Well then fine, ***** it. Why not have the X button be "Play movie" and we can sit there and watch a 10 hour movie and call it a game.
Nah, I like me some combat gameplay once in a while. Although movies like the MGS series tend to do this better too.
Yes, they are pretty **** similar when it comes down to it. FF's are more action games (without action) than they ever were RPG's (like Elder Scrolls and Mass Effect).
As you said, the ultimate result is still the same but at least prior titles at least tried to make you think that maybe what you were doing might have affected something in some way, even if it didn't.
But now this is kinda silly. If it hadn't any negative impact and didn't take a ton of effort to develop, that would be okay. But it did have a negative impact on the pacing of the story and it did take a ton of effort to develop. Just for the sake of "trying" to hide something that doesn't need to be hidden in the first place.
why the franchise has been lagging behind. The company tried to give us both linear MGS experience which is closer to a movie as well as
something closer to Elder Scrolls where you truly have freedom to do what you want. The end result was little more than mediocre.
Face it, the franchise isn't known for it's spectacular gameplay. It's not known for handling well everything that makes a game... well, a game.
It is easy, lacks proper interaction and does not offer any real freedom whatsoever. It's merits come from totally different aspects, as already said. It all boils down to music, story and characters while someone might mention Materia system (which ended up being totally OP and ruining any challenge anyway).
And now, my main point here is that
but at least it's -something-.
that -something- has never been anything but a hindrance to the franchise, objectively speaking. It takes so much effort, and to what end? Your game is less free than Elder Scrolls, the pacing is worse than in MGS and the benefits are marginal (side content can exist without the hide and seek mechanic).
The first 15-20 hours of FF13 suffered from the same problem that FF14 suffers from currently: There's very little to do, once you get past the initial excitement. It's fun at first, but eventually it's just a whole bunch of cutscenes in lieu of actual gameplay, even if that gameplay -is- hide and seek.
Suffer and suffer. I suffer from having to deal with finding something specific in a huge city/school/world when in the end I want the story to progress, not talk to random NPC's. Something that was luckily absent in XIII.
In the end, if you want to play a good game or even a game you don't play Final Fantasy. That doesn't mean the franchise is somehow inferior (as anything but a game) but realistically speaking, the whole existence of the series has been one large interactive Spirits Within.
That's not a bad thing, but what was bad thing that the franchise lied to itself for the longest time, trying to hide the fact that it's an "interactive movie" behind a poor game mechanic that didn't really make it much better as a game at all.
All that said, I just wish you wouldn't criticize XIII so much. It's not very justified. That game just made it blatantly obvious what this franchise is all about. Now maybe it can become as good as the MGS series is already.