Everybody got their copies of the Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster yet? Good. The glorious re-release of one of the flagship games of the PlayStation 2 along with its sequel and bonus materials has no doubt put the same thought back in a lot of people’s heads that they had some thirteen years ago when the original game came out: there should be a game devoted entirely to Blitzball.
FFX is an epic trek across a world following the requisite ragtag crew of misfits as they protect a summoner priestess on her journey to amass enough power to defeat the Godzilla-esque monstrosity that is menacing their civilization. You’d think that would be enough for one video game – or at least the main focus – but there is this other thing about FFX that kind of overshadows the proceedings.
That thing is, of course, the minigame/sport Blitzball which is essentially an aquatic classic-style sports game that plays like an RPG. And good GOD is it addicting. What begins as an optional diversion ends up taking over the game. Instead of looking for treasure chests and shops in towns, you’re scouting for new players to recruit. Instead of pushing desperately to get to that next temple for a new awesome aeon to summon, all you just want is one more league game before you go to bed. Okay, maybe two. Or three. Seriously, last one. Maybe.
And the really funny thing is that this rerelease of a game two generations past is the among best JRPG experiences I’ve had since the original PlayStation. Having skipped out on the PS2 in favor of the Xbox, choosing to get a PS3 instead of a next-gen system has proven a wise decision many times over, and never more so than with this set. But even FINALLY playing a game I’ve waited so very long to play with a great battle system, characters, story, and everything else I love about the genre I’ve instead become consumed by the game within the game.
To paraphrase the sports t-shirts: Blitzball is life, the rest is just details. Defeating Sin can wait. So a few more villages and cities get wrecked and Yuna-chan has to perform a few more sendings to put the dead to rest. Big deal. What really matters is the Besaid Aurochs are at the top of their division, bitches! WOOOOOOOO! Suck it, Luca Goers! Do you even sphere shot, Al-Bhed Psyches?
Sorry about that. My inner jock doesn’t get to come out and play very often.
Is it possible that having such an addicting minigame in a game already packed with greatness could be a bad thing, though? It definitely messes with the players’ priorities in this case. Every save point throughout most of the game tempts the player with the siren song of a “play Blitzball” option, making it a struggle to get through the main story. Who could resist? With a lot of attention and praise being showered on this set I think it’s definitely time for Square Enix to start considering bringing this e-sport to the big time.
I mean, look at the state of Final Fantasy as a franchise this past gen. Failed MMO’s, a trilogy where only a few people really enjoyed the first one and even its defenders weren’t asking for a sequel (much less two); we’ve discussed these things already.Maybe it’s time for Square to step away and let the main series breathe for a while. Instead of flailing away and potentially ruining the quality of the brand name, they need to collect themselves and make the next Final Fantasy game something nobody will be able to deny. And while they gather their creative forces, a full Blitzball title could plug that gap.
Square used to be a company that did more than just epic Final Fantasys. They created a really great distraction within a game that didn’t need any distractions when what they really should have done was create an entirely separate franchise. RPG fans with any proclivity towards sports would flock to buy a Blitzball game. Probably before they’d buy another game with Lightning in it, in fact.
Blitzball is actually a pretty simplistic, shallow, and generally rinky-dink production as it is, but it’s a testament to what a great concept it is that something that was an afterthought to one of the best RPG’s of its generation can actually overshadow the main attraction at times.
I’m sure you’ve already thought of the possibilities, but let’s go through some of them together anyways. You could expand the number and variety of teams to incorporate classic Final Fantasy locales, races, and even characters into the league. You could make a wider variety of skills and class systems to better reflect the talents of the residents of the series. Beyond that, it’d mostly be just a matter of fleshing out and balancing the gameplay a little. Easily done.
Differentiating different characters and classes could add all sorts of cool dynamics to the game. You could have a black mage to set the ball on fire as a dragoon takes the shot. Or a white mage on the field could heal status ailments, and you could include summoners who can expend all of their HP to summon Bahamut to take the ball in his mouth and bust a nigh-unstoppable clutch giga flare shot (for instance).
Obviously, you’d need full stat tracking, direct control over defenders, time outs, mid-period substitutions, more strategies and franchise management with full practice regiments, and other sports game standards. Imagine all of the standard bells and whistles of a premium Western sports title with a Final Fantasy twist. And do I even need to say multiplayer?
You know this needs to happen. The only real question is why it hasn’t happened yet. Blitzball was and is a great concept and a simple one to carry off; making a brilliant game out of it seems like a no-brainer, and it would be a lot lower budget than another Final Fantasy game. It’ so much fun as a half-assed minigame it almost hurts to think of how great it could be if they put the work in to make it a full title unto itself.
So why, Square? Why haven’t you done this? You’ve let a lot of fans down these last five years or so, but you’ve just reminded a lot of us why we were fans in the first place with this HD remaster set. Why not let that goodwill ride and give us something so many of us are jonesing for?
We don’t want Final Fantasy XIII-4: Hope’s Big Day Out and Final Fantasy XIII-5: Vanille and Fang Take Manhattan. We want Final Fantasy Blitzball League, but maybe with some crazy Japanese title that involves random buzzwords. Final Fantasy Super Fire Blitzball Rival Attack. Now that’s a game I’d buy a next-gen console to play. Make it happen.