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Final Fantasy turn-based gameplay was inevitable, but I’m still sad to see it go

Final Fantasy

Final Fantasy: FF16’s action-heavy focus feels like a moment of no return in the series’ evolution. One of the major highlights of Sony’s E3 season State of Play this year was the new video for Final Fantasy 16, which revealed the game’s Summer 2023 release date and showcased its colossal summons and action-heavy combat in unprecedented detail.

“It looks rad as heck, with protagonist Clive Rosenfield zipping around on the battlefield like an ex-member of the twink boy band from Devil May Cry 5,” he says. But I can’t help but feel that the Final Fantasy series has come to an end with its final departure from the turn-based combat that established its history and promoted a genre in the series’ infancy.

Quite a wait. Thirteen, 15, and the FF7 Remake’s fighting mechanics are so different from the original SNES and PS1 games that it’s hard to tell them apart. It has always been actively reinvented between numbered installments, with individual titles being the anchors of mini-franchises of their own, most memorably the Compilation of Final Fantasy 7.

Although the essential principles and techniques of the Final Fantasy series have not changed, the locales of the new games have. Combat in JRPGs has been pushed to new heights by each of these games. Even before the release of Final Fantasy 15 and the remake of Final Fantasy 7, they were already action-RPG hybrids. FF7R creators nearly looked to have wanted to make an action game instead of a role-playing game, Tim Rogers writes in his lengthy analysis of the game. Everything in the game is designed to reassure players that they are still playing a JRPG, including the menus, objects, and upgrade systems.

There may have been a period when it was appropriate to let go of the mainline series altogether. Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin(opens in new tab) demonstrated how effectively the monsters, visuals, and job structure of old Final Fantasy could mesh with sophisticated Team Ninja action.

For those who have grown accustomed to the melodrama and proper nouns in Final Fantasy games, Stranger of Paradise’s adherence to the Final Fantasy aesthetic is evident in FF16. In some aspects, it harkens back to the Final Fantasy series.

FF16’s high-flying, Bayonetta-Esque gameplay feels like a final curtain call on the turn-based combat puzzles that really gripped me, even though the series has gradually turned toward action. There may be no more fitting farewell than this one for the OG of ATB.

After seeing portions of the high-flying animation nonsense from the feature-length movie sequel Advent Children, I felt tricked by the turn-based combat in Final Fantasy 7. It’s not just that distinct pacing and mechanical depth that I enjoy these days; it’s also the contrast between Squaresoft’s cinematic goals and what Squaresoft could actually pull off at the time. It’s a lovely artifact of a bygone era of video game technology constraints. Because of technical restrictions, some visual and mechanical styles have faded away, yet I still miss them.

Dragon Quest is always there for you, sweetie. Yuji Hori is working on the 12th volume, and you know that if he made it into an action RPG, Japan would go into meltdown. Wouldn’t you? You can catch me pelting his car with 3DS XLs if the unexpected happens.

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