RANKING FINAL FANTASY PART 2

May 16th, 2020

RANKING FINAL FANTASY PT 2

 

With the recent release of one of the biggest games of 2020, Final Fantasy VII Remake, yours truly decided it was time to delve into his lifelong obsession of video games!  I humbly submit to you my ranking of the Top 20 Final Fantasy Games of All Time.  Considering there’s about 800 spinoffs and mobile games, I decided to limit the list to the main numbered titles, with a notable exception, and a handful of spinoffs I played over the years.   For the record Dirge of Cerberus: Final Fantasy VII does not exist and thus will never be mentioned again, and writing the title Mystic Quest Is far too much time spent on Mystic Quest. This week we’ll tackle the Top 10!

 

10.  FINAL FANTASY X

 

            No this wasn’t planned it just worked out that way.  From this point on, every game on this list is well worth your time and stand as some of the best games ever made.  Kicking off the Top 10 with the first Final Fantasy of the PS2 era, and boy did they kick things off with a bang.  A new hardware generation allowed Square Enix to show off, with the most impressive visuals of any game at the time of release (and holding up throughout the PS2’s life cycle).  For the first time, full voice acting would be included, giving new life to the world of Spira.  Final Fantasy’s already famed soundtracks were given full orchestration, creating some of the most moving tunes in the history of the series.  Gone was the famed Active Time Battle system, replaced with a more strategic true turn based system.  Memorable features included beloved game Blitzball, as well as the Sphere Grid leveling system.  On the negative front…that voice acting?  Some of it is….not great (cue Tidus laughing meme).  In the interest of great storytelling, the game would be the most on rails experience of any Final Fantasy to date.  Still the positives far outweigh the negatives for one of the PS2’s finest games.

 

VERDICT:  Pick up the remaster and enjoy living in Spira again.

 

9.  FINAL FANTASY V

 

            This game would not see a Western release until 6 years after its initial release because, (and this is 100% true) Japan thought Americans were too stupid to play it.  Let’s talk negatives first.  The plot and the characters.  If there’s a generic Final Fantasy trope, it probably exists in the game.  Crystals?  I think they break.  There’s probably another world.  I literally can not remember the names of most of the main party (I think one is Bartz?).  The villain is a TREE.  A very evil tree full of evilness and massive evil…..but a tree.  So why is this game so high up the list?  Because this may be the most fun Final Fantasy’s to play period.  The job system reached its peak on this release, allowing for all manner of combination of skills and abilities.  Are you the type of gamer who wants to see if you can defeat a game with all healers?  Go for it.  Do you want to find the most hilariously broken combination of skills enabling you to curb stomp every enemy in the game by level five?  Have at it.  The possibilities are enormous.  I’ve dusted this game off at least a dozen times, and can’t wait for my next go around.

 

VERDICT:  Just plain FUN.

 

8.  FINAL FANTASY IV

 

            Arguably the birth of how Final Fantasy would be recognized going forward.  The first Final Fantasy of the SNES era took all the lessons learned from the previous three games, and took advantage of the hardware to deliver a masterpiece.  The story of Cecil’s redemption set a new standard for narratives in game.  Some of the most memorable moments and characters in gaming came to life in a way it never could in the 8-bit era.  By assigning every character their own job and class, mechanics were finally able to match with storytelling.  The birth of the iconic Active Time Battle system brought a whole new level to JRPGS, and some of the most memorable songs in gaming wrap up the first absolute classic Final Fantasy game.

 

VERDICT:  The first must play Final Fantasy.

 

7.  FINAL FANTASY VII

 

            PUT THE PITCHFORKS DOWN.  How does one talk about a game so famous, with a plot twist the gaming equivalent of “I Am Your Father,” that 23 years later is suddenly a spoiler again?  Let’s see what happens.  Without question, the most iconic Final Fantasy game of all time.  Prior to this, JRPGs while popular, remained a niche product in the West.  Using the type of ad campaign reserved for Hollywood blockbusters, Square built this game up as the biggest game in history.  On the fledging Playstation, a modern classic was born.  The new technology allowed for Final Fantasy to enter the 3D age, with stunning backgrounds, the most impressive CGI cut scenes to date, and even a higher budget for the musical score.  The characters and story remain legendary to this day, demanding calls for a complete remake for the next 20 years.  So why down at seven?  Well….it hasn’t necessarily aged well.  Let’s be fair.  While the pre-rendered backgrounds were at the time stunning, the 3D models are hideous, a side effect of a first go round at 3D.    Summons such as the infamous Knights of the Round, a visual spectacle in 1997, are now a seemingly hour long unskippable waste of time.  The materia system allowed for a huge degree of flexibility, with the unfortunate side effect of rendering much of the cast meaningless.  Why switch characters when everyone in the party can basically do the same thing?  Add in some boring side games (did we really need snowboarding?), and a slow pace of play to the nitpick section.  Still, there’s a reason this game has become a touchstone in gaming history.  The characters, the story, the music, the world…they’re old friends.  One we’re happy to visit again.

 

VERDICT:  If you only play one Final Fantasy it should probably be this one, but if you’re a gamer, you probably already have.

 

6.  FINAL FANTASY XIV: A REALM REBORN

 

            Where to begin on this mammoth of a game?  Well its ranking on the list probably depends on WHEN you played it.  On initial release, the MMO was an absolute abomination of a product, and without question the worst Final Fantasy of all time.  To their credit, Square Enix fell on their sword in shame, brought in a new team, including one of the biggest Final Fantasy fans on the planet to shape the game, and rebuilt it from scratch.  The relaunched A Realm Reborn, thrown together in just over two years, would find widely be hailed for saving the franchise.  And THEN they got started.  One common question would be “how does one match the traditional Final Fantasy story in a massive online environment?”  The answer was by putting story first.  Expansion Heavensward would craft a storyline on par with any Final Fantasy, and last year’s Shadowbringers earned rave reviews as one of the finest Final Fantasy stories ever told.  I can’t comment on that yet.  Why?  Because despite playing the last three months, there’s so much content in the game I JUST STARTED IT.  Mountains of massive boss fights, dungeons, raids, and more with reference and direct tie-ins to the entire history of the franchise liter the game.  A great difficulty system, allowing nearly anyone to experience the story of everything in the game, including raids, but with forms of the same activities to challenge even the most dedicated player.  Even if you’re mostly a single player gamer, don’t skip over.

 

VERDICT:  The only MMO to completely hook me on.  A love letter to the franchise.

 

5.  FINAL FANTASY XII

 

            I probably have this game higher than most, and I acknowledge this.  I adore the Ivalice setting for Final Fantasy, and find the mad politics and scheming in the games set it in fascinating.  The plot could certainly be criticized as being basically Star Wars, and they aren’t wrong, but the characters fill the role perfectly.  Baltheir, Ashe, Basch, Vayne, and the Judges were a fascinating group of characters to see plot and scheme against each other.  Yes…Vaan was pointless.  Taking some cues from recent release Final Fantasy XI, the franchise would move away from its traditional turn based structure and embrace a more real time action oriented style of combat.  Gone were random battles, with entire maps full of fantastic creatures.  The license board allowed for complete customization of every character, and the Gambit system allowed you to control every aspect of your companions’ actions.  Recent remaster “The Zodiac Age” has gone even farther, addressing some of my biggest criticisms.  By assigning every character jobs, characters were refined into specific roles, instead of ending up feeling similar.  Voice acting and the brilliant music were decompressed in the mix, allowing them to completely flourish on new hardware.  A diamond in the rough

 

VERDICT:  IMO the most underrated Final Fantasy of all time.

 

4.  FINAL FANTASY VII REMAKE

 

            I was prepared to hate this game with every fiber of my being.  But somehow, someway they pulled it off.  Since we’re under spoiler embargo I’ll keep it as generic as I can.  Midgar?  It’s the way you always pictured it in your mind 23 years ago.  Absolutely gorgeous.  The combat system?  It’s the new gold standard for JRPG fighting systems.  A glorious combination of real time combat with tactical turn based actions.  And the animations?  Watch Tifa in action and be amazed.  The characters?  Wonderfully expanded upon.  Aerith in particular is expanded upon amazingly, truly getting to show off the warmness and cheerfulness of the character.  They SHOW you how good a person she is, instead of telling you.  Shout out to Wedge, Biggs, and especially Jessie…bit players 23 years ago, now wonderfully realized people.  The boss fights are some of the most epic in the last decade.  Is there some minor nitpicks?  Sure.  It probably could have shaved a few hours off the run time.  (REDACTED).  The biggest complaint?  I have to wait for Part 2.

 

VERDICT:  A modern masterpiece

 

3.  FINAL FANTASY TACTICS

 

            Full disclosure, I’m not much of a Strategy/Tactical RPG guy.  It’s just not a style I enjoy.  Which should tell you all you need to know about how great this game is that I have it this high on the list.  First things first, let’s talk story.  This is without question my favorite story in any Final Fantasy ever, and one of my top stories in gaming period.  I love the setting of Ivalice, and the story of Ramsa and Delita remains arguably the most mature story ever told in any Final Fantasy.  It’s a story that looks at the plot twists, scheming, betrayals, alliances and politicking of Game of Thrones and says “That’s cute.”  At times unbelievably dark, hilariously contrasting with its adorable art style.  Now on to combat.  Taking its cues from the Tactics Ogre franchise, it’s probably not the world’s most difficult strategy game ever, while still keeping you on your toes.  I’ve mentioned earlier I hate it when you can become absurdly overpowered but it’s unbelievably boring to do so.  This game?  It doesn’t have that issue.  There’s some HILLARIOUSLY broken jobs and combinations of skills, and due to the tactical nature of the system, you feel like a genius for figuring it out.  Now if only I could unleash them on that rat bastard Delita…..

 

VERDICT:  Track down a copy and play it today.

 

2.  FINAL FANTASY VI

 

            There’s a huge portion of the gaming universe that will declare this the greatest Final Fantasy of all time, and I certainly can’t argue against it.  The last game of the SNES era had everything.  A huge cast of characters, all with their own unique personalities, quirks, and benefits; almost all of them memorable (did anyone really use the Yeti?).  The plot was epic on a whole new scale, with memorable scenes left and right.  The opera.  Suplexing the train.  Any scene with Ultros.  If any Final Fantasy was begging for a multi part remake, the plot twist in the middle perfectly sets up your two games.  A villain so maniacal it answered the question “What would happen if The Joker had superpowers?” Answer: Everyone dies.  The music?  Impeccable.  Did I mention there’s an OPERA in the game?  And “Dancing Mad?” A boss theme that rivals “One Winged Angel” in its brilliance.  In combat, everyone was useful to some extent.  The 16 bit sprites were the peak of pixel art.  There’s no such thing as a perfect game.  But this one’s damn close.

 

VERDICT:  Every gamer owes it to themselves to experience this once. 

 

1.  FINAL FANTASY IX

 

            Nostalgia is a powerful thing.  When harnessed correctly, it can bring a smile to your face like few other things.  The final game of the PS1 era was nostalgia in a nutshell.  Designed as a throwback to the more fantasy elements of the early days, compared to 7 and 8’s futuristic leanings, this game was a giant love letter to the franchise.  Villains from the original Final Fantasy?  Check.  All your favorite summons?  Got em.  Characters in classic Final Fantasy roles?  Yup.  Silver haired villain with complex relationship to the hero?  That’s here.  Surprise villain that shows up in the end? Yeah that one’s a thing.  Evil tree?  That’s here too.  Pushing the hardware of the PS1 to the limits, it got every raw bit of power it could out of the graphics, making Terra a sight to behold.  An entire cast of memorable characters, from Zidane’s roguish charm, to the loyal dimwit of Steiner.  Vivi and his personal story ranks  as one of my top ten characters in gaming history.  A fun, lighthearted plot, that went to some dark places in the end.  The combat system went back to basics with every character playing an important role…just get the remaster to pick up the pace a touch.  Everything about this game just makes me smile.  It may not be the best at anything, but it’s great at everything.

 

VERDICT:  My favorite game not just of  Final Fantasy, but the entire Playstation era.