After seeing a number of articles on the upcoming Hyrule Warriors, I can’t contain my frustration anymore: we need new intellectual properties. My biggest encounter with rehashing an IP came when I was looking for games to play on my newly purchased PS Vita and stumbled on Dissidia 012: Duodecim. I didn’t really look too much into the game but it came highly recommended so I eventually downloaded it. I was in for a surprise.
I booted it up and felt a wave of disappointment wash over me: it was a fighting game made entirely out of Final Fantasy characters. Why does this bug me? Why does it deserve such derision? Why is this guy such a stuck up snob? The truth is, I really like the game as a standalone entity. That being said, I have a theory about the relationship between creativity and reusing IPs: they are inversely proportionate. Basically, the more you reuse an IP, the less you have to care about the way it’s presented.
One thing you should know about me is that, first and foremost, I’m a writer. I’ve been trained in creative writing (I even have a piece of paper worth thousands of dollars in as-yet-unpaid-repayed tuition) and I believe very strongly in the power of storytelling. I’ve seen people tell stories so powerful it made people cry through words alone. I’ve been so invested in a book that, when it’s done, I’m genuinely angry with the author for not making it longer. Stories are what keep our souls alive.
What does this have to do with Dissidia 012: Duodecim and IPs? Well, anything attached to the name Final Fantasy comes with expectations. One of those expectations is an immersive storyline. Guess what? That doesn’t work in a fighting game. Without the experience of journeying, speaking with strangers, and raiding dungeons, it doesn’t matter how much the story seems like an FF plot on paper; it just won’t work the same way.
Fighting games have had stories for a long time now, sure, but they’re usually terrible. Injustice: Gods Among Us is about–you guessed it–an alternate universe of DC heroes attacking the regular DC universe heroes. Even Marvel vs Capcom has had plotlines throughout the series. Mortal Kombat? It had movies for crying out loud. But nothing compares to the power of story in Final Fantasy.
What I’m trying to say is that I wanted something from Dissidia that it could not deliver. I wanted the feeling of playing a Final Fantasy game while playing a great, unique fighting game. Everything felt cheapened when it didn’t have that intricate and emotional FF feel. Had the game been free of the IP’s expectations, it would have been a great experience.
Think about it:
Had Dissidia been an entirely new IP, the writers would not have had to struggle with emulating the voice of existing characters, coming up with an incredibly forced plotline, or trying to tie everything together in a way that would make people feel satisfied by the end of it.
Had the entire game been new characters, I would have either a) not cared about the plot because it’s an effing fighting game or b) been way more engaged as I learned more about these new characters and the world they live in.
Had Square Enix not though about the cash they would make by making an FF Smash Bros, they might have spent the time on making the game a little more immersive or, at the very least, a lot less disappointing.
What this all boils down to is that, when developers/publishers recycle IPs, writers are given a backseat role, if any role at all. I’m not talking about making yet another Mario platformer: it’s not a problem to make sequels to games, presuming the quality is still there.
No, what I’m talking about is porting characters from one game (or many) into a wholly different experience. Sure, it might be a fun game and really, how many people are complaining that the new Mario Kart has so many of the same characters as the first one? But an equally important point is, who is playing Mario Kart for the characters at all? If you had a new set of characters entirely, ones that didn’t exist in some canon somewhere, maybe that would make for a more challenging and rewarding game in the end, even if it didn’t sell as many copies on release day.