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The evolution of Final Fantasy summons

In Final Fantasy’s decades-long history, the franchise has always been at the cutting edge of graphics, music and storytelling in games. Integral to each game’s success is the summon system, by which players call upon a powerful supernatural ally to aid them in battle. Though characters and locations vary from game to game, many summons return regularly, forming a crucial continuity between old and new titles. To celebrate the imminent release of Final Fantasy XIII (and the return of some old favorites!), we’ve taken a look back at nine recurring summons and created these video documents of their evolution. On the final page, we close with a medley of summons who only appeared once, but wowed us with their weirdness. 

We left no stone unturned in our quest to trace the evolution of summons over the course of the franchise. From Final Fantasy III on Famicom all the way up to the stunning new HD Final Fantasy XIII on 360 and PS3, we scrounged the internet for ROMs and save states, ripped YouTube videos, and implored our co-workers to dig out dusty old PS1 memory cards and obscure Japanese emulators. We hope you’ll enjoy the results!

Note: Our goal here is to capture the evolution of summon animations, not simply show every single time a summon appears in a Final Fantasy game or spin-off. Also, we wanted to start a fanboy flame war over which Final Fantasies “count.” Have an opinion? Leave a comment below!



Ifrit

As summoned in: 3, 4 (2US), 5, 6 (3US), 7, 8, 9, 10, 3DS, 4DS

Signature attack: Hell Fire

The volcanic arch-fiend Ifrit is a Final Fantasy regular. He appears in just about every Final Fantasy game that contains summons, and is usually the first one you acquire. You’ve spent untold hours with him at your side, smiting monsters from Argus to Zanarkand. Now, you can see all Ifrit’s summon animations in one place: right here on the GamesRadar.



 



Titan

As summoned in: 3, 4 (2US), 5, 7, 9, 3DS, 4DS, 13

Signature attack: Gaia’s Wrath

Final Fantasy’s Titan predates both the NFL’s Tennessee Titans and James Cameron’s billion-dollar film Titanic. But all three of those things were referring to something much older. In Greek mythology, the Titans were ancient gods for whom the element titanium was eventually named. It’s all a rich tapestry of historical pomp and import, which culminates in the video you’re about to see. Aren’t you lucky to live in the Information Age?



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50 comments

  • Cyberninja - March 6, 2010 1:20 a.m.

    its sad that ff week is coming to a end but you guys made me want ff13 more now thank you
  • ranzatsu - March 6, 2010 1:21 a.m.

    You should've included the pics from Crisis Core. Ifrit, Bahamut and Odin look so awesome there. I liked Anima, she's awesome as Seymour's mom. And a screenshot of Carbuncle in FFXIII makes it look cute. LOLed at the Tonberries.
  • JackSkellingtonsSkin - March 6, 2010 1:57 a.m.

    When I saw 99999 overkill at the end of the weirdest summons I lolled. ReCaptcha: open econmy
  • Elfangor01 - March 6, 2010 2:20 a.m.

    You guys left out Ixion, the thunder pony from FFX
  • Moondoggie1157 - March 6, 2010 2:23 a.m.

    Yojimbo was a great summon, as were the magnus sisters... Although I never actually go to use them due to the fact that FFX would freeze whenever I summoned them... Bleghhhh... Anima was a intimidating mother fucker... Bit of a pushover though...
  • ThatsWhatSheSaid - March 6, 2010 2:36 a.m.

    I always loved ODIN, but my personal fav summon outta all of them is Leviathan in FF VIII, just looks fantastic. Plus I totally remember the Epicness that ensued the 1st time i summoned The Knights in VII. I was like WOW! the 1st time. By the 3rd or 4th time though, i was like c'monnnnnn! :)
  • Zeipher - March 6, 2010 2:44 a.m.

    Anima was a badass. I remember the first time Seymour summoned him, he made all my aeons look like bitches. However, his attack was hilarious. The "head bob". And the Bahamut from X is one hardcore motherfucker
  • fanboyhunter - March 6, 2010 2:50 a.m.

    Uhhhmmmm... bahamut and odin were in FF8 u left those pics out...
  • ventanger - March 6, 2010 3:37 a.m.

    Tonberry was one of my favorite summons in 8, second only to Doomtrain. FUCKIN DOOMTRAIN would outright cripple anything.
  • Schnipke - March 6, 2010 5:05 a.m.

    I can never get Yojimbo to use Zanmato, though I hated how you had to PAY him to fight. ReCaptcha: to cockily wtf?
  • Gahmah - March 6, 2010 5:24 a.m.

    Missing Pandemona from ff8, I smellston treachery! ho ho ho.
  • Nanook - March 6, 2010 6:08 a.m.

    I always thought that some of those "Weird One-Offs" were homages to prior games. Typhoon in VII is Mr. Chupon from VI. Doomtrain is like the ghost train in VI. And X's The Magus Sisters - we all remember fighting them inside Golbez' hideout in IV, right?
  • Dreadman75 - March 6, 2010 6:29 a.m.

    I think it's a terrible shame that some of my favorite summons from FF IX didn't make the list. Ark and Madeen were awesome dammit! I also noticed that Alexander from FF IX didn't make an appearance, granted he wasn't a summon in IX but he was still THERE. My favorite summon overall would have to Odin. He is just pure awesomeness.
  • matt588 - March 6, 2010 6:35 a.m.

    first off very sad that I have never played any of these games. that being said: winner is bahamut 1: he effing transforms 2: shoots fire lazer into enemy crotch 3: he has a reflector (just like ammy) doomtrain is great, and won't someone please help that poor fishplantman recaptcha: ivan witchery---what?
  • GamesRadarBrettElston - March 6, 2010 8:35 a.m.

    Keep in mind that these are the biggest recurring summons throughout the series. That's why Shiva, Ifrit, Bahamut etc are in here but not Quetzalcoatl, Fenrir, Pandemonia and so on aren't. The "weirdest one offs" could obviously have been twice as long with all those... weird one-offs... but we gotta draw the line somewhere.
  • pr0tostar - March 6, 2010 12:18 p.m.

    I can understand XI not being included in the article for debatable reasons, not to mention the summons don't have cinematic attacks. At least some screenshots to show how far its summons have evolved though woulda been nice though, since it contains the most recurring ones. Also, Eden should've definitely been included in the one-offs. It's probably the most unique summon in any FF. He's an entire Garden for god's sake! Great article overall, just sucks that it was left to strictly recurring/menu-selected summons.
  • Oceayo - March 6, 2010 1:52 p.m.

    A Carbuncle was also a magic jewel that grew under where a unicorn's horn is. Great article. =D
  • Skykid - March 6, 2010 4:20 p.m.

    Let me edit your bit on Norse mythology Odin was the KING of the Norse Gods, Thor was the god of thunder and war.
  • slickninja - March 6, 2010 4:56 p.m.

    Odin and Anima FTW.
  • Embolado - March 6, 2010 5:33 p.m.

    Next article should be Final Fantasy: Best cut-scenes.

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