I’ve been playing a lot of Final Fantasy: Record Keeper lately.
This is especially odd, because it’s not a particularly good game. I end up putting most of the battles on auto, certain characters are way more powerful than others, and half of my playtime ends up being inventory management.
And yet, I keep playing.
Part of it is that as a mobile game, it’s a great time filler. When I’ve got a few minutes at the train station when I’m waiting on the platform and are not quite ready to pull out the 3DS yet, it’s no matter to blast through a few rounds in RK.
But that’s only part of it.
The real genius of Record Keeper is that it taps into my memories of what made me love Final Fantasy in the first place. RK pulls Final Fantasy back to its roots, with gauntlets of Active Time Battles against assorted minions, followed by a big bad boss at the end. It’s every FF dungeon ever stripped down to the bare essentials. Top that with careful equipment selection and some of the best video game music ever, and you’ve got a portable nostalgia machine.
Yet, again, it’s not really a good game.
Record Keeper drives me because I want to see what I can do to make Lenna my best caster. Because I want to hear hear Matoya’s Cave theme. Because I want to do whatever I can to get Locke in my party. Record Keeper feeds me a steady drip of my favorite Final Fantasy memories in pick-up-and-play packages. And with a regular update schedule crossing the entire breadth of the series, it doesn’t look like it is going to run out any time soon.
It’s a bit of a double-edged sword, though.
All of that glorious nostalgia that takes me back to when I loved Final Fantasy drives home the painful fact that I haven’t loved Final Fantasy for a while. When the game proudly boasts that I can now add Vanille to my party, I can’t bring myself to care. Vanille just reminds me that I didn’t even bother to play FFXIII because I had been so disappointed by the series for so long. Vanille reminds me of all the annoyance I felt at the Gambit system (not to mention most of the cast of FFXII to boot).
Vanille also reminds me that Record Keeper seems to have stricken FFIX from the record (ha!) entirely, which is doubly sad considering it was probably the last entry I truly enjoyed. (And please do not even get me started on the completely tragic renaming of Ultros to Orthos. She’s always going to be Aeris, he’s always going to be Ultros. You cannot rewrite my memories. Only alcohol and self-delusion can do that.).
These conflicting emotions of rich nostalgia and rich disappointment did inspire me to try a little exercise, however. As I tried to parse through Vanille’s delightfully confusing backstory, I decided to see if I could figure out exactly when Final Fantasy truly went off the rails. Just as Record Keeper boiled down the gameplay to its most basic core, could I also boil down the essence of the plots? (All plot summaries from memory, thanks).
Chaos destroys the essence of the four elemental crystals, and four brave warriors must stop evil and restore them.
Final Fantasy II
An evil empire wants to take over the world, and a group of warriors band together to stop them.
Final Fantasy III
The four elemental crystals that power the world are out of whack, and four Warriors of Light must band together to stave off the darkness.
Final Fantasy IV
An evil from an advanced race of Moon people wants to steal the power of the crystals and rule all. But actually, it’s Foozle.
Final Fantasy V
One world is split into two when an ancient evil is sealed by the power of the crystals. It finally weakens the crystals and merges the worlds together to return all to the Void, but is stopped by brave warriors. Also, the evil is a tree.
Final Fantasy VI
An evil empire wants to resurrect the power of magic to rule the world using the descendant of magical creatures. One of their magic-infused super-soldiers goes a bit crazy and does a pretty good job of destroying the world.
Final Fantasy VII
An evil corporation wants to tap into the life energy of the planet for fun and profit. One of their super-soldier experiments goes a bit crazy and wants to the destroy the world (also he’s part evil ancient entity).
Final Fantasy VIII
Ok, this is where I gave up. A lot of crazy political machinations combined with a time-traveling sorceress from the future really only kind of touches on it. I think this may be the official Off the Rails point. Though, FFX’s “Sports star from reality that turns out to be entirely fictional saves world” is definitely up there.
At any rate, it’s not all bad. I will probably keep filling those spare minutes here and there with Record Keeper, eagerly awaiting the next update that will bring back Bartz or Edgar or some other cherished character. And I will probably get annoyed when that character turns out to be Penello instead.
And in the meantime, FF:RK has inspired me to dust off my old copy of Final Fantasy IV and take a much more in-depth trip down memory lane, so who am I to complain?