On July 27th I reported, not without a fair bit of levity (not everyone in video game journalism feels the need to take himself ultra-seriously all the time), on a Q&A session held in Tokyo where Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII Director Motomu Toriyama and Character Modeling Designer Nobuhiro Goto shared some details about the fact that Lightning had her breasts slightly padded and topped with breast jiggle physics.
The day after, Wired’s Chris Kohler tweeted my article on a trip of holy rage about the alleged defiling of Final Fantasy. As soon as it happened I knew I could expect some kind of hyperbolic headline some time soon. The only point in doubt was just how hyperbolic and out of touch with reality it was going to be.
Unfortunately, the result managed to overtake even my most pessimistic prediction and we were all treated with the following gem: “Final Fantasy Isn’t Dying. It’s Already Dead”
That’s quite the interesting statement, and also a dreadfully ignorant one to make. Let’s go ahead and dismantle the whole thing.
Things start badly already with the featured picture, showing off Lightning’s Final Fantasy XIV crossover costume in a typical Miqo’te /pose emote from the upcoming MMORPG, but of course someone that didn’t do his homework wouldn’t know that there’s a very precise reason behind that pose. And yeah, Mr Kohler didn’t bother to do his homework.
Homework aside, the caption is the real problem: “The new face of Final Fantasy. Uh, you are looking at her face, right?”
And there’s where you notice from the very outset of the article that the writer has every intention to be disingenuous. Now one crossover costume, from one game of fourteen numbered titles (almost fifteen), plus I lost count how many sequels and spin-offs has become “The new face of Final Fantasy?”
It’s pretty much like saying that a a single hostess working in an obscure hostess club in Kabukicho is “The new face of Tokyo.” I guess someone that has only experienced Tokyo via the Yakuza games could get near to think something like that, so maybe our valiant writer experienced Final Fantasy only through pin-up pictures?
From there on, things went downhill, no doubt about that. Kohler proceeds to argue that it’s fine for Leisure Suit Larry to be “95 percent jokes about and/or pictures of breasts” (and it isn’t even near to 95%, but he seems to be very fond of using hyperbole to bolster his points), but ”if in 2013 this is what a Q&A session about Final Fantasy has become, then any claim that the series once had something approaching mainstream respectability done gone and caught the train out of town.”
Putting the horrifying and out of place comparison aside (and I love Leisure Suit Larry as well, but the comparison simply doesn’t fit), that’s not what the Q&A session has become, as the Q&A session was a very extensive romp through a large amount of topics, of which the part about breasts was just a small excerpt. Maybe our resident pundit only bothered to read my light-hearted report about boobs — I guess that’s all he’s interested in — and didn’t check out the rest, which is telling, considering that I went as far as linking it for his convenience.
He also seems not to have a very clear idea on how a Q&A session works: someone asks the questions, and a developer responds, meaning that yeah, someone might easily ask a question about the character’s chest, and there’s nothing strange for a developer to answer said question, even more so considering that it was a very informal Q&A question with fans, and not a formal sit down with the Wall Street Journal.
Ultimately, though, whatever you may think of Toriyama-san and Goto-san otaku-ish outing, they’re just two developers between several tens (or more) on one game that is part of a massive franchise. Saying that the franchise is “dead” (or even dying) because of the words of two people responding to a direct question in a gathering full of other otakus and because of a small change in the chest of one character is as ridiculous, hyperbolic and ignorant as it could be, and it can only be identified as a cheap attention grab.
Defining “dead” a franchise that easily sells multiple millions with every main chapter and that has an enormous number of fans around the world is silly at best, disingenuous at worst. Let’s not even mention the fact that basing the judgement of Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII on a marginal element like breast jiggle (like it was the first game to introduce it) and a slightly larger chest is unworthy of the position of a game journalist.
Almost every preview of the game is positive, including the recent slew that came from Japan out of the event where the whole hoopla happened. Chances are that the game is actually going to be good, but Kohler prefers to call it “dead”, because of Lightning’s breasts. Of course the actual gameplay, the story, the writing and everything else don’t matter, right? All that matters to our angry pundit are Lightning’s mammaries.
It reminds me of a few misguided reviews of Dragon’s Crown I’ve seen around the web a few days ago, where the writers knocked multiple points off the score because they didn’t agree with the showcase of breasts that was incidentally part of the art style, basically translating as “The game plays great. It’s a lot of fun, but I’m gonna tell you that it’s bad, because boobs.” That’s honestly pathetic.
Kohler goes on to complain that once upon a time Final Fantasy was all serious business (with some “moments of levity”) with epic stories and “strong, relatable characters” and could “attempt to tackle subtle, complex themes on platforms that were largely dominated by paper-thin plots and cartoon characters.”
Maybe he should realize that the story and dialogue of the game aren’t written by Toriyama-san or Goto-san. There’s absolutely no reason to believe (and no hint of it in the demos that have been shown so far) that Lightning has somehow become some kind of lascivious sex doll, and from the dialogue we’ve seen she’s as badass as ever and even more mature than before. Let’s not even mention the fact that the Lightning Saga has tackled plenty “subtle, complex themes”, but most possibly Kohler isn’t in the position to know.
It seems that he believes that having average-sized breasts (a Japanese D cup is not in any way a pair of giant, dangling globes, as it pretty much translates to a North American C) that actually aren’t made of hardwood somehow conflicts with being a “strong, relatable character”. Of course that’s not the case. Being strong or relatable is not in any way proportional (or inversely so) to the size of a woman’s boobies.
The misguided article continues by mentioning that once upon a time “the ideas of orchestras playing the games’ amazing musical scores or of art galleries displaying the design work of Yoshitaka Amano were not out of the question.” Either Kohler’s idea of the past tense is as elastic as time in Final Fantasy XIII-2, or maybe he just didn’t do his homework (yes, it seems to be a recurring theme in his article). I can only advise for him to go check the very much present schedule of the Distant Worlds concerts and educate himself.
I find quite funny that Kohler and others notice the existence of a degree of titillation in Final Fantasy titles just now. Maybe they didn’t get the memo about Tifa’s very sizable chest, and her breast-pushing victory pose from Final Fantasy VII, enhanced as recent as 2011 with plenty jiggle physics in Dissidia 012 Final Fantasy. Shall we talk about Final Fantasy III‘s Cloud of Darkness that prances around almost completely naked in Yoshitaka Amano’s own artwork (and Kohler seems to think very highly and with a degree of nostalgia of Amano-sensei’s artwork)
Maybe some forget that the strong and lovely Celes from Final Fantasy VI worn just a form fitting leotard, while Final Fantasy IV‘s Rosa sported a very similar outfit in the game and skimped down to a bikini in Amano’s character artwork.
So when Amano-sensei drew his heroines and villains in alluring and sexy attire, not to mention quite sensual poses, it was perfectly OK, but now that the designers of Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII do the same (giving the player plenty options to cover Lightning up to their leisure, mind you) it’s not OK anymore. That sounds like a double standard, or maybe simply ignorant, due to memories clouded by nostalgia and lack of attention to detail.
Of course, those are just a few examples of blatant showcases of sensuality on Final Fantasy games of old, and there are plenty more, all it takes to remember them is clearing one’s mind from nostalgia and bias, but that seems an ability that many of today’s video game journalists have to leave out of their resumes.
Of course, the Final Fantasy franchise isn’t the only one that pushes the sexy button here and there. I wonder where Kohler and his fellow pundits were, for instance, when CD Projekt turned seducing women into a nude collectible card game with The Witcher. I’m quite glad that most of the pundits ignored it, as The Witcher is one of the best RPG series out there, and I wouldn’t wish for any developer to have to face this kind of harassment.
Mind you, The Witcher’s Geralt has been redesigned twice in the series. His whole facial structure has been completely reworked between the first two games, but that kind of radical change seems to be perfectly OK, while a slight change to Lightning’s breast size and a few completely optional costumes seem to trigger journalists into irrational rage fits.
But let’s cut down the chase and get right down to business, shall we? The Final Fantasy series is far from dead. As a matter of fact you could say that it has never been more alive, with three mainline titles currently in development (Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII, Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn and Final Fantasy XV).
Kohler clumsily tries to minimize the importance of Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn by comparing it to the flop of its predecessor, and by writing “and once the new version comes out, even if it’s good, it’s still going to be an MMO with a monthly fee in an era dominated by the free-to-play model”.
So now doing something differently from the masses has become automatically bad? Kohler forgets that there are a lot of dedicated MMORPG players that actually enjoy just being able to insert their credit cart number into their account and then just play their favorite game without worrying about being nickel and dimed at every corner, or having to buy boosters and similar stuff from the local e-supermarket all the time in order to stay competitive and have fun.
Exactly because there aren’t many pay to play MMORPGs around, Square Enix is offering a quite rare commodity, and if anything that increases its chances of success. That’s especially true considering the fact that the franchise has a very dedicated fanbase since…you know…the series is far from dead.
Again, doing one’s homework more diligently before writing would help a lot here: Final Fantasy XI is pay to play, still has a large playerbase after eleven years and is the most profitable title of the franchise. Quite obviously many Final Fantasy fans don’t mind paying a monthly fee to play a quality MMORPG.
Speaking about quality, the game has been showing quality in spades during the beta (voiding the misguided comparison with the original Final Fantasy XIV, that was a completely different game). Most previews are enthusiastic (including mine, and even MMORPG newbies like Allisa had a lot of fun) and even just following the game’s hashtags on twitter shows how fans are on hot coals to get to play the game. Not too bad for a MMORPG belonging to a dead franchise, isn’t it? Of course, I don’t expect Kohler to know anything about it.
What about Final Fantasy XV? We didn’t see much yet about the game, but what we saw was downright spectacular. It also dropped many jaws at E3, proving one of the high points of the Sony conference. Check out the reaction of the crowd in the video below starting at the 3:30 mark:
That seems quite enthusiastic for a franchise that’s allegedly “dead”, isn’t it? Of course that’s because it’s not dead at all. Not even close.
Of course, there’s also the remake of Final Fantasy X and X-2 incoming, and I’m quite sure that many are eager to replay those classics with updated graphics, but I think we have plenty evidence of the series’ vitality just by considering the new games and without having to resort to remakes.
Final Fantasy has millions of fans all over the world. Denying it is completely disingenuous and blind to reality. Dead series aren’t nearly as popular and don’t have three different new games in development, two of which near to their release.
Going as far as telling that a whole franchise is dead because of a slight increase of a character’s bra size and the fact that her breasts won’t be made of solid steel anymore, not to mention a few completely optional costumes is utterly ridiculous, but of course making completely ludicrous statements is a pretty effective way to get people to click on that headline. Some don’t seem to care if those statements are also dreadfully ignorant and fly straight in the face of any idea of journalistic integrity.
I remember reading “Final Fantasy is Dead!” tens of times through my “career” as a gamer and then as a writer. The first time was with V, I believe, and then with every single chapter of the series, including the widely adored VII, that managed to offend quite a few because of the radical departure from the fantasy themes. Guess what? Final Fantasy is still there despite its haters.
People are free to judge the attitude of two developers the way they want, but it’s doubtless that Final Fantasy‘s “vitality” doesn’t even get near to be compromised by something as small. The series is alive and well, in spite of those that would wish it dead or that believe it dead simply because it doesn’t pander to their very personal taste or agenda.
Final Fantasy is far from dead. What actually died is the ability of some to look at it objectively.