In lieu of my usual attempts to wrest theological insights from video games, I thought that this time around I’d post a top five list of my favourite Final Fantasy titles, and use it to showcase some of my bad fan art. It’s a series I’ve been a big fan of since since my early days as a gamer, and which I’ve already written about in some past articles. There’s a good chance I wouldn’t be writing for this site today if Final Fantasy hadn’t given me a push down the rabbit hole of Japanese role playing games. And, given that this year marks its 30th anniversary, it seems particularly fitting to celebrate it with some good old fashioned list-making.
5. Final Fantasy V
Although the original Final Fantasy has been ported and remade many times over, if you were looking to experience what the big deal was all about, I’d actually point you in the direction of FFV. Both the third and fifth installments deliberately reached back to the core premise of the original: four characters go on a Dungeons & Dragons inspired adventure with four magic crystals – just pick the character classes and go. FFIII introduced the job system which allowed players to change those character classes on the fly, and FFV honed it to near perfection. The result is a game which feels to me like the definitive “classic” Final Fantasy. It may be a little light on the storytelling side of things, but it’s one of the most fun entries in the series.
4. Final Fantasy IX
For all intents and purposes, the Final Fantasy series proper ended with the ninth installment. Sure, there are still chocobos and moogles and bahamuts in the double-digit games, but the series has since spun off in a variety of different directions that barely even fall into the same genre, let alone series.
And so, FFIX is the nostalgic glance backward at what the series had been before plunging ahead into the unknown. It’s a heartfelt, melancholy journey filled with some of the series’ most memorable characters and some of the most stunning art to appear on the original Playstation. It’d be even higher on this list, were it not for the fact that it also is a very slow game, which makes replays less frequent for me.
3. Final Fantasy XV
As has been documented elsewhere here, I did not expect to like the most recent entry as much as I did. Making the game an open world action RPG seemed like a questionable choice, and its long, troubled development cycle didn’t give me much hope that it would be executed well. The use of a tie-in movie and anime OAV suggested a story that would buckle under the weight of its own complexity. Sure enough, FFXV is a hot mess, but it’s a very fun mess to play around in. Re-imagining the typical JRPG adventure as a road trip turned out to be a very inspired design choice, and the story turned out to have a refreshing “back to basics” simplicity to it that I think the series has long needed.
2. Final Fantasy VII
The game that changed everything. While I had been acquainted with the series for some time before I played FFVII, this was the one that made me into a true believer and a die hard RPG enthusiast.
1. Final Fantasy VI
Although I’ve been playing the sixth entry ever since the late 90s, it was only quite recently that its true brilliance struck me. Almost all of the elements (soundtrack excepted) have been bettered by other entries, but they’ve never quite tied together the way they do here. It may look a little quaint by today’s standards, but that SNES cartridge packed quite a punch.
Agree/disagree with my picks? Let me know.