Everyone Likes Lists: Final Fantasy
March 14, 2015

With Final Fantasy Type-0 HD hitting PS4 and Xbox One in a few short days, I thought now would be a relevant and topical time to list the series, because, well, why not? People like lists, right? Do we... Do we still do lists?


Oh yeah, I suppose I should mention the rules I used to narrow down this list, lest it become unmanageable:

1) With one exception, these are all "roman numeral" FF titles.

2) Direct sequels are allowed, but I only included the ones that didn't deviate too far from the norm in terms of FF gameplay.



Final Fantasy XIII is the worst. Just the worst. It gave us a beautiful world that seemed like it had a cool history, then told us not to explore it. It gave us characters that looked like they had potential to be badasses, then told us not to play as them. The battle system was extremely boring, with the main tactic being "smash autobattle until you decide to change your classes" Or, simply smash autobattle with the setup of melee, magic, healer for a lengthy but winnable fight for 95% of the battles. Going back to the world, I hate how "disjointed" it is. You're in one area, then suddenly you're playing as a different group in another, but due to the lack of world map, or even the mere lack of being able to return to most places, you have no sense of the world's geography, making you feel like you're running through a series of pretty corridors, but nothing more. By the time the game actually opens up, you have one giant field and a couple of offshoot areas... Hooray. And that's not even getting into the story, which sounds like something someone copy-pasted from fanfiction.net


Final Fantasy VIII is a game that wishes it was a lot more memorable than it really is. Before XIII hit, it was the most "sci-fi" feeling of the series, with its giant flying fortress laser castles and the like, but its absolutely retarded Junction system that requires you to either:

A) Stand around drawing magic from enemies for years
B) Sit in the menu refining magic from items for years
C) Never use a single spell because using Junctioned spells lowers your characters' stats

...means that you either spam extraordinarily long summon sequences ad nauseum or spam limit breaks. Either way, Junctioning is stupid. Plus everything falls apart after the first disc and nothing really makes sense after that point. Also, memory loss story cop-out.


Final Fantasy II is an interesting experiment that just... didn't quite work. It's interesting to note that this one was actually worked on by Akitoshi Kawazu, who is the guy in charge of the SaGa games... Square's series known for having stats and abilities that increase as you use them. Unfortunately, the game was balanced quite poorly, so any sense of accomplishment gets pretty hampered when you realize that you've been beating the crap out of your own party for 5 hours in front of the first town just to boost their HP to non-instadeath levels.


This one is better than Final Fantasy XIII, if only slightly so. The writing and plot is just as terrible as its predecessor, perhaps even worse because the writers somehow thought they could work a time travel story into the garbled mess that is XIII's world. SE still had no idea what made XIII bad in the first place though, as the world was still disjointed, connected only by a magical hub that threw you through space and time, once again failing to give the player any real sense of geography. The battle system still has you smashing auto-battle and swapping between classes, but at least this one has a cool-ish Dragon Quest V-like feature where you can recruit monsters and level them up. And at least Serah is cuter than Lightning.


I'm not going to take the time to type that out again, so from now on, this game is Final Fantasy XIII-3. FFXIII-3 is the strongest of the three FFXIIIs, but for every step forward it takes, it takes several steps backwards. First and foremost, the battle system is a VAST improvement over the past two titles. Instead of smashing auto-battle and swapping between classes, you set up 3 sets of equipment that loosely represent classes, with abilities mapped to the 4 face buttons. Each equipment set has its own ATB bar, and each ability has an ATB cost. Equipment sets that aren't active will recover ATB much faster than the one that is active, so you're encouraged to build a diverse set that can handle any situation and constantly be swapping between them. Unfortunately, for as fun as the fights are, there's zero point to actually do any fighting. You see, you don't actually get anything like "experience points" or such in this game. Instead, all stat boosts are given by completing quests. The quests can be as simple as easy fetch quests, or far more involved; one of which involves hunting a species of monster to extinction. Either way, with no progression from the actual combat, what should be fun and engaging begins to feel like a chore before too long. Also, I'm pretty sure Square Enix gave up on their story making anything resembling sense at this point, because from the very outset I had NO idea what was going on.


Quite possibly the most overrated game in the entire series, Final Fantasy VII's lowish ranking is quite possibly the main entry that's going to find my head on a stake the morning after I publish this. People act like Aeris' fate was something special: Phantasy Star 2 did it better. People act like Sephiroth was such a great villain; Kefka's not impressed by momma's boys. People act like Cloud is such a great and interesting character... Perhaps if he'd say something other than "Not interested." People act like the Materia system is the end-all of character development systems; too bad it cheapens the value of the actual characters by making you level up the Materia itself, which offers a far more potent boost, to the point you can take a useless character like Cait Sith and make him an instant god with a few colorful crystals. If you want to see a Materia system done right, look at any of the Legend of Heroes: Trails in the [insert appropriate word here] games; They made customization with colorful crystals important without cheapening the value of each individual character. At the end of the day, Final Fantasy VII is only hailed as amazing because it was the first one on the Playstation, and it had big pretty cutscenes in its TV advertisements. At least the music is nice, though?


The one that started it all isn't a bad game, even though it's pretty clunky and outdated by today's standards. There isn't really much to say about it though... Pretty much everything this game did, one of its sequels has done better, but I'd say it's still worth playing as a history lesson of sorts, to see where it all began.


When Final Fantasy XIV originally released a few years back, I actually liked what I had played of it, though felt improvements needed to be made to the server infrastructure and additional content needed to be added. Unfortunately, the overwhelming majority of the gaming playerbase disagreed with me, and FFXIV was completely reworked into....A World of Warcraft clone. I'm not really a fan of WoW and its style of making gear more important than actual skill at the game, or its extreme focus on utilizing skill rotations (i.e., using the same skills constantly in a specific order for maximum efficiency at your role), because it makes every single battle play out exactly the same way... So, A Realm Reborn doesn't quite do it for me. I will say, of all the WoW clones I've played, this one is probably the best... But it's still a WoW clone.


Gameplay-wise, this game is Final Fantasy XI except offline and with the addition of programmable AI commands called Gambits... Which is pretty awesome! Unfortunately, the game really loses steam about halfway through when it devolves into a fetchquest mania. Also, the license board is pretty retarded. If you ever get a chance, I highly suggest playing the Zodiac Job System edition of the game, where each character could be assigned a specific license board that was shaped like a zodiac sign, and corresponded to a specific Job, like Black Mage, thief, etc. It really made each character feel a lot more unique than they did in the original version, and a few other gameplay tweaks made FFXII International the definitive version to play. Unfortunately, it's a Japan exclusive, which is ironic considering it's called Final Fantasy XII International, but I digress.


Final Fantasy IV is the one that gave us the well-known ATB system that so many of the games have used since then, and as a result, it's got a pretty solid place in my heart on this list. Also, the original Japanese version is actually rather difficult, requiring players to use some pretty unique strategies to take their foes down. It's especially exciting in "Active" mode with the speed cranked all the way up (which, let's face it, is the only way to play an FF game). Also, it has Rydia, which is the best FF character ever. If you disagree, I hate you.


A charming throwback to what made the series memorable after the pretty blah taste that FFVII and FFVIII left in my mouth, Final Fantasy IX is infectiously catchy and marks a return to a 4-man battle party. Unfortunately, the battles are pretty slow, and not really in an "action" sort of sense... The transition from the map to the battle screen takes its sweet ass time to load, followed by a slow pan of the field and enemies before the actual battle begins to take place. Even with it wasting time like that, it's the finest of the Playstation-era titles by a longshot, with genuinely hilarious writing as opposed to the unintentionally hilarious writing offered by the previous two titles in the series.


As the first entry on PS2, this one, on the surface, seems to suffer from many of the same problems that plagued Final Fantasy XIII. After all, isn't this game extremely linear as well, with the world not really opening up until rather late? The answer to that is, well, yes. But Final Fantasy X does so in a way that makes the characters believably traversing from one area to the next, because the entire world is connected. Even for the places that aren't connected (such as the smaller islands dotting the world), they are clearly marked on your world map, so you know exactly where your characters are at in terms of where everything else in the world is. This makes the world seem believably vast, while Final Fantasy XIII felt far too random: "Oh, I'm in a futuristic highway. Oh, I'm on an ice lake. Oh, I'm in a forest. Oh, these guys are in a different forest." That sort of thing. Also, the turn-based battle system was a vast improvement, though switching characters into battle to leech experience points became a bit cumbersome after a while and some characters (Sorry, Khimari) ended up getting ignored because of it.


When I was in high school and I played this game for the first time, I hated it. Final Fantasy: Charlie's Angels Edition, I called it. But after having revisited it a couple of times in the past few years, I've gotta say, it's really grown on me. The fast-paced job switching mechanic layered on top of the traditional ATB battle system is great (really, Final Fantasy XIII could have just copied this instead of trying its own thing, and it'd have been 100 times better), and the story is extremely hammy and cheesy in that sort of way that simultaneously makes you embarrassed to play it, yet still want to see how much more ridiculous it will get. It doesn't take itself too seriously, and that's what I love about it. And yet even with that, there's a poignant message hidden within the game's theming that, sadly, got lost in translation from Japanese to English.


Final Fantasy V may not have the strongest narrative tying things together, but that hardly even matters. The Job system used in this title is absolutely stellar, with many of the most iconic jobs making their debut here. Each job and combination feels workable in its own way, and it's possible to find some combinations that are simply extremely awesome. When it comes to the sheer fun of fighting enemies in a Final Fantasy game, it's really hard to top Final Fantasy V.


Final Fantasy V may have had a ton of awesome jobs, but Final Fantasy VI took those jobs and gave them all personalities, and set everything in a kickass, steampunk world. Its first act is extremely brisk, keeping your party moving forward at a near-relentless pace. When shit hits the fan and the game's second, less linear act opens up, you'll be totally hooked and ready to take the fight to Kefka. Besides, who doesn't adore that laughter? That digitized HO HO HOing is instantly recognizable to me (and makes an awesome text ringtone).


This game is fantastic. What it lacks in narrative drive, it more than makes up for in its invention of the Job System that we know today, and its tough-as-nails approach to battles. Enemies in this game will kick your ass if you don't go in prepared, and sometimes the most useless-seeming Job will come in the most handy. FFIII may not be the prettiest title in the series, or have the best music, or the best story, but it's got the chops where it counts.


Long ago, I wrote a review detailing how much impact this game had on my life. I grew up with it, I lived within its richly detailed world for a long time, and it became one of the titles that I wistfully long to return to from time to time. Any time I hear one of its musical tracks, I become nostalgic in the best of ways, remembering not what pre-programmed characters were scripted to do, but epic moments that I shared with real people. Final Fantasy XI was one of those games that only come around once... The kind of game that can change a person's entire perspective of things. My time in Vana'diel may be done, but it'll always occupy a special place in my heart. It's only #2 because some recent gameplay changes they made turned the game more WoW-like, perhaps in its attempt to stay relevant in the market. Personally, I liked it how it was, and that's how I'd like to remember it.


I imported the PSP original of this title when it first came out, and I was instantly blown away. My expectations were pretty low, as this was one of the three titles announced as part of the "Fabula Nova Crystallis" compilation, along with the detestable Final Fantasy XIII and the game we all now know as Final Fantasy XV. However, I was completely flabbergasted when I saw how good the actual game was. The action-packed battle system really does it for me, as well as how each character has their own unique gameplay quirks and gimmicks that really make each one stand out and feel different from any of the others. The game is made by Hajime Tabata, the same guy in charge of Final Fantasy XV, and the same one who worked on that prequel to Final Fantasy VII called Crisis Core, also on PSP. Anyway, this game is dark. While death in many of the titles is presented in an almost mystical sort of way (like the little sparkly fireflies in FFX), death in Type-0 is a gruesome, bloody affair. War is hell, and Type-0's hellish depiction of it is an instantly sobering reminder of both the fragility and the hardiness of the human spirit. I highly recommend that everyone with an Xbox One or PS4 pick this game up on the 17th. Don't get it for the Final Fantasy XV demo. Get it because Type-0 is a fantastic game in its own right, and it deserves to be lauded as such.

So, how much do you guys hate me for my thoughts? Feel free to comment with your dissent and/or agreement and/or insults!

Most recent blog posts from Kyle Stepp...

pickhut pickhut - March 15, 2015 (12:48 AM)
To this day, I still don't understand FF7's long-lasting appeal, other than it was simply a lot of people's first Final Fantasy game. I haven't played FF7 since 1999, but from what I can remember, I just couldn't 100% get behind the story, the characters, and the gameplay. Everything felt too distant for me.

I never played Final Fantasy X, but for the last 15-some years, I could never get a definitive view from people about it. Every time X gets brought up in a discussion, people either really hate the game or consider it one of the best games in the series.

Type-0 being at number one surprised me. I heard some good things about it, but I never knew it's considered a really good game. Also, going to show how far out of loop I've been with the FF series... I didn't realize Type-0 HD hasn't been released yet. Man, they were serious about updating the game for consoles.
jerec jerec - March 15, 2015 (01:39 AM)
Yeah, Final Fantasy XIII is pretty bad. It's still the one game that can actually piss me off, so it has a strange power all these years later. XIII-2 was disjointed as hell, but a slight improvement as you say. I've got Lightning Returns but I haven't been able to bring myself to start it yet.

I also agree that Final Fantasy IX was the best of the PSone era (although I am also quite fond of VII and VIII).

VI is brilliant, V I never put much time into, IV I have started and given up on more times than I can count (probably just as many times as they've remade this).

III I have on DS... kinda hard to get a handle on. II was bold but stupid. I was basic, a lot of fun.

FFX is the high point of the series for me, with an addictive battle system, a really engaging story and memorable characters, with a world that is fully fleshed out. Revisiting it in X-2 was fun - I also feel embarrassed playing it. I remember I was 19 when this came out and I popped it into my PS2... as soon as "What can I do for you?" started playing I actually lunged for the remote to turn the volume down, since I wasn't home alone >_>

XII had a great first half with some interesting direction. His replacement gave us Moogle Gate. Also it seemed to start Square's fascination with the "character development episode" segments of the story, where the character's one issue is resolved at a certain point in the game, then after that they lose what made them interesting. So much of what's bad in XIII is foreshadowed here, it's not funny.

XI I never played. XIV I picked up the disc for $5 and played it for the included 1 month, but I don't have time for this sort of game so I haven't bothered renewing.

And yeah, will probably pick up Type-0 on my PS4. I would've loved a Vita version, though. I hope it doesn't have that same claustrophobic feel that Crisis Core had due to being on a handheld - where the camera gets way too close to the characters.

So yeah, overall an okay list. I disagree with you on some points (I'd move the PS1 titles up, push the NES/SNES (with the exception of VI) down a bit, and probably leave off the online ones altogether.
joseph_valencia joseph_valencia - March 15, 2015 (03:57 AM)
FF3 is one of my favorite 8-bit RPGs.
Genj Genj - March 15, 2015 (10:31 AM)
I never played either MMO, but my list of main entries would go 7, 6, 10, 4, 12, 5, 8 or 9, 13, 3, 1, 2.

NES era: I'm not the biggest fan of this era. The original started it all but is really boring by today's standard. Very simplistic. Grindy as hell unless you play one of the remakes. The 2nd game is garbage because of the weird experience system. The third one was the most interesting because of the job system.

SNES era: IV was the first one I played. Really epic story, introduced ATB system, great scenario design, excellent soundtrack. Extremely linear though. V was a step down in narrative, but the job system was great. VI is one of the best in every regard (and probably has the best soundtrack), but I felt the Phantom Beast system stat bonuses caused a lot of annoying micro management. The end game also entails a lot of teaching your party a lot of the same spells.

PS1 era: VII is my favorite. Yes the story isn't as good as other entries in the series, but I felt the Materia system was largely a better offshoot of the Phantom Beast system from VI. The game also had great scenario design, Limit Breaks, fast combat. VIII's Junction system I felt was a good idea but really poorly executed. Without careful planning or a guide, you can completely ruin this game for yourself. I fondly remember it (especially for the art direction), but ugh. I need to replay 9. Everyone loves it but I just remember it being slow. Slow battle transitions. Slowly paced plot. Endless steal attempts at every boss fight. Slowly earning AP for abilities. I've never been able to successfully replay it. My most recent attempt last year ended after The Great Hunt (or whatever it's called).

PS2 era: I love X. The combat is a bit simplistic, but it has by far my favorite story. Definitely the most somber FF and has the best ending as a result. The graphics and music are great. Really cool art direction too. Then they followed the most depressing FF with a really bubbly sequel. X-2 had some good gameplay improvements, but an awful, awful story. XII I loved the combat, game world, rather Western art direction & expansive environments a lot, but the characters are a bit too lifeless. I hope they do an HD remaster someday.

PS3 era: A whole generation of Lightning! FF13 is a hot mess but I kinda liked it. I enjoyed the battle system somewhat. Aesthetically the game is beautiful. The game world is actually really cool. It's just too linear and doesn't offer much challenge for the first 10 hours. 13-2 tried to make improvements, and it does, but I felt the game was exceedingly easy and made the battle system really dull. Lightning Returns has the best combat of the three, but it feels like a giant hodgepodge of old assets thrown in a blender to make a new product. I hated the time restrictions because it forced you to try to rush through the game and ruined the exploration aspects.
honestgamer honestgamer - March 15, 2015 (01:30 PM)
The further a Final Fantasy game gets from being a carbon copy of Final Fantasy VI, the less I tend to like it. Big surprise here: my favorite Final Fantasy game is Final Fantasy VI.
Suskie Suskie - March 15, 2015 (04:34 PM)
I remember you telling me ages ago that Type-0 is amazing, but I unfortunately never owned a PSP, so here we are. I'll definitely be playing the HD remake, though I don't know how soon that'll be since the major double whammy of Bloodborne and Pillars of Eternity hit next week.
overdrive overdrive - March 18, 2015 (02:51 PM)
For ones I've played, which are all the non-online number titles (not counting sequels, as the only sequel I even own is X-2 and that's low on my priority list as I work through a hefty backlog.

VI -- when I think of my favorite, this one tends to lead in that race most of the time.

V -- I LOVE the job system. In that aspect, this is the best, but aesthetically, it lags behind VI.

III -- best of the NES three. Sort of a trial run at V's job system. Boss fights were awesome here, as they tended to be "who can deal a ton of damage first?" slugfests.

VII -- hardest to rank this. I loved it when it came out. But the jagged polygons and stuff makes me think it wouldn't have aged well if I played it again.

IV -- Hmm, I guess the SNES era was a strong one for the series, as I liked all three.

X -- I think this game is somewhat overrated, but it's still easily the best of the more modern titles.

And now, we have a decent-sized dropoff.

XII -- As a "run around and hunt rare monsters and marks" expedition, this was really fun. As a FF game, it possessed a dull plot and a few very repetitive locales, which made the hunting part even better by comparison.

IX -- It has its charm, but really seemed to me that they were going more for a "let's throw in a bunch of retro FF stuff to turn on old-school fans of the series" feel than actually trying to make a purely good game. Where the nostalgia is more the selling point than the actual game.

I -- It's how it all began and holds a special spot in my heart, but I'd rather not play it ever again. Just slow and clunky nowadays.

And now, we plummet down a long, long ways.

XIII -- It's really pretty. Other than that, well, uh... It's really pretty.

VIII -- Magic junctioning was the most stupid idea they've ever had.

II -- Even stupider than their "what became SaGa" character-building system used to poor effect here. However, this game didn't have the benefit of a plot that could become halfway interesting at times, good graphics or, really, anything remotely enjoyable.

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