Now, before I launch into full rant mode, allow me to explain the events that prompted this long-winded bitchery:

1) Living in Virginia, I was totally mollywhopped by Mother Nature on the twenty-ninth of June and had my power knocked out along with a million other folks in the tri-state area. Waking up in a pool of gross sweat on the thirtieth, I muttered to myself, “fuck this noise,” and headed out to find other accomodations. I had to go all the way out to Frederick, MD just to find a hotel that had both electricity and vacancy… and only because I decided to start looking for lodging at seven-thirty in the morning that day.

2) By some serendipitous miracle, I broke down and bought a Vita… on the twenty-ninth, mere hours before the fateful storm that would turn countless people into honorary Amish.

3) By the first of July, I found that the Holiday Inn Express was slowly eroding my sanity. In a last ditch effort, I tried to keep my shit together by downloading Final Fantasy IV: Complete Edition. Even after twenty years, that game is incredibly engaging. It completely reminded me of why I used to enjoy JPRG’s.

4) The next day, while charging my Vita, I poked around the internet and watched Square-Enix’s concept trailer for their “next-generation” technology. It completely reminded me of why I no longer play JRPG’s.

S-E is clearly more concerned with making movies only vaguely disguised as video games. Even worse, these movies are absolutely fucking terrible. All emphasis on gameplay has been shirked in favor of meandering, incoherent plots, irritating characters, atrocious dialogue and the ear-sodomizingly terrible voice acting.

Really, Final Fantasy XIII served as the paradigm for the new Square-Enix development initiative.

Some may consider railing against FFXIII a full two-years after its release to be beating a dead horse. It probably is, but the horse in question was such a shitty, inept, bastard of a nag that people are still lining up to take a swing.

It is, without a doubt, the single biggest disappointment of this console generation. I agree that there are lesser Final Fantasy games in the main series, but XIII was the first one where I was straight-up pissed off that, not only were the words Final Fantasy on the front of the box, but it was a main, numbered entry.

That shit was not a real Final Fantasy game. I’m not even sure it was a real game, as I’ve seen DVD menus that offer more interactivity.

Now, there are elements from previous Final Fantasy titles that rub me the wrong way… namely, the increasingly convoluted, downright nonsensical mush-mouthed plots, and Tetsuya Nomura’s absurd character design philosophy of “ADD MORE ZIPPERS AND BUCKLES… AND FOR GOD SAKE, MAKE THOSE SHOES BIGGER.”

But those gripes merely reflect my own personal preference… because, at the end of the day, all of the main numbered entries (though I can’t speak for XI or XIV) are actually RPG’s, and that’s really all that matters.

In fact, only require two things from Final Fantasy:

1) That my characters (regardless of how stupid they look or how idiotic the shit that spews from their mouths may be) have plenty of stats and options for customizable combat advancement/growth, and lots of equipment configurations.

2) Some decent side quests/super-fucking hard side bosses, ones that can only be beaten through clever stat advancement/growth and sweet equipment configuration.

That’s it. I don’t even need old-school, turn-based random encounters. FFXII totally flipped the combat on its ear, ditching the traditional turn-based/ATB system in favor of something that had more in common with MMORPG’s… but it still made me bust my ass and use my head to make my characters Gods Among Men.

FXIII? Not only was it painfully linear, but there was no customization, to speak of. All your characters had three different roles that could be leveled up, but no choice in how to do so. You just held down a button and spent points on a linear advancement track, only providing the illusion of customizing your characters.

The weapons? Level up the one you have or buy a new one. There was no option to seek out a sweet boss and find an Ultima weapon, or any of that shit. I was just forced to use silly items to level up whatever I was using.

People complain about the linear world design of FFXIII, and while I agree that it was God-awful, what was even more unforgivable was that the growth of your characters was just as linear.

Years ago, I managed to kill Kefka in two goddamned attacks at the end of FFVI… but only because I threw together absolute devastation using an absurd combination of Gogo’s mimic, Sabin’s Bum Rush, a fucking Genji Glove, etc… it was glorious. And it was all me. My strategy. The game allowed the player to get creative, and kick-ass on their own terms… and that shit was on a 32-meg cartridge being played on a 16-bit system.

FFXIII, on the other hand, just wants you to sit there and look at all the pretty cut-scenes, and hit a button every so often. It was like an animé movie that got increasingly annoyed by the fact that there was a person on the other end of the screen holding a controller.

Granted, once you get to Gran Pulse, the game opens up and provides some sweet side quest business (and almost feels a bit like FFXII, in scope and structure), but it takes, like thirty-five hours of bullshit to get there. And then, you go back to Cocoon, for fifteen more hours of bullshit.

No, just no.

Please, Square, if you want to make a fucking movie, by all means do so. But stop confusing your Final Fantasy games with Final Fantasy interactive movies, because it doesn’t seem to be pleasing any one.

Square mentioned that FFXIII was so damned linear because they couldn’t create a vast, open adventure with the graphical quality being what it was.

Well, here’s an idea… don’t make the graphics so amazing, next time. We won’t care, so long as we get an actual game. I mean, hell… I can’t seem to stop playing a Final Fantasy game that came out two decades ago.

Square-Enix is like a junkie, hopelessly addicted to empty spectacle, aesthetic and visual fidelity.

But maybe if they’d stop chasing the dragon and let me fucking slay one every now and again, they’d be a little more relevant in 2012…