Posted by Jahanzeb Khan on Jan 31, 2013

Celebrating 25 years of Final Fantasy

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First Final Fantasy game: Final Fantasy VII

Favourite Final Fantasy game:  Final Fantasy Tactics and Final Fantasy XII

I’ve always enjoyed classic JRPGs.  My first real experience with them came in the form of Final Fantasy VII, as I’m sure so many others did.  It explored a world that was not only full of the fantastical magic, swords, dragons, and the like, but it also brought in a modern, mechanical aspect of it.  That has always struck me about the Final Fantasy series.  No matter what world (or game) you’re in, everything is wildly varied but flows together beautifully.

When I first approached Final Fantasy and JRPGs in general, my only experience was with Action and Side-scrolling games.  I was so completely blown away by the idea of more tactical combat, the ability to makes my characters stronger over time, and the beautiful world in general, I just couldn’t put it down.  Now, I’ve been a fan of the series for 15+ years.

Final Fantasy has had its ups and downs over the years.  The newest online offering (Final Fantasy XIV) comes to mind immediately as a terrible crash-and-burn, but through the years and games since Final Fantasy VII, I’ve met a huge cast of sharp, witty, colourful characters that has always stayed with me.  I’ve seen them fight through loss and depression.  I’ve saved the world and defeated the ultimate evil.  I’ve poured dozens of hours into Triple Triad.

What lies for the series in the future remains to be seen, but after 25 years there is certainly still a dedicated player base that can’t wait to get their hands on the next Final Fantasy, and I’m right there along with them.

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First Final Fantasy game: Final Fantasy VII

Favourite Final Fantasy game:  Final Fantasy XIII

Final Fantasy is one of the most iconic franchises of video game history and nearly every gamer among us has played at least one of these titles, whether it was the classic 8-bit RPGs, the more modernized versions like Final Fantasy XII and Final Fantasy XIII or even the MMOs. The video game industry is always evolving and trying to outdo their previous efforts and over the years Final Fantasy may have had a few bumps in the road, but every title has advanced the series in at least one way. Some RPGs may offer basic storylines with mundane characters, and the whole title is just packed full of tropes. The thing is many of these tropes were invented by the Final Fantasy series, and its ground-breaking story development and gameplay.

Not for the sake of being controversial, but for the sake of the changes that were made to the series, I actually find Final Fantasy XIII to be my favourite title of the franchise thanks to the large number of changes and improvements made to the game’s battle system. Sure many may scoff at the game thanks to the lead characters and the linearity of the story. However, the paradigm shift system and the intensity of the action took the fights to a completely different level.

While there are a few classic franchises which have lasted to their 25th anniversary, many of these still beat around the bush by only improving visually or adding in one or two extra gameplay elements. Unlike those franchises, Final Fantasy is constantly evolving and because of this, every time a Final Fantasy game is announced, RPG lovers everywhere rejoice in their own special way because each of our gaming lives have been touched by Final Fantasy in some subtle way and because of that, we should all hope to be celebrating the series’ 50th anniversary in 2038.

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First Final Fantasy game: Final Fantasy VII

Favourite Final Fantasy game:  Final Fantasy IV, Final Fantasy VI, and Final Fantasy IX

What does Final Fantasy mean to me? Well, that is a hard question. It’s not that the franchise isn’t great it’s just that every time I played a Final Fantasy game, I have always pulled away before the conclusion. That’s right. I have never finished a Final Fantasy…Ever. This is one of my most shaming traits, and not one I am truly proud of. You see, when I first really played a Final Fantasy game, it was with Final Fantasy VII as gamers everywhere were talking about it, and I had to see what made this game so great. I quickly fell into the story, and began to care about Cloud’s journey. Unfortunately, I was impatient. After hitting a wall (you know, that giant wall boss), I stopped playing and lost interest. This was my own fault, but the experience I had led me into other console RPGs, such as Chrono Cross and Xenosaga.

I loved RPGs far before Final Fantasy VII, as Lufia II for the SNES is still one of my favourites, as well a few others. I just took a different route. Instead of going for the obvious choices of Final Fantasy II & III, or the latter released PS2 inclusions, I chose Chrono Cross, Dragon Quest, and the Shin Megami Tensai series. Sure, I’ve played each Final Fantasy in one form or another, and even own a few. I just have never properly finished a game as I get pulled in by other RPGs to a greater extent. Lost Odyssey in my opinion is the true console RPG of this generation, as it did everything I felt Final Fantasy XIII should have done. Lightning makes for one hell of a protagonist, but without a proper world to explore, I found myself quickly shelving the title after six hours, and going back to the DS for my RPG fix – a platform that has quickly became the go to device for the genre of this generation.

Now, with that said, I will say that this year, I plan to change all of that. I think that Final Fantasy’s whole massive appeal is what truly made me look elsewhere in the past, as I have always craved finding a gem like Guardian Heroes or something more obscure to get lost in. I didn’t want to be that person who had the same stories as everyone else, and introducing the standard RPG fan to a behemoth such as Final Fantasy just didn’t seem very rewarding – as I am a gamer that enjoys obscurities. “Hey, that level in Final Fantasy IV was brilliant” just doesn’t have the same ring as “So, Golden Sun’s Final boss….” with many questions rising afterwards.

This year is Final Fantasy’s 25th anniversary, and without it, we would not have the JRPG as it and Dragon Quest are what put the heartbeat in the entire marketplace. I respect that, and to pay tribute, it’s time for me to put in those hundreds of hours, tapping into the roots of one of the greatest franchises of all time. Final Fantasy IV, VI, IX (which I put a hefty amount of time in on the PSOne), and the spinoff series for the DS and PSP await, and hopefully – I can then truly appreciate the 25 years of excellence that Square have delivered to the public. It’s time to not only hear those stories, but actually discover just why the excitement for the franchise was there to start with.

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First Final Fantasy game: Final Fantasy X

Favourite Final Fantasy game:  Final Fantasy IX

My very first final fantasy game was Final Fantasy X. I know, I know. I came in late. But I didn’t have an uncle or friends who discussed games with me. It was just me and my gal pals on my block, and we only knew about the things we discovered on our own. So when I saw final fantasy on the shelf at best buy, something about it made me think this was something special. In a way, I’m glad I had no idea what i was getting into, because it blew me away in every way. I know it was not the best Final Fantasy, but it was the first time I had been exposed to what Final Fantasy was. The over the top bosses, the character designs, I loved it all.

My favourite Final Fantasy would have to be Final Fantasy IX, and I don’t really know why. I know all the reasons other people like it, but to me it all just blends together to me just smiling to myself. Maybe it represents the perfect setting for an escape for me. Maybe the characters all spoke to me in different ways in my insecurities and my strengths. It’s one of those games where you smile as you play it and everything else melts away.

I love the Final Fantasy series because it came to me in a very awkward time in my life. I was a teenager, awkward, and on a ton of ADD medicine. I didn’t really get life but, I understood Final Fantasy. I’m not wise to a lot of the strife that many fans have about the series with where the company is going or not going. I don’t really follow it, and I am displeased with where the series has gone lately but it isn’t at the front of my mind.  I just know that when I think of Final Fantasy I think of safety and a calm place in the storm. When I want to go to that place, I play the old games that I felt that with. Nothing is ever going to change that or those games we had back then.

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  • http://twitter.com/JBowdacious Jbowdacious

    Very interesting podcast, gonna have to play FF9 again….