On Tuesday, Square-Enix releases Final Fantasy XV, a game that’s been in development for about 10 years, when it was originally conceived as an off-shoot story for Final Fantasy XIII. The franchise has been a fan favorite since the first release in 1987. I’ve played a good chunk of the Final Fantasy games over the years (definitely not all of them, though), so let’s take a look at some of my favorites.
My First: Final Fantasy VI
Released on the Super Nintendo as Final Fantasy III – because only two other games(one and four) had been released in America up to that point – FFVI was my first introduction to the franchise, although I was pretty late to the party with it. The game was released in 1994 and I wasn’t introduced to it until the summer of 2000, when I spent a week watching one of my friends play the game while I was on break from college. Watching the heroes hone their abilities in preparation of a showdown with Kefka drew me in immediately. I decided to pick it up not long after and I was hooked. I’ve played the game a few times now, most recently as an iOS release on my iPad. Definitely one of the best Final Fantasy games ever made.
The PlayStation Years
When I got back to college in August 2000, I went out and bought myself a PlayStation. I bought two games with it – a recent Madden NFL game and Final Fantasy VII. Released in 1997 (late to the party again!), Final Fantasy VII continues to be placed on lists of the best RPG games ever. The story follows Cloud and his band of rebels as they fight against Shinra, the corporation that controls the planet and dangerously draining resources. The main conflict, of course, came from the game’s big bad, Sephiroth. I had never seen anything like this game before. The story was so huge it came on multiple discs. One of the main heroes in the game, Aeris, was killed early on! As only a casual gamer, definitely not used to a lot of RPGs, the game blew my mind!
Even just three years after its release, when I started playing it, the legend of the game had already grown. Almost 20 years later, people are still buying the game (it’s also available on iOS and yes, I bought it and have it on my iPad). With every new iteration of the PlayStation system, fans call on developer Square-Enix to release an updated version of the game. S-E has finally relented and are planning to release a new version of the game in episodic releases planned for the (hopefully) near future.
I became a loyal Final Fantasy player after that, picking up Final Fantasy VIII not long after buying FFVII, although I never really got into the eighth edition all that much. I wouldn’t mind trying FFVIII out again, though, as it’s been about 15 years since I’ve played it.
Even though FFVII is heralded as the best of the franchise, I think my favorite game of the original PlayStation era was Final Fantasy IX. Released at the end of 2000, this was the first game in the franchise I picked up not long after its release. With a distinctly lighter tone and a much quicker story, FFIX followed the thief Zidane, Princess Garnet and the group they bring together to stop the evil Kuja from destroying Gaia.
FFIX has always had, in my opinion, some of the best character interactions, especially with knight Steiner and black mage Vivi, not to mention the weird blue made Quina. After two games that took themselves way too seriously, FFIX was a welcome change of tone. It’s been fun reliving the adventure on my iPad over the last year.
My Favorite: Final Fantasy X
The whole reason I bought a PlayStation 2 was to play Final Fantasy X when it was released in 2001. This is probably the Final Fantasy game I played the most, it was the first game in the franchise to feature voice actors, which really enhanced the game experience. No more reading text on a screen! Much like my reaction to FFVII when I first played it, FFX completely blew my mind. The main character in the game, Tidus, is transported 1,000 years in the future to help battle the evil entity called Sin. Along the way, he falls in love with the white mage Yuna and joins her as her guardian to figure out what happened to him and to help her in her quest to defeat Sin.
The graphics on the game were stunning, the music was captivating and I found the story completely engaging. The mini-game here, Blitzball, was a version of soccer that required players to build up multiple different aspects.
Final Fantasy X also incorporated multiple endings, including a bonus for players who completed 100 percent of the game. Because I suck at games, this pretty much guaranteed I would play the game A) multiple times and B) with one of those massive strategy guides to make sure I got everything.
I have purchased so many different versions of this game (PS2, PS3, PSVita and finally the most recent PS4 HD re-release) and I never regret it. It’s just an amazing game from start to finish.
Since the release Final Fantasy X-2, the FFX sequel, I haven’t been all that impressed with the Square Enix Final Fantasy releases. Final Fantasy XI and XIV were MMORPGs, which I have never gotten into, so I’ve never played them. Final Fantasy 12 (on the PS2) was underwhelming to me and the less said about Final Fantasy XIII (released on PS3 and X-Box 360), the better.
And yet, I’m still looking forward to tomorrow’s release of Final Fantasy XV, although I may wait a while before I pick it up… There are only so many hours in a day. Here’s hoping the fantasy of finally getting another good Final Fantasy game plays out…