’s free to play”
Yay!
– “But exclusive to the Xbox One and Windows 10 (and you definitely aren’t running this without some work, Oliver)!”
Boo!
– “But has interesting asymmetrical multiplayer!”
Yay!
– “But it’s a combat focused game (one of the weakest parts of nearly every Fable instalment)!”
Boo!
– “But the website made a reference to Chicken Chaser!”
Y-yay?

I guess we’ll see how it pans out…