The Game Remains the Same… and That’s Okay
Recently-returned oldbie Keefy has started a thread at the Citadel’s Forums titled Your Top Ten Games – Ever. My post is here, mainly pulled from the top of my head. This being a Final Fantasy-related forum, I imagine I’ll get a lot of flak for not including any games from that series in the list.
Afterwards, I got to thinking about why hardcore gamers like the Final Fantasy series so much while dismissing the far more accessible likes of Pokemon. The latter’s “kiddy” trappings aside, the main complaint I hear leveled against Pokemon is that each new installment in the main series is too similar to what has come before. I won’t argue with that; as I said in my Pokemon Ruby impressions post, one Pokemon title should be enough for most people. However, can you imagine the backlash that would occur amongst Pokemon’s dedicated fanbase if the series did take a radical turn?
I would imagine that it would be huge. Mario and Zelda fans, among others, cry out for innovation and often get it, but also complain about new things that they don’t like. Most recently, Dragon Quest IX—the first mainline Dragon Quest to debut on a handheld—has encountered some backlash from dedicated fans. And of course, the Final Fantasy series is not exempt from this, despite its reputation for drastic change from installment to installment; the black sheep of that family include FFVIII with its Junction system, FFXII with its MMO-like trappings, and FFXI and FFXIV, which are MMOs.
Many hardcore gamers seem to crave innovation, but this doesn’t always translate to big hits, or even enjoyable games. Familiarity is a staple that many game series rely on—not just big hits like Pokemon, but also those with smaller yet dedicated fanbases. In any other medium, this same demand for innovation would be silly. Long-running TV shows like Wheel of Fortune may change some over time, and authors like Stephen King hone their craft over several years, but for the most part, people tend to follow specific entertainments (and entertainers) because they continually provide things that they like. I understand that video games, being a technology-dependent medium, are a little different, but there’s nothing wrong with following a series that doesn’t change very much. Innovation is all well and good, but so are high-quality stalwarts, and I hope that they’ll continue to stick around.