By Miles Greb
In second grade, my teacher pulled down a map and began my first geography lesson. She pointed out China, Russia, Europe, all the greatest hits. I raised my hand. "Where was The Shire?" I asked. My teacher assumed I was mocking her in some way - reasonable, I was a bit of an obnoxious kid. But it was a sincere question.
I believed Lord of the Rings was real. Yep. My father told me those books were the ancient history of Earth, and until that moment in second grade, I had no cause to doubt it. It was a shocking realization. I was living in a deep fantasy world, always looking around in the fields and wilderness near my house for clues of Middle Earth. I used to sit under the willow tree hoping its roots would move like Ol' Man Willow's. When I went camping with my father, he would let me hike alone among the giant Northern California trees. There had to be Elves there right? There were not.
I was sent to the principal. My mother was called. My illusion was rather forcefully dispelled. My father thought it was funny. The enchanted years of my young childhood were over. I know it's for the best. As a Science enthusiast and Skeptic, I understand the truth is more important than pleasant narratives. But I was just a lad, so let's give me a break.
This was before I found Star Trek, or Sagan's Cosmos - or sadly, religion. Those eventually filled my lust for discovering a deeper, more interconnected world. But this was before that. This was the in the well of my imagination. Then my teenage neighbor kid wanted to buy a skateboard and sold me his NES - his loss. The fantasy life was about to return.
This may seem a bit dramatic now, looking at Final Fantasy I and its 8bit world and bleep-bloop soundtrack. But to me, and many others young boys and girls, this was our new adventure. Not just a new adventure, but THE new adventure. Mario 3 let us explore and find secrets, sure, but we mostly ran left to right. In Final Fantasy, you walked out side of a castle, and there was a world to explore. There were games before it - Dragon Warrior - that had a similar impact and style. However, Final Fantasy had a touch more high fantasy and seriousness to it that set it apart in my imagination.
As each Final Fantasy matured emotionally and mechanically, it always stayed a step ahead of other role playing games. When the 90's was all neon and extreme sports, Final Fantasy took on the ethical journey of a Dark Knight forcing himself into isolation to repent of his crimes. Later, as many of us started to mature, it hit us again with the most dramatic and lasting death scene in video game history.
Another thing that sets it apart from other great gaming franchises is that it is defined by its reinventiveness as much as it is by its touchstones. There are shared cultures and themes to the games -Elemental Crystals, Heroes, Chocobos, Moogles, the name of items and Job Classes. But each game is a new universe, a new story, a new cast of characters. So after beating each game I would fantasize about what the next Final Fantasy would bring. I credit this with helping me become a writer today. Also, it makes it so there is no wrong game to start with.
Enough gushing though. That could become annoying rather fast. I wanted to write this to share Final Fantasy, especially since its Fifteenth chapter will be released on PS4 this September. So here is a guide I wrote about what each game in the franchise is, and how best to play it. Enjoy!
Final Fantasy I - 1987 - Famicom/NES
What's it About - The four prophesied Light Warriors have found themselves in the Kingdom of Cornelia. Each possesses an orb, devoid of light, demonstrating their unfilled potential. The Dark Lord Garland has captured the Cornelian Princess, and darkened the land with his plot for immortality. The Light Warriors must seek out magical items in their quest to fulfill their true power and restore light to the world.
Why Should I play it? - The first game in the series is of course the most simple. However, there is a charm and intrigue to it being so elemental. You get to experience what started Final Fantasy. Also, it has a fun job system where you can select whatever four job types you want for party members. This makes for fun challenges where you try to beat the game with four White Mages (The series' healer-based class) or the powerful but defenseless Black Mages.
Although its age can be felt, Final Fantasy I is a great way to start the series if your interest is high enough to be worth the struggle of an older game. This is because you will be more familiar with many of its touchstones, such as the classes, monsters, demi-gods, item names, etc.
Why shouldn't I play it? It's an old game with clunky mechanics and a somewhat cliche story. The NES version especially has a problem with targeting, and even the new version of the game (PS1, PSP, Phones) don't have too much going for them combat-wise. It's the start of what made the turn based JRPG's great, so if you know the format, this will seem rather basic.
Best Way to Play it? Unless you are a hardcore NES fan or FF fanboy, I would not recommend the NES version. The PSP version is the best, as it boasts some beautiful new artwork, faster battles, and new content. You can get the PSP version cheap, or download it from the PSN. The Phone version of the game is also serviceable.
Final Fantasy II - 1988 - Famicom
What's it About? - The plot follows Firlon, a young warrior, and his group of friends, as they try to overthrow an evil emperor who unleashes hell spawn on the planet. Their journey takes them into cyclones, ancient magical temples, and even the belly of a leviathan.
Why Should I Play It? - You want to beat every Final Fantasy game, or you are up for an odd retro JRPG. It is the first in the series to have a more centralized narrative, so if you missed that in FFI, you will find it here. Your characters are named, have personalities and goals, and the story is more central to most of your actions. Although it lacks in terms of story telling, it does have it’s memorable moments.
Why Shouldn't I Play It? - It is the black sheep of the series. Final Fantasy II tried to be creative with level progression and story telling, a noble attempt, but it comes off rather flat. The combat system rewards you for beating up your own characters so much that it becomes the main way you level up. Additionally, it implemented a keyword remembering system- a bit of dialogue would contain special words you needed to remember for later on, to relay to other characters. This was used for the plot, as well as some of its side-quests. The problem was it was distracting to the story telling. Of all the Final Fantasy games in the main series, there are two I have only beaten once. This is one of them.
Best Way To Play It? - Although it was planned to be released on the NES in North America, Final Fantasy II was exclusive to Japan for some time. Now however we have PS1, PSP, GBA, and phone versions. All of those are good options, with the GBA and onward versions featuring some new story content. I would recommend the PSP version, as it looks the best and plays a bit faster then the GBA.
Final Fantasy III - 1990 - Famicom
What's it About? - A world held together by the harmony of the four elemental crystals and their dark counterparts are thrown into disharmony. A young group of villagers are forced into solving this crisis when an earthquake destroys their home town. On this quest they learn the history of the Crystals, and of a great warlock whose former pupil is to blame for the world's disharmony. The party must restore balance by returning the Crystals to power.
Why Should I Play it? - It has tons of charm. It also still feels as essential to the series as the first game but the gameplay is more robust. You can change your character's jobs to White Mage, Black Mage, Warrior, Dragoon etc as you play. You are not stuck with the job classes you start with as in Final Fantasy I. This gives the game way more customization and intrigue - it's an awesome system that will be used in Final Fantasy for years to come. It also features some beautiful music, and just enough plot to make the journey worth it.
Why shouldn't I Play It? - Although it's an improvement in terms of story telling to the first two games, and featuring the core of a good story, the plot is not the main focus of the game. Exploring dungeons, the world map, and leveling up your jobs will be how you spend most of your time in Final Fantasy III. It is a good game, but it's nothing amazing if you are a JRPG veteran.
Best Way To Play it? - The game was never released in America on NES, and it didn't come until the 3D remake on DS. That version is still great, but it has been touched up a bit with the Steam release. The DS version was ported to PSP as well.
Final Fantasy IV - 1991 - Super Famicom/SNES
What's it About? - The leader of King Baron's army, the Dark Knight Cecil, sees his King fall into madness. Bound by duty, he follows his orders to raze a small village of mages. Cecil, with his Dragoon friend Kain, watch as the city is burnt in horror. This leads Cecil to realize his king is truly lost and he embarks on a quest to save the four Elemental Crystals from coming under command of King Baron. However, he realizes that no matter how true his intentions are, his training as a Dark Knight prevents him from overcoming this new evil. He must redeem himself to save the world.
Why should I Play it? - Up until FFIV, Dragon Quest, the founder of JRPG's, was the trailblazer of the genre. This is the game that established Final Fantasy as the new leader. It is also one of the first video games ever to tell an emotionally driven story. More than just a struggle against a corrupt king, Cecil's journey is one of personal redemption and doubt. It is a story, that while understated at times due to it being a SNES game, was revolutionary for its time, and enduring even now. The game also has a wonderful cast of characters, a few famous comedic scenes, a trip to the moon, some awesome boss battles, and a a lovely score.
Why shouldn't I Play it? - It is rather hard, perhaps the hardest of the series (optional boss fights excluded), the DS version of the game is even harder than the SNES, and punishes players with little xp and gil for their time. It's a great challenge if you love JRPG's and grinding. But be aware of that. Also, even though it's a great story, it's still told from a 1991 video game format, a genre of art that was still developing. So while the core of a fantastic narrative is surely there, it is a bit dated. But, really, it's an all-time great game.
Best Way To Play it - Of the fourteen flagship Final Fantasy games, this is the hardest one to pin down a "best version." There are two rather different but equally good versions. The first is the PSP remaster. It features sprite based gameplay, like the SNES version, but with improved graphics and some new content. It looks beautiful and if you love sprites, I would say go with that one. However, the DS remake remade the game in 3D, with audio tracks, better music, tons of new content, but it is the harder of the two for sure. Although dated, the SNES version still holds up as well. I think i slightly prefer the DS version.
Final Fantasy V - 1992 - Super Famicom
What's it About? - Meteors are falling from the heavens, and the Crystals of Light are shattering. A nomadic warrior, Bartz, finds himself caught up in an effort to save the crystals, aided by a princess, a pirate with a secret, and an old man found at a meteor crash site with amnesia. It is a much less serious game than FFIV with some real swashbuckling and high adventure. It also introduces the comical try-hard villain Gilgamesh in one of the series' most iconic scenes. FFV is also noteworthy for expanding on the Job system of Final Fantasy III. Not only can you change the jobs of all your characters, you can learn cross-job abilities, vastly increasing control over party progression - it's super fun.
Why Should I Play it? - The Job system is just so fun. A criticism of JRPGs is the barrage of random battle encounters. However, each fight in FFV gets you a little closer to a new job ability. So it makes each fight more meaningful and fun for your progression. Just like the leveling system, the game is also just a joy. It lacks the emotional and revolutionary storytelling of its predecessor, but it isn't without its revolutionary moments. It features video games' first transgender character, for example. If you are up for an adventure, but don't want to feel too many feels, this is the game for you.
Why Shouldn't I Play it? - You are not going to come away from FFV with a new perspective on life. It's just not what FFV offers. If you are not into tweaking your characters in menus, you might get bored with the Job system.
Best Way To Play it? - A clear winner here, The Game Boy Advanced version. The game was never released for SNES in North America, and we had to wait until the PS1 to play it. However, soon after, the GBA version came out with some new features, a slight upgrade on the sprite quality, and a quick save system.
Final Fantasy VI - 1994 - Super Famicom/ SNES
What's it About? - There was a great war between creatures of pure magic, called Espers, and Mankind. After much carnage, the two peoples sealed the door between their worlds. Magic has all but left the world of man. However, a mechanized empire has found a way to instill magic in its generals. The power of Magic threatens the world once more. But the emperor's chief weapon, a melancholic young girl with awesome power, is sent to examine reports of an Esper sealed in ice. The Esper reacts to her, and her enthrallment to the emperor is broken. Confused about her past, powers, and place in the world, she joins a resistance group called The Returners to pr
event the use of this dangerous and awesome power.
Why Should I Play it? - Final Fantasy VI might just be the greatest game ever made. It is the high point in the JRPG genre, and doubles down on the depth and emotion that Final Fantasy IV introduced to the Super Nintendo in the early 90's. It features a cast of characters so diverse and interesting, that it's sometimes seen as a negative, as you can only play with so many of them. It hits hard with emotional scenes dealing with belonging, suicide, and even opera. But it also has levity with reoccurring villains, like the talking purple octopus, Ultros, the ever charming "treasure hunter," Locke, and the infinitely adorable Moogles. The game blends steam punk and high fantasy into one of the most beautiful 16bit games ever made. I could go on, but this is one of the greatest works of art in the modern era. Just play it.
Why Shouldn't I Play it? - You hate 16 bit games, you hate JRPGs, and you hate art.
Best Way To Play it - The SNES and GBA versions both are great. There is a PS1 version, but it runs a bit slow. The phone version is an insult to its visual history, and I would never recommend it. The ultimate way to play FFVI is to play the GBA version with a patch that adds the superior SNES soundtrack and translation.
Final Fantasy VII - 1997 - Playstation 1
What's it About? - The Shinra Corporation controls the world via its monoploy on Mako energy, a power source that has revolutionized the world, but at the cost of the plant's health. A team of eco-terrorist, AVALANCHE, fight back, destroying Shinra Mako reactors. Employing the Ex-Shinra Soldier, Cloud Strife, they find success fighting back. However, they uncover darker forces are work. Shinra has been infusing Soldiers with Mako energy and the cells of an ancient alien, Jenova. Their greatest creation, the first class Soldier, Sephiroth, uncovers the plot, and become a vassal for Jenova. It is up to Cloud, to understand his past, gather friends, and defeat them. (It is a very complicated plot)
Why Should I Play it? - There is good reason Final Fantasy VII is the most popular Final Fantasy. I still think VI is the superior game, but every time I listen to the soundtrack or replay it, my faith is tested. There are so many moments in Final Fantasy VII that will give you goose bumps - that will send that energetic shock down your arms. It even has, inarguably, the greatest, and saddest, moment in video game history...you know the one. It was a technical marvel for its time, featuring some of the best graphics we had ever scene, fast loading times, integrated CGI cut-scenes, and high quality audio. It also blended cyberpunk with the more traditional high fantasy of the franchise beautifully. Playing this game is not something anyone should miss out on. It's like not having seen Star Wars, not reading Lord of the Rings or Demon Haunted World. You must play it.
Why Shouldn't I Play it? - The plot of the game is complex. It's one of its strengths, but it does get a little hazy after awhile. If you don't want to play a game where you have to do double takes and pay attention, you may become annoyed with FFVII's storytelling. It uses the Active Time Battle system and random battle encounters, again JRPG mainstays, but if you really can't get past those, you may not like it.
Best Way To Play it? - The PS1/PSN version still holds up and plays great. There is a PS4 version now that allows cheats like infinite HP and turning off fighting. I would suggest the PS1/PS version if it's your first time so you are not tempted to cheat. But if you have good willpower, the PS4 version does have better resolution. Some also mode the PC version, so if you are into that, it's a good pick as well.
Key Track - "One Winged Angel" - Nobuo Uematsu
Final Fantasy VIII - 1999 - PlayStation 1
What's it About - ? - A team of specialized and cultured mercenaries fight a war against other mercenaries. Then they discover an old friend is possessed by a witch from the future. Then they go to the future, then to space, then there are angel feathers all around. Also, romance abounds. The end.
Why Should I Play it? - Final Fantasy VIII wanted to instill a certain maturity to the franchise. The characters are not sprites or deformed anymore. They are represented to scale. The party now follows you along while you walk, instead of abstractly popping out of the party leader during fights. The characters don't meet each other on fantastic adventures, but all come from the same background more or less. It's all together a more realistic game. There is also lots of romance and melodrama, so if you are into that, you will have tons to love here. The cardgame mini game is also amazing, and beloved by all who play it.
Unlike some previous games, all the major characters are deeply woven into the emotionally of the story and it’s narrative. It is a more character driven story, that focuses on abstraction more then previous or latter titles.
Why Shouldn't You Play it? - It's very melodramatic. The protagonist is famous for the quote "...", as he says it over and over. They also used a "Draw' system instead of the traditional MP, and this Draw system punished players for using magic. It wasn't very fun. Final Fantasy VIII and II are the only ones i have never replayed. FFVIII does have it's supporters however, so if the ascetics or dramatic nature of the game appeal to you, you can find people gushing over it online if you want a second opinion.
Key Track - "Liberi Fatali" - Nobuo Uematsu
Final Fantasy IX - 2000 - PlayStation 1
What's it About? - Since Final Fantasy VI, the franchise went steampunk, cyberpunk, then "realistic." Final Fantasy IX was the return to the high fantasy roots that Square founded the franchise on. It's full of throwbacks to older Final Fantasy lore, Norse mythology, and charm. It tells the stories of a young thief who is caught up in a plot to kidnap a princess, only to find himself wrapped up between two warring kingdoms. Also, an ancient Myst covers the land that a mysterious mage seems to want to use for his own ends.
What Should I Play it? - This is the most charming of all the Final Fantasy games. Even if you don't enjoy all the touchstones and nods to the previous games, it's still a beautiful and vivid world. It learned from the VI-VIII era how to tell a more mature story, and from I-V how to tell a fun one. The combat and leveling system are rather standard, and it's not a major reason to play the game, but it works just fine. It also has one of the very best moments in Final Fantasy history, when the King of Dragons fights the Living Castle, Alexander.
Why Shouldn't I Play it? - Although the game is well made in all areas, the combat isn't fresh. If you have played other good JRPGs, there is not too much new here. If you demand great gameplay from a game, you won't find it here.
Best Way To Play - The PS1 version still holds up well. The Steam version however, looks and plays better. The only problem with the steam version is it has cheats, so...have willpower!
Key Track - "Rose of May" - Nobuo Uematsu
Final Fantasy X - 2001 - Playstation 2
What's it about? - The first Final Fantasy on PS2 used it's new graphical power, and ability for higher audio, to craft a beautiful and colorful game with the series first voice track. It tells the story of the sports star Tidus from a mystical utopia, who was stripped away into a world of religion and Sin. There, Tidus finds his way into protecting a summoner as she fulfills her religious duties to destroy a giant beast that personify the peoples Sin. But on their journey they uncover a conspiracy by the Religious leaders, and a connection to Tidus' aloof father.
Why should I play it? -Much like Final Fantasy VII benefited from a new graphics pallet to tell it's story, Final Fantasy X was the first major JRPG of the the sixth console generation. This helped the world's already lush art design stand out, with new color, depth, and audio. The story, especially the Shinto-inspired scenes, would not have been as striking were they on PS1. FFX also features a fantastic, and faster, battle system. It allows you to swap out party members on the fly, and summons stay in battle and fight like Poke'mon. The leveling system, called the sphere grid, is perhaps the second best in the whole series (I would give the nod to FFVII's materia system). It also boasts the most, and most rewarding, in-game content. There are tons of challenges, ultimate weapons, and annoying side-quests to do.
Why shouldn't I play it? - It is more linear then its lineage. This is the first Final Fantasy that didn't really have a world map. You are able to backtrack and look for secrets pretty easily, but if you need a world map to love a game, you may be disappointed.
Best Way to play - No Question here, the PS4 version is king. The PS3 and Steam version are also fantastic, and I would suggest any of them over the PS2 version. The key reason, other then HD graphics, is the additional content is too fun to miss.
Key Track - "To Zanarkand", Nobuo Uematsu
final Fantasy xI - PS2 - 2002
What's it about? - FFXI is the first of the series to be completely online. It deputed for PC in Japan, then on PS2 in America. However the PS2 did not support online gaming, nor did it have a HDD to store all the content needed for a MMO. So the game came in a giant white box containing a network adapter, and the HDD needed to play this truly massive game. The lore features the three kingdoms San d'Oria, Bastok, and Windurst as they must unite together to defeat the return of the Shadow Lord. The plot is far more subtle and complex then you would expect for a MMO, but its 10 years of narrative is too much to summarize here.
Why Should I play it? - There is no MMO that demands teamwork and planning as much as Final Fantasy XI. The game is nearly impossible without it, and hard as mythril with it. Leveling, taking down bosses, doing quests, all these require you to make allies and build good working parties. This lead to the game being far more social then any other MMO I have ever played. It was also a cryptic game. There were rare items that would only drop .2% of the time on mobs that spawned once a week. So for a long time, people had no idea where to get them. We also didn't know what all the stats did, where to go for quests, and there was little help. This was the wilderness of MMO's. And, although modern MMO's hold your hand more, if you can devote yourself it is one you will never forget. And you are sure to make lifelong gamer friends.
Why you should't play it? - You pretty much can't anymore. The game has changed so much after 14 years of expansions and updates that everything that gave it the cryptic wilderness feel is gone.You can play alone now- there are not too many people on anyway- and almost everything is explained. This section is depressing me to write..so just going to move on.
Best Way to play - A Time Machine.
Key Track - “The Sanctuary of Zi'Tah “ by Naoshi Mizuta
Final Fantasy XII -PS2 -2006
What's it about? - Set in the world established by spin off series Final Fantasy Tactics, XII brings us to the kingdom of Ivalice. It is a more Shakespearean and serious approach to the series, with a high attention to detail and world building. The diction is where this stands out the most, as characters in Ivalice have a distinct syntax, metaphors, and color to their dialogue. The story follows the incestuous betrayal of Kings, Princess, and Kingdoms. War abounds, with skies cluttered by airships, and the young Street urchin Vann, finds himself wrapped in a plot of magical artifacts and statecraft.
Why Should I play it? - You love political and Shakespearean dramas, cause that is the majority of what you are getting. XII also features a rich Medieval France-inspired architectural theme, amazing Airships, the main series' best dialogue, and great graphics for its era. The battle system was also revolutionary as it had a kind of programming system called gambits that gave you control over the AI in you party. It also traded random battle encounters, a JRPG mainstay, for free roaming monsters. It still feels very "Final Fantasy" with enough call backs to its roots, but it's also very fresh and creative. If you didn't like the other games in the series, but like some parts of their art and style, give this one a shot!
Why Shouldn't I play it? - The game had early conflicts in its development. There was conflict over the lofty tone and theme of the game - the before-machines complex political drama - and Square Executives wanted to introduce new relatable characters. Ironically, these are the flattest and least beloved characters in the game, and are a common criticism of it. The narration wastes time developing them - Vann and Penelo - and results in you forgetting what's going on in the rather complex political plot. The game could have held up its heavy storyline with the cast director Yasumi Matsuno intended, but it struggles with the added weight. The gambit system, where you program the AI of your party, has been called confusing by some as well. However, I have never had a problem with it, so maybe it just takes some getting used to. It also has the worst soundtrack in the series.
Best Way to play - The PS2 version still plays great, but there is a PS4 remaster is now out and the best way to play. It features better resolution, a better leveling system focusing on the traditional Job system, and with some other random new content.
Key Track - "Final Fantasy FFXII Version" - Hitoshi Sakimoto, based on music by Nobuo Uematsu
Final Fantasy XIII - PS3 - 2009
What's it about?- The Uptoia know as Cocoon, floats above great terrain of Grand Pulse. A religious order has separated the peoples of the world, and caused them to hate those marked with the symbol of the Grand Pulse. Lightning, a stoic Warrior, finds her friends and sisters marked and caught up in the struggle against the Theologians. They are forced to fight against the Gods and their followers, fleeing Cocoon.
Why Should I play it? - As is the trend, Final Fantasy XIII was the first on Sony's new Hardware and it shows, it's it's both sonically and visually stunning. It blends the aesthetics of a LED synthetic Utopia with the vast wilderness of Grand Pulse. The protagonist, while reserved, is a total bad ass. The combat system, once you get full access to it, is rather interesting and plays a bit different than the rest of the series. It also features some very touching moments, especially the storytelling of Sazh and his son. The ending cut-scene is worth the effort as well. The score is also a standout. (UPDATE: There is some talk in the comments that I hate this game. Nope! I have the plat on it, and I really enjoyed it.)
Why Shouldn't I play it? - This is the most divisive game in the franchise. Plagued by a long development time, and then nerfed in ordered to run on multiple platforms, Final Fantasy XIII never got to be the game it should have been. Release to new JRPG audiences and with a large budget, Square thought it would be best to include a 10 hour de facto training mode. You are playing the real story from the start, but you are not using the real combat system or level system until far later. XIII limits you, so you don't make mistakes or get lost. Ironically ensuring many could not get lost in the story. If you hate linear game play, the first 2/3 of this game are strictly that. The story was cut down too, and many character building plot lines are hidden in read-only in menu journals. That isn't to say it's a bad game- it isn't. But it has some major flaws.
Best Way to play - For most people it would be the PS3 version, but there is also now a PC version that has some minor improvements in visuals.
Final Fantasy XIV: Realms Reborn - 2013 - PS3/PC/PS4
What's it about? - The second in the Final Fantasy MMO sub series. It tells the story of a world torn apart by a great calamity, trying to rebuild. The three free nations of the earth are tentative allies, as they wrestle for control of the parts of the world unseized by the Garleand Empire. You are chosen by the Crystal of Light herself to restore balance. The game hits all the essential Final Fantasy notes, with tons of service to fans of the series. Beloved villains, outfits, and monsters from previous games can be seen here as well as some new ones.
Why Should I play it? - This is a more modern MMO, with an insane amount of Final Fantasy fan service. It's bursting with old villains, Easter eggs, music and call backs to the other games. It's easy, fast, and is the best looking move ever made. The game focuses on solo play more then Final Fantasy XI, and is based around auto-made parties so you won't need to worry about building relationships if you just want to get in and play. The game also updates a ton, so there is always something new.
Why Shouldn't I play it? - The game is very isolating. Although there is a copious amount of content, there isn't a lot of heart. You play by yourself most the time, and when you get parties you are partying with people across server. Those people are not likely to talk to you much, and you are not likely to play with them again. It is also too easy, and uses the post-WoW design of giving players everything they want all the time. It takes the struggle and adventure out of it.
Best Way to play - PC. There was a PS3 versions but it has been phased out. The PS4 version is still solid, but it offers no real benefits over the PC.
Key Track - "Ravana's Theme" - Masayoshi Soken
Final Fantasy XV - 2016 -PS4
What's it about? - Your Kingdom has been lost. Prince Noctis and his three close friends are on the run from the empire, as they seek a means to reclaim his throne. Travel a vibrant wilderness with your friends, as you do everything from collecting frogs to braving ancient tombs to reclaim lost kingswords and restore the prince to power.
Why Should I play it? - It is an emotional affair. The game features a brand new action based combat system, a beautiful world to look at, and summon animations so awe inspiring i felt like I was 10 years old again. All of it’s this production value though is an aside to the core of what FFXV is - a game about friendship. The relationship between Prince Noctis and his three best friends is a great success in terms of writing. Even stopping to grab some food with your friends seems important and meaningful, cause you learn to care about them.
It feels different then other Final Fantasy games, but has enough of that magic in it to feel like "home". If anything it's more like Final Fantasy I then any of the others games. You are four heroes of light, the story is cryptic, but you know what you must do - venture out warriors of light, save the day.
Also, the score by Yoko Shimomura is haunting and powerful.
Why Shouldn't I play it? - This isn't a traditional JRPG. It isn’t a carefully crafted narrative like the Godhead of Final Fantasy Sakaguchi has given us before. The game, to this date, still isn’t fully realized. They are adding on story content and patches monthly. This can be disappointing to those wanting something that fully recalled the nature of Final Fantasy's past. Or to those that wanted the game they were promised 10 years ago. I think we must get past those feelings, but if one can not, they will be disappointed.
This game is also not focused on a compelling narrative. It makes many storytelling mistakes one would not expect a Final Fantasy game to make. For all the powerful emotion that can be found in our four hero's, it's hard to care for The King, his Kingdom, your love interest, or much of the world at large. All those things seem almost incomplete.
Best Way to play - Ps4 Pro.
The non-Flagship games.
There is no core world to the Final Fantasy universe. There are cultural touchstones to the games, be they moogels, the crystals, dark lords, chocobos, airships, the job system, or even the music. However the universe of each game is it's own. Due to this fluidity the franchise was primed to spin off into other genera and side projects. The history of these games is complex, and isn't the subject of this section. This is also not an exhaustive list, but one meant to highlight some of it’s most successful ventures. I hope you will check some of these out, as a few of them are the equal of some of the best of the mainseries.
Final Fantasy Tactics - Ps1/Psp - 1997
What's it about? - We have all heard the story of the pauper who made himself a King to save the poor and needy. He overthrew the vultures in the church, and the corrupt aristocracy to give power back to the people. But have you also heard the story of prince Ramaz Beoulve. The story goes he was a heretic, but the truth is much different. Yes you may know the story of the War of the Lions and the Zodiac Braves, but do you know the truth of it?
Why Should I play it? - There are other stories of religious and political subterfuge and conspiracy that might rival Final Fantasy Tactics. Rivall, yes. But none that surpass it. It's a truly powerful and creative narrative that show the vision of its creator Yasumi Matsuno. This is a story that will leave you reexamine what you experience for a decade after finishing it..until it lure you back into a second play through.
The grid based tactics system that is the bases for the game play here has been used in other games. But Final Fantasy Tactics speed up the action, and gave it that Final Fantasy makeover to it's visuals, sound effects, and awesome attack animations. It makes it a perfect intro for new comers to the genera, but it still has the depth and intrigue to keep veterans happy. Final Fantasy Tactic's wisely leaned on the strength of Final Fantasy's Job system. You are allowed to earn skills from iconic job classes such as White Mage, Monk, or Ninja. This allows you to customize your team however you see fit. You can learn Dual Weild playing Ninja, switch your character to Theif, and now you have double the chance to land "silence" with your Mage Mashers. It adds tons or reputability to the game, while making random encounters fun cause the rewards are meaningful.
The Pixel art alone is enchanting and still the best of any Tactics game I have ever seen. The art design and it's presentation are wonderful, and this is only enhanced by the PSP re-release "War of the Lions" that added colored pencil styled cut scenes.
Personally, this is my all time favorite Final Fantasy game. The story hits all the rights notes for me, and elegantly avoids all the pitfalls of other "War of the Rose" style dramas. It's characters are human and relatable, but don't pander to our sensibilities. They fit perfectly int he world of Ivalice. In all my years of searching I have found no other game that lives up to this game. It is the crowned prince of it's genera.
Why Shouldn't I play it? - This is not a turn based JRPG. It does not have a world map to roam around. It does not have traditional towns. It's not a traditional Final Fantasy in the way it's structured. It does have the Final Fantasy trappings - strong story telling, the cultural touchstones like Chocobos and the Job system. If you are looking to play a game that is of the quintessential Final Fantasy format, this would not be the best option.
The game is also rather punishing to players new to the genera. It's true you can design dominate teams that flip the difficulty of the game upside down, but until one does - there is much danger here. If a character is fell, you have 3 turns to revive them. Failure to do so will result in them perishing from the world; a phoenix down will not bring them back. Your foes gain levels just as you do, grinding to level 30 early on will result in more stratagems for you to play with. However, your opponents will be around level 30 as well. Brute force girding will not overcome the challenges you face.
The plot also evolves a great deal of names. So, that can be a taxing. I am talking a lot of names..and they are pretty much all important. Good thing the game has an encyclopedia NPC you can summon!
Best Way to Play - PSP version "The War of the Lions." Some hardcore fans, like myself, may mention the PSP version has some slight slowdown errors on the battle animations. However, the far better translation, the new cut scenes, the multiplayer option, and the extra content are just too much to pass up. But..it's worth playing twice anyways if you want to try both versions.
Key Track - "Hero" by Hitoshi Sakimoto
Final Fantasy VII: Crisi Core - PSP - 2008
What is it about? - The unfurling of the dark plots of Sepiroth, Shinra and Jenova did not begin with the events of Final Fantasy VII. Their origin can be found here. Zake Fair, a first class SOLIDER from the small town of Gongaga, has fulfilled his dreams and made it to the most elite level of warrior. However, he finds himself entrapped in the treachery that becomes the plot of Final Fantasy VII. The heroes he looked up to, the company he works for are toying with ancient powers and even the plant to further their own powers. Zake must make his final stand against them.
Why Should I play it? - The game is pure Final Fantasy VII fan service, from an official source. You seem most of the names and faces you know from Final Fantasy VII, with a few extra super SOLDIER’s running around for some extra spice. Some of the FFVII spin offs have played up the dramtic elements of the game, and left out the lighthearted bits. This is not the case for Crisis Core. Zack is jovial and fun, like Cloud was toward the start of FFVII…when he thought he was Zack. Hu, they got this all planned out really well.
The gameplay can feel a bit clunky since it is a PSP game afterall. However once you get the hang out it, the combat system and the leveling mechanics are enough to keep you playing. Even if you are mostly here for the story and your love of FFVII
Why Shouldn't I play it? - This is another FF game that is not turn based, and for some that is a turn off right away. Also, this game has not been remastered and may never be. So playing it on a PSP in 20018 can be a chore. As mentioned above it feels like fan service. Some of the characters, such as Genesis, feel like they just don’t belong in the FFVII story. Things that were never mentioned, allude to, or really make since with our understanding of the FFVII mythos from the PS1 classic are all over this game. Some are fun, some are cringy, and some make you have to double check wikis to make sure you are understanding everything right.
Best Way to Play - PSP - This is the only version that exists. Playing it on a Vita makes it look a tad better, and the controls feel better. So I would suggest that,
Key Track- “The Price of Freedom” - by Takeharu Ishimoto.
Final Fantasy TCG - Paper - 2016
What is it about? - The Final Fantasy Trading Card game is a customization card game in in the vein of Magic the Gathering. It brings together hero’s and summons from all over the Final Fantasy universe. Hero’s such as Cloud Strife and Zidane can fight along side Kefca, Bartz, Chocobo friends, and even characters from Final Fantasy mobile games. It uses a revolutionary resource system, where each card in your hand can be discarded to pay for effects and characters. Games normally take around 30 mins, and it’s played competitively and casually world over. There are current 7 sets completed and in print.
Why Should I play it? - The game is both familiar for veteran card game players, and unique at the same time. It is designed around mechanics that have been main stains of the card game genera since the early 90’s but there is so much new here. It also features a vast resource of Final Fantasy characters. No matter what your favorite Final Fantasy game is, there are good cards for it. There is a growing competitive scene, fun casual formats where you only play cards from one Final Fantasy game, and well made starter decks if you just want to dip your toe into the whole scene.
New sets come out every three months, and new art is starting to be made just for the game. This is a real treat to Final Fantasy fans, as some of the art ranks among the best in the series history. Don’t believe me? Google the Opus 7 Bartz art. Also the game is very respectful to the series’ artistic godhead Amano, and only allows cards with his art on them to be rares or super rares. Little touches like this make the game feel very “Final Fantasy”. Any Final Fantasy fan boy or girl must give it a shot.
The card’s themselves are also made of the best card stock I have personally ever seen in a card game. The foils are amazing, and each pack contains one. Making buying boosters in this game more rewarding on the whole then in most other card games. Square has put out awesome playmats, and art sleeves too making the whole experience very enjoyable for long time fans.
Why Shouldn't I play it? - The game started out with major distribution problems. The first sold out super fast, and it was frustratingly hard to acquire. This made growing the game hard in some areas. So building a good community in your area may take a little effort, but it’s definitely doable.
The competitive scene is going threw some growing pains. The rules are not as well defined or implement as in some other card games of older legacy. However this too is improving, and events are held in major cities including national and world championships. The game is most often played as a “best of 1”, and this may irk some players.
There are no cards referring to events or locations in the game. It’s mostly build around heroes and villains fighting, with a few summons thrown in. If you are look for an extra strong dose of Final Fantasy flavor, you may find it wanting at times. However, this is not to say none can be found. For example the Cyan card (FFVI) has a special ability that takes a full torn to use. Mimicking his sworthtech ability in the game.
Best Way to Play - Your local card shop! Find a local gaming shop near you and check it out. You may already have a facebook fan group in your area, if not start one! The game is growing and it has a very supportive community.
Key Card- Shantotto