The Final Fantasy series has pretty much always focused more on presentation than story or even gameplay really. It’s probably one of the things people love most about the series; no matter how ridiculous or obnoxious a Final Fantasy is there will always be a truly epic feel. But the look has often been dated by progressive technology. Playing the original Final Fantasy on NES is not something I would advise a newcomer to the series. The paper thin plot won’t carry someone through if they weren’t there to see the game upon release.
Of all the Final Fantasy games one stands out as the best visually for the time it was created, Final Fantasy VI. With the Super Nintendo’s higher capabilities than the old NES and without the difficult to master 3D sprites the creators were able to make something visually interesting with emotive characters. The plot is still paper thin like previous Final Fantasies, but the expressive nature of the characters give a presence which is never really seen before (or again).
I had never seen anything quite like Final Fantasy VII before it came out and I probably will never again. The game was simply mind-blowingly gorgeous…at the time. I still hold to that belief, but in recent years I have heard more and more people say they cannot go back play it because of the graphics. It is really easy for people to return to Final Fantasy VI, but VII is completely different. The painted backgrounds are wonderfully detailed but not always easy to maneuver. The character designs are…clunky. When sitting them next to the extremely emotive characters from VI they look not only ugly but flat and uninteresting.
Final Fantasy never really regained the lively characters from its sixth installment. Even the graphically simple spin-offs or remakes tend to produce less interesting characters. Instead the franchise has focused more on big visual set pieces. I guess this is because there is nothing more Final Fantasy than being epic. The problem is with evolving technology making a really pretty game like Final Fantasy VII eventually ends up a not-so-pretty but fondly remembered title. And once the visuals are no longer interesting the story has a tough time carrying the (now extra) weight of a play through
For all of Final Fantasy XIII’s visual glory will it still stand out in ten years as anything other than a less than perfect installment in the series? Some critics of the game found it to be unappealing despite the looks. Beauty is fleeting. For every step forward we take with graphics, every game before that step will start to look worse. Final Fantasy VI gets by on its charm, but no other has quite achieved the same level of quality versus the time it was created. It would be nice to see a return to simple but attractive graphics one day. A new Final Fantasy visually in the vein of Final Fantasy VI or the remastered Origins. Of course to a company that tends to emphasize the bigger and flashier this proposal would be unattractive.