I've recently realized why exactly people hate the newer Final Fantasy games. All it took was playing one game from about 10 years back, a few of the very first ones, and the most recent one (not counting the MMO).
In the first ones, you could not restore all health and mana at save spheres without an item. Gil was MUCH harder to come by, the combat system was completely real-time, so winning or losing a battle partly relied on how quickly you could get to whatever spell in the menu you were looking for.
The biggest difference I'm noticing between FF7 (the Final Fantasy fans' "best FF game ever") and FFX-2 (my personal favorite), is this:
- When Square discovered 3d, they went crazy with it. Instead of just figuring out which road, you have to figure out which obscure items can be climbed on top of, under, or over. This would be less annoying in newer games where graphics are more obvious.. but in FF7 it's more like.. run around pressing O and see what you discover.
- You can't just grind out levels by sitting on a save sphere to heal. You actually have to manage your money, as it doesn't get thrown at you in ridiculous quantities like the newer titles.
- The materia system ensures that you don't have to learn an obnoxiously complicated mini-game just to train up your people (sphere grid anyone? license board?)
Personally, I looooooved the story in FF7, but the more I play it this time around, knowing how the games are now versus how they were now.. it's no wonder that I prefer FFX and FFX-10. I /like/ grinding random levels while sitting on a save sphere and having no actual worry about death or using up all my items.. hey, I still have to go to boss fights prepared, so what's the problem with that? Yes, I think the insane amounts of Gil that are thrown at you effortlessly in the newer games could be toned down somewhat so that everybody isn't walking around with several million while also having 99 of every item in the game at any given time... but there are still other upsides to the newer games, imho.
For example, FFX, FFX-2, and FFXII also did something else I love --- they SEPARATED the puzzles from the random encounters. Seriously, there's nothing I hate more than trying to figure out a maze, getting in the "thinking" mode of trying to figure out a puzzle, then getting pulled out of it and forced into combat every 5 seconds, which requires fast reflexes and almost no thinking.. and then combat again while you're working on the puzzle and almost get it.. UGH. Maybe I just get annoyed b/c I'm ADD and trying to switch between reflex-based combat and trying to concentrate on solving a puzzle just doesn't work for my brain specifically.. but hey, this blog is about me, right?
Some things the newer games could learn from the older ones:
- We don't need millions of Gil thrown at us. Seriously, some people know how to save and choose purchases wisely.
- 3D landscapes aren't a bad thing. I don't mind climbing up things, crawling under things, etc (as long as it's clear where I might be able to climb/crawl/etc). Running up and down roads in random areas (such as FFX/FFX-2/FFXIII) works, sure.. but something like FFVII really drives home how different exploration-based gameplay can be when you drive it home that every object has stuff above and below it, as opposed to just beside, in front of, and behind.
Some things from the older games I pray that Square never brings back:
- Random encounters during puzzle phases. Keep my cloysters of trials separate from my running around getting killed by shit, kthx.
- Infrequent save spheres. Why should I only be allowed to play when I have at least an hour of free time lying around? Especially considering that some of the older games are on handhelds now -- who sits and does nothing but play their handheld for several hours straight? You play it when you're on-the-go dealing with RL stuff.. right?
- Tents. Seriously. If I'm 80 hours into a game, I don't want to lose it and have to START ALL OVER because I saved at a point where I can't go back and buy more tents, and I've run out of pots trying to figure out where I'm going next. (I don't use strat guides until I've beaten a game all the way through at least once -- I know that makes me weird, but whatever. And no FF7 didn't do this to me, but 6 did....)
- Long text-based exposition. Yes, people QQ about the voice acting in the newer games -- but I would rather have sub-par voice acting (yes, even like the retards involved with FFXII) and actual video as opposed to a few pixels changing color on a screen while I have to basically read a novel while pressing "O" after every sentence.
.. and yes, I played FF1-FF5 as well, though I never beat any of them. They were too hard for me. What can I say? I'm not a "real" gamer.. but I do like where the franchise seems to be going as of late, ESPECIALLY considering that FFXIII (13) is going to have the same story writers as FFX and FFX-2 (my favorite games thus far).
TL;DR I loved FF6 and FF7 at the time, but for the most part, I'm glad that Square changes things as the years progress, and yes, I even prefer the newer combat systems to the older ones.
Seriously. Give me the FFXII combat system, with a story that's on par with FFX, and I'll be all over that like white on rice.