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After writing the article about video game loot boxes I started thinking that it might be good to step away from the topic of design and all things web once and a while. Can’t have too much of a good thing, right? That’s why I came up with the idea to start writing more about my second passion, gaming. The idea is that I choose a specific game or franchise and talk about what I liked about it, which entrees where my favorite and which design choices they made that stuck with me.
To start things off I’ve decided to start with one of my favorite RPG franchises the Final Fantasy series. Now if your familiar with the franchise you know there has been countless main games, spin offs, and mobile games based off the series. But don’t worry I’m not here to give you a complete analysis of the series, no instead today I’m going to be talking about my top 4 favorite Final Fantasy games. Needless to say spoilers ahead if you still haven’t played any of these games by now.
I know what you’re thinking how can this countdown start with the 7th installment of the series? Final fantasy 7 is regarded by many as the best game in the franchise. However, to me it’s not, but I still love this game. Released in 1997 for the Sony PlayStation, the story follows Cloud Strife ex member of Soldier as he together with his allies try to stop the evil power company Shinra from destroying the planet. This is also the first time the series has made to leap from sprites to 3D models. This entrée has probably the most iconic cast of characters, what gamer hasn’t heard of Cloud, Sephiroth or Tifa. Sephiroth is an iconic villain and the mystery around him and his intimidating theme and aura that surrounds him made him an excellent main antagonist. Not to mention the infamous scene where he kills party member Aeris, a moment that shocked me and i'm sure many who played this game.
However, I think what I liked the most about the game was it’s the design of the world. The world FF7 is set in this weird mix of modern and steampunk. The world uses modern day elements like cars, skyscrapers and guns while throwing in the occasional robot, mecha and laser weaponry in there. The music is another major selling point for this game, almost every theme in the game is an instant classic. Opening theme, Jenova, Cosmo canyon and Turks theme being my personal favorites. With a remake in the works I’m curious how a new generation of games will experience this Final Fantasy classic, when it comes out eventually….
Final fantasy 4 was released in 1991 for the Super Nintendo. The story follows Cecile an exiled knight who uncovered a plot to overthrow his kingdom and disturb the balance of the world. This is the first time in the franchise that the games have had narrative plot. cut scenes, extensive dialogue and back stories for each character.
The cast contains a cast of characters that fill the various classic fantasy roles. There’s a Dark knight, summoner, dragoon, a pair of siblings one a white mage the other a dark mage, a monk , ninja , bard, Archer, Sage and engineer. These characters have interesting back stories with many having tragic pasts due to the actions of the villains. I found myself growing attached to some of the characters which made some events have more impact. One such event is when the two sibling mages which I always kept in my party scarified themselves by casting petrify on themselves in order to save the party from a spell that was causing a room from shrinking and crushing them inside. Or the scene where Tellah the sage casts meteor on the main villain Golbez in order to avenge his daughter Ana. The spell weakens Golbez but he escapes wile Tellah perishes from using the spell due to his old age. Scenes like these could only be that effective due to you as a player growing attached to these characters and being invested in their stories.
The world of FF4 takes place in traditional fantasy setting with castles, villages and dwarven fortresses. However, near the end it starts to add more sci fi elements such as the revelation that the world’s second moon is actually a massive space station inhabited by humanoid beings in cryo sleep with one of these being behind the events of the entire game. I think it’s this massive shift from traditional RPG to a sudden sci-fi element is what stuck with me the most and made like this game so much. This installment also has one of my favorite boss fight themes which is the four fiends theme.
Final fantasy 10 was released in 2001 for the Sony PlayStation 2. The story follows Tidus who finds himself transported to a different world. He joins up with Yuna a summoner who is on a pilgrimage to the city of zanarkand to stop Sin a creature that brings destruction to the world and is periodically destroyed and reincarnated.
The cast although small is quite memorable, Auron and Lulu are two of my favorite Final fantasy characters. And the story has quite a lot of twists that kept me hooked. The only downside is the villains, xx and the final villain Yu yevon where quite bland and very forgettable. The only villain that’s worth remembering and that’s purely because how difficult her fight was is Lady Yunalesca, which brings me to my next point the fights.
The battle system of this game is easily my favorite of the whole series, it’s a shame that other entries have chosen to go a different route. I loved the strategies you could come up with by tagging party members in and out of battle. In older entrees you were basically stuck with only the members you had set as your main party. This made the reserve members feel like side characters instead of full-fledged party members. Not only that but the level up system (Sphere grid) allowed you to build each member how you wanted. I have fond memories of packing Riku with tons of speed essentially giving me 3 extra turns during battle. The final parts of the story although somewhat confusing was to me very heartwarming and interesting. We don’t talk about that one laugh scene though, that never happened.
Final fantasy 6 is hands down my favorite entree into the franchise. Released in 1994 for the Super Nintendo. The story follows Terra a magic-knight with a mysterious past as she flees from the empire which has brought chaos to the world. The game takes place in some of the most creative locations in any Final Fantasy game. You’ll find yourself in a castle that can dive and move under the sand like a sub, wonder trough ice covered mining towns, fight in arenas and even be part of a opera as you battle a villain live on stage with viewers believing it all to be part of the show.. You even run into a train that takes souls to the afterlife at one point and then suplex it. ( No joke, you can suplex a train in this game ).
It also has one of the biggest and most colorful cast of characters in the franchise’s history. The massive cast of 14 members consists of an Esper, king, martial artist, swordsmen, thief, mercenary, painter, mage, knight, wild boy, mysterious stranger, Gambler, Yeti and a dancing moogle. And then there’s the villain Kefka who is in my opinion one of the best villains in the franchise (Sorry Sephiroth). Kefka is a magi-knight like the protagonist Terra however unlike her the procedure that gave them their powers has driven him insane. Through the game this twisted clown has only one goal to become a god and rule over the world. Which he succeeds in doing, Kefka rules the world for a good few years till he is eventually defeated at the hands of the party. The game makes excellent use of its colorful cast as well by not focusing on one main protagonist. The story will often switch between characters to continue ongoing intertwining plot lines that all connect to main story. This really allowed me to connect with each character in the party something that often doesn’t happen in a Final Fantasy game.
As with other games in the franchise the soundtrack is memorable and one of my favorites. I still remember the opening theme with the 3 mechs making their way through the snow. And the final boss theme is a long operatic piece that gets more intense as you make your way up to the tower to face the final villain. Simply put the heroes and their unique origins, Kefka the amazing main villain, the games music art and set pieces and a story which constantly kept me wondering what would happen next have made final fantasy 6 my most beloved entree into the franchise.
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