Criticism 3: "The music stinks"
They hate the music! The music is by Hitoshi Sakimoto, who composed the soundtrack for Final Fantasy Tactics, and whom I revere as a hell of a musician. Yet perhaps his melodies are too mathematical and methodical for the mass market? They want the bombastic, Wagnerian themes of Nobuo Uematsu. That the game opens with Nobuo Uematsu’s two biggest themes — the Final Fantasy "Prelude" and the "Theme" — is perhaps Sakimoto’s doing. He wants to lay the old FF music out on the table before the player even starts the game. Though certain players can see this as clever, the casual Final Fantasy players found it insulting when the music in the actual game is more toned-down and classical.
What Square-Enix could have done to prevent this: Well, I wouldn’t suggest they leave Sakimoto out, not by a long shot. The man has undeniable talent. However, Square-Enix could have added a few spicier pieces from various talents. For one thing — the battle music in Final Fantasy has always been rock and roll. Drums, synthesized guitar riffs, organs. This is to make the battle parts stand out from the exploration scenes. XII has none of this — because the game is essentially one large battle. Maybe boss fights could have used rock and roll? Why not ask some hip independent rock bands (Japan has a never-ending supply of gorgeous young men with serious guitar talent), to make some battle themes?
Or they could just license the use of Canadian band Wolf Parade’s song "Fancy Claps," which sounds so much like Final Fantasy music already.
Criticism 4: "This isn’t Final Fantasy… it’s just a brand now"
Final Fantasy games have always been about relentless, free-spirited reinvention. As long as the few common elements (Chocobos, creatures known as Moogles, a common character named "Cid," airships in the sky, magic spells with names like "Cure" and "Fire") are in place, the game design must be free in order to be interesting. There is no continuous story. There never has been (except for Final Fantasy X-2, which was obviously just a practical joke).
Tim can be reached at (firstname.lastname@example.org).