I honestly don't really know what to think about Square Enix any more.
The Final Fantasy company was once one of my favorite publishers -- one that I knew I could count on to provide me not only with new installments in one of my favorite game series, but also to publish a variety of other interesting titles from both East and West.
In recent years, though -- presumably at least partly due to the company's recent appalling financial results and unrealistic expectations -- the Square Enix we knew has ceased to be, to be replaced with a company that appears to be flailing wildly, trying everything possible in an attempt to make money and never quite getting it right.
The Final Fantasy series has borne the brunt of Square Enix's aggressive attempts to claw back its losses. Not only have the early games in the series been rereleased on pretty much every platform you'd care to mention, but the company has taken some significant risks with the Final Fantasy brand as a whole. Some of these -- like the recent Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn -- look set to pay off; others -- like the original incarnation of Final Fantasy XIV -- have been unmitigated disasters for the company, albeit ones most people seemed happy to forget about. Others still -- such as the unspeakably dreadful mobile game Final Fantasy: All the Bravest, possibly the worst game I have ever played -- have actively damaged both the series' reputation and that of Square Enix as a whole. While I fundamentally disagree with the assertion that "Final Fantasy is dead" it's honestly not altogether surprising that some people are sounding the franchise's death knell given the number of recent missteps.
2011's Final Fantasy Type-0 for PSP was seen as a recent high point for the series, especially when compared to the mixed reviews that the console-based Final Fantasy XIII (which shares Type-0's "Fabula Nova Crystallis" mythology) had garnered a year earlier. Much to the frustration of many English-speaking JRPG fans, however, Type-0 is still yet to receive an official localization, and there doesn't seem to be any information forthcoming on the subject, either.
There is some other Type-0-related news, however: the game is getting a follow-up. Dubbed Final Fantasy Agito -- a reference to Type-0's original title Final Fantasy Agito XIII -- the new game will feature a new character voiced by Haruka Tomatsu (Asuna in Sword Art Online, for anime fans), a customizable Class Zero cadet for the player to control, allies who will support the player according to their relationship values, and an interesting decision-making system that has the potential to see the story unfold in a variety of different directions.
Neat, right? Potentially. Here's the catch: it's a free-to-play mobile title. Exactly how it will play isn't altogether clear as yet, but it appears that the production values are at least somewhat higher than your typical free-to-play Japanese mobile game, with visuals certainly on a par with if not superior to the PSP game.
The game's story will seemingly unfold in real-time, with each chapter consisting of two weeks of communal playtime. 10 of these 14 days will be spent playing solo, taking on missions as individual characters, while the remaining 4 will involve team-based play alongside other players -- including the option to play asynchronously -- in an attempt to take down bosses. At the end of a chapter, the story will advance down a different path according to decisions made both by individual players and as a result of community votes. Once the story is over, it will start over from the beginning, allowing players to explore alternate story routes.
I have extremely mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, the idea of the real-time story unfolding as a result of all players' actions is very interesting -- and something that MMOs have been keen to implement for a very long time but never quite succeeded. On the other hand, my feelings about excessive use of free-to-play mechanics in mobile games are well-documented, and it sounds as if Agito will incorporate one of those immensely irritating energy systems to throttle play along with premium items.
Of course, given that Type-0 still hasn't made it over to Western shores, there's no guarantee we'll see this, either, so all this might be a moot point. For those of you who do speak Japanese, however, Agito is set for release on iOS and Android this winter.
Are you up for this? Would you rather Square Enix concentrated on getting the mainline series back on track? Or did you leave Final Fantasy behind a while ago?