So I was playing Final Fantasy XII for the first time when I noticed the game had a lot of concepts that look like they came from science fiction. Ships looking like they came from Star Wars fly around in the intro, shield-like barriers are being used to protect cities, that kind of stuff.
This wouldn’t really bother me that much, but it seems like regular medieval fantasy has become a lost art. Final Fantasy gradually made the transition from medieval to steampunk-esque to post-apocalyptic to an improbable-looking science fiction. I would have no problem with this transition normally — on the contrary, more science fiction RPGs would be nice too. But the story and atmosphere most of the time remain in the fantasy style. Why are people running around with swords and bows when it looks like ships – and I might’ve seen a laser once or twice – could do a lot more of the work?
It seems like the sci-fi was sort of tacked on, just to make the game look shinier. I’m really enjoying the game, but it just seems incongruous. It takes a lot to make a game kill my suspended disbelief, but they did it.
It isn’t just FFXII, either. It seems like shiny sci-fi injected into fantasy is a trend. True, some series have been doing it for a while – Star Ocean, for example – but even Wild Arms 4 dealt with nanotechnology, genetic experimentation, etc. as well, which was a complete departure from the series. Tales of Symphonia had similar sci-fi technology, although it tends to work it in to the plot better.
In fact, I think the Suikodens and Dragon Quest were the only recent RPG games I played without super-high-tech tossed in someplace. The former has effectively created a world without said tech and thankfully hasn’t randomly departed from it, while the latter has stuck to the fantasy formula from day one.
Is this merging of genres just coincidence, or is it a plan to try and net both fantasy and sci-fi fans with the same game? It could just be that several developers happened to want to try it at once. I’m hoping that’s the case and I’m just going paranoid, but there still seems to be the chance that it’s an attempt to make the game appeal to more people. To me, it seems like trying to mix peanut butter and fish. They’re nice enough on their own, but together I can’t see it working out too well. Does classic fantasy on its own just not enough to sell a game? Or is it me being old-fashioned and just not catching on to what’s cool? I loved the fantasy in Dragon Quest VIII – the atmosphere was unified and kept interesting through the voice-acting and style. Meanwhile, in FFXII, I’m just waiting for some ninja to leap out of the shadows in a scene and try to assassinate a pirate captain, a robot, and possibly a monkey to ensure that all possible “cool” bases are being covered.
This trend isn’t one-way, either. The only sci-fi series I recall offhand, Xenosaga, added a samurai character in the second entry. Apparently swords in space are an in-thing nowadays.
All I know is, if Suikoden VI randomly has spaceships all over the place and nanotechnology, I’m going to go completely nuts.