Today is a momentous occasion. The culmination of a majority of my writing for TechRaptor this past year. After playing thirteen games in a row, along with help from other writers on some side games, we’ve officially reached the finale of the Year of Final Fantasy.
30 years ago yesterday, a small, unknown game was released in Japan. It was Squaresoft’s hail mary after several failures in a row. This little RPG had the minds of great programmers behind it, such as creator Hironobu Sakaguchi. While Square may have survived, Sakaguchi planned on going back to school if this last game didn’t work out. Alongside him was composer Nobuo Uematsu, who did his best to compose a memorable soundtrack.
I don’t believe to this day that they knew they impact they would have on the gaming industry. I touched on it a year ago, but Final Fantasy took the world by absolute storm. It became such a resounding success that it was all Squaresoft could do to keep up with sequels, at one point making them almost yearly!
It wasn’t just a hit in Japan. The Western world fell in love with Final Fantasy and its myriad sequels. It didn’t matter which console had the games; where Final Fantasy went, gamers followed. When Squaresoft broke from Nintendo to develop Final Fantasy VII for the PS1, it was a shock to the gaming world. Yes, Final Fantasy was so popular it helped fuel the console wars for many years!
I’ll be honest, even writing this, I don’t exactly know what to do to celebrate. Do I talk about how my life was impacted by the series? I could, but I’ve done that quite a bit through my articles. How about a list of my favorites from the series? I think I could do that. However, this is also a journey, and not one I’ve taken alone. So I’ll tell you my favorites from the series, and then we can hear from other TechRaptor staff for their input on the series!
Without further ado, here are some of my favorite aspects of the Final Fantasy franchise!
Connor’s Favorite Story: Final Fantasy X
Have you ever loved someone so much it hurt? Would you fight for that person? Would you die for that person? Final Fantasy X asks these questions and more, while I assume they attempted to make you feel like crap the entire way through. Trust me, it worked!
There are few moments of levity in Final Fantasy X, and even when they are, most of them are forced and fake. I don’t mean that in a bad way, though. I mean that the characters are trying to force themselves to smile despite their journey. It’s heartbreaking, and only gets more so as you progress through the game.
I won’t spoil the story here, but rest assured that you will be challenged emotionally by Final Fantasy X. It’s a bittersweet story, and it’s beautiful to watch unfold.
Connor’s Favorite Visuals: Final Fantasy VI
When it comes to setting the mood, nothing struck me nearly as much as playing through Final Fantasy VI and reaching the World of Ruin. Just from a visual standpoint, seeing the world change in the way it does was stunning, even in a 2D game.
It truly set the tone for the second half of the game. Gone are the vibrant green lands of the overworld. No more large forests, no more sprawling fields. It’s all cracked, arid ground. There’s nothing beautiful in the world anymore it seems. The sun is constantly setting, bathing the world is a harsh orange glow to signify the world slowly ending.
It’s sad, and though not the only gorgeous environment in Final Fantasy VI, it serves to tell a story of its own. It’s a wonderful display for the eyes!
Connor’s Favorite Soundtrack: Final Fantasy VIII
Okay, I know I said in my Final Fantasy X review that it may have surpassed this one, but I changed my mind again. I would put them both on here since I swap so frequently between them, but FFX already won a category so I’m giving Final Fantasy VIII its time to shine.
I already showed off a number of fantastic tracks for FFVIII in my review. It was so hard to leave out some tracks, as I absolutely love every moment of this soundtrack. However, this gives me another chance to show off more songs I like. Hooray!
Final Fantasy VIII does an excellent job when it wants you to feel at ease. Even the starting area, Balamb Garden, does its best to make you feel safe and relaxed. It’s a nice way to start your adventure after an admittedly intense opening.
Another fantastic piece that many people know is Fisherman’s Horizon. This soothing town theme is again, another nice respite from the encroaching danger.
That’s not all FFVIII has up its sleeves though. Its dungeon themes are dark and mysterious, as they should be. Uematsu is one of the titans of the industry, and he knows how to instill a certain emotion into the player with music. Tell me this doesn’t drip of exploring the unknown:
Another strange theme meant to instill confusion and intimidation is Fithos Lusec Wecos Vinosec, which introduces the villain of the game. It’s set during a parade, and it certainly does not appear to be as cheery as the parade would have you believe:
In addition, if a moment is meant to be tense, Uematsu has you covered there. During one of the critical sequences of the first disc, you’re on a mission. It’s life or death out there, and Uematsu ensures you feel that weight on your shoulders while you soldier onward.
The game isn’t without its battle themes, either. I’ve already covered several, but another great one is for when you go head-to-head with the villain a few times:
There are plenty more tracks that are exciting and fantastic to play, so be sure to check out the soundtrack if you can. Final Fantasy VIII isn’t the most-loved game in the series, but the music is undeniably amazing!
Connor’s Favorite Battle System: Final Fantasy V
When the Job System was introduced in Final Fantasy III, it was pretty revolutionary. You could pick jobs from a decently-sized pool of options at will, though the issue was that a bunch of jobs were just “starter job, but more powerful”. When it came time to revisit the system two games later, Squaresoft rebuilt it from the ground up.
Final Fantasy V’s job system is fantastic. None of the jobs are similar, for starters. You needn’t worry about encountering “White mage skills, but way stronger” here. The jobs are incredibly varied, from your garden-variety black, white and red mages, to other strange jobs like geomancers, beastmasters, dancers, mimes and many more. Each job has several skills that you can learn as you level your jobs. Once you do that, you can equip one or two of those skills, no matter what job you’re using. This allows an absurd level of customization, making each character feel unique each time you play.
Coupled with fantastic manipulation of the ATB system via the Time Mage, everything comes together in a magnificent gem of a game. Enjoy it!
Connor’s Favorite Game: Final Fantasy X
When adding up the sum of its parts, I can’t help myself around Final Fantasy X. It’s an exceptional display of what the series is capable of. The characters, the music, the combat, the world, the writing—everything comes together in a glorious game.
There was nary a moment in the journey that I wasn’t engrossed by the game. Even the sidequests, which undoubtedly got tedious after a while, still didn’t get under my skin too badly. The rewards for them were satisfying and worthwhile, and only served to enhance the gameplay.
The world was fleshed out, the characters had serious struggles to deal with and even the ending is nowhere near as happy as one would expect. It’s shockingly bittersweet, and as I said in my review, taught me a lesson very early on about how not everything is a happy ending (as we’ll see in a minute).
Final Fantasy X is beautiful. I don’t just mean visually, I mean as a game. It’s a hard journey, but it’s worth it.
The Most Impactful Moment
Final Fantasy has been with me for a long time. Final Fantasy X was my first-ever foray into the series when I was about 11 years old. I wasn’t very good at the game, as you’d expect, and I tried my best to not use a guide. Because of this, despite the game’s linearity, I was stonewalled by some of the boss fights. I set the game aside a few times, then picked it up, only to set it aside again before I realized I needed to restart the game. I had screwed up that badly, it seemed.
So, I set aside the game for a while and explored other Final Fantasy games, namely VII, VIII and IX. I didn’t end up beating any of them, instead swapping to the next game after I’d get stuck. Did I mention I was bad at games? Anyway, after many months, I started FFX over after only getting to Bevelle for the first time. I was more careful this time, and had just made it to Mt. Gagazet before Seymour Flux tore me a new one, so I set it aside again.
It was about a month or two later when my grandpa slowly succumbed to his emphysema. It was the first time I had lost someone close to me, and it’s tough for anyone to experience, let alone a 12-year-old kid. After all the proceedings, I retreated into my shell for a while. The world scared me, and I didn’t want to talk to anyone. For a month or so, I didn’t want to go have sleepovers or visit my friends, or really leave my room unless I had to.
During this time, I started playing games again. Determined to make something go right in my life, I started plowing through Final Fantasy X. I made it all the way to the end, only to realize that things weren’t sunshine and roses. Where I was expecting a happy ending like any other game I’d played, things seemed all wrong! I won’t spoil it, but anyone who’s beaten the game knows exactly what I mean.
However, the ending still came. Yuna still gave her rousing speech to Spira, about how there was still hope and joy in the world. In other words, life would go on. Despite hardships in our lives, the sun will rise again tomorrow. We live with our sorrow, we accept it so that we can move forward.
That was my first experience of a game telling me that it would be okay. Even when we lose someone close to us, we can still move on. It was more or less exactly what I needed to hear, and I finally started to see my friends again and leave the house to go play outside. It made me go back to normal, which I’m very thankful for.
That’s how Final Fantasy touched my life.
TechRaptor’s Thoughts on Final Fantasy
As I said before, this isn’t a journey I took alone. Over the many years, Final Fantasy has impacted various staff at TechRaptor in minor or major ways. I reached out to my colleagues to get their thoughts on the series. Some had a quick thought, others had an in-depth response! Whether good, bad or indifferent, here are some of the feelings toward the series from your very own TechRaptor staff:
“Final Fantasy is a series that, no matter the game, I always know I can go back to it and play it over and over again with a great sense of enjoyment. There's just this sense of...adventure and accomplishment that comes with playing through one of the games, and there's so many great characters to choose from, accompanied by orchestral music that I could listen to for days on end. One of my greatest gaming memories is cracking open my brand new Playstation and popping in the demo disk that came with it to try out Final Fantasy VII when I was only 7 years old, and ever since that time I've come to love all forms of RPGs among other genres of games. No matter what, and no matter how many great new games come out that I can sink my time into, there's just this draw that always has me coming right back to my favorite (VII,VIII, IX) Final Fantasy games. I don't think that's a pull that any other game series has ever had for me.” —Rutledge Dauguette
“I've only played FFVII, but I remember thinking that riding around on a giant chicken was the greatest thing ever. And I was briefly in danger of showing emotion when the girl died, but then I remembered I didn't have any emotions.” —Adam Potts
“To me, Final Fantasy 7 is the most impactful piece of media ever. From the beginning bombing run to countless hours spent breeding chocobos to earn that elusive gold bird, to the final showdown with Sephiroth at the Planet’s core. The adventures of Cloud and co. were the first “real” adventure game I played that sparked my imagination and eventually led me to pursue a career in storytelling and film in the hopes that one day I can be a part of creating something as impactful as the greatest RPG of all time. I’ve also got a pretty rad FF7 tattoo as well as the early stages of a Crisis Core sleeve on my arm, so I kinda have to love it no matter what.” —Nick Maillet
“Final Fantasy is one of the definitive RPG series out there. Few have had as much impact on gaming or have anywhere near the longevity of the Final Fantasy series. It is also one of the most varied series out there, with games going between relatively light stories centered around the warriors of light to the operatic tales that have come to define the series more in later years. It's gone from a turn-based system to an action based one and has experimented with more mechanics than many even think of. It has even spawned its own mythology with the naming of the series being told often to be about it being Square's last game, instead of Sakaguchi thinking of it as his last game (which we know didn't happen).
It's a cornerstone of gaming and from bad translations, to moments like Aeri(s/th - whichever you prefer)'s death and many others. Personally, the game in the series I'm probably closest to is Final Fantasy X just because I had a PlayStation 2 and it was the RPG we had on it. While that game had its share of silly moments (see: Tidus' laugh), it also had its good moments and ideas and sticks with me more because of the connection to my youth. I would never claim it's the best game in the series, but for me personally, it's the one that I'm closest to.
So salutations Final Fantasy. You came into our world and left it a better place for many people, introducing them to RPGs that they might otherwise have missed. Here's to another 30 years of stories and adventures.” —Don Parsons
"My first exposure to Final Fantasy was through Kingdom Hearts and the crossover characters there. I instantly fell for the character of Leon aka Squall, and to this day he's still my favorite Final Fantasy character (tied with Rikku). From the start, it really was the characters that drew me into their worlds, while the fun of the games and the convoluted plots kept me coming back. Even before Kingdom Hearts, Final Fantasy was a part of my life before I'd ever started playing video games. Cloud, Tifa and VII were and are still famously held up as what is arguably the best RPG ever made, and visiting unrelated message boards when people were still obsessed with X – loving it and making fun of it. But what it comes down to, no matter if your favorite game is I, VII, X or XIII, is that Final Fantasy was what taught us all how to read roman numerals in the 21st century. " -- Courtney Ehrenhofler
"Final Fantasy has always been the "gateway drug" for me. It was the first RPG I ever played, way back on the NES, but of course back then I had no clue how to play the game at all. I was dazzled by the character designs, the monsters, the music - it was a thrilling treat for a four year old who went around fighting things for hours upon hours to no end.
Final Fantasy though always stuck with me. Playing through Final Fantasy VI (III in the U.S) and falling in love with the characters once more, seeing the leap in graphical quality to the original PlayStation with Final Fantasy VII, and for my money, experiencing the most emotional story at the right time in my life with Final Fantasy VIII, it is a series that deserves a lot of its positive reputation for being a trend-setter of story, design and and most importantly, characterization over the years.
Today, Final Fantasy has become a lightning rod for controversy by many, but it is important to remember the roots, the core of the franchise has remained unchanged for nearly 30 years. At its heart, Final Fantasy has always been about the journey of its characters, the battle between good and evil, the classic hero's tale taking shape at our fingertips. It may not always be the best tale told, but it is a tale worth telling, an experience worth having. Final Fantasy, for good or for ill, will always hold a special place in the game world not only for myself, but for others who grew up with the franchise, because at the end of the day it's just a damn good series to experience, regardless of the quibbles we may have with it." -- Robert Grosso
"Hello I'm Sam.
Once upon a time I loved jRPGs and of course Final Fantasy. I don't quite have that love anymore, but don't worry Final Fantasy it's not you, it's me. I just grew older and realized I no longer have the patience to put up with turn based combat, nor most Japanese/anime story telling tropes.
Thankfully Final Fantasy XV revived the series by ditching both turn based combat and stories, but that's a conversation for another time.
I still will probably pick up every Final Fantasy game that gets made, since I'm here for the long haul even if it drives me nuts. But Final Fantasy IX is one of my favorite video games of all time and I'll be damned if I stop trying new ones in an effort to recapture that experience. Plus I need something to do between my campaign of trying to get Beatrix and Freya added to Dissidia Final Fantasy.
So to end this on a popular note, I present Sam's Objective Final Fantasy Rating List. This "best to worst" list is objective. You can't argue with it. I think that's what objective means.
The correct best Final Fantasy order is: 9 -> 13 -> 15 -> 10 -> 7 -> Jumbled mess of Final Fantasy games I haven't played (5, 8) or have no strong feelings on (1, 4, 6) -> 12 -> 2
I am sure no one will argue with that list, for it is good. I'm excited for whatever Final Fantasy does next. I am hopeful I will get to see a 9 remake one day." —Samuel Guglielmo
"Final Fantasy VII was the first time I played a game unable to wait until the next bit of the story. Before, story in games for me had just been a matter of going through the motions until I got back to the game. But Final Fantasy, even though the quality of writing can certainly be argued, was always interesting. Does Final Fantasy always make sense? We all know the answer to that. It was always interesting, however. While I may have personally been disappointed in the most recent Final Fantasy entry, I still can't wait to see what's next." —Andrew Otton
The Final Word
Through thick and thin, Final Fantasy has managed to persevere. The series that started as the last hope for a company grew to enormous heights. What started as a Dungeons & Dragons-inspired RPG now encompasses any number of fantasy types. For traditional fantasy, people can look toward FFI, FFII, FFIII, FFV, FFIX and FFXII. For more sci-fantasy titles, you can play FFIV, FFVI, FFVII, FFVIII, FFX and FFXIII. If you’re looking for a more realistic, modern-style RPG, look no further than FFXV.
There’s something for everyone here, and including the countless spinoffs and sequels that only holds more true than ever. Final Fantasy has endured highs and lows, praise and criticisms, and even console and fan wars. There’s little the series hasn’t been put through, and still it stands today.
We can only hope it stays that way for many decades to come.
Happy 30th, Final Fantasy.