I have a love hate relationship with Final Fantasy games: love, love, love, love, hate, hate, bastard Vanille, hate. I first played Final Fantasy Mystic Quest on the SNES when I was younger. It was an accident I played it as I borrowed it from a friend and had no clue what it was. I didn’t know it was a Final Fantasy game at the time, but I also didn’t know what a Final Fantasy game was. I then never played one again until Final Fantasy VII.
My first real love was Final Fantasy VII; all of my pets since then have been called Cloud, and I even have Red 13’s tattoo tattooed somewhere about my person (I’ll remain a woman of mystery and let you work out where it is… no, not there, you pervert). Final Fantasy VII was also an accident as it came in the PS1 bundle my parents bought me for Christmas. Best accident ever.
I also have a pretty much ‘meh hate’ relationship with MMORGs, the gameplay on things like World of Warcraft was great, but I didn’t like the fact that I was forced to be social online. I’m a lone wolf in real life, and no matter how much I love my “+5 Sexterity” The Guild T-Shirt; I don’t want to feel like I’m being forced into one. So it was a huge surprise to me, that when I picked up Final Fantasy: A Realm Reborn online for five pence less than three quid, to find that my faith in Final Fantasy had been ‘reborn’, and my love of MMORG’s had burst into flame for the very first time.
The most important thing to me, is that you can play the game completely on your own if you want to. You don’t have to be stuck with a Leeroy Jenkins. In fact, if you do join in with other people in the game in a FATE quest, then your levels are normalized. Mostly, you find friends, try and pick up the same quests and do them together. Their failure (or more importantly your failure) has no impact on how well the other person is doing. Yes, you can help each other, but failing a mission because of a mistake that you made isn’t going to punish someone else either. Plus, one of the skill trees to adopt is a membership of the weaver’s guild, so you can always make them a hat. I made my friend James a hat, in fact I made him a whole Mage suit in a delightful ice blue!
It’s also a very Japanese MMORG, which plays into my wheelhouse. Not only does it feel very different to the American imagined World of Warcraft, it also has a Japanese sensibility, which means that the interactivity with other players is the icing on the cake, and not the cake itself. My character is a cat lady called Fran Narak (because I love awful puns) and she likes to play with fire. She also likes to play with my real life friend James, and seeing him get a new minion or a new set of armour is almost like walking into his house in an Animal Crossing game. I enjoyed making clothes for him and myself, just like enjoyed giving friends gifts for their town, Tom Nook be damned! I bought a 60 day time card through the Square Enix website so that I could get a super-cute black Chocobo chick minion, still wearing its egg as a diaper.
I played the thirty day trial and I really wasn’t expecting what I found. What I found is the Final Fantasy that is old school new, which means that it feels like an old final fantasy game, but actually looks decent on my PS3 (which I mainly bought as a Blu-Ray player, the second most played game after Final Fantasy: A Realm Reborn is the Harry Potter: Book of Spells game, which should tell you something). The game has just had its two-year anniversary which means that most (not all) of the bugs have been worked out. It’s not a perfect game (word to the wise, using your Pokémon Teaches Typing Nintendo Bluetooth keyboard to send messages while you’re playing may cause the game to crash). Unsurprisingly, it can get a little grindy and you can accept quests that you can’t actually access until you level up to a certain point, but it doesn’t let you know that. Even so, it is helping to act as a methadone fix after the heroin supply of Skyrim and Mass Effect 3 started to lose its edge, and will hopefully see me through until I can inject some Dragon Age: Inquisition this winter. So, I would recommend anyone with a PS3 to buy it off Amazon for four quid (my amazing 365games £2.95 offer is sadly over) and give it a go for thirty days. Feel free to make my cat lady a hat!