[Disclaimer: The Friday Night Rant is just that, a rant. It contains extemporaneous remarks which are not to be confused with this site's journalism or more serious editorial opinions. It is meant to be an entertaining take on the industry and may be divisive in nature.]
My apologies for being absent for the last two Friday Night Rants but I was quite ill for some time there. I caught one of those fabled superbugs, so if you overuse hand sanitizer and anti-bacterial wipes then I blame you for creating such monsters. Alas, I live, so on we go.
Look at that expressionless face in the above picture. See that cold, dead stare? Take a good long look into those undead eyes and if you were once a life long Final Fantasy fan you’ll start to wonder what I wonder: How did this rude, uncouth character manage to bring down what was arguably the greatest franchise of all time? The answer: Your guess is as good as mine.
It’s not that she’s awful or anything, even though FFXIII was a huge step backward from greatness her story in that game was interesting to follow. She was a total bitch, but she had her reasons. Then we saw her do her best to transfer her failed attempt at protecting Serah to training Hope. When confronted with people who pulled together we saw her soften up and even start to believe in a future that was about more than fighting.
But then with the announcement of a sequel to XIII the community split. I was with the folks who thought it would be an opportunity to fix the mistakes of the last game and return FF to RPG format. I was wrong, I should have been with the folks who knew this was a scary rabbit hole from which we may never return. Lightning got swooped up, the ending of XIII was erased, and now she was some kind of goddess for no particular reason. She set the events of XIII-2 in motion, and was hardly seen again in the game. Somehow Square Enix got the idea that everyone loved her though.
Square Enix was absolutely smitten with her, and I can’t fathom why. She even took a lead role in Dissidia 012 on PSP, but her personality seemed to have gotten even worse. Thankfully what mattered most in that game was the combat instead of the story.
All this time Square Enix has stated that Lightning is the most popular Final Fantasy character ever, that she is the greatest. She is the new Cloud. She is the fan favorite and everyone wants to see more of her. What? They put up a big poster of her in the offices for inspiration. But most series fans ripped FFXIII didn’t they? They added a third chapter: Lightning Returns to the lineup of blunders that have plagued the last generation of gaming. Apparently she was so beloved she deserved her own game with no other party members, an action game of course, and Square Enix is having a ton of fun with it. Lightning is so important that for the very first time the press was allowed to film inside the building and do interviews about a Final Fantasy game with the development team. Then again maybe they did that because they know the game needs exposure since nobody cares about it.
The problem is, despite scoring well in Japan’s big magazine Famitsu, nobody is buying the thing in its home country. I assume all this “popularity” surrounding Lightning is centered there because I never heard any Final Fantasy fans with any sense begging for more of her here in the west. We just want her to disappear so that maybe, just maybe we can move on and hope for something good and thoughtful from this company again.
If Lightning is so great, then how come the developers seem to feel the need to fill her unfortunate game with nods to the great characters from the past? A pre-order will get you Cloud Strife’s Soldier outfit and victory fanfare, an order of the special edition will get your Aeris Gainsborough’s flower girl outfit and victory pose, and I’ve also seen a Yuna costume. Those were great characters. If she is so great, why did the developers have to increase her bust size for her new game? Lightning was okay at best, but she’s nothing compared to the well rounded FF inhabitants that we’ve all been on some serious emotional journeys with.
I did see a poll at the Square Enix site once that had Lightning up there as a pretty popular character, and I have seen a few straggling Lightning lovers on the boards but they are new gamers who don’t even understand the depth that used to be a part of the franchise and its characters. They don’t understand that she is the Jim Belushi to Cloud’s John Belushi because they don’t even have the mental capability to play a PS1 game without rage quitting for the dated graphical presentation.
I guess all we can do is hope that when Lightning Returns hits North American shores this February and the sales are just as pitiful or worse than they are in Japan, Lightning and her bizarre goddessy save-the-world as a female zombie emo Jesus story will be ended once and for all. I know Final Fantasy XV will be an action game and can’t mark that proper return to greatness, but maybe when the sales of Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD skyrocket past those of Lightning Returns a light bulb will go on over at Square Enix and someone will entertain the possibility that the Lightning-induced quality and sales nosedive for the franchise was a misadventure that is easily rectified by jettisoning everything associated with her.