An epic adventure
Today marks the 25th anniversary of the Final Fantasy franchise. It's all grown up. *Sniff* Can you believe it? 25 whole years of stylish haircuts, angsty heroes and heroines, and random battles--and what a great ride those 25 years have been. Do you feel the old sting of nostalgia creeping in? We certainly do.
We've all got fond memories of our experiences with one of the most beloved RPG franchises in gaming's history; and we all have a favorite entry in the series. So, in celebration of Final Fantasy's 25th birthday, we picked our favorite FF games of all time. Do they match up with yours? Read on to find out.
Sophia Tong - Final Fantasy X
Final Fantasy X holds a special place in my heart because I dont think Id be where I am in the video game industry without it. I loved the game for its moving music and touching story (I even played the sequel), but it was the music, To Zanarkand, that rekindled my love for playing piano. Because of this, I started getting involved with online communities to write game music reviews. This eventually led to game reviews, which then led to a job in the industry many, many years later.
Ive been a fan of the series since the first, but FFX holds some of the most emotional video game moments for me. I wept when it ended. To this day, I still cant get over how beautiful the Suteki da ne scene is and I played the estrogen-filled sequel for closure...twice! Despite what people may say about Tidus, his love and devotion to Yuna is admirable and heartbreaking, given that hes not really (SPOILERS) real.
David Houghton - Final Fantasy VI
Within context the SNES' last FF is as beautiful as any game in the series since, blending painting, photography, and just plain gorgeous pixel art to create the absolute pinnacle of 16-bit visuals. Surface aside, FFVI has the best and biggest cast in the series. With 14 permanent cast members, it's a miracle that they even all get any screen time, let alone exist as the deep, rounded, nuanced bunch they are.
And the game uses them with greater depth and complexity than most RPGs manage with a fraction of the character count. This is a huge game, packed with hidden lore, storylines, history and relationships, rafts of which won't even be hinted at unless you have the right combination of characters in the right place at the right time. It's the kind of game you can live in, and on top of that it has steampunk mechs and the best snowy mountain town in all of games. And you get to play a yeti.
Ryan Taljonick - Final Fantasy VII
Forget the haters, Final Fantasy VII rules. I love that game unconditionally. No one--no one--can convince me it's anything short of incredible. Of course, I acknowledge this might have to do with the fact that I played it at a very formative age in my gaming career. See, at the time, I was so fascinated by Cloud and his struggle of coming to terms with his failures. That arc resonated with me on a very deep level, and despite his moodiness, Cloud was exactly the hero my early-teens-self needed. Of course, I also fell in love with FFVII's story, the katana-wielding Sephiroth, and Nobuo Uematsu's masterful score (which I still listen to quite frequently).
Most importantly, FFVII launched my obsession with JRPGs. That was my favorite genre well into the mid 2000s, and once I discovered it, I began exploring games I had missed growing up. FFVII was my gateway into the likes of Chrono Trigger, FFIV and VI, as well as the other greats that came before. But yeah--FFVII is still my all-time favorite by a mile.
Henry Gilbert - Final Fantasy V
My first introduction to Final Fantasy was when I played "III" on the SNES--you dont have to tell me its really VI--and for a long time it was my favorite, with its crisp graphics, epic story, and intriguing characters. And even though those reasons are why I love most FFs, when I played Final Fantasy V after it was ported to PSOne, I came to love it despite a weak story and small cast of characters. Why? Because the Job System grabbed me and never let go.
FFV took the class system FFIII introduced in the NES era and expanded on it considerably. Each battle not only gave you more experience points, but also allowed you to master a Job skills. Those skills made every character incredibly versatile, as i could mix and match the abilities of mages, thieves, and warriors however I wanted.. This gameplay was further adapted into the almost as good FF Tactics, but Ill always prefer the simplicity and 16-bit graphics of FFV.
Justin Towell - Final Fantasy III
I've tried and tried to like Final Fantasy VII but I just never seem to get bitten by it even though I've got 20 or more hours in a couple of times. But I liked the Final Fantasy III remake on Nintendo DS. I loved the job system, the new 3D game world... it was all great until I got stuck roaming around the world map looking for a way 'down'. At least that's what the in-game dialogue suggested I should be doing. A shame, as it was the most emotionally invested I've ever been in a FF game. But it stopped me playing it. Oh well.
Lucas Sullivan - Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest
Yes, its by far the most noob-friendly Final Fantasy of them all. No, its central characters arent very complex or evocative. But I'll always be fond of Mystic Quest for being the first RPG I ever played (and beat without consulting a strategy guide, thank you very much). Put yourself in my young shoes, for a moment: If youve never been exposed to the magic of the FF series, Mystic Quest has plenty to love for the open-minded role-player. The graphics had an appealing simplicity, the monsters were incredibly varied, and the elemental environments catered perfectly to the My First RPG experience. I also prefer the games placement of stationary enemies in place of random battles, letting you plan ahead or breeze through easy areas without time-wasting encounters.
Later FFs would entrance me--Final Fantasy X especially--but Mystic Quest, regardless of the thousands of naysayers, is a worthwhile entry in the franchise. Also, it was the first game to expose to the synonym Brownie for goblins, and Benjamins grappling hook claw was freakin' rad. So there.
Hollander Cooper - Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: My Life as a King
You guys don't need to hear another person harping on how good Final Fantasy X or Final Fantasy Tactics is, so I'm going to go with a less well-known game that doesn't even remotely get the respect it deserves.
My Life as a King was a WiiWare exclusive management game where you send adventurers around the world on missions and build up a town. It sounds silly and trivial, but it's actually super fun, giving you a cool look at the other side of the quest giver/adventurer relationship. It's really fun, and it's a damn shame that it hasn't been ported to something other than WiiWare, because, seriously--WiiWare.
A (not so) Final farewell
It's hard to believe the Final Fantasy franchise has been around for 25 years already. And you know what? We're excited to see what the future has in store for the series. But we want to know: What's your favorite Final Fantasy game? Drop us a line in the comments below! Oh, and happy birthday, Final Fantasy.