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Final Rankasy 3: Electric Bugalee

I ran out of silly titles for this series. Whatcha gonna do, y'know?

So, to recap, I am ranking the Final Fantasy mainline games, except for side-games, 11, 14, and, for no good reason at all, 13.

Up until now, the rankings have been as such:
FF2 (11th place, 7th tier)
FF8 and FF12 (tied for 9th place, 6th tier)
FF1 (8th place, 5th tier)
FF3 and FF9 (6th place, 4th tier)

Let's see what comes next!


Tier 3, Review Score: 9.00
Final Fantasy 5 and 10
Editorial note: As noted last time, I consider Tiers 3 and 4 to be closer together than most of these tiers. That's why there is less differentiation in the review score. /editorialnote

Final Fantasy 5 (SNES), 1992

Having already talked about Final Fantasy 3, I think I'll find talking about Final Fantasy 5 a lot easier. Honestly, just re-read that whole commentary, upgrade the good parts, downgrade the bad, and boom. You have Final Fantasy 5.

You probably want more than though, eh? Alright. Let's get going!

So what's good about it?
Like FF3 before it, FF5 stands solidly on the side of gameplay vs. narrative. FF5 takes FF3's great job system and.. well.. improves it. More jobs, more interesting jobs, better switching mechanics, etc. etc. Honestly, it's a really cool system. As with FF1, there are entire websites devoted to playing this game with different classes and combinations of classes. It's still nowhere near, say, Final Fantasy Tactics (which, IMO, has the greatest variant of the jobs system), but it's one of the best progression systems in a mainline title. So there. It has that going for it.

Beyond the progression system, everything just feels right in FF5. Towns are fun to explore and filled with little secrets and treasures. Although the combat system itself is the same as in FF4, the fights are well-designed, balanced, and polished. Even with all the possible variety in terms of class combinations, the game never gets too hard or too easy. The dungeons are a good length, and the settings and places have character. You feel like you know what the developers were trying to do with each section, and they generally pulled it off. The game is largely linear, but there are a few secret things to do off the beaten path. Overall, the basic gameplay is simply all there. Anything I'd say on this topic would just be variations of this basic idea.

Also, in comparison to FF3, the story has gotten a bit of an upgrade. There are preset characters now, and, well, they actually have character! They also interact and banter in funny-yet-endearing ways, and there are even a few 'heavier' moments when it comes to the storyline. Also, spoilers, the world you're exploring changes a couple times. Like some of the other games on this list, that adds a lot of exploration to an already fun game.

So what's bad?
Well, the story and characters are better than FF3, sure. However, in comparison to its immediate predecessor (FF4) and successor (FF6), well.. FF5's story just doesn't compete. It's a -fine- story, but FF4 and FF6 are just phenomenal narrative achievements by comparison. It's sad to see that Square didn't really try with FF5. FF5's story and character development are more typical of the NES era of FF games than the SNES era.

There's not a lot more to say than this. The villain isn't interesting; there aren't any major plot twists (other than the shifts in the world, as noted above); and the "heavier moments" don't really pack much of a punch.

If you play JRPGs for the combat mechanics, progression elements, and exploration, go play FF5. Immediately. It's one of the best in the series in terms of pure gameplay. However, if the narrative is what compels you to make progress in a JRPG, FF5 might not be for you. Overall, it's a great game, and I wouldn't put it so highly on this list if I didn't recommend it. However, it's definitely holding the bac flank of the SNES-era.

Final Fantasy 10 (PS2), 2001

While people will be angry at me for listing FF8, FF9, and FF12 too low, I'm guessing I'll catch flak for listing this one too high. And, you know what? I understand. I understand all the hatred and criticism for this game. Hell, I've watched the entire (massive!) Spoony Experiment review and laughed my ass of. So much truth there....

Still, despite all its weaknesses, IMO, FF10 is a great game. It's just a great game with a lot of flaws.

Let's break tradition and discuss flaws first.
So what's bad about it?
Simply put, the GOD DAMN CHARACTERS. Don't get me wrong, there are still some good characters here. Yuna is actually relatively likeable. Auron is a silent badass. And.. umm.. okay I think that about does it. Tidus is borderline insufferable. His hair, his style, his voice, his personality, etc. etc., I dare say that I hate Tidus more than Squall. Tidus isn't the asshole Squall was, but, Christ almighty mad, just chill out for a bit. Wash those blonde highlights out of your hair and put on some proper clothes!

Sorry, I'm getting sidetracked. But, yeah, the dialogue and voice acting for these characters ranges from "meh" to "AHHHHH" and goes nowhere near "Yay!" Considering the amount of time you'll spend in this game just watching the characters banter, well, that's a big negative.

There are other issues as well. Although it doesn't suffer from the destructivitis of FF9 when it comes to towns, there still aren't a lot of towns to explore. The game makes up for this a bit by, essentially, removing the world map. As a result, lots of places feel -sorta- like a town, and the world feels bigger than usual. Still, I'm a big fan of having lots of towns to explore and learn about. I keep hoping this will become the norm again in the FF series, but, with 13 apparently jettisoning towns entirely, I guess I should keep my expectations low.

The game also suffers from Hardcore-completionitis, which is a disease most clearly contracted by Kingdom Hearts 2. It basically involves you do LOTS and LOTS of INSANE BULLSHIT in order to get anywhere near a complete game. Let me give you an example. In order to get everyone's ultimate weapons, you have to go way above and beyond the call of gaming. For Lulu's, you get to dodge lightning.

That might not seem so bad if you haven't played FF10. Let me be clear here: THIS WILL RUIN YOUR DAY IF YOU ATTEMPT IT. Basically, it's a rhythm game, only the rhythm makes no damn sense. I must've spent 3 or 4 hours just to get this one item, and that doesn't count the item you need to make the event feasible. If you don't earn the ability to avoid random encounters (which, itself, is very time consuming to earn), you also get attacked while trying to play the lightning rhythm game. Seriously, this is a gigantic exercise in frustration.

I'm sure I don't even need to remind you people of Blitzball. Although I actually enjoyed the game, you have to play this thing FOREVER in order to earn all of the rewards. Seriously, you're going to be spending almost as much time on Blitzball alone as you spend in the Golden Saucer in FF7. It's pretty ridiculous.

So yeah, the writing is ridiculous, the characters are obnoxious, and, in order to get the best items, you basically have to be a masochist.

So what's good about it?
I don't fucking care. Everything else.

The story, despite the shit characters, is actually.. well.. good. It's a variation on the classic "Evil thing wants to destroy world" trope, but it's one of the better variants on this in the series. Even while hating Tidus, I got a little emotional during parts of the end, and, God dammit, I liked some of the plot twists. It certainly helps that Yuna is still likeable, even if damn near nobody else is.

Also, the combat system just works well. I'm finding it difficult to talk about why I liked the gameplay in some FFs more than others. Some just draw you in, make you a cup of tea, and play with your balls while you're enjoying yourself. FF10, IMO, is one of these games. The combat is just smooth; the battles are balanced and make sense; you can quickly swap out characters for different tactics and strategies; and I really enjoy the summoning system in FF10. It's basically the last game in the series to have the FF4-originated Active Battle System, but it's an appropriate sendoff. It definitely makes use of the battle system.

I also like the progression system. Although I'm INSANELY JEALOUS of those who can play the International Version, what with its more open-ended progression system (I also gather that FF12's Int'l Release has a better progression system, which I'd be curious to try), I still think the original system works well. It gives you the option to take characters down the "roads less traveled," while also letting you treat the progression system as essentially a preset class system. I also thought the interface was fun and enjoyed unlocking new bonuses (DON'T JUDGE ME). I think more options would've been better, as this could've been an actual competitor to Thee Holy Jobs System otherwise, but, as is, it definitely worked well.

Also, despite all my anger above, I really enjoy a lot of the minigames and such. I had a lot of fun with Blitzball (essentially, a turn-based, RPG sports game), and I enjoyed all the new options FF10 gave you once the world opened up towards the end.

To summarize, FF10 has shit characters, some insane completionist objectives, and doesn't have as much town exploration as I'd like. However, it has a good story, solid gameplay, lots and lots of content, and a good progression system. If you haven't played it, you should give it a shot sometime.

These are both great games. FF5 is short on story, but high on gameplay. In terms of gameplay-centric SNES-era RPG's, FF5 deserves a spot near the top. However, its narrative deficiencies keep it from competing with the final three games (FF4, FF6, and FF7).
FF10 has crap characters and a few weird design choices, but the gameplay is solid and the story is good. If FF10 didn't have voice acting, it might actually be ranked higher. The annoying characters make a great game much harder to enjoy. You really need to just bite your land and deal with the obnoxious character dialogue because the rest of the game is great. Still, the top three games have great stories, great characters, and great gameplay. That's why FF10 is tied for 4th.

FFX-2 should've been good. They took a great game, got rid of its most annoying character, and added the God Damn Thee Holy Job System!!! But nooooo! Square had to up the annoying character dial to 11; replace the good story with a terrible, largely unconnected and unfeasible story; and shove shitty J-pop down our throats.
However, even worse than all of that, they took the insane Completionitis bullshit from FF10 and made it into a way of life. I got 5 hours into this game, then realized I didn't talk to a moogle in the first area. Guess what? Goodbye 100%! Goodbye good ending!

And goodbye FFX-2 because that was the last time I played that disappointing piece of crap. So much potential.. wrapped in a turd burrito.
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About killias2one of us since 10:58 PM on 06.03.2008

Favorite Games:

Mega Man series (This includes the Original Sub-Series and the X Sub-Series. I have no interest in any of the EXE/Network games, and I have little experience with Zero and ZX. Zero and ZX seem cool, but I just haven't played them that much yet.)
Zelda series
Final Fantasy series (2j, 8, and 12 are terrible though. No interest in 11 or the Crystal Chronicles Sub-Series)
Starcraft (!) (stay tuned for SC2!)
Warcraft series (Yes I played WoW for a while, but I prefer the RTS's)
Super Mario series (this includes all the Mario side-games like Kart, Tennis, Smash Bros.)
Paradox Grand Strategy Series (Europa Universalis, Hearts of Iron, Crusader Kings, VICTORIA, etc.)
Civilization series
Galactic Civilizations 2 (and expansions)
Total War series (I'm still divided on the last two though. They seemed so much more.. arcade-y than STW and MTW)
Street Fighter series (especially Street Fighter Alpha 3)
Castlevania series (but not the 3d ones.. they're all terrible)
Ninja Gaiden (The NES ones! The new ones are good too, though!)

Basically, I like strategy games, some fighting games, RPG's, and old school platformers. I like JRPG's less and less though. I play some FPS's, but I wouldn't say any of them are favorites of mine.

Other games I play often:
Devil May Cry series
Guilty Gear series
Time Crisis (I actually own TC 1, 2, 3, and Crisis Zone for the PS/PS2)
Shinobi series
God of War (Only played the first, but I'm guessing the others are sweet too)
Streets of Rage series (Where is a modern beat'em'up when you need one?)