The main cast of Final Fantasy XV

Keyboard Geniuses is our weekly glance at a few intriguing, witty, or otherwise notable posts from the Gameological discussion threads. Comments have been excerpted and edited here for grammar, length, and/or clarity. You can follow the links to see the full threads.

Don’t Call It A Comeback

The release of Final Fantasy Type-0 HD (but mostly the Final Fantasy XV demo included with its purchase, which Patrick Lee recapped for this week’s What Are You Playing This Weekend?) made the past, present, and future of the series a major discussion point in the comments on our review. PaganPoet wondered if there is a way to restore the series to its former glory—and whether Square Enix would even care to:

Is there a way to redeem Final Fantasy at this point? Call me dramatic, but Square Enix just seems to be slipping further and further away from fans of the series with no indication that they actually want to learn from criticism. And yet, the games still sell well. We talk a big game about pining for risks and original ideas, but that doesn’t stop the fact that every Call Of Duty copy-and-paste job will outsell everything else in droves. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that companies like Square Enix just throw up their hands when they can’t quite nail down what their fan base seems to want.

Shinigami Apple Merchant thinks even though the “golden age” games may never be matched, retaining their values and simplicity will be the key to making quality Final Fantasys:

I think the series can definitely keep spawning enjoyable games, as long as the developers remember to keep things simple. Blockbuster budgets and an “It has to be more fantastical! For God’s sake, make them emote a little!” mentality is how we get fiascos that lose touch with the values at the core of the series’ classics.

Much like the Bond movies or Doctor Who can shift in tone as a “response” to the prior incarnation/outing, there’ll always be enough of a change in development mentality (“We need a more wide-reaching product! Target this now!”) that we’ll at least see an attempt at something new each time, even if it doesn’t always work well. And now, we’ll probably get spin-offs and sequels in each new world (to justify the huge investment necessary for new flagship games) where, hopefully, smaller design teams can make something. Is it ever going to be the way it was with Hironobu Sakaguchi and/or the ’90s development Dream Team at the helm? Nope, but it won’t be devoid of creativity or fun either.

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And doyourealize thought this whole redemption thing is a little overblown:

I’d say the copies-sold tell a more complete story about the series’ standing than the small but angry and vocal segment of the fan base. People feel connected to Final Fantasy in ways they never (at least not anytime soon) will feel connected to Call Of Duty. Beyond a stronger focus on story and character, Final Fantasy has been a part of a lot of people’s lives for decades. I remember playing the first game on my friend’s NES in elementary or middle school, borrowing a SNES to play Final Fantasy III, and keeping a rented PlayStation running overnight since I didn’t have a memory card and didn’t want to play the Midgar portion of FF7 over again. Because of this history, fans feel an ownership over the series and betrayed when something doesn’t go the way they think it should. Pair that with Square Enix’s desire to consistently change things around, and you create a segment of fans who will take to the Internet—or whatever outlet they have—to yell about how much the new game sucks.

This is natural for something that has survived for close to 30 years, and while Final Fantasy may never produce the same kind of excitement as it did during the VI-IX heyday, I don’t necessarily think it’s a series that needs to be “redeemed.” The games are still good and have a strong following. You could have said something about redemption after the initial botched version of FF14, but by taking the game down and rewiring it to make the sublime A Realm Reborn, Square Enix showed that, not only could it make an excellent game in the series, it values their customers’ advice.

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To Live And Die In Miami

This week, Derrick Sanskrit reviewed Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number, the long-awaited sequel to 2012’s bloodiest, trippiest surprise hit. He made note of the game’s many lengthy and punishing stages where a careful, watchful eye is one of your best survival tools. But as Tacofist mentions, slow and steady isn’t always the way to go:

I keep reading that it is necessary to move through levels slowly and use the option to look ahead more often than in the original, but I haven’t found that to be the case. I’m 75 percent of the way through the game, and I mostly brute force through levels at top speed. There’s a lot of dying, but I don’t know how I would keep my combo meter up if I took my time and looked forward often. Drawing enemies through choke-points and peeping out around corners to lure ranged enemies is very effective and doesn’t require much strategy. The soundtrack alone removes my ability to play with caution. It’s a ceaseless jackhammer of murder joy.

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Deffjunn agreed and read a little more deeply into the game’s encouragement of recklessness:

It’s deceptive in that way. Yeah, you need to get a feel for the level, but overthinking it will get you killed way more than taking action. Rushing gun-toting enemies is much easier than you might think. Like the first Hotline Miami, it’s a game about embracing death (in both action and narrative), and it tries to wean you off of the usual tenets of proceeding slowly and treating your character’s life as if it’s precious.

Elsewhere, conversation turned toward a controversial moment in the game’s opening minutes, when the player is forced to knock a woman to the ground and rape is implied. The scene ends before things go too far and is revealed to be part of a scuzzy movie shoot. Reaction to the sexualized violence led to the game effectively being barred from sale in Australia and the inclusion of a prominent warning and option to skip the scene. In the face of that option and the moment’s general irrelevance to the overall story, commenters wondered why it should be included at all. Chum Joely tried to pin down the developers’ intentions:

The best explanation I can come up with is that it is supposed to throw an even more unfavorable light on these people who are looking to profit from the murder spree of the first game with their nasty horror movie adaptation. “Just look how scummy these assholes are! They even put in an implied rape of a woman who’s just been bludgeoned/shotgunned nearly to death.” Still, I’m not sure it was necessary.

I feel like that same disgust toward the filmmakers is achieved in the contrast between the director’s comment (“You there, Blondie. You need to work on your femininity. Act more helpless and scared.”) and how the handful of real women in the game react to all the violence—refusing to be rescued by violent men and/or escaping from their violent lives as soon as the opportunity arises.

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Snazzlenuts agreed that this was the intent, but thought it was still a step too far, especially considering the presentation:

They could’ve portrayed the directors as being just as awful without including the rape scene. The fact that the background fades to black, completely emphasizing the murderer pulling his pants down on top of a woman he just bludgeoned, makes it that much more appalling. I get that’s probably what they were going for, but I think they really needed to take a step back and ask themselves why they felt so strongly about putting it in the game.

And Fluka pointed out that including the option to skip the scene makes it seem all the more gratuitous:

The fact that the scene is optional makes it extra weird. Either stand by your decision to include sexual violence or don’t. Right now, it makes it seem superfluous, as if rather than making some artistic statement regarding what is taboo in games, it’s just asking “Would you like EXTRA GRITTY adult themes with your hyper-violence?”

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And that does it for this week. As always, thanks for reading and commenting. We’ll see you all again next week!