During and immediately after E3, we saw some quite positive press about Final Fantasy XIII-2, focusing on what was showcased the limited demo shown at the Entertainment Expo and on the many innovations the game is supposed to bring to the table compared to it’s predecessor.
Lately, though, I’ve started to observe an interesting, while rather sad, trend: probably alarmed by the rekindled love the Final Fantasy franchise is enjoying from some media outlets, quite a few writers scrambled to write extremely negative articles based on the fact that they hated Final Fantasy XIII, therefore Final Fantasy XIII-2 must suck.
This ties up nicely with the editorial I wrote a couple weeks ago on venomous yellow journalism. Some writers, especially on the internet (but not only), think that being impartial observers of the industry isn’t quite enough. The prefer to don the cape of the avenger that punishes the evil game developers that do us poor defenseless gamers wrong.
A company releases a game (or multiple) that isn’t up to expectations? Bad reviews just don’t cut it! Our friendly neighborhood press avengers shall and will take upon themselves the responsibility to make sure that the stigma will never go away, forever branding their future games as well, ’til death do us apart. No matter if the games in questions aren’t even near their release date, and what we all saw about that isn’t nearly enough to even start fairly assessing their quality.
Square Enix is a perfect example of what I’m talking about. Final Fantasy XIII didn’t meet the expectations of a part of the player base and Final Fantasy XIV launched with a very evident array of flaws, causing many to perceive the recent efforts of the publisher as negative. The fact that they’re working hard to address the complaints of their customers, taking extensive monetary losses in the process, isn’t really important. They must be punished, no matter what the actual results are.
The most interesting part of this all is seeing how far some manage to go. Expressing opinions and speculation is one thing, but going as far as denying evidence is a completely different pair of sleeves. I’ve seen people claim that with Final Fantasy XIII-2 Square Enix is doing nothing to adress the issues of Final Fantasy XIII. That’s a rather funny statement considering that the major complaints about FFXIII involve linearity and restricted movement, lack of player-driven choices, lack of towns and NPC interaction, rather flat characters (especially on the male side of things) and lack of an involving and emotional romance.
What we saw and read about Final Fantasy XIII-2 so far shows quite clearly that the game isn’t linear anymore, movement is a lot less restricted (characters can even jump freely), player choices are much more important to the point that there will be multiple endings, towns and NPC interaction are back and the cast will be completely renewed, including a male protagonist that looks much more in line with the old and beloved Final Fantasy tradition. Even romance seems to be back in full swing.
Many complained that Final Fantasy XIII didn’t feel like Final Fantasy, due to the lack of many classic tropes from the series and in Final Fantasy XIII-2 we see Moogles and the return of the Beastmaster role. This six months from release having experienced just a limited demo, a few screenshots and rather sparse information.
Yet, we see writers scrambling to post preemptive “reviews” of the game, denying that the developers are listening to their fan base (something that Square Enix has quite evidently started to do in full swing, coming to the point of opening official forums for their two major MMORPGs) and predicting out of their displeasure with Final Fantasy XIII, very little information, a lot of hot air and a big crystal ball that the game will suck.
I’ve even see people condemning Square Enix for wasting resources on XIII-2 instead of releasing Versus XIII as soon as possible, wondering why XIII even deserves a sequel. That’s the climax of this poorly written comedy, considering that we (them included) know basically nothing about Versus XIII, and yet they seem to consider it some sort of Messiah that will save the JRPG genre, while Final Fantasy XIII-2 will suck.
Logic dictates that Final Fantasy XIII is one of the chapters of the series that most warrants a sequel. Not only because the story ended quite openly, leaving a lot of space for further narration, but exactly because it disappointed part of the fan base. It’s obvious as the sun that Square Enix is trying to address the complaints and to create a sequel with the intention of making things right.
We still don’t know for sure how Final Fantasy XIII-2 will play, and if it’ll be a real improvement over it’s predecessor, but what we have seen and read so far about it is a big “I’m sorry. I still love you, can we make up?” from Square Enix to that part of their customers that was dissatisfied with Final Fantasy XIII.
Of course, like in any relationship, some will listen to their lover with an open mind and will appreciate the conciliatory attempt. Others will slam the door and refuse to listen. While both options are open and acceptable for fans and customers, keeping an open mind and actually waiting to see how a game plays in it’s entirety (or at least majority) before passing judgement is the duty of a gaming journalist. Looks like some have what it takes, some don’t.