If you’ve ever played an RPG. Then you’ve probably heard of Final Fantasy, though, initially, it was a rocky series as far as localization is concerned, due to the early series being categorized differently in Japan and the States.
We’ll be covering most of the major entries in the series from the Fifth final fantasy onwards, those that came before were certainly ahead of their time. But due to weird localization choices, the earlier entires just barely managed to find their way into the States.
I’m covering 6 through 13, of the main series, excluding the online games, as well excluding the ‘sequels’ such as X-2, XIII-2. I can’t say I’m familiar enough with final fantasies laying before 6, and it would be unfair to comment on them from afar, when I’ve little experience with them personally.
Final Fantasy VI
Largely considered the best game in the series, for many reasons, and really, it’s hard to argue otherwise. The game utilized a Steampunk setting, and for its time, it used every little trick the hardware would allow in order to push the graphical aspects of the game to their full potential.
The gameplay was nothing new, featuring the ATB formerly established in Final Fantasy IV. However, the gameplay was polished down to a sparkly shine.
Though, when it comes down to brass tax, Final Fantasy 6 was a substantial entry for nearly its storyline alone, and how the game tackled it. The storyline features numerous playable characters, around 14 in fact. Each one painstakingly fleshed out. The story doesn’t just follow the events of one character, either, there are points where you’ll find your group split and will have to undertake various challenges led by different characters of the party. This non-linear approach to storytelling really helped to garner one’s warmth towards the wide cast of characters avaialable.
Not only does the story have a non-linear approach in design, the story itself actually covered a lot of issues that simply weren’t tackled in the day and age where 6 saw the light of day. The story itself may just be the greatest in the main series, but opinions exist and no two people like all the same things.
Final Fantasy VI also featured the most notorious villain in Final Fantasy history, Kefka. He was kind of a bastard, for various reasons. Those who’ve played through VI know exactly why Kefka’s a bastard, those who don’t, well, play VI, it’s worth it.
Each of the characters had different roles in battle, though essentially everyone could learn magic through magic stones, each character had their unique skills that set them apart from one-another. Be it utilizing various tools in combat, or pulling off intricate combo’s.
Sure, VI is old by todays standards. But it still holds up damn well for a SNES title, if you’re an RPG fan and haven’t touched VI before, well, nothing’s stopping you.
Final Fantasy VII
What can I say, the game itself is engrained in many gamers hearts. Be it the characters or the plot. The story as it progressed was interesting enough to pull players to its conclusion. Personally, one of the greatest moments in it, for me. Was when the group first leaves Midgard. As, up to that point, I had figured the whole game took place within Midgard. Quite the surprise. Final Fantasy VII has a bit of an advantage though, it was really the first fully 3D final fantasy to come.
The story seems messy, and everything isn’t simply laid in front of you, there’s plenty of room for speculation in the plot. Dealing primarily with an Ex Soldier who has illusions of grandeur, some amnesia, as well his panties tend to be all bunched up half the time. Cloud grows into a decent character as the story evolves and his demeanor is actually fleshed out in good detail.
7 featured some of the most memorable characters in the series, in my opinion. Cid being my favorite, due to how much of an asshole he was, pretty much the epitome of a grumpy old man, and really when it comes down to it, I didn’t mind any characters in the game, even Caitsith had his moments. The party characters aside, the villains, side-characters, they all had a bit of charm behind them, befitting the quirky, run-down nature of the world around them.
The world itself wasn’t the most polished we’ve seen in a Final Fantasy, lots of elements just.. stood out in weird ways. It had a run-down feel to it, though, the feeling that the world was once a very prosperous and beautiful place to be. Signs of former destruction lay about the regions, ruins, sunken vessels and hidden away places that were never meant to be seen by the eyes of man. While, the world did have a lot cool shit in it, at times, certain things just didn’t seem quite right, for instance, randomly finding a crashed Jet fighter atop a gigantic skeleton.
Final Fantasy VII has a lot of character to it, no matter the flaws, and there’s plenty. One thing Final Fantasy 7 didn’t skimp on was the battle system, being active time, it forced players to think on their feet. But the real meat of the combat system was the Materia system. Final Fantasy VII still has one of the most customizable combat systems available. The fact that one could not only boost their combat prowess with Materia, they could also combine materia together for impressive results. The Materia system was always fun to experiment with, these days Materia guides exist, but back in the day when Final Fantasy 7 was fresh, experimenting with Materia combo’s was a joy.
Most Consider VII to be the greatest Final Fantasy ever, and it has its merits, it’s certainly one of the best. Most who consider it the best in the series, most likely started with Final Fantasy 7, that nostalgic tick giving the game a bit more credit than it’s due for.
Final Fantasy VIII
One of the more flawed of the main series.
Explaining Final Fantasy 8’s storyline is really just a losing battle. It’s a mess, what with overly coincadental settings and the like. For most people, when Final Fantasy 8 came out, they were youngsters, and it’s doubtful they’d have had any understanding of what exactly was taking place as the credits rolled. Plenty of opinions and speculation exists for the ending, some true, some not. It’s said a confusing storyline isn’t exactly a bad storyline, but if it’s done wrong, just like in the case of Final Fantasy 8, it turns the story into a mess.
The characters all had their motivations and they were easily understood, the fact that just about every character you assemble into your party was actually trained in a military academy gave some creedance to their ability to take down giant beasts and trained soldiers. Not once are you really doubting your party’s ability to complete their missions at hand.
The story itself wasn’t dreadful by any means. Yes, the ending was a huge disappointed, that’s for sure. But the journey leading up to it took the party through numerous areas and events that were generally interesting to explore. At any rate, the Storyline is for certain the weakest aspect of this entry, and it’s a result of Square trying to make a more complicated storyline than they were capable of implementing effectively.
Final Fantasy 8 almost has a modern feel to it, what with cars and firearms. This gave Final Fantasy 8 an almost believable world, it wasn’t difficult to really accept the setting around you, you generally had a good understanding of the technology that surrounded the player.
Some say the fact that Garden, which is the military academy the main characters attend, some say that the fact it is capable of flight is absolutely ridiculous. However, these Garden’s don’t move at a breakneck pace, as well they more or less hover as apposed to tangible flight. As well, in the game, it isn’t exactly explained where the Gardens even came from, but it is hinted at that Gardens had existed in the world for thousands of years, proven by the summon spell, Eden, which is in fact an ancient Garden, The Garden of Eden.
Another aspect that bothers many, is Squall’s primary weapon, the Gunblade. Thinking about it from a simplistic viewpoint, one would surmise the Gunblade shoots bullets at opponents, yet the weilder always gets into melee-range when striking with it. In actuality the Gunblade works as a poorman’s High-Frequency Blade, the High-Frequency ability of it only working for a split second, so it isn’t impossible to think that using a Gunblade effectively would be a difficult task. It’s shown through gameplay, that Seifer is by no means a Master of the Gunblade, due to his inconsistent nature of actually pulling the trigger, yet, he’s the only other Gunblade user. Maybe everyone in the world but those two knuckleheads came to the conclusion that using a Gunblade was just a silly idea.
At the very least, Final Fantasy 8 has a consistent setting, and it didn’t stray from that setting. The characters all looked like they belonged in the world, and even when encountering a giant robot spider, it still felt like it fit perfectly into the world around you.
The gameplay is by far one of the reasons people hate this game, even far beyond the storyline. While I agree the storyline was a pain in the ass, I actually the gameplay and its mechanics to be rather well-implemented. The game revolved around its Draw system, which worked essentially as the game’s primary form of grinding. Grinding levels in Final Fantasy 8 was a pointless endeavor, enemies leveled with you, so one could actually breeze through the entire game without having to draw a single spell from an enemy.
However, while enemies do level with your party, they do not take into account how you’ve boosted your stats using both magic and guardian forces. So, drawing is simply a way to get an edge over your competition. However, despite all this. Gamers are tenacious bastards and they will totally draw 100 of every spell they see on potential enemies just because they can.
The Guardian forces system in Final Fantasy 8 was actually a pretty decent system. It allowed for one to essentially mold any character they want into whatever role they wanted them to be. The sheer number of Magic available allowed for a lot of customization in this regard. While it was certainly nothing compared to the Materia system, it was still a better implemented system than what Final Fantasy has seen in recent days, usually revolving around some sort of grid.
Since one can essentially mold the stats of their party, the one thing that made each party member unique was their special attacks. Unfortunately, one tended to have to find specific key items in order to find more special attacks for their party members, meaning some characters might be more evolved than others, simply because their items in particular were a bit easier to find.
Final Fantasy 8 is considered by many to be the worse Final Fantasy game in the main series by far, and the game itself is said to have attributed to the poor quality of XenoGear’s disk 2. It’s unfortunate really, no game should suffer because a company wants to reallocate funds. When it comes down to it, I’d have much rather seen a fully fleshed out XenoGears, than Final Fantasy 8.
That being said, Final Fantasy 8 is still very solid, and gradually it has gained some acceptance in contrast to recent entires and flops the Final Fantasy franchise has seen.
Final Fantasy IX
It really was sort of a magical journey, this one.
Final Fantasy 9 actually had one of the strongest storylines in the series. While I’m not really fond of spoiling a storyline I really like how Final Fantasy 9’s subject matter actually has a rather dark tone to it. No matter how cartoony or colorful the visuals are, shit really does hit the fan in this game, and for the most part the player has a good understanding of what has taken place, and what their current objective is in the game.
Final Fantasy 9 has some very memorable characters in it, the star of which is Vivi, which is essentially a Black Mage, and resembles the classic look of one. While the other characters certainly have their moments, Vivi is definitely the badass here, his origins and the journey he goes through during the events of Final Fantasy 9 are some of the most memorable aspects of the game.
Final Fantasy 9 had some strange villains in it, and one of the fruitiest main antagonists of any Final Fantasy. That being said, the characters all felt like they belonged, they looked the part and didn’t stand out from the world around them. Final Fantasy 9 feels like a polished gem, and its storyline feels just as polished as the game surrounding it.
Final Fantasy 9 doesn’t exactly up the ante with its gameplay, each character had a specific role, Steiner being your primary attacker and tank, Vivi being your Mage as well Zidane being the primary Rogue for the team. I’ve no qualms with the characters being utilized this way, but always found myself sticking to the same group of characters each playthrough.
There’s not much to say about Final Fantasy 9’s gameplay. You learn skills from equipment, just like in older entries and certain characters have more effective roles than others in different boss encounters.
While being nothing revolutionary, Final Fantasy 9 had a heavy sheen of polish on its battle system, Bosses were difficult and required strategy, causing there to be a bit of an enjoyable struggle while trying to push past one adversary after the next.
Final Fantasy 9 has a lot going for it in terms of its setting. Both the art direction and the world as it is implemented go hand in hand. The semi-deformed look of the characters also fit in just perfectly with the whole ‘feel’ of the world. As far as worlds go, and how the characters fit into it, Final Fantasy 9 surpasses the others in the main series by a decent margin.
It all had a very medieval feel to it, with the addition of airships and other badass things of course. Things, be it magic or technology that was featured in the game all felt natural to the world, nothing really stands out as overly ridiculous. Unlike 6, 7, 9, 10, 12 and 13, Final Fantasy 9 wasn’t one that went for a ‘modern’ or ‘futuristic’ approach to their world. It
felt just right.
Hit or miss, some love it, some hate it. The hate for the game can be attributed to the art direction or perhaps the linearity of the gameplay featured in it. Though, both are petty reasonings, as Final Fantasy 9’s art direction has made it a timeless entry into the series, it still looks good to this day, and will always have a unique look and feel to it.
Final Fantasy X
One of the more tragic tales in the main series. The tragic nature however was quickly destroyed with Final Fantasy X-2, but hey, let’s just act like that game never happened. As, X-2 adds far too many plot holes to what was essentially a rather easy to understand storyline. The biggest problem with the storyline ends up being Tidus, the main character, he’s really a big pain in the ass most of the storyline, but he becomes more palatable as the story moves forward.
There’s not a lot to say about the storyline without spoiling it, it’s certainly not the worst but it’s certainly not the best. It has a lot more depth to it than people give it credit for.
Final Fantasy X is considered to have one of the best combat systems out of all in the main series, and honestly, it kind of does. It utilizes the active time battle system, which wasn’t anything new, really. At the same time, it’s one of the only games in the series to allow you to actively switch between party members during combat, it’s strange that this little trait was abandoned, as it always seemed strange as to why only 3 of your group of 10 members would fight in a battle at any given time, rather than the whole group getting involved.
Unfortunately. The game also featured the Sphere grid system. Which gave the illusion of maleability when it came to growing your characters, it worked, to some extent. But merely provided the illusion of freedom when it came to building a character. One could feasibly go and make Auron some sort of lousy spellcaster, or just keep him on his standard path. Straying from the paths provided with the Sphere Grid often ended up with less the savory results.
The world in Final Fantasy 10 is.. erratic to say the least. At some points, it seems primitive, what with temples and straw huts, the next moment you have super advanced machinery bonking their heads around. The costume design is highly unrealistic, most characters just look downright goofy, and don’t actually look like they belong in the world. The party itself suffers from this as well, nobody actually looks like they belong in the game, with the exception of Wakka. While Auron is undoubtedly one of the most badass characters in Final Fantasy, he, like the rest of the party all stand out like sore thumbs. While certainly an enjoyable installment, 10 always seemed to show its cracks, and was a bad omen for the future of the series.
Final Fantasy XII
Final Fantasy 12 is a bit of anomaly. Considering Final Fantasy 11, the online one, the failed online one came out prior to this. Gamers were undoubtably confused as to why the game actually didn’t feature the standard sort of combat system seen in previous games. Though many in the series changed aspects of the combat system, at its core, it remained the same. This wasn’t the case for 12.
Final Fantasy 12 looked nice, it had good art direction, the world itself was solid. However, just like the combat system, this entry also did something unlike previous installments of the main series. It utilized a world that already existed in Final Fantasy, Ivalice. Which has been featured in each of the Tactics games. Although, rumors have it that Final Fantasy X and VII are both loosely based in the same world, rumors are just that, rumors. The problem with Ivalice, is that instead of utilizing the medieval world of Ivalice, they changed it, altered it, adding numerous anthormorphic species, adding in super technology and generally giving the whole world a sort of middle-eastern vibe.
To those who played the main series, Final Fantasy 12 is fine, to those who’ve played Tactics, they wouldn’t appreciate how drastically the world had changed. It makes little sense as to why they simply wouldn’t utilize an entirely different name for their world, considering it has absolutely no ties to its subject matter.
The game featured a system similar to the Sphere Grid, only, quite a margin worse, and the battle system, well, it resembled an old school MMO, in lue of ‘cutscene’ style fight sequences, and honestly, it just didn’t look very good. MMO’s utilized this sort of gameplay due to technical limitations, and even in 2014, we’re just barely seeing the addition of action styled game-play in them.
That being said, Final Fantasy 12 was a flawed gem, having its merits, a solid storyline and a deep if not strange combat system. Not many people really talk about Final Fantasy 12, and upon release, the reception was questionable at best. Though no slouch in terms of professional reviews, 12 left gamers scratching their heads, wondering just where SquareEnix was planning on taking the series.
Final Fantasy XIII
It’s pretty bad.
… Okay, but seriously. Final Fantasy XIII just baffles me. Why exactly was it taken in such an odd direction? Why is it this game donned the title of Final Fantasy XIII, as apposed to Lost Odyssey, which was originally planned to be XIII. Who knows, but it happened, XIII happened.
Final Fantasy XIII was, is rather sloppy. Though many aspects of the game that were considered bad, were later remedied in XIII-2, more problems were added with XIII-3.
For one, XIII decided that they didn’t want to make towns, side areas, or really anywhere to explore. On the last disk, though, one does get the freedom to explore a giant featureless plain, full of enemies. But it’s just that, an empty plain. The majority of the game was one winding hallway, with a branching path here and there.
Defending this… this… design choice is hard. For one, XIII utilized next generation technology at the time, and was the first and ONLY of the main series to find itself on the 360 and PS3. Because they had more power to work with, there was less in the game for players to explore? Even after XII’s rather vast, explorable world, built on inferior hardware.
But, a linear pathing system isn’t really the end all of a game, there’s still gameplay, and storyline, the world itself, the character’s within it. The gameplay was simply dreadful. It utilized Automatic combat for both the character you would control as well as the allies who travel with you. Though you could select your own actions during combat, you’re given less time than you need to actually stack up a good series of moves.
The biggest problem with this auto combat system, is in the event where you have to utilize specific buffs, or debuffs. See, the AI will only start defending the party against, say, fire-based magic only after your party has been hammered by a particularly powerful fire-based spell. The whole combat system itself has a strange artificial difficulty to it, the diffculty attributed primarily from the fact you can’t directly control your allies actions at all.
Of course, the simplest solution is to take control of your primary buffer/debuffer during a battle, which certainly works, but it just seems like it should be unessecary. One would expect the AI to be competent enough considering how major a role the AI plays in combat.
The storyline is a mess, there’s no getting around that. I literally played through the game until about the final disk, and I literally had no clue what exactly was going on, and I was paying quite a bit of attention to what unfolded during the storyline. Apparently, one has to read all of the logs and such you collect during the game, in order to gain even a slight semblance of understanding.
No matter how full of depth a story is. If it leaves the player utterly confused throughout, unless they go out of their way to read little scraps in their logs, then the writer did their job wrong. The game is chock full of foreign terms, and doesn’t actually put forth the effort of explaining what it’s trying to explain.
The character’s were alright. So many memorable characters have come from this series in the past that the cast of XIII just seemed a bit dull. With the exception of Sahz, of course. Because Sahz was without a doubt one of the best aspects of the game.
The world was cool, but it followed the same general theme Final Fantasy has seen since 6 to now. With the exception of 9. Robots, lasers, firearms, XIII upped the ante quite a bit in this regard, giving the whole world a super futurstic type of feel. Though everything was certainly shiney and covered in colorful lights, it was diffult at times to really get one’s head around the world around. That being said, XIII features some absolutely stunning setpieces.
It’s not the worst game ever. XIII has its merits, and as an RPG it’s completely solid. Unfortunately, XIII got the brand that made it part of the main series, and because of this, players had overly high expectations for the game. Perhaps if it was just some humble RPG unafilliated with Final Fantasy, it would have been better recieved.
Really, we haven’t actually seen a downright awful Final Fantasy in the main series yet. XIII came close, XII seemed like it would at first glance, and VIII simply isn’t as horrible as it’s made out to be. All the games in the series have their shining moments and their scuffs. The sky’s the limit for Final Fantasy, even in a day and age where the popularity of RPG’s has collapsed and curled up, Final Fantasy still pushes forwards, and just like with XII and XIII, the next Final Fantasy up to bat, Versus, looks to be taking yet another new approach. It would seem Final Fantasy is merely in a sort of experimental phase as of currently. But as the saying goes, can’t make an omelette without cracking a few eggs first.