Everyone has played a hit game and fallen in love with the style, game mechanics or fun they have with a title. When does a game lose that edge and become a money making machine. Large publishers have a team of producers that know how to regurgitate games as sequels, prequels, spinoffs, and crossbreeds. The series started as innovative but once it gained popularity. Creativity was frozen in favor of bottom lines. The sucess affect. Effecting the next hit game near you.

The largest blockbuster AAA gamesg are notorious for this, and the numbers are increasing. Two games that I absolutely loved, logged hundreds of hours playing, and spent considerable time thinking about playing or discussing with friends have changed dramatically from this cash cowing. First is the Final Fantasy series. If you read my first blog then you’ll know that I grew up playing the SNES versions and later the Playstation versions of the game. The series is in its 13th iteration (including the online 11th and soon to be 14th), and the disparity between the old and the new is striking. The free roaming ability, following a non-linear, exploratory path is absent from the latest version. You are strung from point A to B in search of the next cut scene, responsibilty is stripped, and the gamer is left with tv remote like action and pocket lint management.

 “You can put a ‘J’ in front of it, but it’s not an RPG,” –The Old Republic lead writer Daniel Erickson.

Bioware pointed out recently the divergent elements of FFXIII. I would say its an action game with RPG elements, and for an action game it is lacking in well, action. For a traditional RPG as older gamers like me know this is bizarre. It is not why I have come to love the genre and the series. I want to spend 3 hours flying around on my Tiny Bronco, stopping to fight tonberrys, and scouting towns and areas I might have to visit in the future, that’s my prerogative. I enjoyed the freedom Final Fantasy 7 offered and the allowable pace. I never spent thousands of hours wandering lost without a clue as where to go, what the story was, or any other mind numbing dumbness, because I was allowed that freedom. I think the freedom encouraged me to make good use of my memory and truly learn the world I was in. Although I couldn’t go back and beat Sephiroth to the Mythril Mine and lay an ingenious trap to alter the storyline, it was open-ended enough, and that flexibility enraptured me. I was prepared becasue of the time I took to explore, I knew I had to traverse the marsh at some point and just like my hero I was excited.

Freedom affords a unique experience every time you play. I tip my hat to Square-Enix in many regards to 13. The story recap before every save load is a small delicious treat. When I put a game down and come back a few days later I forgot where I was. Square gave me the chance to recall before I jumped back in. The reading reminded me of Lost Odyssey. Being a huge bookworm I relish in the chance to read written word about my game and not some extra piece of information from an in-game book. It is a plus for me to read my game as it were a published book sitting on the shelf at Barnes & Noble, which is not uncommon these days. I loved the group progression. Characters develop a unique personal relationships with each other as the groups splinter and change frequently. The group dynamic developed believable and likeable characters. It enhanced my combat skills, forcing me to master different paradigm combinations early on. When I had full access to customize my team and class I knew what paradigms worked and who was best suited for each. The characters depth  was what kept me coming back not the gameplay. Although I found the action dull and repetitive, the use of the paradigm system does make the action more frenetic. I would have loved to see more depth in the combat system. A button combination for special attacks, like Cecil in FFIII, or a timing system, like that popularized in God of War. All of these could be used in combination to create a more compelling gaming experience as opposed to a theatrical one.

Bioware:Final Fantasy XIII is not an RPG[Destructoid]