Lists. Everyone has them, and everyone makes them. You rank girls & boys, movies, people to kill, condiments, whatever. Discussing the finer aspects of a film with friends, inciting nerd rage at the local gaming center/comic shop/retail store or listing why your buddy’s ex is no good for them anymore. No matter the reason it is always a great topic of conversation and one that never seems to have people agree upon wholeheartedly, but usually come to a general consensus, unless you’ve been to a PAX event and witnessed Cannon Fodder.
So today I bring to you my own list. One that is easy to work with, more-so now with the re-releases and ports. I’m giving you my ranking of the true Final Fantasy series.
Originally this was going to be a fun walk down memory lane, a look back at the “golden age of gaming”, if you will. But with the fervor that some rabid fans have and the shear rage that comes with their love for what I am calling first gen installations, we’ll look at entries 1-10 as that is all that I am familiar with. So let’s get on with it!!!
10) Final Fantasy V
Final fantasy V goes at number 10, because it is a rather painful experience. Heralded for its level of customization for the characters, you’re really left with five rather generic interchangeable people. Everyone can master all of the jobs, and no one character is better suited at one job over another. Another strike is that the premise has been done twice already, in Final Fantasy I and Final Fantasy III. Four people, descendants of the Warriors of Dawn, need to band together to find out what is going on with elemental crystals and blah blah blah time travel, earthly destruction, back from the dead, blah blah blah I’ve played this game before, twice!
The only positive that I saw in this game was the actual display of the Active Time Bar during the battles. The ATB was introduced in Final Fantasy IV, but you had no idea as to what the timer was. Plus, the antagonist is called Exdeath. Pah-lease. A tree became sentient after getting evil souls stuffed into it for centuries and takes on a human form? Boo that man.
9) Final Fantasy IX
Squaresoft gets the A+ for going green with this title. This title is the pinnacle of recycled material. The characters all look like the alter-egos of prior FF personas. The story is a mash-up of prior entries. The setting takes a step back from the technological progression seen in VI, VII, and VIII. Not to mention the baffling “PlayOnline” service. How do you charge for a print guide, only to direct people to a website for more in-depth information? Lastly, the removal of a perfectly fine Limit Break system only to be replaced with an almost useless Trance system reinforced the feeling of backtracking in the series.
After coming off the high that was Final fantasy VIII, this just felt like an insult. Characters devolved back into basic archetypes, with equipment governing statistical growth and special abilities. The music felt dull and largely forgettable. The scenery was nice and the animations were beautiful, but you would expect that from the 3rd iteration on a platform. While some praised the depth of the story, most saw right through it as a patchwork campaign of older titles. Was it homage? Possibly, but most of the references to prior RPG’s were lost on the audience. Either they were implemented poorly, or referenced the most obscure part of a game. Also, don’t give me an RPG retrospective as part of the main line in a series. That’s just bad form.