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

Why it’s the best FF ever: When you bring one of the most respected directors in the Japanese game industry to make a game in one of the biggest, most beloved RPG series of all time, you wind up with an installment that’s unlike anything else before or after. Final Fantasy XII tones down the world-threatening crises to instead deliver a more down-to-earth saga of turmoil and strife amongst kingdoms and their rulers, cutting out a great deal of the melodrama and emo-angst that the series had become notorious for. Each member of the party is very personable in a way characters from other FF games aren’t, and they all get their chance to shine as part of the story.

The battle system has undergone another radical shift to a quasi-realtime system, eliminating random battles entirely and allowing you to engage in a seamless combat experience. Despite you only assuming direct control over a single character at a time, you can issue direct commands to your teammates, as well as set well-defined parameters for their behavior with the Gambit system. You’re also able to customize everybody as you choose with the use of the License Board. FFXII not only plays great, but looks and sounds great, too; the game’s visual design is among the best on the PS2, and the soundtrack puts a new spin on a lot of familiar FF motifs.

Why it’s the worst FF ever: After giving us a Final Fantasy MMO, Square-Enix goes back and gives us… a single-player game with MMO-style combat. Oh boy, just what we asked for! And hey, remember all the epic Final Fantasy stories where the fate of the world hung in the balance? Well, this time you get… politics! Because those worked so well in the Star Wars prequels, right? Hell, the alleged lead character basically gets shuffled off to the sidelines early on the in the story – which goes to show how much the creators cared about some of the cast. You never would have guessed that the director went nuts and left the project considering how disjointed some of the game elements are.

But it’s not like you actually have to play the game, either – abusing the License Board will give everyone access to the best weapons and armor the game offers, and with the Gambit system and a bit of programming know-how, you can make the game play itself while you kick back and watch everybody kick ass.

Personal Take: FFXII is definitely one of my personal favorites – I’ve been a fan of Matsuno’s style since FF Tactics, and seeing him put his own spin on a mainline Final Fantasy game was a real treat, even if it did drive him nuts and force him to abandon his baby. The Zodiac Job System edition of FFXII – which is, sadly, Japan-only – refines the License Board and improves an already great game significantly. I can understand how it can turn off a lot of players, but I found it to be one of the freshest, most enjoyable installments in the series.


Why it’s the best FF ever: In an era when Japanese-made RPGs are facing increasing criticism, a series like Final Fantasy needs to reinvent itself to remain fresh and relevant. Final Fantasy XIII takes this idea to dramatic extremes and delivers one of the most unique installments of the franchise yet. Eliminating distractions like cities allows a new approach to RPG storytelling, which keeps players constantly engaged in the events and battles unfolding with few interruptions. The gameplay – particularly the intense, challenging battle system – finds new ways to keep players on their toes by making them change their strategies constantly, as well as by gradually introducing more and more new elements to combat as they progress further into the story. The linearity serves its purpose, too - by the time you’re dropped into the more open world of Pulse, you have learned – and likely mastered – all the elements of combat you’ll need to succeed. And getting to the more open environments is a reward in and of itself; can you think of a prettier world in any game yet made?

Why it’s the worst FF ever: Remember that old meme about the internet being a series of tubes? That is almost literally what Final Fantasy XIII is for the majority of the game: straightforward areas with few secrets and next to no deviation from a set path. Hope you weren’t attached to things like towns and chatting up NPCs, because you won’t be seeing any of that here, either. You might have heard the battle system is deep and rewarding, but does that really matter when it takes almost 20 hours to unlock its full potential? You can complete most games in the amount of time it takes for FFXIII to “get good.”


Above: Pretty cool battle system… 20 hours into the game

Personal Take: Talk about divisive! Much like VIII, XIII is a real love-it-or-hate it sort of deal. Some have argued that if the game wasn’t an FF title, people wouldn’t be so critical of it and accept its style of gameplay and presentation on its own merits. But that also proves a point: players have come to expect certain established elements in a Final Fantasy game, and when you eliminate them, you’re going to leave a lot of people disappointed. FFXIII was a very long time coming, and it seems it wasn’t worth the wait for a lot of people. Maybe XIII-2 will turn things around?


Why it’s the best FF ever: …yeah, you know what? We got nothin’.

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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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