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Why every Final Fantasy game is the best AND worst in the series

Why it’s the best FF ever: Take the beautifully rendered graphics and cutscenes of Final Fantasy VII and VIII, but meld them with the aesthetic sensibilities and traditional fantasy story of a classic Final Fantasy game: that’s what you get with Final Fantasy IX. Gone are Nomura’s belts, zippers, and gunblades, replaced with endearing, cute character designs who boast some of the most lovable personalities and surprising development in the entire series. Every character adds a distinct aspect to battle, as well, and the four-person parties are a welcome return to tradition after the three-person groups of VII and VIII. You don’t need to worry about crazy complex systems like Materia or junctioning, either – you’ve got a nice, simple system where you can learn skills from equipment. The charming story, fun battles, and great characters are all accentuated with one of the best musical scores in the entire FF series.

Why it’s the worst FF ever: Oh hey, remember the sophisticated, mature character designs and personal dramas in Final Fantasy VII and VIII? The ones that drew a lot of people into the series and showed how games could be a storytelling medium? Yeah, uh, forget that: we’re going back to a bunch of freakish midgets saving the world. Hooray! The character designs look outlandish and goofy (Good lord, what is with their childbearing hips?), and the fusion of technology and fantasy that made the worlds of VII and VIII so cool are replaced with typical swords-and-sorcery crapola. The lack of a complex skill learning system saps the game of depth, side missions and mini-games are atrocious (Chocobo Hot and Cold is the stuff of nightmares), the cutscenes and summons are still too damn overwrought, and the final boss comes completely out of nowhere.

Personal Take: Final Fantasy IX has the misfortune of being released just as the hype for the Playstation 2 and Dreamcast reached critical mass, therefore ensuring that it would get far less attention than its two PS predecessors. It’s a game a lot of people seem very indifferent towards. You won’t find a lot of people who hate it with the same passion as, say, FFVIII, but you won’t find a lot of folks who are madly in love with it, either. It’s a solid little title with its own charms, but it’s one that, in most cases, doesn’t really provoke emotions either way.


Why it’s the best FF ever: Final Fantasy VII evolved the series for the PlayStation generation, but Final Fantasy X is the game that really took the series into the future. Gone are most of the jagged polygon models and pre-rendered CG backgrounds, replaced with lavishly animated, motion-captured characters and in-engine environments that actually look like their original concept art. It’s a gorgeously designed game with a unique look and style that still holds up today. But that’s not all – instead of reams of exposition through text, Final Fantasy X gives the characters actual voices during story scenes for the very first time. It’s here, too, that the series proves it’s not afraid to reinvent itself for a new generation: gone are archaic RPG holdovers like the world map and the aging ATB combat system. The careful, strategic combat is a refreshing change, and the character-enhancing sphere grid system is oodles of fun.

Why it’s the worst FF ever: If Final Fantasy IX was a return to tradition, Final Fantasy X is basically giving tradition the finger. Gone are series staples like overworld maps and the beloved Active Time Battle system. Forget the fast-paced combat of yore that required you to make smart decisions under pressure, archaic turn-based battles are once again the norm! Tidus is a complete doofus, and not in a good way: he’s cheerfully oblivious until the story calls for him to be the now-stereotypical emo lead. Several of his comrades are either obnoxious or unnecessary – hell, it’s pretty easy to forget Kimahri even exists. And let’s not even get into the exercise in suffering that is Blitzball.


Above: The dialogue? Don’t make me laugh. HA HA HA HA HA!

Personal Take: Square debuted on the PS2 with a bang here. It’s far from my personal favorite FF game, but FFX is beloved in the eyes of many longtime fans. It’s not hard to see why, either: it looks and sounds great, and despite releasing pretty early in the PS2’s lifespan, it still holds up well visually. I didn’t particularly care for the characters and story, or some of the outright awkward events throughout, but the existence of Final Fantasy X-2 seems to suggest I’m in the minority there.


Why it’s the best FF ever: Take every element you love about Final Fantasy – character classes, magic and skills, classic monster designs, a rich and flavor-filled setting – and now make it so that hundreds of thousands of people can all enjoy it at the same time. There is a mind-boggling of content to explore in XI, and the ability to play with others makes every adventure exciting. Numerous classes and character types – and combinations of each – allow you to truly create a unique character that represents you and your personal tastes. Meeting and playing with people online can help forge new friendships, and working together with a group to surmount some of the game’s most difficult challenges is a very satisfying experience. FFXI is constantly supported with tweaks and expansions, as well, meaning that even if things start to grow stale, there’s always something new just around the corner.

Why it’s the worst FF ever: The idea of online Final Fantasy sounded like the best thing ever on paper. Imagine playing something as awesome as Final Fantasy X with friends, enjoying the story and characters and quests together! Yeah, that didn’t happen. What you have instead is a painful grind of an MMO modeled after the days when Everquest ruled the roost. You’d best learn to like an awful interface loaded with menus all over the damn place, because you’re going to need to spend a massive amount of time grinding at your job and sub-job (and let’s hope you didn’t pick one of the crappy jobs!). Be careful not to die, either, as that will actually make you lose some of that hard-ground EXP you fought for. And if you ever decide to try and learn skills like crafting or fishing… those are literal days of your life you will never get back.

Personal Take: It’s incredibly hard to tell a strong story in an MMO, and while FFXI features a lot of the more traditional elements of Final Fantasy, the lack of memorable characters and a saga with well-defined events and climactic points is enough to turn a lot of players off. Plus, there’s the interface, which doesn’t work like any other FF game and is very off-putting… and that whole monthly fee thing. But the game maintains a devoted fanbase, and is regularly updated to this day – so there are still plenty of people out there enjoying it.

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130 comments

  • thelegendaryX - March 13, 2014 6:54 a.m.

    Hey man, I LIKED the chocobo side quest and mini-game in FF9! I wish they would've kept the card game from 8, though. Other than that, it was a pretty good read. My personal faves are FF6, 7, 8, 9, and 12. Least favorites are FF10 and 13, due to the linearity (in one more than just one aspect of the gameplay) and annoying characters.
  • yacine-abdelwahed - July 12, 2014 8:39 p.m.

    hi i need some advices i really loved final fantasy but i finished all ( most of them ) 7 and 8 and 9 and 10 can you give me recmandation for rpgs that have similar stories to them thank you i would really appreciate it !
  • thelegendaryX - July 13, 2014 6:09 a.m.

    All I know, RPG-wise, is Final Fantasy, to be honest with you. FF12 is a great game. All the FFs have somewhat similar stories, but FF12 has no love interest (no romantic tale) between any of the main characters at all. FF6 is before they went 3D but if you don't mind old-school games, it's a great one. Story is rather good for that era in gaming, and I loved the gameplay in both (probably enjoyed the gameplay a little bit more in 12; it plays like an MMORPG but isn't online). FF13 is pretty cool, too. I'd say it's the closest to having a familiar STORY to the ones you mentioned. There is a romantic ELEMENT to some of the story (it's not a huge part of it), and the gameplay is interesting, not especially bad or good. But of course the graphics are great!
  • mari8 - November 20, 2013 10:31 p.m.

    i never played VIII so its the only one i have no opinion on, but i really feel like after IX the series lost its spunk. Before X, final fantasy was never afraid to be silly. like does anyone remember when cloud got all drag on us in VII? or FF VI's Ultros? A walking talking Octopus? why not! does he belong anywhere in the plot? does it matter? it was fun and spunky, and so it didnt matter. and thats a lost beauty of final fantasy. everything didnt have to be all that plot driven generic fantasy bullshit. there used to be some really powerful moments in the series, like for example Celes's Opera scene in VI ( possibly a reflection of her own lonliness, but whatever, it was FRESH and maybe the most creative scene in any Final Fantasy) Cloud and Tifas childhood friendship in VII or Eiko's dinner in IX and her school girl crush on monkey it seems like Square has really lost its roots with the new generation. on the other hand i do like XII a lot. its an EPIC experience, and it really scores big time with its new active dimension battle system. i mean seriously who else ever felt like breaking their consoles over yet...another....random battle encounter?? well it took Sqaure a decade to discover game technology has outgrown that, and this time they got it right. also XII graphically excels over all its predecessors but it doesnt have any of Final Fantasy's old charms. Im still looking forward to XV but i doubt it will bring back the Final Fantasy most of us grew up with.
  • roosevelto - November 18, 2013 5:25 a.m.

    Lets say another thing. One thing is compare One FF game with all the FF series (which is already an unfear match), but another thing is compare it with any other game (not FF). I read many times: "this game is the worst ever. I played it 60 hours and...". Well, my worst games ever didn't last 1 hour.
  • roosevelto - November 18, 2013 5:17 a.m.

    I played until X. To me they're all beautiful and unique in their way. But to me, when i used to play FF, that was the premise, i never questioned parts of the games, or played them with a critical view; even the glitches were beautiful and a good challenge. The only thing i could say, "this is not a FF title" were the online games. I love single player, being alone with the music.
  • Squall88 - October 9, 2012 2:57 p.m.

    My favorite will always be VIII. Some people like 6 the most and some like 9 the most. It's all opinions really because one person can hate a game and another will love it.
  • Falstad007 - July 18, 2012 12:43 a.m.

    Even after playing Final Fantasy VI through XIII, my favorite is definitely still VIII. It really took it's sweet time setting in, but once it did I found it to be the most memorable and interesting out of all the FFs that I've played. My opinion.
  • hardcorelogo - June 5, 2012 5:27 a.m.

    I stopped playing video games for 10 years simply because FFVIII was so terrible and I swore to myself at the time I would never waste 80 hours like that again. Final Fantasy games are true love/hate relationships and seem to have the ability to be really awesome and trite at the same time. Its funny, I remember games like Final Fantasy VI as clear as a bell even though I played it 20 years ago but there are games I played only two months ago that I cant remember a darn thing. Side note, I tried playing FFVII this week due to all the hype and gave up after ten hours because it has dated so badly.
  • Giltz - June 4, 2011 7:31 a.m.

    I remember watching my brothers play 7. It was the first video game I ever watched when it came out in '97, I was 6 at the time and it was so cool. I've always enjoyed the series as a whole with 7 and 6 closely behind as my favorites. I just got 13 and I didn't enjoy 12. The story was good, but the system just wasn't my cup of tea. I hope 13 is good, and hope that 7 is remade. I would buy a ps3 just for that
  • Robotron2084 - May 12, 2011 9:31 a.m.

    VII will always be my favorite gaming experience.
  • rynmls - May 10, 2011 12:17 p.m.

    nice article but I still love Final Fantasy VIII. now I'm finishing Final fantasy XIII
  • Bluefox - May 10, 2011 11:39 a.m.

    I like them all except FFXIII. If I wanted to be rewarded only after 20 hours I'd play an mmo (which I did - btw, I don't like FFXI either). I think since people has such high expectations of the FF-games, the developers are trying out new ideas when all the fans really want are more of the same (pre-FFX).
  • kluivertus - May 9, 2011 3:42 p.m.

    I haven't played all the FFs, but that said, I think XII gets a bad rap. Few of my friends (even the FF fans!) have played it, but I sunk over 120 hours into it and hadn't gotten sick of it yet (though I utterly bypassed the fishing minigames, and still need to beat the Hell Wyrm and the final hunt). It's got a unique plot, far more interesting than typical save the world crap, and I liked the bounty hunting. Also, FF X was the first one I beat, and I hated it by the end. Dialogue, side quests, mini games, all terrible. Tidus SUCKS.
  • darksongbird - May 9, 2011 3:24 p.m.

    I'm surprised that for FF9, they didnt' say one of the drawbacks was that it was TOO EASY. I beat like 2 discs in less than a week! And I doubt I was being obsessive with the game. It was just EASY!! I never actually got around to finishing the game because I lost interest, but I'm sure I could have.
  • Logan2911 - May 8, 2011 8:12 p.m.

    FFX was my first 3D FF game & my all time favorite FF game.
  • lovinmyps3 - May 8, 2011 2:57 a.m.

    Honestly I think XIII is my favorite. I really loved X though so that might explain it a little bit. XIV. LOL!
  • Relayer71 - May 8, 2011 2:46 a.m.

    But come on, lets stop kidding ourselves. The BEST FF game is Final Fantasy Tactics!
  • Relayer71 - May 8, 2011 2:44 a.m.

    Tough to pick a best game with so many great games in the series and of course as the article illustrates, with so many great yet flawed games. Still, I'd give it to Final Fantasy IV. It's got drama, challenging combat, great characters, and it moves a really nice pace unlike some of the other entries. And the DS remake is the one to play - it STILL holds up. After that I'd say Final Fantasy IX. This one is so underrated but I think it's more that it was underplayed. As pointed out, the DC and PS2 stole its thunder, not to mention that it was too "different" for those newbies that started the FF series with FFVII and FFVIII. Still, it was like FF7 and FF8 were practice for FF9: the cut scenes were even more amazing, the battle system was tight and fun, the music was phenomenal, pacing was perfect and unlike 7 and 8, it has aged well. FFVI is a close 3rd and I loved FF XII and FFX. Worst FFs? That's all too easy: FFVIII and FFXIII. Most underrated? FF V. Why does everyone mention the "weak" story with this one? It STILL has more story than most RPGs of its day. And honestly, the characters are great AND the game has a lot of humor in it. To top it off, it has some of the best gameplay of the series. Most overrated would have to be FF7, easily. At the time it was a revelation. But it is almost unplayable today with a convoluted and bloated story, painfully dull (easy) combat made worse by 2 minute summons animations, a weak combat/leveling system, and the design choice of 3D characters over pre-rendered backgrounds - pretty but not fun to navigate. Still, it had my favorite setting of all the FF games. Midgard was amazing.
  • gfhkj - May 8, 2011 1:38 a.m.

    http://ccshoper.com/ Fashion Female attire spring, personality Men's clothing + Shoes, Travel bag that grabs an eye coat + Chao packet Free transport

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