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Wolf Kanno's Crazy Ramblings and Incoherent Statements

10 Ideas from other RPG franchises that would make FF better.

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Final Fantasy has always been one of the best series, but some would argue its entered its Dork Age, and that it has really lost its self. The other issue is that some games do things really well compared to FF and you have to wonder why Squenix doesn't give some of this love to the main series. This is not to say that these games are better than FF, rather they have some particular elements that make them stand out among their peers, and I often wonder why the rest of the genre hasn't jumped on it and made it a genre staple.

I feel incorporating the idea of these ten elements into the FF series would create a richer experience, it may even fix some of the nagging problems with the series. Some of these ideas have been used by an FF before but never caught on for reasons unknown. Many of the games are actually from other Squenix titles, while some are not.

I avoided (well not completely) very specific things that make some of these games awesome. So don't expect to hear Grandia's battle system, Golden Sun's Psynergy system, Suikoden's castle building. I try to be a bit broad in my choices and explain that I want SE to to see what is appealing about them, its not the specific thing, its what it invokes for the player and the genre.

The other thing to make clear, is that this is not a call to Squenix to copy and paste these ideas into their games verbatim, rather understand the idea of it and see how these ideas are solutions to some of the problems that mire the genre. Some elaboration will be required.

So sit back, grab some liquor, and enjoy the madness...


Dragon Quest VIII's World Map design:
Dear god this. While I was not really impressed with DQVIII's customization system or story,it is very difficult not to look at how the world map system works and not ask yourself why the FF design team can't pull this off? For the majority of you who have not played the game. When traveling on foot, the game world is presented like Final Fantasy XII, an open ended environment that allows you to go where you want. When you finally unlock the ship, traversing through the world becomes like traveling through the old world maps of games gone by. So its a mix mash of FFXII's real world travel and old school world maps.

The open "realistic" world travel does have a bit of linearity due to story reasons purposes but for the most part, you can go where ever you can see barring its not blocked by natural environments like a sheer cliff wall, or thick brush. Still, these are acceptable limits and it gets kind of amusing that you can use the ship and the flying transportation to reach certain locations you can see but can't reach by walking.

The old school vehicle travel opens up the world more and creates a sense of grand scope that is missing in the PS2 era FFs. XII's Ivalice may actually be a bigger world in terms of scale compared to DQVIII, but I'll be damned if DQVIII just didn't feel bigger. Its a nice compromise SE, so give us what we want.

Altier Iris' Alchemy System: I have a confession I want to make, I actually wanted to use DQVIII's alchemy system instead, but felt obliged to use a different game for each point. Luckily Altier Iris system is pretty similar and keeps the point I want to make about it. I genuinely enjoy small scale crafting systems, IX's Synthesis Shop is an underappreciated gem of a gameplay mechanic, and I feel AI and DQ8 have the right idea.

They give you something to do with obsolete items and equipment besides sell them or ignore them in your infinite bag of holding. Seriously, they are the only games where finding a low level healing item is a good thing. It also gives you something to do while exploring if the game allows you to do it on the fly. Nothing like traveling the open world and then hearing the ting of the alchemy pot telling you your new super herb or frost sword is finished. I feel it gives more weight to all the games items and equipment, and makes you utilize your inventory more strategically.

Now you may be wondering why I didn't bring up Star Ocean's crafting system or some WRPG, my reasoning is because I feel alchemy/synthesis is great when its simple, not when its transformed into a game in itself. I don't want to be hunting down formulas for items that require a dozen rare materials, nor do I need some complex crafting mechanic where I'm forced to work in special places, at certain times, with certain people, and with my skill points spent all on crafting abilities. It needs to be simple, and balanced with good pacing.

I don't need it to allow me to build ultimate weapons five hours in, or build in game breaking skills and stats into low level equipment. I would prefer if I could just muster getting a weapon better than I can buy in shops, but perhaps not as good as what I'll get in the next dungeon, or dropped from a boss monster. Its shouldn't be built as a shortcut to godhood, rather just another element that can ease your way through the game, and reward you with many small victories.

Persona 3's NPC: This one is going to take some explaining. Persona 3 actually gives you some interesting NPCs to interact with. In P3, the game takes place in the course of a year, so you can talk to people on a day to day basis. What made the NPCs great in this game was their own smaller stories that unfolded in the course of the game. You don't have to do anything, but just talk to them, but each of them had some really cute stories from the boy who wanted a pet, to the girl dating her shy boyfriend, to the taxi driver complaining about his job, to the girl who is stalking that one boy she thinks is cute. The stories all gain some resolution as you traverse the game and it creates a better sense of attachment to the world. You honestly come to want to save the world in P3, not just for major story NPCs but also just regular "townsfolk" type NPCs. Fleshing them out and giving them minor stories not only made talking to them more fun but also had you checking back on a regular basis to see what happens next.

Its the little things that I often feel make the big difference in games and this was one of those little things that made me wonder why no one else thought of this? Sure dialogue may change after major story events but then its just them remarking on it. In P3, the greater events of the story are not a factor in these people's tales. Rather it builds a bigger scope cause you realize the world is big enough not to revolve around your characters tale. Its rather refreshing, and adds an albeit small sense of believability to the world.

Breath of Fire V's PETS system:
Another one I may have to explain since I doubt many people played this game and the fact it has a handful of outspoken detractors for the game this system stems from. PETS is a silly acronym for a game mechanic that allows the player to set up traps to give themselves advantages in battles. This game allows you to see enemies and engage them at your own discretion but this system allowed you to effect the enemies before engaging them or even use items to avoid conflict altogether.

You could throw meat to distract the enemy and walk past them, throw bombs or lay mines to weaken them before they reach you, or inflict status ailments on them with poisoned mushrooms. It was a very flexible system that got around some of the linear designs of the dungeons but I also feel it gives greater options and dynamics for games that no longer use random battles. Xenosaga is the only other game I can think of off the top of my head that used something like it, but on a much smaller scale.

So why not, everyone seems to be ditching random encounters, might as well make interacting with them on the map or in the dungeon a more fun experience and it will help with strategy, difficulty, and people who just don't want to bother. It may even change some of the dungeon design depending on how such a system were to be implemented with new ideas.

Shin Megami Tensei's weakness exploitation system:
This is that point where I want to stress I believe it should not be copied verbatim. The true joy of SMT's mechanics is that it actually gives more weight to elemental abilities, but where I feel it really trumps most games is that it nerfs melee.

In SMT, you can't just use physical brute force to get through everything, because its treated like an element as well. The games have some enemies which are immune to physical, healed by it, or able to auto-reflect it back on to your party. The biggest gameplay mechanic that RPGs have struggled with for years is balancing physical vs. magic and generally magic will always lose this battle, never being as good or as efficient as a physical based party would be. Mostly because Physical melee has no drawbacks beyond an occasional enemy with high physical defense, but that hasn't shown up in FF since FFIV. SMT's system on the other hand forces you to play with a more balanced approach with your party configuration. The other thing about SMT, is that special physical attacks consume the characters HP, so using that powerful AoE melee attack will get you dangerously close to being one shot by an enemy.

While I don't think copying it is the right way to go, I do feel SE needs to bring balance through enemy types and by nerfing melee abilites with some kind of consequence or MP style system to make them less useful. Can you imagine how challenging FFVI would be if Edgar couldn't use his Tool Command indefinitely? Or how nasty VIII would be if they were entire dungeons based around enemies that absorb physical attacks and summons, and could only be felled by using magic? That's what I'm getting at. You need to let mages stand on equal standing with fighters. It's not that magic is inherently bad in FF (unless your VIII) it's just that how can something that costs MP, can be reflected, or even not do any damage thanks to elemental affinities stand against Physical attacks, Limit Breaks, and skills like Jump, Coin Toss, Blitz, Darkness, and Mug? We need some balance.

Xenosaga's Database:
Welcome to the first major controversial element. Now FFXII and XIII do have Database systems but frankly, I felt Xenosaga handled it in a more balanced way. I actually like Database systems because they are a useful tool for expanding the mythos of the world without having to find ways to write it into the dialogue, and they can also be useful for keeping tabs of longer more complex stories (FFTactics anyone?) and to just change perceptions of things.

Where XIII goes wrong is that I find it never gave any great info about the world that the story doesn't already explain, and the story recaps tend to be more informative than the actual cutscenes they are paraphrasing. In XII, my issue really stems from how you fill the database, by killing an arbitrary amount of monsters. Its only offset by the fact the info is rarely useful for understanding the narrative but I still find it silly that if I want to know more about a certain location, I have to farm a certain beast. Xenosaga strikes a nice balance of giving you plot updates without retelling the plot like a better written novel, and it unlocks as you progress.

Like Vagrant Story (and XII) I like how the enemies themselves get information and characteristics that make them more sinister. Its one thing to fight a zombie, its another thing to learn that these zombies are the undead slaves to a Necro Demon, who had his followers wage war against another nation, so they can use the citizens as sacrifices to create his undead slaves. That really changes how you look at enemies and it sneaks in more information about the world.

The main thing here is that the Database should never tell anything relevant about the story exclusively. It should be purely optional or for reference, not some mechanic to learn important plot or character details. No one wants to read that a certain character has a phobia of frogs that is only explained in the database but then the plot uses it at a critical story moment, and everyone acts like they knew about this phobia all along. I'm looking at you FFXIII... The keyword here is optional . You want to expand the mythos not give the player two ways to learn the story.

Star Ocean's Private Actions: I always felt these were a neat idea and they definetly made Star Ocean 2 and FFIX more enjoyable. The point of a private action is to expand the cast of the story without interweaving it into the plot. Basically learn trivial info about party members that fleshes them out as a character so when that big emotional story moment comes later, the flood gates to your eyes will break open. I still feel that Vivi is a beloved character because of how effective the Private Action in the game allowed the player to see so many sides of him that wouldn't have been useful to show in the narrative. PA events are not meant to show plot, which has always been the weak part of them because both examples I've used have made the mistake of placing relevant information into them, but personally I feel if they were kept more low key, they would be a wonderful tool to expanding characters in silly sequences and really flesh out supporting cast members.

Lufia 2's Puzzles: FF has been really slacking with puzzles in the PS2/PS3 era which is a shame because they were some of the most engaging elements in the older titles. If I had to make one complaint against them though... it's that I find them a little too easy. Often times puzzles are sort of a change up from endless random encounters and exploration, but in themselves, they are not that challenging, with the exception of a rare few (I don't know many people who won't use a guide to figure out the Zozo Clock Puzzle or the Shin-Ra Rocket puzzle) but this is why I've always liked Lufia 2, its puzzles are both simple and challenging and often one of the most memorable elements of the dungeons.

So, while I don't want to copy Lufia's style, I'd rather have the puzzles be as engaging and challenging as the boss of the dungeons the puzzle is in. What I also love about Lufia's puzzles were the fact they were so deceptively simple. You would get frustrated with them and feel like solving them would involve witchcraft or something but everytime it always turned out to be something pretty easy, and the sheer reward of solving the puzzles made them worth the frustration.

The World Ends With You's Game customization: This may take a little explanation. In TWEWY, the game gives you several options on how you would like to play it and some of the game mechanics had different methods of working as well. So for instance you had the ability to change the difficulty setting at any time, meaning you could make the game hard as you want but then switch it to easy mode on the fly if you were getting your ass kicked. This would help with the whole "difficulty" issue in RPGs and better yet, its an effective tool for teaching a player to move up to higher difficulty levels. The incentive in the game for going to higher difficulty modes is that enemies drop rare items at higher drop rates. Its a very interesting mechanic and it makes the game difficulty flow a little better when you get some control over it. It would also allow developers to stop being meek and actually add some challenge to the game.

Chrono Trigger's Open Ended Final stretch: Okay, so FFVI came up with this idea first, but CT really made it it's own, because it works so well. For those wondering what I'm talking about. CT is a fairly linear story and game experience up until the Black Omen pops up about 2/3rds of the way through the game. After this point, the game finally lets you have real free reign over everything because all the side quests and story ties are opened up and can be played in any order of the player's progression. Basically, the game stops telling you where to go and what to do, it just tells you stuff has to be done and its up to the player to find them and finish them.

Where CT does a great job with this is that these are not simply optional dungeons, these events are actually major story events. If you wanted to know if Marle ever dealt with her issues with her father, or what was the ultimate fate of Frog's friend Cyrus, the true mastermind of the robot rebellion in the future, or what became of Magus' minions; this was all left up to the player to do at their own pace, these quests not only netted you great end game gear, they also presented closure and actually changed the games ending and where you could go. These story events are presented as true story events and not just a handful of cheesy dialogue and your on your way. It makes the final stretch of the game feel like a wonderland for the player and its a nice break from the story holding your hand for 98% of the game.


So these are my thoughts on what elements from other RPGs that FF could learn from to better themselves.Chances are pretty high that most fans wouldn't agree with me on all of these points but I feel they are interesting ideas to think about.


  1. Jessweeee♪'s Avatar
    I agree with your points about Persona's NPCs (I love Spacey Girl and Errand Boy <3) and SMT's weakness system. Until FFXIII it was just Attack Attack Attack. Then it became Auto-Battle, Auto-Battle, Auto-Battle but at least defense and buffs/debuffs were given great importance. But I think it may be difficult to make it worth talking to specific NPCs often without making it a huge sidequest. In FF you're running around the world to many continents, sometimes even many countries, not around town where you see the same faces every day.
  2. Wolf Kanno's Avatar
    The point of the NPC is to make them feel like real people by making them have problems that exist outside of the plot. Considering most RPGs have been skimping on towns or playing more with Hub Towns, I don't think it would be hard to implement nowadays. Still, I think it would be a nice treat to watch these mini-stories unfold as you travel across the globe and stop evil empires and genetic experimentation from getting artifacts of doom. It's a treat for players who bother to check back on NPCs.
  3. Depression Moon's Avatar
    Yeah I definitely agree with you about Persona 3's NPC from what I can remember of the game I never got to finish. The weakness mechanic also sounds fun and challenging. I can't say I'm that much of a fan of alchemy though. In IX I wouldn't have cared if it was there or not considering I was using stuff for the synthesis that I wasn't going to use later anyway, so it didn't feel much different to me than just buying armor and weapons from a regular shop. DQVIII's alchemy was both appealing and unappealing to me. Too many items were really vague on where to get the ingredients from and even looking them up online didn't help as I found no information as to where exactly I can get those items.
    I also never felt in one bit that Chrono Trigger was holding your hand in the game. The obscurity of triggering some of the events late in CT was frustrating as hell like with Frog's.
  4. Shlup's Avatar
    Make me an RPG, please.
  5. Wolf Kanno's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Depression Moon
    Yeah I definitely agree with you about Persona 3's NPC from what I can remember of the game I never got to finish. The weakness mechanic also sounds fun and challenging. I can't say I'm that much of a fan of alchemy though. In IX I wouldn't have cared if it was there or not considering I was using stuff for the synthesis that I wasn't going to use later anyway, so it didn't feel much different to me than just buying armor and weapons from a regular shop. DQVIII's alchemy was both appealing and unappealing to me. Too many items were really vague on where to get the ingredients from and even looking them up online didn't help as I found no information as to where exactly I can get those items.
    There are certainly weaknesses with DQVIII's and IX's systems but my point was to create a fun mini-powering experience for players and reward for hunting down items through a Thief or by getting rare drops or going off the beaten path. It actually adds more rewards to collecting items and it will also allow the programmers to play with drop rates so we never have to experience getting Pink Tails or Onion Gear again. Overall, it can be reworked and made more user-friendly but I would still like to keep with the playful testing of what goes with what to make something new. I honestly had no issue just experimenting with different items until I got something. I found it fun.

    I also never felt in one bit that Chrono Trigger was holding your hand in the game. The obscurity of triggering some of the events late in CT was frustrating as hell like with Frog's.
    Up until the Black Omen arrives, there is only one way to progress the story, that is what I mean by "hand holding".

    Though you do bring up a good point, but I will have to disagree, I actually like that unlocking some events were not so easily and required exploring, paying attention and having to talk to everyone after every event. Figuring out Frog's quest with Cyrus or Marle's with the Rainbow Shell were really rewarding for me because it involved having to explore around, talk to people, and pay attention to what comes across as minor details. I mean in the old school days of RPGs, the replay value of a game was based around how hard it was to uncover everything.

    Strategy Guides have pretty much killed replay value in RPGs. They were not meant to be completed on a first try, rather they were meant to be replayed and experimented with until you uncovered something new. I may not have gotten the awakened Masemune for Frog in my first playthrough, but when I finally figured it out on my subsequent playthroughs, I definetly felt a sense of accomplishment that is rare in gaming today.

    To Schlup: I'll hijack a studio and get on it.
  6. Slothy's Avatar
    I agree with Shlup.

    I also agree with your points about Persona 3 and SMT in particular though. I think a hell of a lot more needs to be done to make battles interesting again in FF, and a large part of that would be helped by making combat more challenging, and making everything useful at least some of the time. Far too many of the games have allowed you to basically spam one attack or type of attack and win.

    And the NPC's example from Persona 3 is particularly good. I'll admit I've never beaten Persona 3 (my god how I've tried. 3 separate attempts, the first two ending with me putting it aside for too long and forgetting what happened and the last one ending when my save file was lost after my original PS3 died), but it is possibly my favourite RPG ever made overall. And a large part of that was because the character interaction, even with random NPC's around town, is so unbelievably compelling. No other game I've played has done NPC's so well, and expanded the game world so well as a result.