Square-Enix has done some incredibly weird things with the Final Fantasy franchise in recent years, but it has his peak weirdness in 2017.
The Final Fantasy brand name hasn’t quite been the same since Final Fantasy X, which many still regard as the last “good” game in the franchise. When everything began back in 1987, the dying company pooled the last of its resources to make a monumental gaming experience with the first Final Fantasy. It was such a success that they survived to make many, many more.
Some 30 years later, the franchise has veered away from what it does best — singular, focused RPG adventures with memorable characters and thrilling stories — and instead tries to saturate the world with overexposure to the brand in many diluted forms.
Sure, there’s something to be said about a wide marketing strategy with an equally as wide appeal, but many recent choices come off as troubling to die hard fans that waited a decade for Final Fantasy XV only to be let down by an utterly mediocre experience.
Perhaps the decline began in the early 2000s, when the company put out a bad sequel to one of its best games ever with Final Fantasy X-2. Then it dipped into the surging realm of MMORPGs with the decent but overshadowed Final Fantasy XI Online.
By now, most of the main games in recent memory have gotten an HD re-release, with a full-on Final Fantasy VII remake on the way — if there’s anything that can revitalize the franchise for loyalists, it’s that. But the many weird choices made to market the franchise have done more to hurt than help what some worry is an inescapable slump.
In roughly chronological order, here are only 7 of the weirder Final Fantasy marketing-related decisions made in recent memory:
1. Final Fantasy XIII’s Protagonist Becomes an IRL Fashion Model
This saga begins on Christmas day 2015, when Square Enix unveiled a team-up between Lightning, the female hero of Final Fantasy XIII, and … Louis Vuitton? No, but seriously. This happened. It peaked when The Telegraph published an interview with Lightning. To be clear, this is a video game character “modeling” for a luxury fashion company:
“Though his style was new to me, the moment I laid eyes on his collection, it was as if I was hit by a bolt of lightning. I knew that with this, people could change. I could change.”
You’ve got to be kidding me.
2. “Dangerous Ariana” Grande Comes to Final Fantasy Brave Exvius
Final Fantasy Brave Exvius is a middling gacha game for mobile devices that’s better than an array of bad Final Fantasy mobile games (its premise is also almost identical to World of Final Fantasy, by the way).
In the weirdest instance of cross-promotion ever, Square-Enix ported a pixelated sprite of singer Ariana Grande in the sexy black rabbit costume she wears on the cover of her Dangerous Woman album.
Fittingly, the character’s name is “Dangerous Ariana.” As a “Singer,” the character can potentially battle alongside heroes like Vivi the Black Mage and Cloud the SOLDIER.
3. Final Fantasy Brave Exvius Also Comes With Some Kind of Song …
Final Fantasy games have used Japanese pop music for years now, but only in the last few entries has it dabbled in Western pop singers like Leona Lewis to add some dramatic flair. Separately, Final Fantasy and Ariana Grande are really successful and widely liked (I’m a fan of both). Together, they’re just a bizarre collision of two dissimilar things.
Isn’t “Touch It” just an uncomfortable song title to begin with?
4. Final Fantasy XV & Assassin’s Creed Crossover
The Final Fantasy and Assassin’s Creed franchises couldn’t be more different. Tone, setting, gameplay mechanics, and even fan base are all rather different.
Oddly enough, Ubisoft and Square-Enix thought it prudent to hold a crossover event that temporarily transformed a FFXV town into a poorly executed adaptation of the Assassin’s Creed experience. It’s available as free DLC until February 2018. But everyone’s already beaten FFXV, and if they wanted to play a better version of Assassin’s Creed, they could always actually play and Assassin’s Creed game.
5. Final Fantasy XIV: Dad of Light
Adult son lures his father into playing Final Fantasy XIV and pretends to be a beautiful woman in-game to get to know a parent for the first time. What could go wrong? Apparently, almost nothing, because this new heartfelt Netflix show weaves machinima from the game into a compelling soap opera drama and it’s actually really, really good.
But that premise is still incredibly weird.
6. Final Fantasy Brave Exvius Has a Brainless “Tap” Version for Facebook
Remember Final Fantasy Brave Exvius, the game that brought Ariana Grande in as a hero? Well Square-Enix oversimplified an overly simple game by producing a Facebook Instant version. So if you feel like clicking away brainlessly with your mouse through a line-battle gacha, that’s totally an option for you now. Be careful, because if you accidentally try playing, it the game itself will send you frequent Facebook messages.
7. Final Fantasy XV Gets a Cute Mobile Remake
A faithful remake of the original Final Fantasy XV is coming to mobile devices by the end of 2017. It has super-simple graphics and the same audio, but it tells the story in ten downloadable installments that replicate the original game frame-by-frame. This one’s — sort of cool?
For fans let down by Final Fantasy XV, it’s hard not to wish that Square Enix would focus their efforts on producing the quality games they were once known for rather than odd side projects and marketing ploys like these.
Will they ever even make it to Final Fantasy XVI? Who knows.