At the end of February there were murmurings of something new coming to Final Fantasy XI. This announcement came thanks to an enigmatic tweet from the official FFXI Twitter account, saying “The heck is this… Is something starting up…?!”. The tweet sort of popped up out of nowhere, didn’t explain itself and then all was quiet on the eastern front once again. Many fans didn’t quite know what to make of it; however that didn’t stop them from speculating as to what the meaning of the blurb was. Some simply pointed to the fact that the game’s fifth expansion, Seekers of Adoulin, will be releasing in two week’s time and assumed there was some kind of correlation. Though, with Square being as open as they have been about Seekers, and considering its fast approaching release date, well-adjusted minds quickly dismissed the announcement having anything to do specifically with the expansion.
Thus, this has led some to postulate even further, thinking outside the proverbial box by considering a forthcoming reveal of a Final Fantasy XI port for Wii U or PS Vita. While there are arguments as to what XI could offer the Wii U (and with Square talking about the reveal of an announced game for Wii U at PAX East, it would make sense if the Tweet was referencing that), the latter seems all the more enticing to consider seeing as Hiromichi Tanaka, a former member of the FFXI development team, discussed the possibility of a Vita release back in 2011. Naturally, when taking all of this into account, as well as the fact that, despite the eleventh installment of the famed franchise being a decade old, it’s Square’s most profitable entry in the entire series, and they are probably wanting to make money where they can. Naturally, if that means tapping an untapped market with their wildly successful MMO, then we’re willing to bet they’d jump at the opportunity. Of course, the boon in Japanese Vita sales after the recent price drop does nothing but cements the practicality behind this decision.
But even outside of the financial sense such a move could make, there are so many other reasons why Final Fantasy XI should show up on the PlayStation Vita. Here are five of them.
Ten years; that’s the amount of time it’s been since Final Fantasy XI’s launch here in North America. Ten successful years, I might add. No, the game never reached the heights of World of Warcraft, but it did enough to earn respect from most that played it. That being said, a decade is a long time; it separates someone of legal drinking age and someone going into the sixth grade — that’s a huge life difference. That ultimately means that there are now scores of gamers who did not have access to Final Fantasy XI when it originally released, or better yet, didn’t even know about it. After all, when I was ten years old, I didn’t know the first Dragon Quest existed – but when I got older and experienced it for the first time, I was hooked and realized I had been missing out on something great, not because I chose to, but because I merely didn’t have the means to know it was a thing, let alone play it.
That’s the case with Final Fantasy XI. Because the game’s mechanics are so rock solid, and essentially have aged like a fine glass of wine, the game is still a blast to play. Sure it may have a few antiquated aspects, but on the whole, it’s more than competent and downright fun. In fact, despite the MMO market being flooded with titles over the past years, Final Fantasy XI remains that game that hasn’t been imitated; in all honesty, it still feels unique despite the genre saturation. It’s due to this that plenty of gamers would find a lot to enjoy about the title.
The PSV is a powerful little system; in fact, it runs circles around the 3DS and every other on-the-go device out there. It can easily reproduce PlayStation 2-like graphics and technology, all the while enhancing them with a beautiful HD shimmer. Considering Final Fantasy XI was specifically designed for the PS2 and PC hardware circa 2003, it plays right into the hand of the Vita’s technical specifications. Graphics would look fantastic on that giant screen, and the game’s gorgeous soundtrack would come through crisp and marvelously clean. More importantly, though, its WiFi infrastructure and connectivity options are where they need to be to carry a massive online title such as Final Fantasy XI.
The fact is, if Square, or any other company, wants to take an MMO online in the portable gaming realm, they need the technical parameters to be sound and fully competent. The Vita seems to have that, at least more so than, say, the 3DS, which leaves something to be desired with its Internet component. Not to mention, the PlayStation Network is simply more conducive to an online-heavy game like XI. From that standpoint, the Vita simply makes sense for this kind of port. Make it HD to appease the kiddos, and life will feel wonderfully complete.
Final Fantasy XI is gearing up for its fifth, repeat fifth, expansion; that’s one more than WoW and about five more than most MMOs. That’s no small feat. With this fifth expansion, Square is hoping to deliver a refined, more streamlined and updated experience. From the graphics to gameplay mechanics to further options for player customization, Seekers of Adoulin is looking to be the game’s strongest addition yet. Subsequently, the title is also more accessible than ever right now. In the past, XI received a reputation for being the hardest of the hardcore, requiring its players to pour literally thousands of hours into its gameplay to fully experience its world. Leveling was slow and grindy and heavily dependent on gear and partying. Therefore, it scared off a lot of prying eyes. This, mixed with the notion that gamers are certainly of a more “instant gratification” mindset these days, no thanks to newcomer-friendly MMOs like WoW and Guild Wars, meant that Final Fantasy XI’s population was only filled with the most dedicated of players.
This has changed though. Leveling up, especially from 1 — 60, is far more manageable and even doable within a reasonable amount of time and by oneself. Sure, the game still encourages party-play, primarily in the higher levels, but it also has never been easier to solo much of the game’s content. With as many guides as there are online, a newbie could easily navigate the landscape and just do their own thing without the necessity of linking up with strangers, which, for those who played the game in its early days, know such an act could take the upside of an hour or two, perhaps shockingly more.
Seekers is promising to build on this level of accessibility, while also not forgetting about the devoted fans who are the ones still supporting the game in its tenth year. Therefore, XI’s development team has struck a nice balance of providing an experience that can finally be enjoyed by amateurs and veterans. That can’t be said for all games of this age.
Final Fantasy XIV was an abomination upon its release back in 2010. Since then, and after a sizable team shake-up, the game has gathered steam and is coming back stronger than ever with its upcoming re-launch under the title, A Realm Reborn. With ARR shaping up to be the game XIV was meant to be initially, certain players are wondering what’s in store for XI’s future. Some see this as a natural transition from a dying game to a more updated one. This is a notion easy to get behind considering the influence that A Realm Reborn is drawing on from XI. So while it might be easy to follow this rabbit hole down to the bottom, and get behind the idea that XIV will render XI obsolete, it would also be unwise and short-sighted to do so.
Final Fantasy XI will only benefit from A Realm Reborn’s release. Veterans will hop ship for a moment to experience the new hotness, and then likely jump back to their tried-and-true baby. New players to XIV will hear much of XI from players in-game, critics (like me, and like this article) as well as through their own curiosity to understand how the “online Final Fantasy’s” have come to be what they are today. As such, and with the forthcoming release of Seekers, curiosity will indeed kill the cat. We gamers are an inquisitive group of folks; we want to play all that we can, and for those truest gamers out there, we want to know the lineage of a genre and/or a series we adore. In this, it’s inevitable that some folks will play A Realm Reborn before XI, due to PR and the idea of having something brand spanking new, hear that XI just released an expansion as well, assume that it must be a good game if it’s getting add-on content a decade after its release and then try it out for themselves. Hell, we’ve talked to some of our friends who are already in the process of doing this.
But at the end of the day, despite the aspects that XIV manages to emulate from its older brother, it still isn’t Final Fantasy XI, nor is any other massively multiplayer game. In fact, nothing ever will be. Because of that, players will have two options from which to choose for their online roleplaying in the Final Fantasy universe. If there’s one thing gamers like, it’s having options.
The Vita hasn’t been the most accomplished handheld out there, that much can’t be debated. The fact that its library is quite small is an issue that is only compounded by a lack of true must-have titles. These two elements together make for a system that will struggle, which the Vita has. Even still, the games that are there, and the ones that have found the most acclaim from fans and critics alike, have been roleplaying games — more specifically, Japanese roleplaying games.
As it stands now, the Vita is something of a niche system. Coincidentally enough, JRPGs are also niche, particularly by today’s standards. Knowing that these types of roleplaying games are what sustain the Vita’s life and potential longevity, it would only be rational to assume that bringing the most illustrious JRPG series to it would mean dollar signs for Square-Enix. We couple this with the reality that the closest thing to a persistently online RPG we have on the system is a lobby-based dungeon crawler under the moniker Ragnarok Odyssey, and suddenly we see that the system could benefit greatly from such a game.
Not to mention, and in case you weren’t already aware, Final Fantasy games don’t happen all the time. While some would love if the franchise received the annual, Call of Duty treatment, many fans wait with baited breath for the announcement of a new entry in the series. Even if it’s just a remake, loyalists and even casual players eat it up. After all, it is one of the biggest gaming series around – that gets people excited. While an HD port of Final Fantasy X is scheduled for the PSV, there’s been no other mention of portable FFs such as a new Dissidia, Type-0 or a wholly new title coming to console. Think of the excitement behind such a reveal.
Let’s take things one step further though, and look at the fact that up and to this point, fully fledged MMO experiences have not existed on handhelds. And yet, MMOs tailor themselves perfectly to a crowd that can play on-the-go, whether that’s on a long bus ride, car ride, plane trip, waiting between classes on your university’s campus or cuddled up on the couch, conscious of the fact that playing an MMO on a television is about the rudest behavior one can engage in if they have a family. A portable MMO, on the other hand, one that has all the features found in a console counterpart, would be a first and a very welcome addition.
The Vita needs to be able to stake that claim – the system needs a selling point, a distinguishable quality that isn’t already available on mobile devices or the 3DS. In the end, Final Fantasy XI Vita would make Square-Enix happy, Sony happy, fans happy, Vita owners happy and possibly gamers in general happy.
“The [Top] Hat” is a monthly article evaluating the reasons why certain games are great or awful and/or the overall accomplishments of our gaming industry. Sometimes we take on the top 20 best games of the 2000s, and other times we analyze the reasons why a game is better than most everyone else thinks it is. It is a lengthy editorial piece designed to elicit either nostalgia or an assessment of a product or group of products within this media. It is also a time for Bradly to rant about his opinions on the industry and its efforts. Agree or disagree, love his opinions or hate them, “The [Top] Hat” is the article you will want to look forward to each month.