Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Final Fantasy Series--An Introduction

Final Fantasy was originally created as a last game for a game company to produce before they went under.  Hence the “final” in the title.  It is toted on Square Enix’s website as “The best selling RPG series in the world!” And there is cause for that.  It has spawned 14 numbers in the series, not including spin offs, sequels, and even a couple of movies.  It’s a big deal.  But oh, have they gone wrong in recent, and in not so recent, years. 

The series as a whole has a really interesting premise.  Each installment in the series is an entirely new world that is facing a “final” crisis.  This is a double edged sword.  On the one hand, each installment has the ability to be epic! because you’re not building up from the last epic battle—it's a new world with new problems.  You don’t have sequelitis (usually) where uber crazy things have happened to these characters and keeps happening to these characters game after game.  Which is a good thing.

On the other hand, this means that in each new number in the series, the creators have to come up with a completely new world, new characters, new story, a new magic system, and a new thing to keep you interested in playing for 70+ hours (most of my games lasted from 90-120 hours total, not counting multiple playthroughs).  That takes a lot of work, a lot of ingenuity, as well as a lot of luck in guessing what you think your audience will like, seeing how you can’t bring over a bunch of things from the last game like most series (*cough* God of War *cough*)

Now for the context. 

The Final Fantasy series is near and dear to my heart.  Growing up, I didn’t have gaming systems.  I had a couple of computer games (One Must Fall FTW), but for the most part, if I wanted to play a console, I had to go over to Nicole and Michaela’s house and hope they wanted to play their SNES.  Sega games were beyond my ability and when playing Mario, I usually lost all of my lives somewhere in World 1.  I was not a good gamer. 

Then, at the end of high school, a friend of mine introduced me to a game he was playing (in Japanese of all things) called Final Fantasy 8.  This was my first video game.  This was the first game that he taught me how to play and sparked my renewed interest in gaming in general.  This was a game I could play and not die (wait system FTW!).  I couldn’t walk in a straight line for the life of me, but I could beat me some bosses.

Since playing FF8, and I believe I’ve played the entire 4 disk long game at least 5 times, I continued to play the other Final Fantasies, starting with 6 and moving up through 9, 10, 10-2, 7, 12, and 13.  I’ve played Crisis Core, Tactics, Crystal Chronicles, Kingdom Hearts I and II, and watched Leo play FF1-2 and 4.  I dutifully went to the theatre to watch Spirits Within, and bought Advent Children the day it came out.  We even took a trip to Chicago to go to Nobuo Uematsu’s Dear Friends: Music from Final Fantasy concert (we sat only a little behind the great man himself, and the guy who played “Vamo Alla Flamenco” really got into the music and was phenomenal to watch!).  However, Final Fantasy was only my gateway drug. 

Because of playing Final Fantasy, I’ve branched out to play other video games, starting with other Square games (why yes, I have played the Bouncer), then to other brands, like Nintendo, Molecule Media, Sony, and Rockstar (just to name a few, and no, I don’t currently hold number 28th in the world for vocals on a Rockband song or anything).  The first time I actually felt comfortable calling myself a “gamer” was when I beat God of War, because 5 year prior, that too would have been beyond my ability level.  I even can play and beat multiple levels of the new Sonic game we downloaded on our PS3, sometimes even better than Leo!  I still can’t play first person shooters, but I beat Portal 2, so I say that’s a step in that direction.  I owe this all to my introduction to Final Fantasy.

For the next few articles, I’m planning to take a Final Fantasy, and analyze it a bit.  I won’t go into all of them, and some I’ll go into more deeply than others, but Final Fantasy will be the topic for a bit.  I’m going to start with FF8, because I did, and then move on from there.  Now granted, I’m not going back and playing these long and involved games AGAIN, so mostly I’m relying on lasting impressions and what I still remember from these games.  What has stuck with me.  I think that’s not necessarily a bad thing, because game developers (I would hope) would want to make games that stick with a person throughout the years, in (I would hope) a good way.  In this case, sometimes they even succeeded. 

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