Final Fantasy: Twenty Years and a Massive Universe Later

20 Years of Final Fantasy

FF1 SpriteNote from racketboy: To commemorate the 20th Anniversary of the original Final Fantasy, contributer, Fastbilly1 has spent a great deal of time putting together a look back at this landmark RPG series. This look back at both the original game and the extensive and diverse series that followed is filled with both an historical look at the games and personal experiences with each. I hope you enjoy it!


“I Garland, will knock you down” are the infamous words that have brought fans delight for 20 years. Of course Garland is the first boss in the original Final Fantasy and December 18th is the 20th anniversary of the Japanese release of the game. The rest of the world actually received the game in 1990 but we’ll celebrate the birthday of this landmark series based on its original release.

Since Final Fantasy is a Role-playing game, I thought it fitting to start with thoughts from one of the men who created Role-playing Games? Having a dream and knowing he was a kind man I asked the brilliant Gary Gygax one simple question: What was his opinion on videogame RPGs? His response actually took me by surprise…

The computer search and destroy games erroneously called RPGs are not actually in the role-playing game genre. Why? Simply ask yourself: To whom does one role-play to when engaged in such a game? The answer is also evident: No one.

This is not to say that the “CRPG” is not a worthwhile playing experience. The size of the audience for such games demonstrated unequivocally that they are compelling, nearly addictive. Unlike a true RPG, where there is a game master and assembled player group, the CRPG can be played whenever the individual wishes, for as long a period as desired, without having to have a game master or associated players there.
Furthermore, the CRPG captures vividly most of the essential features of the true RPG–exploration, problem solving, combat, acquisition. What is missing is the inter-personal role-playing and the vast range of possibilities provided by the game master.

Clearly many people find the trade off well worth the immediate availability of CRPG play.


Final Fantasy ScreenshotAfter I received his email it took a minute for his response to sink in, but everything he said is spot on. One of the best parts of an RPG is the dynamic relationship that grows between the player and their friends. Role-playing games transform us from our everyday selves into characters in far away lands were we battle evil and save the world.

Like many gamers, some of my fondest memories in college were late nights playing RPGs with a group of my friends. We smashed skeletons, broke in doors, blew up buildings, and saved galaxies, all from the comfort of the Student Union. But every so often we could not get enough people to make a good game so we had to rely on CRPGs. And while they scratched the itch, they could never take the place. Not even using Teamspeak and online tools to replicate the tabletop experience of an actual game.

So what does any of that have to do with Final Fantasy? Well the original version of Final Fantasy was fairly close to the original D&D in many aspects. Sure, the characters were mutes and wooden, the plot is junk (by today’s standards), and there is little motivation to save this world. But it did provide an amazing adventure, a dynamic tale about four heroes on a journey. Final Fantasy also had a difficultly rarely seen by modern gamers and some parts that are just downright brutal. It is an amazing game and it spawned a saga that no one expected.

Final Fantasy

The Origins of Final Fantasy

Final Fantasy ScreenshotFinal Fantasy was created by a small team lead by visionary, Hironobu Sakaguchi. After a string of moderate successes and numerous flops (Death Trap 1 & 2, 3D World Runner, Rad Racer, Kings Knight, among others), Sakaguchi had one final idea he wanted to try.

A console role-playing game was something of a rarity back in the late 80s. Sure, we had Dragon Quest/Dragon Warrior, Richard Garriot’s team had ported Ultima III with a moderate degree of success, Hylide was released to favorable reviews, and the Shin Megami Tensei series had just begun. But all of these were missing something. Whether it was missing the party dynamic, Dragon Quest, a bearable soundtrack, Hylide, or simply not dropping you off in the middle of no where with no indication which way you should go, Ultima III, console RPGs at the time had no standard. This is not an attempt to say these games are bad — far from it — they are all excellent games on their own accord. But for many people, no console RPG had hit on the right formula quite yet.

This, of course, changed when Sakaguchi started work on his “final fantasy” (it is only a rumor that this is how the name came about, but it sounds so cool). The game was released on December 18th 1987 to a fantastic level of fervor. Video game enthusiasts wanted it because it was amazing, Role-playing fans wanted it because it was the closest available to a real session you could have by yourself. More importantly, it fixed the problems that the other games had. You had a party, four characters out of six available classes, the soundtrack was amazing, and the manual got you through the first couple hours of the game – not to mention the awesome map/bestiary that was also packed in. To be cliché, the rest is history.

What Made Final Fantasy Special

Final Fantasy ScreenshotSquare did everything correct in the first rendition. The game was ruthlessly hard, gripping, and had an edge to it. Never before had I played a Light Warrior, nor did I even know what one was. Sure. I had saved the world, but never like this. Quickly I was sucked into the game pretty deeply.

As we all know, you begin with a simple task: save the princess. What you learn first is that if you do not actually equip your weapons, you will die when that first party of five imps decides to jump you. Then when you do figure out your weapons, if you were not already a fan of Gary Gygax’s Dungeons and Dragons, you soon learned that magic can be used only a few times a day, and then you must rest. Though they took it a step further and you only regained your magic spells if you slept in an inn or a high level disposable (cottage or house in the original – tent or cottage in subsequent releases). Factor in status effects like stone, which can be nasty when you run into nice Cocktrices and they all have a chance to cause it, and you have a game that starts you off flying into a brick wall. But for years we have kept at it.

At the time, Final Fantasy had a innovative storyline which involved elaborate myths and time travel. This lead to a deeper experience, that many claim to be better than Enix’s Dragon Quest. With these groundbreaking characteristics, Final Fantasy, along with the original Dragon Quest, proved to be one of the most influential early console role-playing games, and played a major role in legitimizing and popularizing the genre on the video game console.

The original Final Fantasy may not be the best game, but pound for pound, Final Fantasy provides one of the best adventures ever created for a game. And even though it has been made easier over the years in the ports, it still provides an experience worthy of your time.
More: My Narrative Walkthrough of Final Fantasy

The Many Flavors of Final Fantasy

Final Fantasy ScreenshotFor years, we have plugged countless hours into this game. Personally I have had a version of it with me daily for the past five years (emulated on my now-dead Zodaic 2 or the beautiful Final Fantasy Dawn of Souls GBA game). There are very few games that I can go back and play for hours on end. Luckily, Final Fantasy is one of them.

Fans obviously love this title as Square/Enix can’t help but releasing a number of remakes on a variety of platforms, especially mobile devices. While all of these remakes contain various tweaks have been made in a variety of different areas, including graphics, sound, and specific gameplay elements. However, at the heart of each port, the core legacy of this NES classic lives on.
There are seven ports of the original Final Fantasy:

  • NES
  • MSX2 (Japan Only)
  • Wonderswan (Japan Only)
  • PSX
  • GBA
  • Cellphone (Japan only)
  • PSP

Personally I like the NES version the most, it is what I grew up with and the nostalgia I have with it is something the other versions will never have. However the MSX version is just the NES one with a few tweaks – better graphics due to the MSX having more space and a stronger architecture. However the one I Final Fantasy Screenshothave spent the next most time with is easily the GBA one. The PSX version is simply the Wonderswan version with an easy mode and less load times (which were by no means bad). However the GBA version is the PSX version with additional items and dungeons. The dungeons are just side-quest based around each fiend and the final bosses are from the other games. The final bosses from Final Fantasy II and III bosses are present, along with the Ghost Train from VI, among others. The extended weapon sets and items were not needed, but add some flavor and fun to the game. Sadly the Giant Rat from FFIII was not present, but that is probably a good thing.

Any version you choose will be a good game, but as far as I count, I still say every RPG gamer should play the NES version at least once. Even if they do not beat it, they owe it to themselves to at least give this fine game a sporting chance. It has been surpassed in almost ever aspect; story, graphics, sound, etc. but it is still the first console RPG to get everything right and set the standard.

The Rest of the Final Fantasy Saga

Since Final Fantasy has spawned such an impressive saga of installments that are loved by fans around the world, I thought it would be fitting to actually touch on the series as a whole.

Final Fantasy II

Final Fantasy II Screenshots A couple months after the first game was a success, Square released Final Fantasy II to mixed reviews. Most gamers outside of Japan did not get a chance to play this game until the mid 1990s in raw form, or shortly after that in English, thanks to emulation and fan patches. Unlike any other game at the time, FFII had you do some really unique things to progress, which made a lot of fans and reviewers lambaste it pretty hard. Innovation was shot down. The leveling system, which makes sense from a practical point of view, is not in a typical JRPG style, the characters are actually characters, not just nameless pastless killing machines, and the story is enjoyable. The game itself is fun and while not as good as the first, it is still a very good game. There are a lot of problems with it, like all early RPG’s, and I do not agree with a lot of the changes, or those that people gave the game a hard time about but lets move into another rambling walkthrough.

Just like Final Fantasy VIII, many people hate this game. They say that it deviated to much from the other games for its own good. It was to different, to hard, or just bad. I know, I was one of them for years. But one day I gave it a second chance, sat down and gave it a good three hours of my time – which nowadays is a rare thing, and I loved it. Sure it is not a perfect game, but it is a good game. The nasty difficulty of the first is still present, though toned down, but there are more than enough reasons to draw you into the game. Sure the game is really just one large fetch quest, but that is what most CRPGs are anyway, this one is just a little more obvious, stupid Altea… But the game works. The leveling system made the game unique and actually requires you to think and plan. Simply put, it was different, and we all know that different is evil.

There are just as many versions of FFII are there of FFI, many of them are two packs. And just like FFI, I have played the same copies. Out of them all, the PSX version is my favorite. While the WSC and GBA versions look the similar to it, the PSX one runs smooth, the game is beautiful, and the audio is simply unmatched. While the GBA version has better visuals and is portable, it is not the same. It is to zoomed in for my taste. But all versions are worth your time, but don’t take it from me, give it a couple hours on your own, just remember magic is worthless but Chocobos are awesome.
My Narrative Walkthrough of Final Fantasy II
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Final Fantasy III

Final Fantasy III ScreenshotsHere is where the series takes another hard left. Like FFII, Final Fantasy III brings a lot of new things on the table. Introducing my absolute favorite part of the entire series, the Job system, FFIII does some awesome things.

This game was introduced to me by a friend several years ago. I played through the English patch on my GP32 back when I was in college. Then a couple years later I heard rumors of a remake. 3D, remade music, and on the new Nintendo handheld, what was not to love? Well I got to play a copy of it right before it was released and hated it. Gone was the simple brilliance, the game was in the vein of FFVII – more on this later.

In Final Fantasy III, you go through a lot of airships in this one, and there are several useless jobs. But the game is simply stunning. The interface and style are used in the next couple games in the series. Even though it is only a Famicom game, it feels and flows like SNES RPG. It is a lot of fun, and is a rock solid game.

The Nintendo DS version from 2005 is not quite as enjoyable, in my opinion, but it is still a good game. I do not want to come off as a hypocrite, I hate to review games without putting sufficient time into them, but it is not the best version. While the game is prettier and sounds a lot better, the best overall experience is from the Famicom version.

My Narrative Walkthrough of Final Fantasy III
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Final Fantasy IV

Final Fantasy IV (released as Final Fantasy II on the US SNES) was one of the first 16-bit RPGs, displaying state-of-the-art music and cutting-edge Mode 7 graphics. The story took gamers across three separate worlds with a slew of characters. FFIV was also the first Final Fantasy to set love as a plot focus, popularized by later titles such as Final Fantasy VIII.

FFIV’s battle system is a bit different as it is the first to use Square’s infamous ATB (Active Time Battle) system. With this system, there are no turns to take, but you can attack while your foes are still deciding on what to do, and vice versa. This system was a bit innovative, but was not very intuitive, resulting in a mixed reception.

Final Fantasy IV, V, and VI ScreenshotsFinal Fantasy IV’s battles did occasionally feature “Battlescripting” which were bits of dialogue or scripted events that were used as plot devices. This did help round out the dramatic elements in the game and brought the series closer to the cinematic experience that Final Fantasy fans have come to expect.

I actually have an ex-girlfriend who loves this game very much, but personally, I just got bored of it after Tellah said Edward was a spoony bard (sorry Diggers, its been awhile). I must have been spoiled since I played it after completing FFVI.

The game was later remade on the Playstation in 1997 for the Japanese audience and was eventually repackaged with Chrono Trigger for the US in the Final Fantasy Chronicles release in 2001. A Wonderswan Color version came soon after in 2002 which was eventually ported to the GBA in 2005/2006/

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Final Fantasy V

This is the closest to a spiritual successor of FFIII. The rocking Job system was tweaked to nigh perfection, the story was awesome, and the world was just brilliant. The Active Time Battle combat also made a return from FFIV but this time there was a time gauge so you could see what character would be able to attack next. (This technique was later used in Chrono Trigger)

All these characteristics in Final Fantasy VI took the experience that we were given in FFIII (with the combat of IV) and made it practically perfect. It is not the best in the series, but it is in my top three.

Final Fantasy V was re-released (with FFVI) for the Playstation in 1999 as part of the Final Fantasy Anthology collection. An enhanced version was also released for the GBA in 2006.
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Final Fantasy VI

Perfection. In my opinion, Final Fantasy VI has it all: a compelling story, complex characters, a villain that is pure evil, and the NPC’s telling. All in all, this and Phantasy Star IV, are the two closest examples of 2D RPG perfection. They are both exquisite games, and you would be remiss if you missed them.

In this installment, the Final Fantasy world has decided to do away with magic and is now based on steam power and other technologies from the Second Industrial Revolution. The structure of society takes a cue from the latter half of the 19th century, with opera and the fine arts serving as recurring motifs throughout the game. This setting served as an interesting contrast to the fantasy medieval themes of most RPGs.

At the time of its release, Final Fantasy VI boasted unprecedented graphics and sound helping it become one of the first truly epic stories in the history of video games. All these technical capabilities required a then-impressive 24-meg cartridge, making it one of the biggest RPGs up to that point in time.

It is also worth nothing that Final Fantasy VI was the first to be made without the influence of Hironobu Sakaguchi, yet this didn’t hinder it one bit. The game is still considered to be the best game of the series and of its whole genre. Final Fantasy VI was re-released on the Playstation in 1999 and the GBA in 2006.
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Final Fantasy VII
Final Fantasy VII ScreenshotsAnyone that is experienced with the Final Fantasy series or grew up with a Playstation in their home is probably quite familiar with Final Fantasy VII. Transitioning into the world of 3D and cinematic gameplay, FFVII is a treasured classic in the minds of many fans. The game also brought RPG games to the mainstream outside of Japan.

I, on the other hand, have a long and painful history with the game. I picked the PC version up at my local Best Buy for $30 the day it came out. I played it a lot of the game that summer and reached the Cosmo Canyon’s Observatory cutscene before the game crapped out on me. Nothing I could do would make it work. The next week that computer’s hard drive failed. The next year I played it again, again got stuck in a cutscene — this time exiting Midgar (this was the patched version).

Over the next three or four years I try to play it every once and a while. Then one week I decided to finish the game off. I load it up and get to the first Chocobo race and it crashes my PC. The next day I pick up a copy of the Playstaion version at Software ETC. Once I got home, I played through to Coast De Sol, and saved my progress. The next day I fire it up and my memory card is erased. This miffed me pretty good as I was playing a legit game on a stock PSX with both first party controllers and a reliable memory card. So I gave up with the game for another couple years.

Then the last summer I was in college I sat down and decided once again to give this unicorn a shot. Everything went fine on the first disk (finally Aries/Arieth was dead) and I was just about to go fight the Ultimate Weapon for the second time, but he was no where to be found. I could not find him, but then I realized that the game thought he had already died, yet no Ultimate Weapon in my inventory (but more that one Buster Sword in its place). Then, when I tried to fight the Ruby Weapon, he never attacked back. Several other problems later, I decided to stop playing and have not touched it since. (Please don’t harass me about different things to try…)

FFVII is my personal unicorn (or white whale, if you like). I felt that I will never finish it. The worst part, however, is that I never really enjoyed the game. I know I know, but to me the feel of the series was lost in the transition to 3D.
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Final Fantasy VIII
Final Fantasy VIII and IX ScreenshotsFinal Fantasy VIII is the black sheep of the series and I will say for good cause. Final Fantasy VIII was the first game in the series to consistently use realistically proportioned characters and the first to feature a vocal piece as its theme music. FFVIII also removed Magic Point-based system for spellcasting, and it remains as one of the only titles to deviate from the series’ traditional means of increasing a character’s power. Many critics complained about the combat system being overly complex, but I’m sure many RPG fans found it interesting.

The main character was shallow, even if his weapon was beyond awesome. I found the story very good, but just lost interest around the middle of the second disc. I liked most of the characters but the world just did not draw me in at all, and I will not start on the music. I feel if I played it again I may think better of it, but that will be some time in the far future.

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Final Fantasy IX
Much to the delight of old-school RPG fans, Final Fantasy IX returned to the series’ roots with a more traditional fantasy setting and heavily-inspired by the original Final Fantasy. However, Final Fantasy IX did introduce some new features to the series, such as the Active Time Event and a revamped equipment and skill system. In the visuals department, Final Fantasy IX was drop-dead gorgeous game, even when compared to much of the PS2’s early library.

I loved the entire first disc, but once I passed that point, it started to fall apart for me. There was a point where I just stopped caring – notice a trend here. I could not attach myself to any of the characters and while I loved the style, the game started to drag. Everything was going for it, then it hit the wall. I find that once the games started to span multiple disc, they just got boring in the middle.
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Final Fantasy X
Final Fantasy X ScreenshotsFinal Fantasy X was an early showpiece for the Playstation 2 and its beautiful cinematic experience attacted a new audience. Final Fantasy X was the first of the series to make the jump from pre-rendered 3D backdrops to ones that were rendered into fully three-dimensional environments on the fly by the console’s hardware. It was also the first to feature voice-over actors.

Personally, much like the earlier disc-based Final Fantasys, it lost me about halfway through. Many other old-school fans were a bit turned off by it, but the majority of the gaming community welcomed and enjoyed it tremendously. (Japanese Famitsu readers voted it the best game of all time)
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Final Fantasy X-2

Riding on the success of Final Fantasy X, Square did something they never did before: made a direct sequel. The main character is Yuna from Final Fantasy X. This game is slightly unique in that you there are only 3 playable characters who all happen to be female, and this is one of the few games of the Final Fantasy series to include different endings.
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Final Fantasy XI

ff-11-13Dumbfounding the fans, Square went MMO. I got into the Beta and hated it. I loved the game, but the community was worse just awful. If you were not a Warrior, Black Mage, or White Mage, no one wanted you in their party. So my Thief was kinda shoved to the side every time, and you can only solo for so long in the game.

Years later I tried again on a friends account, the community had changed and developed much like the Earth and Beyond one, but was still far from Ultima Online, but it was fun. I have not played the expansions, but pound for pound it is my favorite of the disc based Final Fantasy.
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Final Fantasy XII
Keeping the MMO style gameplay, but putting it into an offline game was a good idea. And being based in the Final Fantasy Tactics Advance universe meant that status effects were worthwhile, but it fell flat just like most MMOs, the grind just got to be to much. I still like it though.

A real-time strategy spin-off/sequel on the DS by the name of Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings was recently released. It blends in some of the gameplay elements found in the Tactics series and offers some unique gameplay for DS owners.

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Final Fantasy XIII
It looks stunning, but only time will tell how nice it will be in terms of gameplay.
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Final Fantasy Spinoffs

Final Fantasy Mystic Quest
Final Fantasy SpinoffsThis SNES title is the easiest of the entire series, but with only a two person party. A beginner RPG and not worth your time, unless you like a cliché storyline and a hold A to win game. Yes, even some of the most basic things that you expect in an RPG such as random battle, manual equipment, and use of a party are all eliminated to create a simpler game. If you have young kids that you want to prepare for Pokemon, this might be a good one for them.
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Final Fantasy Adventure
Technically this is the first game in the Seiken Densetsu (Mana) series, but it was branded Final Fantasy to sell in the states. While it is a pretty bad Final Fantasy RPG, it is one awesome Zelda styled Action RPG, like most Seiken Densetsu games. It has solid mechanics and is a hoot. If Links Awakening was not its competition it would have been a shoe in for best Action RPG on the Gameboy at that time.
More: Wikipedia

Final Fantasy Legend I, II, and III
Like Final Fantasy Adventure, these are re-branded games from another series. This time the Makai Toushi SaGa games were victim. However all three of these games are amazing. Sure they are clunky and have problems with slowdown, but they are excellent titles. If you are a fan of 2D RPGs, and happen to have a Gameboy, GBA, or a suitable emulator, you may want to look into them, especially part III. The caliber of game that they accomplished with what they had to work with is astonishing. Gorgeous adventures, all three of them.
More FF Legend: Wikipedia

Final Fantasy Tactics
Though not the pioneer of the genre, Final Fantasy Tactics is one of the most involved, serious, and well-rounded strategy RPGs. Despite being more than 6 years old, it remains as playable and fascinating as ever. Final Fantasy Tactics is notable for its well-crafted storyline, which might actually be one of the best in the Final Fantasy series.

The classic combat gameplay found in Tactics is just as outstanding and is really the star of the show. The game features a complex “job” system, first introduced in Final Fantasy V. Much like a game of chess, Tactics forces players to think carefully about each move, to plan ahead, and to bring the best possible strategies to duke it out against many challenging opponents. Many games, since its time, have attempted to copy and improve on its formula, but none have managed to do so with the same dramatic flair and unusual style as Final Fantasy Tactics.

It is also worth mentioning that Tactics was actually developer by Quest, the same people who created Battle Ogre and Tactics Ogre (originally for Enix). This explains the many similarities and strengths behind these rock-solid games.

The new, highly-praised Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions for the PSP is also a remake of the original Tactics and it definitely worth picking up if you have Sony’s handheld.
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Final Fantasy Tactics Advance
Controversial is the best way to describe this one. Taking the beloved Tactics gameplay and adding laws to the game, banning weapons among other things, many fans hated it. I loved it my first time through, but when I went to play it again to finally get Cid, well I got fed up in the first fight. I feel that this game is best played if you can keep the mindset for about a month. If you put it down and pick it up a couple months/years later, you may go mad. It was a fun game, but in no way, shape, or form the best SRPG on the system.

Final Fantasy Tactics A2 for the Nintendo DS is a direct sequel to Tactics Advance. It has been released in Japan, but has yet to be released in any other countries. Hopefully it will be on par with the Tactics: The War of the Lions from the PSP in terms of quality.
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Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles
Being that I am a Gauntlet fan, I love Crystal Chronicles. My chances to play it are very rare, but every time I do it is a blast. The game has some major problems if you are not playing one or four player, and it can get tedious, but when playing with three other people in the same room it is intense. So much so that I am trying to get two more Gameboy Player equipped Gamecubes and two more small TVs and just have them setup in my gameroom, for impromptu games of course.

The best way to describe this is a PC hack-and-slash (similar to Titans Quest, Dungeon Siege, or Diablo) done in the Final Fantasy world, and using Gameboy Advances to manage your inventories. Upcoming sequels for the DS and Wii are both on the way and it will be interesting to see how those turn out and how similar they are to the Gamecube original.
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More Spin-Offs
There are actually many more spin-offs and related game, but instead of covering them all, you should probably just check out this Final Fantasy Spin-Offs entry on Wikipedia.

The Saga Continues

Obviously, the Final Fantasy series has grown remarkably to transition from a last-ditch effort to keep Squaresoft alive to one of the most powerful and diverse gaming franchises of all time. As I breifly mentioned a few times above, there are numerous new installments and spin-offs being released and under development that are exploring new gameplay mechanics and reaching new levels of cinematic experiences. It will be interesting to see how things progress.

If you have enjoyed the Final Fantasy series, we’d love to hear your thoughts, both nostolgic or current, in the comments section below. With all the Final Fantasy games out there, I’m sure almost everyone has been touched by at least one.

Special Thanks Goes Out to…
Jessica Merriman (founder of Momocon,one of the largest free conventions in the United States), Dale North of OCRemix
Children of the Monkey Machine of OCRemix (Happy Anniversary, my friend), And of course Gary Gygax.


em says:

This is crazy. All analysis of the article aside (i agree with everyone that it could’ve been better). I’m soooooooooooo sick of every gamer needing ‘an excellent storyline’ or ‘good graphics’ to play a damn rpg! If you only want storyline – GO SEE A MOVIE; actually if you want to see really good 3D animations – GO SEE A MOVIE ALSO! Games are for interaction, gameplay should be the main focus of why a game is good or bad. I love a good storyline and great graphics as much as anyone, but they are not why i play games. I could go on about all the FF’s ppl said were bad merely based on these 2 ridiculous points, but i just want to say a few words on FFXII. I personally don’t think many people played it. Next gen consoles were out when it was released and the focus wasn’t on the PS2 or it’s games – yet everyone jumps on the ‘it was poor compared to FFX’ bandwagon. At least it brought something different to the FF series. Sure, it had a dodgy storyline and if you set all party members with gambits you didnt really have to do much, but it has HEAPS of good points that nobody mentions. I loved it just as much as i loved Crystal Chronicals (hooked up with 4 gameboys) and FFX – and i’ve just started playing Revenant Wings on D.S and i have to say it’s pretty awesome too. As a side note, all these people who ‘get bored’ or whatever half way through these games need to switch genres. If you don’t want to dedicate 80hours+ to an rpg, i don’t think you should play them – play a FPS or something :oP

Michael Tam says:

Likes and dislikes are of course highly subjective and that should be respected in this article.

If looking are the widespread opinion about the FF series, it is clear that FF7 is very well received and is well liked by many gamers who would otherwise not place an RPG. I agree that FF7 does not have the deepest storyline (especially compared to FF6) or even the best plot development. Neither does it have the best game mechanics or graphics. However, somehow it is bigger and better that its parts.

My first FF was FF8 and I subsequently played FF9, 10, 4, 6 then then finally 7 in that order. Like many people, the “first” FF I played is still my favourite (I’ll get back to FF8 later), but of the series I have played, FF7 to me is still the best of the series. If there was one FF that I wanted remade for a next-gen console, it would be FF7.

The author states that he found Squall (main character of FF8) to be “shallow” but he also states that he never go past halfway of disc 2. Considering that the game spanned 4 discs, that is a rather “shallow” assessment when you haven’t even played through half of the game. Of all the main characters in FF (at least since FF4), the one in FF8 has the greatest character development. He is meant to come off at the beginning as aloof and a jerk, but you understand why as the game progresses and you see his character GROW. In essence, it is what happens to Cloud (in FF7) but much more developed; though, it has had the result of impatient gamers from disliking him and the entire game.

Glynn says:

I first came across the Final Fantasy series when Nintendo Power sent me a copy of the FF1 Strategy Guide. (Anyone remember the old days when strategy guides were free?) I had never heard of the game then, but I read the guide from cover to cover. It sounded amazing. So many weapons, monsters, cities, etc. For my 9th birthday, I finally got the game after badgering my parents on a consistent basis.
Needless to say, I was in over my head. That game was ruthless, especially to a 9 year old kid who loved the epic worlds of King Arthur and Bilbo Baggins. But I played on. I never finished it, however. The battery only supported one game, and my brother and I were constantly deleted each other’s game to start our own. Regardless, I was hooked.
Since then, I have played every game in the main Final Fantasy series to the very end except FF2, FFXI, and XII. The only one I disliked was FFIII. I’ve only played the DS version, and the level grind bores me into a coma after a while.
Each game has its own flavor.
FFIV introduced the epic storyline.
FFV is lacking in story and character development, but makes up for it in gameplay.
FFVI is an utter masterpiece. One of my top five or six games of all time. This is one game that I can find nothing wrong with.
FFVII is obviously the most significant of them all, and is, predictably, my favorite of the bunch. I simply cannot describe the way this game made me feel the first time around. Arguments can be made as to whether this is the best Final Fantasy game or not, but everyone should acknowledge its importance in the history of RPGs and gaming in general.
FFVIII is the underdog, and a helluva a game in its own right. It had the misfortune of following up one of the most acclaimed games ever. It took me a while to finish this one, and sometimes it became a chore. But in the end it was worth it. Triple Triad is quite possibly the best mini-game ever in a Final Fantasy game. And the story is one of the most engaging in the entire series.
FFIX didn’t appeal to me at first. I finally played it all the way through several months ago. In the end, I learned that I completely underestimated it. Vivi is one of the most lovable characters in a Final Fantasy game, and this game keeps the Final Fantasy tradition of fun gameplay and wonderful story-telling. In truth, I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone complain about this game. Now I see why.
FFX was a good game as well. I personally could have done without the voice-acting, though. It was a beautiful game visually, and the story was solid. I wouldn’t consider this one a disappointment, but it was defintely not one of my favorites. The Hymn of the Faith still gets stuck in my head, though. I never got into X-2. The whole pop singer thing and the skimpy outfit changes just struck me as cheesy. I have heard that it’s a good game, however, and so I will not judge it.
I have yet to play FFXII, and I don’t have the time to immerse myself in MMORPGs, so I’ll probably never play FFXI. But all in all, the Final Fantasy series is (obviously) my favorite series of all time. The problem is that they are always compared to one another and not allowed to stand on their own. If some other developer had made FFVIII under a different title, we would all be discussing it as the great rival to FFVII during the PSone era. Like I said before, each game is its own animal, ad should be appreciated that way.

McLovin says:

The article started out so well but I lost interest halfway through. I just didn’t connect with what the author was saying… 😉

But really, what a half assed article. I realised I shouldn’t have been taking you seriously when you said you’d never finished FFVII. How can you give a reliable review/synopsis if you’ve never truly experienced the 3D (re)evolution of FF?

And your assumption that FFVIII was hated by the majority is inaccurate. Yeah it was different. Yeah, Squall was a douche bag, but that’s what made him such a cool character. He was HAN SOLO.

And something you should’ve written about (but I now understand why you didn’t) is the feeling of accomplishment once you’ve finished an FF game. The lingering sensation that stays with you for weeks if not months after you’ve put the controller down. The music is what always brings me back to playing the games. And when I hear the midi like tunes of FFVII I get all nostalgic and miss the characters and their experiences. That is the long lasting effect of a powerful and brilliant game. Shame you completely missed the point.

nocnerd says:

ummmmmmmmmm guys did you get lost on a google search this is a RETRO gaming site. So gushing over the first one would make since. good article fastbilly

Mozgus says:

I’ll just throw in my vote that FF7 is the peak of the series, and I hope that you can give it yet another chance, preferably on a real PS1 using a great condition copy of the game. It’s the only one in the series I honestly enjoyed. It stayed away from the dull medieval settings. Nobuo was at the top of his game with the score. The materia system was the only system in the series that allowed for enough customization to fill my requirement, without complicating things, and without forcing you to use some weak item or whatever just to gain abilities you missed. The only real flaw with the game were the ugly character models. There are a legion of moronic fanboys attached to this entry, but it doesn’t make it any less of an amazing experience.

Mozgus says:

I’d also like to point out that yes, I have played all of the games in the core series, and even beat a few. No FF7 was not my first RPG, but I suppose it was my first amazing RPG.

Nghia Doan says:

Just something for those who love FFVII do death to think about. If a game was made to be more accessible to the gaming public and somehow allow a niche genre to become more mainstream, does that necessarily make the game any better? FFVII’s impact on the world of video game was monumental, but shouldn’t we put that aside and judge the game more objectively, by its own merits? Of course, there can never be absolute objectivity in any opinion and/or review. In saying that, I don’t think the above article is a review, but a subjective opinion on the author’s part to commemorate the 20 years of Final Fantasy. Well, that’s my two cents. 🙂

Arlo says:

Good article, but I think the title is a little deceiving as this is more of a personal review of games as opposed to a historical article (like that video restropective that came out recently). Or maybe it was just meant to be personal? 🙂

I have a feeling you’re around my age, because to me FFVI is the best game in the series in my opinion. I came into FFVII later than everyone else and while I liked it, I was entranced by the world(s) in FFVI. The characters, the atmosphere, the music, the story, the setting. Maybe it’s because FFVII came out on the PS1, which was the first REAL general audience console. I find the graphical atmosphere of FFVI is even better than FFVII because by the time FFVI came around, they had honed the SNES’s graphics, SFX and mechanics… they knew the system really well. Add that on top of a really intriguing story with a wealth of characters and I was sold.

I have the same feeling as you about the later games in the series, I could never getting into them enough to finish them (I got FFXII excitedly, but after a couple weeks of playing it I just don’t feel much of a desire to keep going), but then again, maybe that’s just a fact of getting older… (although I’m not ancient.. just turned 29). Kind of the “ah, those kids and their new-fangled CD’s… 78’s are where it’s at! ahh.. that rich warm tone!”. Know what I mean?

Maybe, as it happens, as we grow older we find it harder and harder to imagine ourselves in the game and get lost in it. I remember being not that young a kid and pretending a mound of dirt was a space-port and all the rocks were spaceships. Kept me amused for hours. Maybe we’ve lost that childish ability to let ourselves go into a story, our egos and personal identities have gotten too strong.

My 2c.

Nghia Doan says:

Arlo, I agree with you somewhat. It is true that as we grow older with age, we tend to lose a little bit of our imagination, our childhood wonderment. We become a little jaded. Perhaps, it is because we have little time for daydreaming due to our other responsibilities. However, if that were completely true, then I would find FFVI boring now. But I don’t. Instead, I still find a great sense of enjoyment playing FFVI again when it was rereleased on the PS1. I loved evey minute of it and still play it once in awhile to this day.

The truth of the matter is, graphic, gameplay, story, setting, etc. aside, a game is considered great to a person when it can touch him or her on some emotional level. This works especially well when a player can somehow relate to the game, whether it be living out a childish dream like falling in love or allowing that person to become something “extraordinary”, like a “Hero” that he or she cannot be in real life. (Sorry for plugging that show) Perhaps that is why the Grand Theft Auto series is so popular.

Anyway, the reason why all the FF after FFVI, with the exception of FFXI because I haven’t played it yet, do not appeal to me as much is because I feel that they took the “fantasy” out of the game. My definition of “fantasy” is a time of dungeons and dragons, not the future with crazy technology and machines. Perhaps kids of the digital age can relate to FFVII better than an old guy like me.

I still buy FF games nowaday because in my heart, I am hoping just once, just once, that that FF can somehow recapture that same magical feeling I had with FFVI. They say that you can never forget your first love and I agree with completely. I can still remember vividly about staying up all night and trying to do find everything in FFVI, glitches, secrets, and hidden treasures, etc. Till this day, not many game does that for me. So far, only a few games after FFVI have made me lose some sleep. If you must know, they are Grand Theft Auto III, Disgaea, SMT:Nocturne, and Persona 3. The first bite is always the best.

Sorry for rambling on and on. It is just that I love FF very much. And so is everyone here because we wouldn’t be here if we didn’t. I guess I had more than two cents in my pocket. 😛

bonefish says:

Arlo, you can’t get into FFXII because it isn’t a very good game. It is flawed. You said you liked FFVI, thats why you don’t like XII because it isn’t half the game.

I’ve read this blog for months now, and I guess I’ve never posted anything, so this might be a good time for it.

Man, that was an excellent post! Thanks!

Gameonymous says:

ummm…maybe you are stuck in a paradigm where people hate things most people like. it happens mostly with ‘lose the crowd’psyche. but kudos to your research.

Kaishin says:

I enjoyed reading until FFVI….

Mozgus says:

I’ll never understand what’s supposed to be so great about FF1-6. I couldn’t enjoy any of them. Hell, they’re all practically the same story.

Nghia Doan says:

To Mozgus:

I respect your opinion. Everyone has a certain standard and expectation of what a good game should be. Yours might be a bit different from other people and it is understandable. However, I will have to vehemently disagree with your statement that FFI-VI are “all practically the same story”. Honestly, I find that a bit offensive. (Yeah, I know. I am a fanatics.)

If you truly believe that, then there isn’t much I can say. However, I just feel that perhaps you didn’t give these games a fair chance or maybe you didn’t play through them completely. (I apologize if my assumption is wrong.) I can understand that there are prevailing themes that might seem “similar”, but you can’t just blatantly say that they are all the “same”. This is the same as saying that everyone is the “same” because everyone is a homo sapien. Yes, we are all homo sapiens, but we have certain attributes that are unique only to ourselves.

In video games, like in life and in the movies, there are only a few universal themes. As a result, they tend to be recycled. All of us are well aware of such themes such as love and tragedy, good versus evil, and saving the world from total annihilation. These themes are stilled and often used in today’s video games and in modern FF. The only difference is in how these themes are presented to the audience or gamer. And there lies the uniqueness of each game.

Some people of this generation might consider these relics as “unenjoyable” and might go as far as saying that they are “unplayable”. Perhaps some of the earlier FF might not be as enjoyable when compared to some of the current FF, but I wouldn’t say that they are unplayable. I agree that the first few FF were a bit archaic, but you must understand that these were made at a time when video game was still in its infancy. In my opinion, these FF’s were more experimental games then they were actual games. However, each one was an improvement over the previous one and laid the foundations for the modern Final Fantasies. Personally, I just feel that FFVI was when SquareSoft finally got everything right. The topic of whether it is the best game of the series or not is still debatable.

Anyway, one of the reason that some people feel that FFI-VI are great is because these games were created during a time when games don’t have flashy life-like graphics and awesome musical score, thus forcing the player’s imagination to fill in the rest. And there in lies the daydreaming for many young players. Most of the time, the player’s imagination beats out what was on the screen, resulting in a more personal experience. Well, at least that’s what I think.

I just feel that many games nowaday are a bit shallow. It is all flash and no bang. Many broken games are often hidden behind beautiful graphics and sounds. For me, I demand more than just a pretty face, like all my cars and women. With my women, I want a nice personality. With my cars, I want some power and reliability. With my games, I want something interesting and fun. I think that sometimes graphics need to take a step back to other methods of making a good game. What I am saying is that sometimes, LESS IS MORE. For example, it is often more exciting to watch a preview or a teaser video than playing the actual game. I am gonna go X-rated on you so if you are are under 18, skip this next sentence and go to the next paragraph. Sometimes the foreplay is better than the actual act. 😛

So, if you make an argument that FFI-VI are all the same, then you must also make the argument that they are all different as well. As I have learned, everything is the same and different at some level. It is all a matter of perspective. I just hope you look both ways like you do when you cross the street. No hate from me man. Just love for my Final Fantasy, thats all. Peace out.

Mozgus says:

I can’t read all of that Nghia, but I beat FF4, and hated it the entire time. A friend kept telling me it would get better, but it never did. I also put about an hour into each of 1 and 2 and 3. I put 5 hours into 5, and about 8 hours into 6. They’re just all the same to me.

jjj says:

Nice try at this article and very good FF1 section. I think you just bit off a bit more than you could chew by doing the entire series… I expected more indepth reviews of each game.

Craig says:

I’m really enjoyed this article guys. I agree with most of what you have to say about all of the FF titles.

Atlhough I have played and enjoyed some of the post FF VI titles (FF VII and IX), I still have to say my favorites of the entire series are IV and VI.

Nothing beats the feeling of buckling down and hammering away at the originals. I can remember rushing home from school so I could fire up the SNES and throw down against Golbez, Zemus, and Kefka.

While the newer installments of the series are all pretty solid RPG’s, I just don’t get that same feeling I get when I play the classics.

I also think it was awesome that you included Final Fantasy Legends series to the list. I completely forgot about those until just now. Excellent games. Keep up the good work.

Alex says:

“Why would you EVER let someone do a retrospective of Final Fantasy games that hates every FF since VI?”

Agreed, it gets kinda silly when the guy claims to love the first games, which I personally found tedious and extremely shallow, but didn’t bother to finish (?) anything beyond VI.

Settzer says:

Jeez, I think I can thank Final Fantasy VII for literally changing my life. My friend put me on to it once when I was maybe eight or nine, and we couldn’t even get past the Scorpion Guard, we were so horrible. I wasn’t much of a gamer back then, and when we died the first time I was confused because there wasn’t any Continues (The only game I had played up to then was Tekken). Yeah, so anyway, we drop it for a while, thinking it’s some sort of lame game. We bring it back a few weeks later and it hit us like a train. Since then I’ve been obsessed with games. It even launched me into my big anime craze period.

Brad says:

This article was pretty weak. For starters, how are you going to write an article about Final Fantasy if you haven’t even played through FF7? I also get the impression that the guy (or girl) writing this is someone who is older, and because of their age tend to favor the earlier FF games.

But really, what sucked most about this article was its complete lack of actual content. Basically, we get the writer’s opinion about each game. The problem is that he doesn’t really do a good job of explaining why he didn’t like certain installments in the series. The FF7 review was absolutely atrocious. Seriously, the dude writes four paragraphs about how the game kept freezing, and then says he didn’t like the game because it was “3D”. The game was epic, and it was also influential as hell.

On a final note, the person who wrote this needs to take the time to learn a few basic rules of English grammar. Learn the difference between too and to. Run a spell check and proof read your work before you post. Learn how to correctly use a comma.

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Chaos says:

a downright disappointing article.a celebration of FF’s 20th Anniversary and yet the writer flames FFVI and beyond?! FFVI, the gem of all FFs, must not be taken lightly and FFVII, the revolutionizing game, must never be a bore. i can’t believe that this article got published though. it’s a slap to the writer’s face, a big NO-NO for the editor and a failure for the site.

sorry man, a HUGE THUMBS DOWN for this.

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