Dear Final Fantasy,
We’ve had some really good times. Hell, we grew up together.
Remember that summer of 1991 when we first fell in love and I had to leave you for a couple weeks to go with my parents on a church trip to the Philippines? I thought about you every day, looking forward to returning home to pick up where we left off. When I finally made it home, my friend who’d borrowed you while I was gone had already completed the quest to obtain the rat’s tail from the Castle of Ordeals, thus proving the party’s courage and morphing everyone into their cooler-looking adult forms. That child-to-adult transformation was one of my first major game-related whoa-splosions.
Our relationship has had its ups and downs, to be sure. You changed gradually over the years, pruning off most of your Tolkien-fantasy roots and opting instead for the slick, futuristic shimmer of the sci-fi space epic. Broadswords weren’t cool enough so you made them bigger. Then you made them ginormous. Then you made them look as if they’d been constructed from 237 component pieces and might transform into an Autobot at any second. Your characters’ outfits grew increasingly whack, to the point where it’s easy to imagine Lady GaGa’s costume guru rolling her eyes in “no you di’int” disbelief. I understand that people change. It’s just a part of life. Nothing can stay the same forever.
You turned XIII a few weeks ago. I realize we haven’t talked much these past few years. Your Crystal Chronicles and massively-multiplayer entries felt utterly sideshow. But I wanted to drop by and catch up a bit, see how you’ve been getting on. I’m sorry, this was a bad idea. I shouldn’t have come over.
You blather constantly, talking elliptical shite, making no sense whatsoever. You used to let me role-play with you. You let me name my characters. I always enjoyed using the names of my siblings—Trey, Josh, Trinity. Even when I was only allowed four letters, I was happy being “Jasn” and adventuring with “Trey,” “Josh” and “Trin.” It added more gravity when Lich, the earth-element fiend, killed my white-mage sister (“Trin is dead”…ouch). Now you just assign the members of my party names that sound like the future offspring of Chris Martin and Gwyneth Paltrow—Snow, Lightning, Hope, Serah. You used to beckon me to explore. Now you just funnel me down endless straight corridors. Playing your new levels is like riding the world’s longest Slip ‘N Slide, only without any sudsy water to minimize chafing.
You used to give me money and experience for winning battles. Now you just dole out useless scores and maybe a few random components for weapon upgrades. I used to feel myself growing more powerful with each victory. Now I just feel myself growing bored and restless. You give me no incentive to tailor my strategy in battle. I simply click on Auto-Battle repeatedly and switch my Paradigm when characters need healing. I feel only the most tenuous connection to what’s happening onscreen. I have no sense of reward after each skirmish. You’ve given me nothing. The only way I can collect gil is by accessing little floating orbs. Really?!
You give me whiny, prepubescent dipshits to look after. These perpetually moody emo losers only have one emotional register: melodramatic overreaction. Hope’s voice makes my skin crawl. (Granted, not as badly as that painfully cornball laughing scene from Final Fantasy X.) If I was President Obama, I’d take your Hope character as a personal dig.
I don’t want to spend the next 80 hours of my life with you if we’re not mutually fulfilled. I’m obviously not the kind of person you’re interested in anymore. And you’re not doing it for me at all. So let’s just go our separate ways at the next hovering save point. Plus, I might as well confess: I’ve been seeing a few Western RPGs that really make me quite happy. BioWare and I have even been tossing around the word “marriage” in recent branching conversations. You’ll always be an important, cherished part of my past. But we’re over. I just can’t summon the feelings I once had. It’s unfortunate. There was a time not so long ago when it was hip to be Square Enix.
Jason Killingsworth is Paste’s games editor. He is based in Dublin, Ireland, and writes about music, film, tech and games for a variety of outlets. You can reach him online at jason [at] pastemagazine.com.