Why has the Final Fantasy series largely changed for the worst (or JRPs/RPGs in general)?


From what many remembered as open-world, explorable, side-quest, challenging battles and tactics of many similar RPGS/JPRGs of the 90s to the 2000s even, it now largely seems like the genre — especially referencing to FF series since they are among the "top dogs" of it — have diminished. I get the impression that lots of what made the old games good is lost:

  1. What was once more explorable of a main navigation element seems to have become more centered, linear, and/or restrictive. You can have nicer walking animations and prettier backgrounds, but the same "tunnel" like forward direction — or more aimless all-way walking potential in huge open areas replaces that special emphasis on simple old rooms (often smaller) with less to give graphically but more to give in a travel, explorative or more sensible approach than just "hunting" or "running around and grinding." If you make a large area you should at least give different elements to it than just "lots of space." If you scale up you need more of that "something" to scale up too — otherwise it’s more empty.

  2. The old free-to-explore open-worlds/world maps, airship/flying ship/etc. mechanics (even re-visit mechanics) are almost always chopped down or implemented much less attractively (think how it started with FFX and then onwards — i.e. you can "explore" fast but it’s really largely watered down stuff/processes in doing such). The whole "open world" aspect to the classics is largely reduced to large areas/fields but no longer a blend of different terrains, sub-areas, sections or just the general nature/element of traveling/entering/exiting different areas rather than storyline/linear rules imposed on all areas/paths.

  3. The battle system is definitely a hot topic, as some will tell you the new mechanics add some new flesh to the table while others feel the older system worked best and it’s been "slaughtered" merely at the attempt of "spicing up" something that people already liked for the most part/settled in with over time. The thing is — if the battle system is to be made "better" so to speak — it should try and maintain the same elements of what the skeleton of original battle systems were based on. As an example old turn-based games kept the same skeleton even when becoming "active time" battles where it’s every turn to grab for themselves the quickest. The idea was that you can maintain the same "skeletal base" of the mechanics and only tweak them better — but lots of newer stuff almost always tries to go completely a new path that strays away from this with new experimentation, impositions, rules, and/or unneeded "extra steps" at times too. Basically it’s like the game’s old and functioning system has been put less concern to while trying to "splice" its old DNA under the impression that you can supposedly better an old thing by going in a completely a new "frankenstein" direction rather than just sprucing up the initial base in a more specific/oriented/targeted manner that fulfills its initial life blood/base than trying

  4. Always an extreme. Nowadays it seems games of this series are either too linear or not linear at all — there’s no longer a good balance between the two. For example one game may have so much explorable, massiveness to specific areas that you would be to get lost/tired/grinding excessively/etc. in one area to then go to the next one and rinse and repeat. On the other hand you can go super linear (think FFXIII for example) where everything is just "new area -> go straight -> battle -> story -> repeat" and such. What made the classics arguably more "wow" is the fact that the game — when it needs to — switches from storyline/linearity to open/some explorableness (to pique the natural exploring instinct) while going back to restriction when danger arose (defensive mechanism/protective inhibition) — because both of these angles match human behavior/etc. it suits gameplay. But if you make it either too open or too linear you force one side too long and it doesn’t align naturally with the cycle of human operability/engagement well enough to have proper "ups" and "downs."

  5. More "complex" systems or angles regarding leveling/power ups/etc. In old games it’s often fairly simple and straightforward to a large degree on how something more direct leads to a more expandable nature of said system to grow and keep delivering. What has replaced easy but expandable seems to be complex and rigid — more learning curves but less direction to go once you "have it." Slowly I think the series has gone this way, possibly starting with FFXIII/around that era. You make something simple that expands as needed become complex that really doesn’t give much over time. Something like junctioning in FF8 starts simple but can scale up to cool stuff as the game goes on, especially with the addition of GFs to character stats and so on. In a game like FFXIII for example you can liken the "powering system" to weak remnants of FFX and FFXII in ways of both combat means and stat growth.

  6. Games/scenes (probably applies to others outside this genre/series/etc. though) are now largely presented as cinematics/films with bits of gameplay as the only crux to break apart that concept of whether it’s innately a movie with gameplay or gameplay with cinematics (like older games of the series where "movies" in, say, the FMV form/class were much less emphasized as part of the overall game). "Cutscenes" in old FFs were mostly seamless or passive — now they are expected to emphasize more (due to the graphics) and "fill" a part of the game/impression as such rather than just be more of a seamless flow with only particular moments having more "weight" to them. In old FFs, how much of the story is lost removing the dialogue/locked moment/cutscenes? Now compare that to how much would be lost in modern games. If there is more to "lose" from the cutscenes overall then maybe they are relied on too much to shape the impression or experience of the game.