To kick start the Final Fantasy celebration, I figured I’d just discuss why I’m even doing it in the first place. Why is a series like Final Fantasy worth celebrating, and why has it been all over the place since 1987? What makes it’s fans rage at every little change and embrace every game like it was sent from the gods?
Different fans will name different games are their favorites. Full-on arguments can be started defending or going against almost any game in the series depending on who you ask. Why is such a series taken so seriously by so many people, and for so long? Is it really THAT great of a series, or is it just another JRPG series that didn’t want to stop?
Let me try and examine some of the most known reasons why the series is well-respected, highly rated, and generally loved by most that play it.
1) Enthralling Story
The Final Fantasy series not only continues to put forth fascinating, unique storylines, it may very well be one of the biggest contributing factors of large-scale epic stories in console games!
The early NES Final Fantasy games didn’t do too much for story, but then again, not much back then did. It wasn’t until the SNES days that the series began to stretch it’s chocobo wings and put the plot into the driver’s seat of the entire franchise. FFIV started the trend with some very character-based storyline, presenting one of the most crafted tales of it’s time. This was only amplified ten-fold with the release of FFVI, which at the time was one of the largest stories ever weaved into a console video game. A real focus on using full-on epic scenes to deliver a story that’s engaging, emotional, and full of twists and turns.
When the 3d era rolled in and the Playstation picked up the franchise, the increased emphasis on cinematic experiences only grew. With the dawn of FMV (Full Motion Video), which made it’s debut in FFVII, the series was able to truly push the boundaries of how a story was told in a video game.
When a series presents a new story and new characters during each of it’s core releases, you’d expect them to still maintain the same general story. However, the Final Fantasy series has managed to take their storylines in so many different directions, it’s sometimes hard to even see a connection or theme similarity at all. And this is not a bad thing.
With stories ranging from political deception, fantasy wars, quantum mayhem, and even the bending of reality itself, you never know what you’re truly in store for when you put in a Final Fantasy game. One thing is for certain though, it’s going to be impressive, and it’s going to stretch your imagination to it’s limit.
2) Memorable Characters
Final Fantasy is a series known for it’s character development. Even people who have never picked up a Final Fantasy probably know a few FF character names simply from their importance in the gaming community as a whole. The story relies heavily on it’s characters, and the backstories tend to be some of the most beloved parts of any great FF game.
Don’t get me wrong, Final Fantasy is known for it’s obnoxious characters just as much as it’s amazing ones. For every Vivi, there is a Quina. For every Auron, there is a Zell. And for every Cecil, there is… THIS:
Every fan has their own favorites. Every fan feels differently about key characters than others (for instance, I think Cloud was about as endearing as a punch in the kidney. Other’s think he is Jesus in polygon form.). And ultimately, that just speaks volumes to the lasting power of the characters put forth by the series.
Even the villains range from lunatic, to tragic, to even being pitiable at times. From crazed warlords to killer clowns, the Final Fantasy series gives you new, interesting people to save the world from every time. I mean, let’s face it, who wouldn’t want to travel across an epic landscape to smack the evil out of this guy:
3) Sprawling Worlds
For a game with “Fantasy” in it’s name to really work, it needs to cast you into a world far beyond the scope of traditional imagination. And the Final Fantasy universe has taken people on some wild rides. The first time you step foot into the Archylte Steppe or Zanarkand, you are brought into something you’ve never seen before.
From beautiful mountains to enormous towns, the Final Fantasy series continues to invent worlds you’d actually like to go visit. Scenery as breathtakingly gorgeous as it is breathtakingly dangerous. You never know where you’re going to go next, but you do know that it’s going to be pretty interesting when you get there. Giant trees, ornate palaces, even the MOON!
The open-world nature of (most) of the series is often cited as one of the favorite aspects of the game. So much so that people stop short of burning down Square’s headquarters when the world is more straight forward and linear. This attention to crafting a living, breathing world is what makes it so easy for people to sit back and lose themselves in the locations they visit. It’s easy to wander the map for hours looking for hidden locales or new adventures. Jump in your airship and fly off into the horizon to see if there happens to be something even more amazing on the other side of the world.
4) MOOGLES! (And other creatures of lore)
Final Fantasy is known for having quite a lot of recurring creatures in it’s lore. From vicious monsters, to enemy-crushing summons, to adorable mascots, the series ties itself together with it’s beloved creatures. From the well-known and versatile Chocobo, to the silly-yet-dangerous Cactuar, to the ever-adorable Moogle, the Final Fantasy world has more than one reason to own a plush doll with the “Final Fantasy” name on it.
From game to game, many of the recurring creatures get a makeover or out-right changed entirely. But they’re still there in spirit. The same goes for the very enemies you’re fighting, which may very well be just as loved as the cute mascots. Every time you start a new game, you can’t wait to slay your first Bomb or get every status ailment imaginable all s at once from your first Malboro (well, ok, maybe that’s kinda irritating…), or go toe-to-toe with the killer Tiamat. You cringe as the slow-but-steady Tonberry finally stabs you with it’s tiny knife, knowing full well it could off your character in one strike.
But it’s ok, because fans always have their trusty summons at hand. It’s hard to imagine the Final Fantasy series without the ability to call on Bahamut or Ifrit to wreck havoc on your foes. It’s quite empowering when you have this guy on your side:
5) Time-Eating Length
The Final Fantasy series prides itself on eating up substantial chunks of your time on this planet. They love to toss down lengthy stories, and tons of mini-games and side quests to keep you glued to your controller and caught up in the world they created.
From throwing down Gil on Chocobo races to powering up your weapons/party to face down the vicious hunts, to even going out of your way to dig up secrets about your own allies, you always have a break from the story if you need it. The first time you knock out the optional Ruby Weapon fight or win a rare card in Triple Triad. Don’t expect to put a Final Fantasy game in and be done in 10 hours. You’re in it for the long haul, and fans have no problem burning 50-100 hours per game searching for every little secret and side quest.