Final Fantasy has begun celebrating its landmark anniversary with Square-Enix putting on the Final Fantasy 30th Anniversary Opening Ceremony.
With many rumored announcements floating around such as a port of Dissidia Arcade and the potential of new information about the long awaited Final Fantasy VII Remake in the cards, it certainly is a good time to be a fan of Cactuars, Chocobo’s and Moogles.
We have had three decades of brilliant adventures, with plots that are both tragic and uplifting. It’s hard to believe that we have reached the 15th numbered title in the series, not counting the numerous spin offs and sequels within sequels.
Let’s have a walk down memory lane shall we,
Final Fantasy (1987 JP, 1990 US)
A game was born, from the dreams of defeated developer Hironobu Sakaguchi who had wanted to develop and design a game in a genre that had yet to be fully tapped, Role Playing games. The spigot was then struck into the barrel of potential by the wild and groundbreaking success of another ambitious RPG success, Dragon Quest.
Sakaguchi got to make his game. Weaving a tale that spanned 3 continents, with four player selected warriors of light fighting the villainous evil knight Garland over the powers of the elements themselves in a battle that would rend time and space.
It was now that Sakaguchi would realize that he had a misnomer on his hands and that this fantasy would not be his final one after all.
Final Fantasy II (1998 JP, 2003 US)
Building on the systems developed through the first game, Final Fantasy II introduced a number of new concepts to the series. Some of the groundbreaking changes included a cast of fully fleshed out characters, a new battle and dialogue system and everyone’s favorite yellow feathery friend, the Chocobo.
The plot saw the adventures of Firion, Maria, Guy and Leon as they rebel against an evil emperor who would go through hell and back to smite our heroes, hooking up with the last of the Dragoons along the way.
Sakaguchi took the angle of focusing on developing all plot elements of the game before moving on to systems and gameplay. This change in formula would lead to the series’ reputation for emphasizing narrative strength, building a lasting impression on players.
The release of Final Fantasy II also saw the first deviation in titles in both japan and North America. While Japanese gamers were battling evil in 1988, it wouldn’t be until 2003’s release of Final Fantasy Origins that western audiences would get to experience this adventure.
Final Fantasy III (1990 JP, 2006 US)
The Last 8-Bit title in the series, Final Fantasy III leapt into the hands of Japanese gamers in April 1990, bringing with it the now classic ‘Job System’ which allowed characters to swap interchangeable classes to use different spells and weapons depending on the situation.
Summoned creatures also made their first appearance in this entry, introducing players to the now iconic faces of the diamond dust freezing Shiva and fiery powerhouse Ifrit.
The story focused on the power of the four elemental crystals of light and their dark counterparts in a quest to maintain the worlds balance. This entry marked the use of crystals as a plot device to become a returning staple for many entries to the series, continuing to this day.
Four Orphans venture out into the world to battle the mysterious deity known as the Cloud of Darkness, who seeks to plunge the land into a state of pure chaos.
In 2006 the game was remade in full 3D for the Nintendo DS, where international players got their first chance to embark on the long forgotten journey.
Final Fantasy IV (1991)
Known in throughout the western world as Final Fantasy II, The jump to the 16-bit Super Nintendo offered Sakaguchi and his team the opportunity to build an even more in depth world and gameplay experience.
This entry pushed the boundaries of storytelling in the video game industry at the time, with a fully developed world and characters that had the depth of a piece of literature.
One of the main highlights of the plot can be found in the journey of the Dark Knight Cecil Harvey and his quest for redemption, questioning the morals of his king in a story that takes the party to the moon and back in their fight against the mind-controlling Sorcerer Golbez.
Changes to gameplay included the introduction of the Active Time Battle system, A meter that pressured players into making tough decisions about their turn based moves as every second brought enemies closer to unleashing their attacks.
Final Fantasy IV also got the Nintendo DS 3D treatment like its predecessor, making the DS the best platform to experience this amazing narrative.
Final Fantasy V (1992 JP, 1999 NA)
Final Fantasy V built on top of everything that made its predecessor great, making substantial improvements to the job system and refining the principals of the ATB system.
As the winds of the world have dulled with the shattering of an elemental crystal, Princess Lenna of Tycoon joins the adventurer Bartz Klauser (originally named Butz, a gag that still hasn’t faded into obscurity) to save the crystals so that they can protect a seal that locks away the powerful Sorcerer Exdeath.
The party travels the land in a slew of different vehicles, utilizing the Super Nintendo’s Mode 7 graphics to give traversal of the overworld a distinct 3D look, with the curvature of the horizon always in your sight.
This title is the first in the series to feature the work of the famed Tetsuya Nomura, who would later go on to direct some of the most prolific titles in the series, getting his start in designing the games monsters.
Final Fantasy V was also one of the first games to receive a completed fan translation, as the title was not localized for western audiences until its inclusion in Final Fantasy Anthology in 1999.
In 1994 Final Fantasy V received an OVA sequel entitled Final Fantasy: the Legend of the Crystals, produced by MADHOUSE. For anyone that loves both anime and Final Fantasy it is certainly worth the watch if you can find a copy.
That’s it for part one of our retrospective looking back at past Final Fantasy titles. Keep an eye out for part two as we continue to celebrate 30 years of groundbreaking RPGs.
Written by: Alex Yorke who is no longer writing for Corecade. Please check out his future work on his Twitter!