Last week at the Final Fantasy 25th Anniversary event here in Tokyo, some of the biggest names in Square Enix talked about the franchise. Square Enix showed off the first material related to Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII and Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn was put through its paces. Then Hajime Tabata—director of Crisis Core, The Third Birthday, and Final Fantasy Type-0—took the stage. He gave a twelve-minute presentation, detailing Tokimeki Final Fantasy: Suzaku Magic Institution Peristylium: Oh no! I'm in Love With the Crystal's Divine Guardian—a classic style dating sim set in the Type-0 universe.
He showed off the systems, character design, and even gave some insights into the plot and how it related to Type-0. And then, at the end, he announced it was all a fake and everything he'd said in the last 12 minutes was an elaborate hoax—which is really too bad.
I would have played the hell out of that game.
I got into dating sims years ago when I was just learning Japanese. A friend, having recently returned from a semester in Japan, brought Tokimeki Memorial Girl's Side back with her. She and her friends played it constantly, and over the next few weeks I saw their reading and speaking comprehension speed past my own.
So when I went to Japan myself, one of the first things I did was pick up, Tokimeki Memorial 2. In the following weeks my reading and kanji recognition improved dramatically—as I had intended. But I kept on playing because, shockingly, I found myself truly invested in the story. By the time I put it down, I had beaten it in every possible way and was constantly amazed by how emotionally effective the game had been.
Dating sims tend to get a bad rap. After all, on the outside it seems a little pathetic to pretend to have a relationship with a fictional character. But just like any game, you are taking on a role—not who you are but someone you are pretending to be.
So really, dating sims are just another kind of escapist fantasy where instead of being a modern war hero, dragon slayer, or a spaceship captain, you're a person caught up in an epic love story. ...Something the Final Fantasy series has long claimed to have—and really hasn't.
Oh they have attempted the epic love story, many times to varying amounts of success. Remember the "beautiful" story of Cloud and Tifa, where Cloud ignored her and her feelings for the entire game? Or how about Rinoa and Squall: a girl with rebellious daddy issues and a guy whose entire character is summed up by his catchphrase "whatever." The closest thing to an epic love story the series has had was Final Fantasy X with Yuna and Tidus. And even they were an amazingly awkward couple.
But Final Fantasy has always had the building blocks for a great romance, and in no game is this more true than Type-0. Think of it, all the cliches of a modern Japanese romance are right there in the setting: A magical school, a wildly varying cast of students, and a war-torn world just full of tragic character backstories—the dating sim almost writes itself.
And let me tell you, if any world needed a bit of lighthearted love, it was Type-0. Type-0 was just so unbelievably dark and unfathomably tragic that the world has got to have some downtime or it'll collapse in on itself into a void of despair.
So really, a game like the proposed Tokimeki Final Fantasy—a mixture of classic dating sim and modern RPG—could have worked by bringing the love story aspect of Final Fantasy to the forefront. Yet instead of spending their time making the title, they decided to pretend to make it for a joke instead.
And I for one am far more saddened than amused.