It constantly gets looked as the black sheep of the series and is usually never up there with the rest of the good ones. My question is why? I'm about halfway in and I'm absolutely LOVING it.
Every gameplay system is good and entertaining, including the card game which is very fun. Even the junction system is great once you get the hang of it. The Draw system is also really cool as you can constantly draw different attacks and summons from other enemies. Just got to the orphanage part and starting to get really invested in the story and the characters. So what's the catch? I've platinumed almost every Final Fantasy game and don't understand why this game isn't regarded as one of the best final fantasy games of all time by fans in general.
It always seems to be a love it or hate it kind of game and I don't get it.
For me it was that coming right off FF7 which did so many things right, instead of keeping those things and improving on them it made them worse in several ways.
1. The opening:
They had a way better opening with the island invasion but they decided to do a slow opening. This almost never works and it didn't work here. They should've started on a high note and then have done some character exploration after they'd returned from the mission. Really disappointing. FF7 had/still has one of the best RPG openings ever.
I don't necessarily hate the draw system as much as most, but what really gets me is how much slower the battles feel after 7. 7 really nailed the battle speed for a 3D ff. 8 and 9 (which is arguably even worse in this regard) just slowed things down with the unnecessary animations. Anytime devs do something like this to sacrifice gameplay for realism it almost always results in bad gameplay. The whole point of the ATB system is to be fast and action oriented. Characters reacting slowly is the antithesis of the battle system itself.
The characters weren't bad persey, but I think the way they went about developing was lackluster in someway. Again in might go back to not being as good as previous titles in this regard. Characters are best when they are introduced situationaly (i.e. there is a reason for them to show up). When they are just... there, it kind of doesn't really build any importance around them. The previous games (IV-VII) all did this extremely well (ok 5 maybe not so much). They also had standout character themes to emphasis things even more.
4. The last disc issue
Having all of the different locations locked off was a real drag when you finally get the ability to roam around before the final dungeon. This was a huge part of the previous games and it just felt hollow here. Surely they could've handled things better somehow.
5. The airship
When I first saw designs of the airship, I was blown away. it was the coolest look airship they'd ever designed. Then, when I actually flew it my disappointment was through the roof. It turned out to be the slowest and most sluggish of any airship in the entire franchise even though it was a full blown spaceship.
I had many more nitpicks, but it's been so long I can't remember. I just remember giving up halfway through and game genieing it to the end just to watch the ending (which was actually quite good, especially the credits).
I was hoping 9 would redeem the series, but found the same issues there PLUS the soundtrack was lackluster. A double whammy.
10 showed a lot of promise, but was a bit too linear for its own good.
12 I liked a lot but I was only borrowing it so I couldn't finish it at the time, but I was addicted.
13 had a lot of things wrong with it, but I enjoyed the combat enough to finish it at least.
15 also showed a lot of potential but felt sluggish and unfinished, though had a really good ending.
I'm expecting 16 to be the redeemer. The battle system looks fast and fluid, the music sounds amazing, and the dark setting is what the series needs instead of all these cutesy anime tropes.