Decided I would start off my first real blog post with one of my favorite video game franchises, Final Fantasy. It’s a franchise I have followed since I was a young teenager, all the way up to my current 26-year-old self. My views on the franchise have changed drastically as I grew older, but it always held this level of fascination and sentimental value with me.
One thing to know about me is that I tend to live under a rock. Or at least, live in my own little world. I somehow missed the crazy hyped of Final Fantasy VII (shocking, I know). It wasn’t until my dad got me Final Fantasy X for my birthday, back in mid-2002, where I was finally introduced to the franchise, as well as being more properly introduced to RPGs (Pokémon aside).
As a boy who was just getting into adolescenthood, Final Fantasy X was like a game I had never seen before. Everything just felt so new to me. From commanding a whole party via turn-based combat. The exotic locations and lore of the world of Spira. The visuals of the graphics of the time. To the weird surreal storytelling and plots. The game does have problems though. A LOT of problems. Though that is something I would slowly grow to realize more and more as I got older. But back then, I was a complete fanboy.
Having hyped Final Fantasy X up so much at school, one of my friends, who wasn’t fond of the game, told me that I needed to play the “real good stuff.” By that, he meant Final Fantasy VII, VIII, and IX. Having taken FFX to heart so much back in the day, I defended the game from him to no end. But I also decided to give FF7-9 a shot, just out of curiosity of what the big deals with them were. And I admit, partly cause I was hoping to prove my friend wrong that FFX was inferior to those, lol.
I played FF7 and FF9 and I loved them both for what I felt at the time were the utmost imaginative worlds, combat systems, interesting characters, and cool plots. I played FF8 too. I don’t think I enjoyed that one quite as much as the others. But because I was a blind fanboy of the most extreme, I convinced myself that I loved FF8 about as much as any of the others. Though what I always appreciated about Final Fantasy, even to this day, regardless if an installment was good or bad, was how the franchise always attempted to be different with every installment. And I always appreciated that diversity.
Like most FF fans from the FF7-FF10 era, I too fell into the Kingdom Hearts crowd during the early 2000s. And man, I loved Kingdom Hearts about as much as Final Fantasy back in the day. Though the difference today is that I don’t look back on Kingdom Hearts all that fondly anymore as I do with Final Fantasy. The early 2000s, I played so much of Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts.
Things would slowly start to change for me, as my life approached the mid-2000s. While waiting patiently for the release of the then upcoming Final Fantasy XII, I revisited the fan favorite, Final Fantasy VI. At first, I admit, I was a little skeptical since the graphics were pixels and not 3D FMVs (yes, sadly I was one of those people back then). I loved Pokémon (and I still do), but I wasn’t sure if FF6 would hold the same merits as what I had grown accustomed to enjoying from my Final Fantasy?
FF6 not only satisfied me. It far exceeded my expectations. My whole view of the franchise had changed drastically. FF6 quickly shot up to becoming one of my favorite installments of the franchise, and it still is to this day. To put it simply, what I loved about FF6 compared to the other FFs I played, was how diverse all the characters played (which I felt was lacking in the other games). I loved all the characters and their stories, and I loved how I had to think a bit more strategically to figure out how to get past my obstacles with the characters I had with me. And I loved how a lot of FF6’s stories were told via the NPCs. It felt like I was reading a nice novel, compared to what felt like watching a typical anime with the later FF titles.
I also really loved the setting and concepts of FF6’s world, as well as it’s approach to plot. Around this time, I was starting to slowly enter adulthood. And by this point, I had been exposed to more fiction (like anime and whatnot). As a result, FF7-FF10 were starting to look a bit less creative and cool in my eyes as a result (I still have fond memories of them. And FF10 still holds a special place in my heart for being my first real RPG). Whereas FF6 strangely remained feeling strong and well crafted in my eyes. I also found myself appreciating how FF6 seemed to give the gameplay plenty of focus, over the story and cutscenes, compared to how a lot of the later installments went about it. FF6 felt to me like it knew the kind of genre media it was tackling. That being video games.
For what it’s worth, around this time, I did try dabbling a bit with Final Fantasy XI with a couple friends of mine. It sounded pretty cool to me. But it didn’t work out very well. Maybe it was the technology we were using. But it didn’t run smoothly. And quite frankly, nothing about the game was getting me engaged. We played a little bit, despite it taking forever to properly set up and to get our quests going. And after that, we just kinda decided we were done with that.
Soon after, Final Fantasy XII finally came out. I know this game tends to not be everyone’s cup of tea. I know a lot of fans who grew up with FF7-10 and Kingdom Hearts didn’t care for it. And how people didn’t like Final Fantasy ever dabbling with MMO concepts. Myself, I really enjoyed FF12 personally. In fact, much more than most of the other FF installments. Sure, it felt nothing like FF7 to FF11. But I think that’s a big part of why I enjoyed it. It reminded me more of the things I really enjoyed about from FF6.
FF12’s world of Ivalice was vast and interesting (I admit, I played Final Fantasy Tactics Advance before, which got me intrigued with Ivalice, even if the game itself wasn’t all that great). I loved all the NPCs whom I could speak to. Again, like FF6, it felt like reading a nice novel. Especially with how great the translations for FF12 were. And I adored the approach to the classic ATB battle System with FF12. By getting rid of the random encounters. It felt fresh yet familiar. And all the Hunts and Side Quests were a sweet piece of design I felt. And the cast I found to be very cool and lovable (yes, even Vaan I felt wasn’t all that bad). Does FF12 have problems? Yes, lots of problems. But it’s merits outweighed it for me enough for me to rank it up there almost as high as FF6 for me.
After FF12, came the biggest change for me. I was still fairly a blind devoted fanboy. And I was hyping up nonstop over FF13. Eventually, FF13 came out. I played it, and…. I found it terrible. Though I was quite delusional at first. Constantly trying to convince myself that the game was as great as all the other installments of the franchise. Even defending it from other people criticizing it. However, by the time I reached about half way through FF13, I conceded defeat. I came to terms that I was indeed not enjoying myself. That this was indeed not the game I wished so hard to be amazing. I eventually finished FF13, with the worst taste of disgust in my mouth.
For better or for worse, FF13 was the game which completely slapped me in the face. It was a wakeup call. The game single-handedly crushed my previous blind fanboy self (looking back, I’d say this was a good thing). FF13 was the game which nearly ruined me as a gamer. I began to think I was delusional towards how I felt about all my video games. And as a result, I forgot how to enjoy them. I would spend the early 2010s basically trying to rediscover my fire and passion for video games. It took years, but I eventually managed to rekindle it. This was a crazy time in my life as a gamer. But I’d say it’s what really helped me grow into a stronger individual, and to think more rationally and factually.
During the early 2010s, I decided as part of my attempts to rediscover my gaming passion, I revisited a lot of the older FF titles (FF1 to FF5). I enjoyed FF1. FF2, FF3, and FF5, not so much. Now FF4 on the other hand, was a game which was greatly instrumental to helping me. It reminded me a lot of what I loved about FF6, and even FF12 to an extent. And I felt it showed me the potentials of just how creative the franchise could be. It quickly became another one of my favorites.
I also played Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions for PSP. And I gotta say, this one became my #1 favorite of the franchise to this day. The battle system being so complex and multi-layered, yet fair all the same. They were amazing mechanics. And an amazing story based on the Hundred Years’ War, with such care and detail to the writing, that it amazes me that such a game like this got made at all.
I’d say the game which fully put me back on track with the franchise though, was Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn. Which to this day still surprises me. Up until then, I could never get into MMORPGs, and just came to the conclusion that they just weren’t for me. I tried FF11 and World of Warcraft. Neither worked out for me. And when the original FF14 bombed, I felt certain that this was an installment I didn’t need to pay any mind to. Especially since by then, I had a pretty low opinion towards Square (still pretty much do).
Final Fantasy XIV approached the MMO like a traditional classic Final Fantasy game. While meeting up with friends (who convinced me to finally try this out) was great, the game also had it’s own single player adventure mode, complete with a decently nice bit of storytelling/writing. The menu layout was very comfortable. I really enjoyed the Hot Bar. And I loved the Job system too. And the world of Eorzea was very interesting and beautiful to explore. It still blows my mind that an MMO of all things was what fully put me back on board to loving Final Fantasy again.
I know there’s the recently released Final Fantasy XV. But I admit, I haven’t bought it, since the game so far has failed to win me over, based on what I’ve seen and heard of it. It doesn’t sound all that great. Nor does it even look like the kind of game I would want out of my Final Fantasy (I still don’t understand the sudden shift to being an action game).
Overall, that is roughly my history with the Final Fantasy franchise! I admit, I do have a lot of problems with a lot of the franchise’s installments, and how Square goes about with the franchise. But that’s just me thinking critically and rationally. There are still plenty of things I still love in my Final Fantasy, and why it will always be an important franchise to me.
Currently, my Top 5 favorite Final Fantasy games:
- Tactics (The War of the Lions)
- XIV: A Realm Reborn
I hope to be able to talk more about these games in future posts!