Square Wants to Know: Do Gamers Want a Modern Turn-Based Final Fantasy?

An interview with the creators of Lightning Returns yields an unexpected (but intriguing) turnabout.

Article by Jeremy Parish, .

Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII finds itself trapped rather ironically in the large shadow cast by the recent announcement of Final Fantasy XV. I say "ironically" because back when XV was originally announced back in 2006, it was as the third chapter of the Fabula Nova Crystalis trilogy, Final Fantasy Versus XIII. Now it's gone on to become the next core entry in the series on a next-gen platform, while Lightning Returns wraps up the FFXIII story arc as a current-gen game a few months after the new consoles launch.

That's not an enviable state of affairs for any game, but it's doubly a shame for Lightning Returns because -- based on what I've played of it -- it's genuinely good. Who knows how the overall adventure will turn out, but the E3 playable demo (which according to producer Yoshinori Kitase and director Motomu Toriyama represent a near-finished version of the game) focuses heavily on combat... and Lightning Returns features an excellent combat system.

The battle mechanics differ greatly from the first two chapters of the FFXIII saga in that they focus on a single character -- the eponymous Lightning -- and allow for real-time movement, menu-driven but nevertheless direct actions, and defensive blocks and evasions. At the same time, you can see that they grew from FFXIII's battle system, with a functional equivalent to Paradigm Shifts that allow Lightning to take on different fighting forms and swap between skill sets and indepedent action gauges. It also brings back the Stagger concept, which leaves enemies weakened and vulnerable if attacked in specific ways, and this time around hitting the stagger point feels far more intuitive thanks to a simple visual indicator that highlights which actions are most effective for inflicting stagger.

Enemies in the demo were weak to Lightning's lightning attacks. It's not as prosaic as it sounds.

At the same time, I do view combat in Lightning Returns with a touch of melancholy, because it seems to be part of a growing trend away from the classic menu- and turn-based combat that defined the series in its formative days. Meanwhile, Final Fantasy XIV features a fairly typical MMO menu/action hybrid system, and Final Fantasy XV looks to be straight-up action. I asked Kitase if he sees action as the future of the franchise. His answer didn't surprise me, but I was taken aback (in a good way) when he turned the question back on me for an intriguing hypothetical.

"It's true that it we used very action-driven systems for Lightning Returns, Final Fantasy XIV, and in the trailer for XV," Kitase said. "But if you look closely, there's a different flavor for each game. What we try to do with Final Fantasy is take each installment and think about how to structure the battle mechanics. We start from scratch with each installment we put together.

"Even with something like Kingdom Hearts, what you have there is something very different than the style we've created for Lightning Returns. For this game, we have an evolved ATB system with three different styles that we switch between... and even that's different than anything we've done before. So it's really hard to say where the series will go in the future.

"We do have action-driven elements, but also elements of strategy -- hitting an enemy's weak point to stagger it, or watching your timing to block. We feel it's reminiscent of the traditional Final Fantasy strategy, and we're hoping some people who grew up on Final Fantasy will find its strategy element interesting."

Kitase paused for a moment and looked at me. "Now, I have a question," he said. "I'd like to know, would you want to see a turn-based command style return?

"Here's a hypothetical question -- and this is just hypothetical, so don't read too much into this -- what if we were to take a game like, say, Final Fantasy VI that does have the ATB system but is basically command-based. What if we were to take that game and breathe new life into it? Make it into a current-gen game? Would users be OK with it in that turn-based style?"

Did you just imagine this sequence in proper modern style and feel a chill? It's OK. We all did.

Of course I said yes, because who wouldn't want to see FFVI remade faithfully but in glorious HD? But did I speak out of turn? How would you feel about a Final Fantasy remake that mixes up-to-date graphics with old-fashioned play mechanics?

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Comments 34

  • Avatar for nathanstinson41 #1 nathanstinson41 4 years ago
  • Avatar for novo1858 #2 novo1858 4 years ago
    That's exactly what I want from an RPG made by square enix. To be honest that's what I thought XIII was going to be...
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  • Avatar for bengrande #3 bengrande 4 years ago
    I don't think the problem with FF XIII was the battle system at all, it was actually pretty great and required arguably more strategy than Final Fantasy VI (my second favorite of the series next to V). The problems were the linear world, the baffling story, and the mediocre characters. His hypothetical question doesn't make much sense, it's making the assumption that problems old school Final Fantasy fans have with the series now is its more action oriented battle system and not the fact that there isn't an interesting world that's fun to explore.Edited 2 times. Last edited June 2013 by bengrande
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  • Avatar for Mindwater #4 Mindwater 4 years ago
    For whatever reason, I seem to only enjoy turn-based games on handhelds. Honestly, I wouldn't mind a PS4/Vita cross-buy.
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  • Avatar for helpfulmole #5 helpfulmole 4 years ago
    I feel like it is what "we" have been hoping from Square-Enix. But more importantly, would it have SPC-700 sound?

    Okay that isn't that important.
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  • Avatar for YangusKhan #6 YangusKhan 4 years ago
    All I really want is full party control back. Honestly if they just iterated on FFX-2's battle system I'd be extremely pleased. An HD FF6 would be awesome too, of course.
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  • Avatar for pjedavison #7 pjedavison 4 years ago
    FFX-2's combat was great. That entry is often regarded as the black sheep of the series, but for my money it was the ultimate refinement of the ATB system.
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  • Avatar for twopenny #8 twopenny 4 years ago
    I think a modern take on turn-based combat could be really interesting, especially if they can figure out how to keep the game from coming to a full stop with each fight. Nothing breaks tension like an over-long battle intro.
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  • Avatar for Conman_8 #9 Conman_8 4 years ago
    I really dislike where they have taken the combat system. Maybe I am just old but I don't think there is anything better than a solid turn-based combat system. I would LOVE to see them bring it back for a console entry.
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  • Avatar for kingaelfric #10 kingaelfric 4 years ago
    I haven't played a Final Fantasy game since fiddling a bit with VII and deciding it wasn't for me. I'm not knocking the later games, they're just--not for me. That being said, a modern interpretation of VI (or even better V?) I'd be on board in a heartbeat even if it were just an "HD remake" or some such. (Just for the record, yes, I have played the GBA ports and whatnot!) Do take this opinion with a grain of salt, however: I am old.
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  • Avatar for alexb #11 alexb 4 years ago
    The problem is honestly not the battle mechanics. It's the linear worlds and inferior characters, design, and story. Chasing after this focus-tested, anime-angst driven model is where they went wrong.
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  • Avatar for MattCaulder #12 MattCaulder 4 years ago
    I can get behind the idea of updating the graphics, and releasing them on modern systems, digital downloads and mobile app stores. But I would be much more interested in a modern FF title having the classic turn-based system, meaning a new game entirely.
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  • Avatar for dogfish #13 dogfish 4 years ago
    For the love of all that is holy, yes. I would love a new medeival-style turn based FF. A sort of spiritual successor to FFIX.
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  • Avatar for falselogic #14 falselogic 4 years ago
    Hi AlexB!

    Also, I pretty much agree with alexb, it isn't the mechanics that are keeping me from investing in FFs anymore. It's the juvenile stories and such. Also, as I said on an earlier paragraph, much as I enjoy JRPGs I can't afford to invest the time in them if I have to play them on a console. Put it on a portable and I'm there though!
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  • Avatar for Izixius #15 Izixius 4 years ago
    I’d like to see a mix of XIII and X's combat that’s a more turn based sort of active. Have a list of pending actions from players and enemies that’s moving along and constantly executing, but just slow enough so you can navigate to the command you want to throw in the queue. It could eliminate one of the problems I had with XIII (hammer on X the whole time and let AI sort it out, which didn’t always work so well, or hope your ATB guage didn't fill before you could pick your attacks) and keep battles active.Edited June 2013 by Izixius
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  • Avatar for SargeSmash #16 SargeSmash 4 years ago
    I've said this on several occasions before, but FFXIII was more of a corridor RPG/RTS. Its problem was too much linearity (some is okay, but seriously, just throw some branching paths in occasionally). The problem was _not_ the battle system, which I found to have plenty of strategic depth, while maintaining a sense of urgency I haven't seen in an RPG in a long time.
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  • Avatar for Macstorm #17 Macstorm 4 years ago
    I really don't know if I trust SE to listen at this point, but yes, yes, yes, absolutely yes. Just imagine all the awesome classes in FFXIV along with the FF staples. Now imagine all of those things in a next-gen, single-player Final Fantasy. That would be great.
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  • Avatar for Stealth20k #18 Stealth20k 4 years ago
  • Avatar for Stealth20k #19 Stealth20k 4 years ago
    Deleted June 2013 by Stealth20k
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  • Avatar for ianshelton79 #20 ianshelton79 4 years ago
    I'm pretty okay with whatever SE does because I find every tweak on the traditional RPG battle systems interesting. Even if FF12 wasn't for me, I appreciated what they tried to do, and I absolutely loved FF13. I'm excited about FF15 now, and I also really enjoyed Xenoblade and Last Story's take on open-world fighting.

    I feel like there's enough going on in the handheld market to satisfy me for slower turn-based stuff even if they never do another proper turn-based game on consoles again. THAT SAID, yes, of course, I would love to see what they would do with something like FF6 on modern hardware. I have always kind of wanted to see a remake of FF6 done in cell shading, for one example. I also would like to see another take on FF10's system.
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  • Avatar for sparticus112b #21 sparticus112b 4 years ago
    I appreciated what they did with Final Fantasy IV for the DS but I prefer the classic look with upgraded HD sprites they had on the PSP personally. I liked both though.

    I look at it like this. I would love it if they switched off between 3D and 2D Final Fantasy games. It's just like Metroid and Mario. I loved the Metroid Prime games but Super Metroid (obviously all my own opinion) was the best Metroid game...but I wouldn't want all 3D Metroid games or all 2D versions. Same with Mario. I loved the Galaxy games but Super Mario World is the best Mario game(maybe 3..hhmm). There is room for both.

    I miss my world maps, I miss walking through walls to find a secret treasure. I miss sidequests sprinkled throughout the game. I miss exploration. Also...I want Xenogears in beautiful HD.
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  • Avatar for Kuni-Nino #22 Kuni-Nino 4 years ago
    I really would buy it. I really, really would. But, and Kitase probably knows this too, the number of people like me is just not enough.
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  • Avatar for TBIRallySport #23 TBIRallySport 4 years ago

    And/or, an RPG that's battles play like those in the Grandia series, Xenoblade Chronicles, or Final Fantasy XII. Any of those three.
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  • Avatar for spongeman #24 spongeman 4 years ago
    Provided the depth of customisation is there, yes absolutely.

    I think if there's one thing every FF fan wants, its a classic FF game, with next gen graphics, cutscenes and sound design.

    The one thing I would definitely want is a good deep customisation experience for my characters. Something like perhaps the Sphere Grid, something deep and vast and with with many different options. Maybe even class-based too.
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  • Avatar for end3rson #25 end3rson 4 years ago
    They totally should release FFVI remake. This is THE BEST Final Fantasy part PERIOD
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  • Avatar for Angelonight #26 Angelonight 4 years ago
    Being that I am that odd 1% that didn't like VI, and yes I played it all the way through, I have no real opinion as to weather a remake of VI would be a good idea. How ever if they do than a remake of all the others better be shortly behind it, especially VII and VIII. That being said I would very much like to see a return to the old ways of combat. I miss the days were you had total control over the entire party at all times, something we as FF fans have not had since X-2. And honestly that is what I miss the most. If I had had total control of the party maybe I would have been able to connect to one of the XII characters. None of the Current FF's have had a poor story, just lousy planing and mechanics. So Ye I want turn based combat to return or at the very least something like Grandia where the characters are moving about the field while their turn is recycling.
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  • Avatar for Bla1ne #27 Bla1ne 4 years ago
    Uh... YES.

    In most cases, I will hands-down pick turn-based over action battles for an RPG game. The reason is simple: TERRIBLE friendly AI. I just recently finished playing Ni No Kuni and, while I absolutely loved playing a proper JRPG again, and the story and art were amazing, my experience was greatly diminished by the terrible AI of my ally characters. Because of the action battles, I could only control 1 of my 3 characters at a time, leaving the other 2 to do as they please, and more often than not their actions would outright frustrate me. Especially during the boss battles, most of which are right before key emotional plot-points, and my irritation from the fight would actually dampen my enjoyment of the story segment. (You do get marginal control over your partners in the "Tactics" battle menu and the all-out defense and all-out attack maneuvers, but neither of those improve the situation at all.)

    For an action-style RPG combat system to work, it needs 2 things: to give players precise settings of their AI allies, and rapid switching between controlled characters. In Ni No Kuni, say, if I specialize one of my characters to be a healer, and the rest to be damage dealers, it's extremely cumbersome to switch from one to the others, and the moment I switch the rest invariably do something that irritates me. On the other hand, FFXII's gambit system was a rather good example of AI setting.

    So if they can satisfy both these conditions adequately, I'll be happy with action battles. If not, give me turn based any day, without hesitation.
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  • Avatar for waaronthehills #28 waaronthehills 4 years ago
    I refuse to play action style games not my thing. Final fantasy turn based games are the only game I play. If they never make another turn based rpg for final fantasy then I may never play a new game ever again. I just repeat play the old series 7-10/2. I would die in happiness if they brought ff7 back with new HD graphics and with the character's speaking for you. Also I am in love with ff13 but wont play it because its not turn base. please re-release ff7 and ff13 with turn based playing.
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  • Final fantasy NEEDS to return to the turn based style.
    It was incredible!
    I can't get into the new style of battle, as much as I try.
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  • Avatar for Vitoner #30 Vitoner 4 years ago
    Abso-freaking-lutely YES. I always preferred turn based battles to real time battles mainly for two reasons:
    1-Terrible AI: FFXII was a good example of good friendly and fully customizable AI, but other RPGs did mostly an awful job (Ni No Kuni, Rogue Galaxy). FFXIII worked nice but I didn't like its battle system (too much automatic and soulless).
    2-I like to have FULL CONTROL on the battlefield. I want to pick a strategy and make my party act exactly how I want to. Even with a wonderful AI a system handled by the CPU will always make me feel more a spectator than THE player.
    So, PLEASE, if you have to do a remake of a classic REMAKE IT AS A CLASSIC, don't turn it into something else.
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  • Avatar for markharrisjr.05 #31 markharrisjr.05 3 years ago
    Absolutely,100% yes to ANY new turn based FF, remake or otherwise. I generally hate all action RPGs, bank when the first kingdom Hearts came out I played it for a total of 5 minutes before returning it to blockbuster. After reading about FFXV and seeing some battle clips I will not even consider a $2 redbox rental. On the other hand, a new turn based atb game would have me preordering on day one, deluxe edition if they released one. Turn based ATB battles are what I'm interested in, not button mashing action with level ups.
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  • Avatar for gamer224 #32 gamer224 2 years ago
    Okay, what is wrong with this picture: I'm seeing essentially 100% agreement toward YES in these comments. THAT IS UNHEARD OF IN THE VIDEO GAME INDUSTRY, OR ALMOST ANY GROUP OF PEOPLE. Has SE SEEN this? Do they know that their fans almost universally want something that they are simply not providing??

    I know not delivering whatever everyone says they want is kind of their thing these days, but how is it possible to ignore something like this?Edited 3 times. Last edited March 2015 by gamer224
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  • Avatar for keife191 #33 keife191 2 years ago
    yes, i definitely want turn based combat back. bring back final fantasy 8
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  • Avatar for rickyrussell24 #34 rickyrussell24 2 years ago
    Omfg please square come out with another turn based Like the old ones but better graphics. Iv been stuck playing lost oddeysey over and over to get my fix. All these new style real time RPGs just suck IMO. At least make one for us older fans
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  • Avatar for bino-kass #35 bino-kass 5 months ago
    The sony has been signing up for playstation 4 since the birth of the service, something that has become a tradition in the world of console games: Want to play online? You will need to pay for it. Fortunately, there is a compensation to the melhores jogos ps4 program where you win every month four games for become a tradition in the world of console games: Want to play online? You will need to pay for it. Fortunately, there is a compensation to the melhores jogos de playstation 4 program where you win every month four games for playstation 4. The sony has been signing since the birth of the service, something that has become a tradition in the world of console games: Want to play online? You will need to pay for it. Fortunately, there is a compensation to the melhores jogos para ps4 program where you win every month four games for playstation 4.Edited October 2017 by bino-kass
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