What comes to mind when you see or hear the words Final Fantasy. Iconic? Revolutionary? Historical? Maybe even essential? Starting in 1987, it is one of the longest running franchises in gaming history. Starting on the Nintendo and spanning almost all mainstream consoles to date, Final Fantasy is synonymous with gaming. Every gamer has their favorite, their least favorite and we all remember our first one we played. Mine being Final Fantasy IX but my favorite being the popular Final Fantasy VII. Being fortunate to have been able to play ALMOST every Final Fantasy game to date I can honestly say I never came away with any of them leaving a sour taste in my mouth. Sure there are some not liked by me but you can’t please everyone.
Final Fantasy 1, the origin of this iconic franchise, is still enjoyable to date albeit being almost 25 years old. The job classes were a fresh idea that I loved and gave the game a unique feel especially for its age.
Along came Final Fantasy II, also known as Final Fantasy IV in the US, and is widely known for being the best in the series. Deep character development, stunning story background and amazing game play to boot there really isn’t much to love.
As far as Final Fantasy III, it wasn’t released in the US until 2006 on the DS and that is something i must get my hands on. It was actually the only mainstream Final Fantasy not to be released into the US until as of recent. As mentioned Final Fantasy IV (in Japan) was released as Final Fantasy II here.
So that brings us to V. Easily my third favorite game in the entire series. Storyline was captivating and the ability to choose what your character could do with the classes took what they did in FF I to a whole new level. I first played in for the Gameboy Advance and i fell in love.
Final fantasy VI i didn’t dig to deep into and i regret it. Fun battle system and a solid story I just spent to much time on FF V. It is actually professionally considered one of the top selling games in Final Fantasy history.
I’ll skip over FF VII until the end only to cliche the best for last.
Which brings me to Final Fantasy VIII. Boy o boy what can i say about VIII? It’s probably tied with X-2 as my least favorite of them all which i have been ridiculed about. The good: Storyline was to die for and a nice change up for the more mature audiences for the second title released on the Playstation. Romance, betrayal and revenge; I mean what more would you want? Character models were stunning for the time and again a nice change of pace for a real looking character which is much more easy to relate to when getting into the story. O the cutscenes…the anime-esque movie segments were breathtaking. As for the bad? The start of the game is dreadful and so slow. It took me several attempts to get through the first disc alone. The battle,weapon and armor system were a little to different for my taste along with the summons. I just didn’t feel it like i did with some of the others but I’m more than willing to give it another shot.
My introduction to the world of Final Fantasy, Final Fantasy IX. I’m going to start this off by thanking my best friend at the time and still one of my best friends, Sean Morgan, for introducing me to this series. I was stuck on a game to play and he had just finished Final Fantasy IX and started on FFVII again and asked if I’d like to play IX. Never touched a true JRPG before even though I was gaming since I was like 2. 4 discs to a game? 50-60hrs to finish? Are you kidding me? I was amazed, stunned, it was like opening my eyes to gaming all over again. The characters were funny, creative and easily to get captivated with. The story was fun, exciting and new to me, Easily #2 in my book just thinking about it makes me wanna play it right now…so much fun.
Next gen jump? I think so. The PS2 became the epitomy of gaming so why not do something new to set off this old series with a new bang? Amazing graphics with voice acting which was a first, new battle system which came with a new level up system. Throw in a storyline to get back that more…mature audience and we have ourselves Final Fantasy X. I never spent as much time on one video game (excluding xbox live multiplayer) than I did with this one. I still have a save log with I believe 260+ hours? The game was sheer fun. The sphere grid was genius and gave you options for each character so it felt like YOUR character. Blitzball was a fun side game to play if you just wanted to goof around and the unlockables were nearly endless. Squaresoft (Square Enix) really hit the nail on the head with this one.
This is where it gets tricky. Final Fantasy X-2. Probably the worst one i played but the girls loved it and who could blame them? It was pushed more towards the female audience with 3 female characters to use and that’s it. The story was solid and had they spent more time on the job classes it would have been better. The transformations between jobs mid battle was a pretty sight but that’s about it. Graphics were a downgrade i think, and the battle system was rough to boot. I literally just held the X button and i would win. If done well? I think could have been solid but it was rushed in my opinion,
Square Enix went wrong with Final Fantasy 11. MMORPGs were peaking so why not cash in? Sorry Square, when we have a console with a console game we want to play a game with at least the option of a single player mode. That is my only gripe about this game. O and the fact that you have to pay to play this. 50$ wasnt enough? Let’s add 10$ every month. I get it and i know how MMORPGs work but again give me a single player option too. That’s all. But as for the game play? Endless and they’re still making updates to players. Just make sure you have a lot of time to dedicate.
Nearing the end with Final Fantasy 12. The most adult game in the franchise with a political storyline and adult characters. The story is argued to be the best in the series, IF you get into it. The scenes are pretty boss and the characters are unique and fun. But the battle system…that damn battle system was a little to different for me. From turn based action to free roaming attacks made it lose the Final Fantasy feel, at least for me. I’d love to play it again however just for the story aspect, Alas, I miss my PS2.
Now the game i ripped more than any Final Fantasy to date…Final Fantasy XIII. First one for the 360 (excluding FF XI port) and also the first Final Fantasy to feature a female lead. I couldn’t have been more wrong about this game. I finally got it cheap and i think it was a steal. It was more linear than some but i don’t think it was such a bad thing. Graphics and sound were gorgeous and the story was just plain old captivating. I was hooked and didn’t stop until it was finished. The side missions were fun and you feel like you really get to know the characters. Not to mention they’re spawning a sequel for it that I’m not sure about with the outcome of X-2. Obviously the prettiest game in the franchise but it’s still in my top 5.
I started my Final Fantasy gaming around 1999-2000 and I’m happy I won’t be ending it anytime soon. But no matter what i play, nothing will ever top Final Fantasy VII. The most popular title for so many reasons. First FF on the Playstation, stunning new graphics, award winning soundtrack and one of the most in depth storylines AND character development in gaming history. The main character of Cloud Strife and his antagonist Sephiroth are poster children for Final Fantasy and this is after 10 years of the first one. I truly can’t say enough about this game. It made me love RPG’s and put the Playstation single handedly on the map. I could play this game today, tomorrow, in a year, even 5 years and its 15 years old! Beautifully fun and simply a joy to play.
I’m aware some games, especially the newer ones, have more description with them but I want to make one thing perfectly clear. All of these games are solid plays. If you enjoy RPG’s, JRPG’s or a good game in general pick up any of thse or all of them and give them a try. Final Fantasy XIII-2 is in development along with XIV so the end isn’t even close.
SIDENOTE: The name Final Fantasy came about because Squaresoft was going through a bankruptcy and a developer, Sakaguchi, made a last ditch effort and his final project would be a fantasy game. Final Fantasy…and he we are, 25 years later, still going strong.
My Favorites in order:
12) Final Fantasy X-2
11) Final Fantasy VIII
10) Final Fantasy XI
9) Final Fantasy I
8) Final Fantasy II / IV
7) Final Fantasy III / VI
6) Final Fantasy XII
5) Final Fantasy XIII
4) Final Fantasy X
3) Final Fantasy V
2) Final Fantasy IX
1) Final Fantasy VII
-FU MAN STU