While reading some of the old editorials in RPGfan as well as other RPG sites, I find myself becoming overwhelmed with the amount of scorn heaped onto certain games for the flaws within them. Final Fantasy VII, of course, was the center of many of these discussions, with opinions as bipolar as completely idolizing it and utterly detesting it. Now after playing the game, I know there are defects in the sound quality, and that the latter part of the story is weak, and Sephiroth was too much of an easy final boss, and other minute features that were debated upon endlessly.
Now, everyone is entitled to his or her opinion, but it’s not going to have any effect unless it is constructive. Ripping a composer’s work is not going to make him work harder, it will make him despair that he is beginning to lose his talent. Utterly destroying any plot elements will only make a game’s creators take fewer chances with the story and stick to a plot that will be safe with "purists".
The main complaint you always hear is always that the new games are just "eye candy", that in the good old days, games were better and people were happier and the sun shone every day and all that kind of nostalgia that makes me worry somewhat. When we keep our head looking to the past and never want to change, we have a problem. Personally, I don’t see any problem in using new systems to create incredibly impressive games that literally make you say "Wow!" when you first turn them on. And I don’t think that Square was so busy with the graphics with FFVII that they just wrote off the story. While FFVI’s plot was better, does that mean that any FF that comes after that doesn’t have a better plot is horrible? The story of FFVII was full of disturbing secrets and incredible revelations. Can anyone remember Aeris’ brutal murder without remembering the overwhelming feelings of surprise and anger? (Except for those who just had to read a spoiler beforehand) Moments like that are what make a video game remembered forever.
The main cause of the criticism problem is the inevitable hype that precedes any groundbreaking video game event, and Final Fantasy games definitely count as one of those. But please, do not blame the company for any of the unnecessary hype. People ask for pictures and videos and demos and any news on the product and the company gives it to the fans. The manufacturer of the game is only doing what YOU want. And when the game does come, it is only inevitable until a fault is found and circled around like gossip. You cannot judge a game and decide it will be perfect or awful based on the demo, or the movies, or the pictures. Try out the Final Fantasy VIII demo and you’ll see the truth.
And aren’t we getting a little too picky at points? Saying the entire game was ruined for you because the ending wasn’t expressive enough is hopefully an exaggeration, because when you see past the faults, you see greatness. I thought the FF VII plot was fantastic where it dealt with Cloud’s past, Aeris’ destiny, and Sephiroth’s descent into madness. If you took a second to look back on the game, you would see the interweaving of lives that truly led to an entertaining story.
And that is the main point: it was entertaining. RPGs aren’t designed to enlighten you or make you a better person. They are there to entertain. That’s why Zelda 64, while not having an original plot, was a great game. That’s why awful games like Beyond the Beyond, in their tediousness and outright blandness, did not do well. And that is why, when we look back at FFVI, that we remember it fondly, despite the now primitive graphics and tinny sound. We loved it because the plot entertained us, because the character interactions entranced us, and the emotional moments truly moved us and wanted us to play more to find out what would happen.
So please, the next time you feel the urge to criticize the next great RPG to be put on the shelves, remember how it entertained you. Mention it so you can be constructive to the producer of the game. Mention it so that we know that your opinions are valid and we should listen to you. That way, we will not write you off as simply a spiteful crank that feels the need to destroy anything that passes by you. Positive comments help to create change as well as negative comments so just remember to be moderate in your criticism.