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I played (almost) all main Final Fantasy games. Here’s my opinion about them and tips for anyone interested into getting into the franchise.

Content of the article: "I played (almost) all main Final Fantasy games. Here’s my opinion about them and tips for anyone interested into getting into the franchise."

To commemorate the announcement of a new Final Fantasy, I decided to make this thread. Final Fantasy was the first RPG I ever played, way back in the 1990s, when I first got my hands into Final Fantasy IV on SNES (at the time called Final Fantasy II because of localization shenanigans). Since then I followed the series as best as I could. Because I play mainly on Nintendo consoles and PC, sometimes I wasn't able to play the new releases, but always did when I finally got the chance.

Currently, I played all main Final Fantasies except for XI, XV (my potato PC can't run it properly) and VII Remake (I don't own a PS4).

As many of you may know, each Final Fantasy is unique. The series follows an anthological approach: every game is a new story, set in a new world, with brand new characters and deep changes to the art style and gameplay. That puts Final Fantasy into a unique position: it's a highly experimental mainstream series – not something you see everywhere.

Since each FF is its own thing, they can be a bit hit or miss. But even though there are some games that I like less than others, I really appreciate the experimental approach of the series and always have an open mind to the changes each one brings.

Here's some personal thoughts about the games and my recommendations for anyone interested in the series:

Final Fantasy I

Personal rating: 8.5/10

Recommended to: those interested in the history of jRPGs; fans of oldschool RPGs.

Recommended version: the GBA or PSP remakes.

When you consider the context of its release, the first Final Fantasy is just such a strong manifest about what jRPGs should be. I'm not talking about Squaresoft's internal problems that led to the game receiving its fatalistic name. What I'm referring to is how the game positions itself among other RPGs that dominated the Japanese market at the time.

Think about it with me: in most RPGs of the time, saving the princess from the big bad was the final objective. In Final Fantasy, though, you do that in the first five minutes. What was the end of the journey for most games is but a mere introduction to the adventure here. What a power move from Hironobu Sakaguchi's part!

Final Fantasy II

Personal rating: 6/10

Recommend to: people interested in evolutionary dead-ends in game design.

Recommended version: the GBA or PSP remakes.

The game that truly set into stone the experimental character of the franchise. Even though it's my least favorite Final Fantasy, I still find it fascinating. Two things stand out about it: the character progression and the dialogue systems.

The character progression shies away from experience points and levels. Instead, you improve your character by using its skills in combat. So, for example, the more a character uses a sword, the stronger he'll be with blades. The same applies to magics, defense, etc. The more you use it, the better it gets. It kinda reminds me of Elder Scrolls (of course, any resemblance is just a coincidence).

In theory, it's very cool. In practice, there's a lot of problems and oddities. For instance: the only way to get higher HP is to… Lost a lot of HP in battles. So the best way to get higher HP is, counter-intuitively, hit your own characters while battling a weak enemy and revive them over and over again.

But FFII has another oddity besides its combat. The dialogue system is also unique for the genre and era, being based on keywords. You learn some keywords talking with certain NPCs, that can be used with other NPCs to get more information and progress the plot. While the combat system was adopted by other jRPGs (mainly the SaGa games), it seems the keyword based dialogue was not, which is a shame. Oddly enough, it kinda reminds me of the Elder Scrolls series again, specially Morrowind.

Read:  Control. An enjoyable game, if not, a little weird in terms of story.

Final Fantasy III

Personal rating: 6.5/10

Recommended to: those that like to grind until their party is "perfect".

Recommended version: the 3D remake (available on modern consoles, PC and mobile devices)

FFIII introduced the world to the job system, one of the best class systems know. I'm not aware of another RPG class system that gives you so many options and freedom – unless, of course, you just go all the way and implement a classless system into your game. Even in its rudimentary form as seem in FFIII, it's tons of fun. In 1990 there probably weren't anything that came even close.

That being said, there's some conflict between the possibilities given by the job system and what FFIII expects you to do. In some parts of the game you have to be a specific party composition to proceed. Why give you all the options in the world but make only some of then viable?

Besides, FFIII has other problems. The generic characters seem like a step back compared to the more developed ones from II and the second part of the game is quite grind-heavy. The remake doesn't really solve those things.

Final Fantasy IV

Personal rating: 9/10

Recommended to: people who see fantasy cliches as a tool, not a hindrance for a good plot.

Recommended version: the PSP remake or the 3D remake (available on modern consoles, PC and mobile devices)

It's hard to talk objectively about my first RPG. So I won't. Final Fantasy IV is amazing and you can't prove me wrong.

In all seriousness, though, I like to compare FFIV to Star Wars IV. It may not be a space opera (well, maybe if you squint your eyes very hard…), but follows a similar idea: it takes a lot of fantasy cliches and uses them really, really well, with a cast of stereotypical but impossible not-to-love characters. Maybe it's just my rose-tinted nostalgia glasses speaking, though…

Final Fantasy V

Personal rating: 7.5/10

Recommended to: those looking for a light-hearted adventure with addicting combat.

Recommended version: the GBA version with the Sound Restoration patch.

One of the more purely "fun" FFs. It resembles FFIII a lot, but solves two of its biggest problems: it doesn't force you to use specific party compositions, letting you explore the job system to your heart's content, and has very charismatic characters. It's a bit too unambitious for my tastes, but you may find it a good break of pace from the more eschatological adventures oh so common on the series and jRPGs as a whole.

Final Fantasy VI

Personal rating: 9.5/10

Recommended to: everyone; newcomers to the series; people that likes RPGs with a multitude of well-written characters.

Recommended version: the GBA version with the Sound Restoration patch.

What to say about FFVI that hasn't been said all over the internet already? It's simply one of the best RPGs ever made. I'd like to highlight specially how the narrative is divided in multiple perspectives. It's a tricky narrative tool and FFVI uses it in a brilliant fashion, like few games (if any) were able to. Anyone that likes a good story should play it.

Final Fantasy VII

Personal rating: 9/10

Recommended to: everyone; newcomers to the series; existentialists.

Recommended version: the Remastered edition

What to say about FFVII that hasn't been said all over the internet already??

Actually, there's one little thing I'd like to mention about it that I don't see being talked about nearly enough: its pure creativity. At every turn of the adventure you're doing something new: be it a motorbike chase, squashes contest, improvised theater, snowboarding… And, of course, hunting for the perfect dress. Sometimes the plot seems to take nonsensical turns, but it's part of the game's charm.

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Final Fantasy Tactics

Personal rating: 10/10

Recommended to: strategy fans; lovers of plots full with political intrigue and manipulation.

Recommended version: the War of the Lions updated release (available on PSP and modern mobile devices)

Some FFs are well regarded because of their gameplay, others because of the story. Tactics excels at both. It's incredible how the job system is a perfect fit for a tactical RPG, and the improvements brought by Matsuno only made it better. Even if the plot was weak, the game already would be amazing. Fortunately, that's not the case: FFT has one of the most consistent and well-made plots of the whole series. It's definitely my favorite FF.

Final Fantasy VIII

Personal rating: 8.5/10

Recommended to: min-maxers; fans of unorthodox combat systems; TCG fans.

Recommended version: the Remastered edition

You'll either love it or hate it – there's no middle-ground. And, oh boy, there's a LOT to love and a LOT to hate. On one hand, it has a lot of flaws: Squall (the MC) is expressive as a door, Rinoa is insufferable, the plot is full of holes and the combat repetitive. On the other hand, the junction system is a paradise for min-maxers (you can get very overpowered very early if you know what you're doing), the modern urban setting is uncommon for the genre, the lore fascinating, Edea an excellent antagonist and the Triple Triad mini-game addicting as hell. Give it a try. The worse that can happen is you hate it.

Final Fantasy IX

Personal rating: 9.5/10

Recommended to: newcomers to the series and old fans alike; those looking for a more traditional fantasy story.

Recommended version: anyone will do.

The last FF with Hironobu Sakaguchi's (the series creator) direct involvement. I don't know if Sakaguchi knew it was to be his last Final Fantasy, but that would explain why IX became what it is: a love-letter to the series and the jRPG genre as a whole. It captures the spirit of the classic 80s and 90s jRPGs, but in an infinitely more polished and accessible product. A great entry-point to the series, but also an obligatory game for old fans.

Final Fantasy X

Personal rating: 7/10

Recommended to: romance junkies; people looking for a more slow-paced adventure.

Recommended version: the HD Remaster

The first time I played FFX, I thought the combat was a huge step-back from what the series was going to. Remember, my first FF was IV, so the ATB (Active Battle System) was synonymous with Final Fantasy to me. The "pure" turn-based system brought by FFX seemed completely antiquated.

Well, I'm older now, and if not wiser, at least more open-minded. I can see now that the CTB (Conditional Turb-Based Battle) is much more strategical than it seems at first glance and some battles can be really tense. It's a slow-paced experience, but not a tedious one.

Notwithstanding, I have a huge problem with the game's main couple, Tidus and Yuna. They never "clicked" with me, and still don't. Since the whole plot is centered about them, it can be quite a nuisance. Don't get me wrong, the story is good and the world very intriguing, but if the characters don't "click" with you, it can be annoying.

Final Fantasy X-2

Personal rating: 7.5/10

Recommended to: fans of magical girls and over the topness.

Recommended version: the HD Remaster

FFX-2 is trash, but it's my kind of trash. Someone just decided to put as much Sailor Moon as they could into FF and I'm down to it. Since I never liked Yuna anyway, her completely out-of-character rendition does not bother me at all. Also, the combat is so fun! It's one of the best versions of the ATB system ever made. If you're looking for an unpretentious, non-sensical RPG with fun combat, go straight in.

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Final Fantasy XII

Personal rating: 9.5/10

Recommended to: everyone; people interested in unorthodox combat systems.

Recommended version: the Zodiac Age edition

My second favorite of the series – directed by Yasumi Matsuno, the same guy that made my favorite one, Final Fantasy Tactics. The extreme ambition of making a huge open-world RPG on the PS2 created something really unique.

Gameplay-wise, it's perfect. The ADB (Active Dimension Battle) system is the final evolution of the ATB and to this day was not surpassed. The gambit system is genius and every RPG with AI controlled party members should have something like it. Ivalice is a wonderful place to explore and although its "openness" is just an illusion, it's an effective one.

Story-wise… it has its problems, specially with the protagonists (you don't have to be a genius to realize Vaan and Penelo were not meant to be the main characters, being thrown into the narrative just to please the Japanese audience). But it's nothing that really detracts from the experience as a whole, with the lore and setting still being top-notch.

Final Fantasy XIII

Personal rating: 6/10

Recommended to: only those curious about the game.

Recommended version: anyone will do.

I'm sorry, XIII. You have a lot of cool ideas, but all of them are executed poorly. For example: the contrast between he super-linear first half of the game and the very-open second half is OK on paper. In practice, it means your first 20 hours with XIII will be excruciatingly boring. This has the unintended side-effect of making the combat seem completely dull and repetitive, since you won't be exploring it to its full potential for a long time.

I don't think it's a completely bad game. It's interesting, has a great art direction, some cool moments. But it's so poorly paced that it's hard to recommend. Still, I liked it enough to want to play its sequels someday.

Final Fantasy XIV

Personal rating: 8.5/10

Recommended to: anyone looking for a good MMO.

Recommended version: there's only one available.

It's like WoW, but with a lot of Final Fantasy fan-service. I like WoW and Final Fantasy.


Well, that's it. My two cents about this amazing series. Thanks for coming to my TED Talk.


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