Final Fantasy and Me
February 03, 2017

I like the Final Fantasy series. Around the year 2000 when I first stumbled upon this whole video game reviewing scene (at GameFAQs and later HonestGamers), I was barely able to define an RPG. I remember getting frustrated at playing games I thought were RPGs and people saying “Nope, that’s not an RPG”. But I was playing the role of a character in a story… most these games were more properly classed as adventure games.

In 2001 I let my anti-PlayStation bias go and bought a PSone (damn fine looking console). I picked up a copy of Final Fantasy VII, as this was the game I’d heard the most about. This was the main RPG of the PlayStation era. I remember being very impressed by the opening cinematic, of the city of Midgar, and then zooming into the blocky characters jumping off the train. I almost laughed at how absurd they looked.

Then the screen swirls and suddenly we’re in a battle mode, where the graphics have taken on yet another style. This one shows the characters and enemies in more detail, and I finally see Cloud for the first time. He’s more than a few blond spikes on a baggy purple jumpsuit.

At this time, I wasn’t familiar with turn-based combat, either. But it was pretty simple. The bar filled up, and then I pressed attack. Cloud took down the enemy soldier with one slash of his oversized sword. Then the other soldier stepped forward and raised his gun to fire… and it didn’t do too much damage to Cloud. This was weird. In the first five minutes, the game had showcased three very distinct styles of graphics…

I ended up loving the game. It took me some time. I had to learn how RPGs worked. I had to get around some of the odd translations (Attack when the tail is up! “OKAY!” …and it’ll counteract with the laser “FFFFFFUUUUUU!!!”).

The game blew my mind when we left Midgar, and I suddenly became aware that a much larger world awaited. I’d spent five hours in Midgar, dodging the Turks and infiltrating Shinra HQ and this really was just the opening act of something much bigger.

I think I finished FF7 at around 60 hours the first time. I’d gotten to know the characters a great deal. At the time, it was probably the longest I’d ever spent on a video game with a story (although a drop in the bucket compared to SimCity 2000).

I picked up FF8 next, and didn’t like it much. I came back to it much later and I did end up liking it. I just had to not use summons the entire game. It was amazing how much that improved the game.

I picked up FF9 as that had recently been released, and this quickly became my favourite of the series at the time. The presentation of the game was much more even. I liked the characters. The game had more humour and more heart. It didn’t seem as serious as the last two games.

I was aware that there were older Final Fantasy games. None had ever been released in Australia, though. I had a Super Nintendo, but the idea of finding FF4 or 6 on them was impossible. I’d need a converter and have to spend over $100 for a cartridge. I’d spent $30 each on FF7 and FF8 as they were on the platinum range, and probably about $70 for FF9. I was still in high school and I wasn’t made of money.

Luckily, the PSone versions were being released, although not in the same way as the US. Final Fantasy VI was released (with a disc containing some FMVs from the upcoming FFX). I liked VI. It was a very captivating game. FFIV and V were released together as “Final Fantasy Anthology”. I didn’t beat either game. To this day, I still haven’t managed to finish FFIV, though I’ve started it about half a dozen times across almost as many versions. I just can’t get into this game. FFV was also a little too much for me at the time, although I started replaying this late last year (put on hold when FFXV came out).

Final Fantasy Origins collected I and II soon after. This one was more than a port, it was a graphical update. FF1 was a simple enough game, and I played it and beat it. I didn’t get very far into II.

Final Fantasy X was released (months after the US release) and this became my favourite game of all time (and this hasn’t changed in the 15 years since I played it for the first time). This is a story I will still revisit from time to time. My love for this game hasn’t diminished. I’ve beaten this one more than any other Final Fantasy game.

Final Fantasy III was released on the DS at some point, but I got maybe half way through this.

I didn’t bother with Final Fantasy XI.

X-2 was embarrassing to play, but I did like the battle system and the way the job system worked. I was interested enough in Yuna’s story to play this through to completion.

XII was… okay. The first half was great, but the Moogle Gate almost killed it for me. Especially when the game had made fun of these pointless fetch quests in the opening act. I powered on through and finished the game, but never went back to it.

XIII was… bad. I’ve said all I’m going to say about this one in a review. XIII-2 was nonsensical. Lightning Returns I haven’t played, but I’ve heard it’s bad.

XIV I picked up cheap, but due to time constraints I only played it about 3 times during the 30 day trial and decided MMOs weren’t for me. I’d have to play this and nothing else to get my money’s worth. This was after the update that fixed the earlier crap version. I don’t know if this is a good game or not. I’d need to be unemployed for a few months to really get into this.

FFXV, I liked. I already reviewed that recently.

The various spin offs I like or don’t like to varying degrees. I’ll do a quick rundown of scoring.

Final Fantasy I – 7/10
Final Fantasy II – 2/10
Final Fantasy III – 6/10
Final Fantasy IV – 6/10
Final Fantasy V – 6/10
Final Fantasy VI – 10/10
Final Fantasy VII – 9/10
Final Fantasy VIII – 8/10
Final Fantasy IX – 10/10
Final Fantasy X – 10/10
Final Fantasy X-2 – 7/10
Final Fantasy XII – 6/10
Final Fantasy XIII – 3/10
Final Fantasy XIII-2 – 3/10
Final Fantasy XV – 8/10
Final Fantasy Tactics – 7/10
Final Fantasy Tactics Advance – 8/10
Final Fantasy Type-0 – 6/10
Final Fantasy Crisis Core – 8/10
Final Fantasy Dissidia – WTF/10

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Feedback
honestgamer honestgamer - February 03, 2017 (04:14 AM)
My introduction to Final Fantasy was the original one, for the NES. That was a good way to get acquainted with the series, though it made the story-heavy later installments more difficult to appreciate. Final Fantasy VI is the one that made me finally decide that I really liked the Final Fantasy series, which made Final Fantasy VII a disappointment since it felt to me like just a weaker version of the same general thing. Though I like the Final Fantasy series, I actually haven't completed as many of them as one might suppose. It's a series that requires a lot of my time, and there's not as much of that to go around these days as I would like.
hastypixels hastypixels - February 03, 2017 (06:32 AM)
I'm pretty much an SNES homeboy. I got my start on the original, Spoony Bard edition "westerners are too simple for JRPGs" version of Final Fantasy IV (II). I was hooked the instant Golbez took off with Rosa. I've been chasing the story driven games ever since. FFIV (III), FFVII (which I have yet to complete), FFIX and FFX. Lighting, apart from being attractive in that really generic lead way, failed to strike home with me.

Tactics was okay, but I've never been comfortable with the job point grinding needed to get anywhere. Advance had a better balance, but somehow it went missing. Ah well. Now Dissidia; that's not hard to understand. But then, if you think of it as a fanservice game, which it is, then all you really need to do is pick the character who's play style suits you best, then find their cheapest and easiest to pull off move.

The way the PSP renders graphics bothers me; it's inconsistent - very high detail but then blocky and low poly when you least expect it. That's easy to ignore, though. I think, given the time, inclination and money, I could get into FFXV. They seem to have gotten the point that player skill is more important than speed running ... which is an oxymoron for an RPG, wouldn't you agree?
jerec jerec - February 03, 2017 (07:16 AM)
I'm not that good at action games. I turned down the difficulty of FFXV and had no issues with it.

Regarding the PSP... there's a real shoebox effect in that game, where you're looking into a small area. It was okay with Crisis Core, but I found it suffocating for an action game like Dissidia (which made no sense to me, couldn't figure out the moves).

FF Type 0, being a port of a PSP game to the PS4 still felt really constrained. I don't know why that didn't end up going to the Vita instead, that would've made much more sense.
hastypixels hastypixels - February 03, 2017 (10:40 PM)
I got the impression that Squeenix positioned Type-0 as a return to the FF style that us westerners enjoyed so much. Lightning's forays were distinctly Japanese - lots of style, very little substance, and didn't sell well over here. I'm not sure how they could have girl-fights-dragon-with-godlike-powers wrong, but they did.

Wrong for our sensibilities, at least.

I had a guide for Dissidia, a friend who taught me the best way in. Without him I'd probably have floundered. I'm okay at fighters, and have fair reflexes, so it's more about my dedication and patience. Given the subject, I had plenty of both. It was fun, but I wouldn't do it again.

I am still impressed by how comfortable the PSP was for long sessions of play. It really was a well designed unit, and I wouldn't complain if it was the only mobile device I had for gaming.
Genj Genj - February 04, 2017 (05:02 PM)
For me VII, VI, IV, and X are my favorites in that order. VI has the best story, characters and music for me, but I just think the Materia & Limit Break systems worked a bit better than the Esper system. IV probably has a lot of nostalgia factor and it's harder to enjoy to its fullest for the first time years later mainly because it was a huge step up for the genre at the time and it became a model for JRPGs after it. X has a great story and really beautiful art direction and was the last time we got a turned-based main entry.

After that it's hard to rank them. XV is an absolutely blast but also a huge mess of ideas that aren't all executed well. XII I actually like quite a bit from a gameplay perspective but the story and characters are so dull and lifeless. VIII I have fond memories for but the Junction system is a mess. IX I wonder if I did something wrong with. I always found the game so slow paced. Slow combat speed even with the speed at max. Slow to earn AP to learn abilities. Slow story progression. Long load times and battle transitions. I've never been successfully able to stomach a 2nd playthrough.

V I did play until many years later due to the lack of a localization. It feels like a step down from IV frankly but not a bad game. The NES trilogy just isn't that good. Too grindy and II's character progression system was a terrible idea. XIII I both love and hate. I actually found the battle system really fun and loved the game's art direction and soundtrack, but it's too narrow focused. XIII is battles and walking down corridors. That's it. Never played the MMORPGs.

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