Iíd like to take the time today to talk about a series Iíve become well-acquainted with. That series would be, Final Fantasy. Over the past 8 months Iíve completed 7, 8, 9, and 10 of the series. It was only my first playthrough of 10, the rest Iíd already spent a good amount of time with, but hadnít completed. The reason Iím sticking to these four is not because theyíre my favourite(the order for that would be 9, 12, 7, 10, 6, 4, 8) but because theyíre the ones that Iíve played recently enough to still have them in my memory.
Final Fantasy VII: arguably the most iconic of the series and the one that really resonates with most people. It was when the Final Fantasy franchise had really become a presence in the western market. An early PSone game, FF: VII took most by storm; with itís great character design, fun gameplay(rather dated by todayís standards thoughÖ) well-imagined world and terrific story made for one of the best games of all time.
I suppose FF: VII has a leg up on itís successors, because it laid out the formula that they would all subsequently follow. The main character: Cloud, the confused, distant lead man who is unsure of his past(see: Tidus, Squall, Zidane). Barret, the tough guy who is blinded by his passion and determination(See: Steiner, Wakka). Aeris, the love interest of the lead character, the healer of your party(See: Garnet/dagger, Yuna). Cait Sith, the jarjar binx of the game(see: Quina). Tifa, the hot girl with the nice tits(See: Lulu, Fran, Garnet). So, in the originality regard, FF:VII gets my props.
The combat is a bit dry if you try to go back to it, but back then it was sufficient. It was the standard melee or magic formula that most JRPGs use and didn't do much to really engage the audience. Sure, it had some interesting cinematics, but when a game is that ugly it doesn't really bring the player in.
The ever present story never ceases to entertain me. Itís hard to sustain a story for 40+ hours, and the FF: VII story did get a bit wonky at times, but all in all I was pleased. The first 25 hours of the game were enthralling, however, after that it lost me and only regained my interest near the end. This is fine though, as much as I would prefer the story be good throughout the whole game, a lacking story isnít going to make me stop something Iíve invested 25 hours into.
Itís certainly not perfect, and is dwarfed in comparison to games that release nowadays, but it holds a special place in my heart and earns itís spot as my third favourite FF of all time.
Final Fantasy VIII: I donít have much to say about numero eighto. It never sat well with me. Perhaps itís because it felt like the entire game was just a graphically smoother Final Fantasy VII. Although, this time around there were no memorable characters, and a much worse story(I donít even remember it, and Iím playing through it right now!!!). Maybe it was the, ďbringing a knife to a gun fight and still winningĒness of the game that threw me off. Or maybe it's because it felt like a combination of every other final fantasy, but a very conservative combination. It seemed afraid to go there
. I didnít even like the game, how could it be anywhere but the bottom of my list?
There was one thing about the game that I did enjoy, oddly enough. It was level grinding. The battle system didnít do much to set itself apart from the rest of the crowd, but I could sit for hours and grind. Perhaps it was the bonus damage hits given from quick time events that kept me so engaged, but I could just lose myself in endless random encounters.
Final Fantasy IX: Closing out a very memorable era for Final Fantasy, the PSone era. FF9 had a lot to live up to. Both 7 and 8 were very well received from critics and fans alike, and rightfully so. This time around Square went with a new direction, a direction I prefer. They chose a steampunk setting(seemingly futuristic world, but runs on steam). Match this incredible setting with my favourite cast of the franchise, and it makes for one helluva game.
All the characters felt real this time around. Whether or not I liked the characters, they all fit and ultimately helped the story. There is a difference between a well done character and a character you like. A character you like can be someone totally irrelevant to the plot(i.e: Tingle from the Zelda series), but a good character is someone who adds to the story, and has real substance. For example, I hated Eiko, but she was essential in FF9, she helped Garnet and Zidaneís relationship flourish, she gave Garnet confidence, she made the whole outer-continent experience seem plausible and she fit in well with the other characters. Steiner was another terrific character. In the beginning he's just a hardass, kissass servant of the Queen. He'll do anything to foil your plan and bring the Princess home. Then something special happens. Steiner sees Queen Brahne and Alexandria for what it has become, and has a moral epiphany. He then begins to rebel, and see the other side of things. He even gets the girl in the end! How could you not fall in love with Steiner?! He's so cool!
Vivi. That is all.
The combat is the same old, same old. However, the boss fights can get pretty intense, because these guys are insanely hard. You better come with two leprechauns and all the shiny pennies youíve been saving, because there arenít many better times to use them than hereÖ Okay, maybe not that hard, but theyíll definitely give you a run for your money. Theyíre also thrown in quite often, which gives the game a little more ďoomphĒ, so to speak.
Final Fantasy X: The one that made the most sense. Final Fantasy ten didnít really make sense, but it did moreso than the others. It was able to stick with the original plot throughout the entire game. Thatís not to say I was entirely satisfied with the story. One thing that really bugged me, was the lack of a main character. Was the story based on Tidus and Jecht, or Yuna and Seymour, or Tidus and Seymour, or Tidus and Auron, or Oíaka and Lulu? With no one really assuming a definite role, it was hard to be rooting for someone. Sure, I could be rooting against Seymour and Sin, but whoís to say that I donít prefer them over Tidus and Yuna, and should just stop playing so that I donít have to defeat them? Another thing is, thereís so much build up. Yes, it did have a great story, but the story didnít truly unfurl until 20 hours had elapsed. This is a very dangerous move, it could either pay off really well, or fall flat. I wasnít really invested in the characters as I previously mentioned, so it didnít do that much for me. SO, although I did enjoy the plot, it didnít work to itís fullest extent.
There is one thing that really impressed me, that both FF9 and 10 did. This was the mass destruction sequences. For example, Burmecia and the tree from FF9 and KIlika, and the crusaders battle from FF:X. To see total destruction in a matter of seconds is both shocking and entertaining. Itís the road less travelled in gaming, but itís a truly great road and these small glimpses of it is truly a spectacle.
One last thing about the story. Itís an idea I enjoyed, but it was poorly executed. This relates once again to the lack of a main character. About half way through the game, the world seemingly turns on Yuna and her guardians. The Maesters trying to prosecute Yuna, Seymour on a relentless mission to capture Yuna and destroy everything in his path, their friend, Isaaru turning on them, the Al Bhed ambushing them, etc. This creates a sense of desperation. Desperation is a very good way to go when tell a story of a hero. However, when there is no hero to root for the desperation is lost under a sea of apathy. Add to that the lack of a goal, sure everyone was against them, but it just seemed like they were running from the law. They werenít fighting for themselves, or trying to end a corrupt system, or even trying to fight the people whoíve turned on them. They just say, ďwelp, nothing to do but kill sin now, weíll deal with all these problems some other time.Ē
Final Fantasy 10 broke the barrier with itís gameplay. It finally fixed the one thing that had plagued the series prior. The ability to switch characters mid-battle made the game much more entertaining, fast-paced and better for giving out experience. Each character had itís own unique ability, which meant they could specialize in specific enemies. This added a very evident and easy layer of strategy, but still enough to change it up a bit. This made the required grinding seem less like a chore and more like a game. One of the best battle systems ever in a turn-based RPG.
The excellent battle system keeps the game respectable, despite a very disappointing story.[/size] read