So, evidently there’s some game called Final Fantasy XV. I heard it comes out today. Never heard of it either. It don’t know anything about the two copies expected to be delivered to me today along with a third I thought was cancelled. ♪～(￣ε￣；)
But one of the most common questions any Final Fantasy player is asked is, “What is the best Final Fantasy?”
It’s a trap! There is no best Final Fantasy!
So here are some of the highlights and lowlights of each game. What I list may not the absolute best or worst parts of the game, but it should give you an idea of why no game definitely ranks at the top or bottom. That, and otherwise all the answers would probably be “story”, “music”, or “battle system”.
I was only going through the main games plus a few of the major sequels/spin-offs, but I updated this post with a good portion of the Final Fantasy series. Spoilers ahoy!
+ I really like using equipment for free spells. I can understand how it may be considered cheap, but since your characters are locked into a Job, it’s a good way to support your Mages. The sprites in the PSP version are also my favorite.
– It’s the first game and is a master of nothing. Poor heroes don’t even have names. Also, I can’t really look at this game the same anymore after 8-Bit Theater, especially Matoya and Bahamut. o_O
Final Fantasy II:
+ The idea of customizing what your characters’ specialties are is awesome and makes sense in real-world logic. I liked making the big burly man a Mage and the female member of the group a Warrior.
– The actual implementation, however, is terrible. Magic takes far too long to level up, and the best way to increase your physical attacks is beating up your own characters. The original Suicide Squad.
Final Fantasy III:
+ Really started the whole Job system. Changing specialties is neat and much better than sticking with the same classes or ineffectually leveling them up.
– Phoenix Downs. Seriously, Shinra’s descendants should have brought some Condors on their ships and then go to this world. They’d be richer than Shin-Ra. And it would have made my life easier when the RNG decides to hate on my White Mage all of a sudden.
Final Fantasy IV:
+ Great conflicts between Cecil and Kain, Cecil and Cecil, and Cecil and Golbez. It’s Cecil’s story without the plot being either about how amazing he is or how messed up he is.
– What version are you supposed to play now?! (Except Advance. That port is awful.) The original hard version, the one where you can switch characters, or the one with Augments? Which version truly counts as experiencing Final Fantasy IV? I mean, do you get the full thrill if you aren’t frantically tossing Light Curtains on yourself when facing Bahamut? Or is it when you suddenly find yourself with Reverse? Or when encountering that scary-as-heck dinosaur Superboss?
Final Fantasy IV: The After Years:
+ Bands are so much fun. I love feeling like the party is working together. (Yes, I know it was inspired by Chrono Trigger.)
– Very episodic, and some are miles ahead in difficulty than others because you may not have a physical attacker in one or a White Mage in another. Then your party’s levels may be horribly unbalanced when they all reunite. I also feel sorry for those who spent so much on the Wii version.
Final Fantasy V:
+ The Job System comes into its own. Make your own party but actually have characters with personalities!
– The story is a bore. Zzzz. Its few impactful moments (Galuf, Gilgamesh) are done better in other games, even in some previous installments. Also, am I the only one who thought Krile was a lot younger than she really was?
Final Fantasy VI:
+ Switching between multiple parties. The final dungeon is especially fun and makes it feel like everyone’s a true team working together.
– Battle-wise, the party is kind of a weird mishmash of “everyone is unique, they all have a purpose” and “everyone is the same, use whoever you like best”. It just doesn’t feel right to have almost everyone spamming spells like Ultima and Quick. I’m also on Team Mobile Version is Ugly.
Final Fantasy VII:
+ A lot of great stand-out music tracks: “Those Who Fight Further”, “One-Winged Angel”, “J-E-N-O-V-A”, “Bombing Mission”, “Aerith’s Theme” and more. All really add to the atmosphere of Gaia (well, The Planet).
– Graphically, it has aged the worst. It also has the most divisive fanbase, but that’s not the game’s fault.
Dirge of Cerberus: Final Fantasy VII:
+ Graphics are amazing, both in-game and Nomura’s art for the game. Square Enix also did a lot of work on the gameplay for the International version.
– Lucrecia + loli bait. I’m not the only one who got a weird feeling about the ending, right? And people have laughed at Yuffentine for years. Suddenly doesn’t seem too crazy, does it? Meanwhile, Lucrecia just deserves all the hate she gets. Oh, and the N.A. boxart is just awful.
Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII:
+ Most moving ending ever. I highly suggest seeing it in both languages since Suzumura/Sakurai and Gomez/Burton all do a wonderful job as Ayaka’s “Why” plays in the background.
– A few too many new characters and retcons/”additions”. *coughGenesiscough*
Final Fantasy VIII:
+ Best opening movie.
– This is the most easily broken Final Fantasy game. Between Draw and Mods, you can gain access to high-level spells and items really early. Even a LLG is a bore; you have to put a lot more restrictions to have a challenge.
Final Fantasy IX:
+ Most adorable moogles ever!! Oh, and good character development and moments for everyone. But who cares, moogles!!
– Worst Final Boss ever. Necron comes out of nowhere. You can have an unexpected fight, but there needs to be a reason and buildup.
Final Fantasy X:
+ Great how the story, audio, and gameplay tie together to build a rich experience.
– When the battles are dull, they’re extremely dull. At least in most other games, you can just hold down the confirm button to speed through.
Final Fantasy X-2:
+ Awesome battle system. Plus you can make the game easier or more difficult by choosing what you want to do, especially in the International (aka HD) version.
– Yuna… is that really what you want to wear? You go from a long skirt to Daisy Dukes? And a shirt that somehow stays closed thanks to an oddly-shaped design? Really?
Final Fantasy XI:
+ Tarutarus are adorable, and who doesn’t love Shantotto?
– Extremely expensive when it was launched and prevented a lot of people from jumping aboard.
Final Fantasy XII:
+ Lots of challenging fights for those who wish to tackle them.
– The loneliest MMORPG you’ll ever play. Wait, it isn’t an MMORPG? Did anyone tell the developers that?
Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings:
+ Actually made Van and Penelo more than just tag-alongs.
– With the characters looking younger, a light tone, and a real-time battle system, it’s a sequel that neither reaches out to those who really like the seriousness of Final Fantasy XII nor taps into the classic Final Fantasy feel for those who lament XII‘s direction.
Final Fantasy XIII:
+ Mages are not dead weight in random battles. You don’t have to worry about running out of MP and waste turns defending or using their less-than-stellar physical attacks.
– Not a lot of freedom or customization. Parties are set up for a good portion of the game, stat increases are pre-determined, and the only decisions you make are whether to fight a battle or not.
Final Fantasy XIII-2:
+ Noel and Caius. For being new characters, Square Enix did a good job of showcasing the two men and their conflict.
– How do you take a decent ending in XIII and mess it up? I mean, basically a whole planet is moving to an uncharted one. There’s already plenty of fodder for power struggles and deadly monsters right there. Plus two friends are stuck in a tower. No, let’s bring in main character’s little sister and make her the star instead! Demote the other heroes! And add time travel! TOTALLY makes more sense.
Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII:
+ Lots of freedom of where to go, who to help, how much of the game you want to complete, etc.
– The clock aspect was dumb. Some people will say the story should be the negative, but XIII-2 already screwed with it anyway.
Final Fantasy XIV:
– Um, pretty much everything else except the graphics. A Realm Reborn might as well been titled Please Don’t Hate Us, We’ll Fix Everything Since We Need Still Money to Finish Final Fantasy XV.
Final Fantasy Tactics:
+ A very political plot that truly felt like a war. Also, the North American version went above and beyond the Japanese original release in the PSP port with the addition of voices.
– A couple of bad save locations, some bad birthdays, not grinding or having a plan early… you can easily screw yourself over. Raise your hand if you did. *raises hand*
Final Fantasy Tactics Advance:
+ You aren’t just overloaded with people aka Humes. Each species also has access to a limited number of Jobs, so players have a reason to make a diverse Clan.
– The Law system. Some of them are just ridiculous like not being able to attack monsters. Really?! So you’re forced to either wander around the map or waste an Anti-Law card. And sometimes you found out the hard way that doing certain actions counts as breaking the law. Plus too many enemies must be related to the judges, have blackmail material on the judges, or have been sleeping with the judges since they get away with everything.
Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift:
+ Lawbreakers here are treated like jaywalkers instead of drunk drivers or murderers like in Tactics Advance.
– Getting new Clan members is about as fun as finding a job in the real world. All you have to do is be in the right spot in the right month, cross your fingers for a good Job, then say a prayer to RNGesus for good stats.
Final Fantasy Type-0:
+ Characters feel like individuals. Party choice is not just a matter of selecting your faves and then loading them with Materia/Relics/Junctions/whatever.
– Dear Camera, You still make me sick. Sincerely, me. Also, Square Enix should have either scaled down the project to make a regular PSP game (make it easy to export) or scaled up to make a PS3/4 game. Well, at least us Westerners didn’t miss out on this completely.
Dissidia: Final Fantasy:
+ It really feels like a love letter or thank you note to the fans. Plenty of references and shout-outs, and the game tries to reach out to those who don’t normally play fighting games.
– I think it would have been best as a purely AU game instead of trying to make it canon or at least canon-ish. I’m not even going to try to figure it out since time travel and paradoxes and all that jazz gives me a headache. The scene fading to Cornelia was beautiful, but the whole rift and World A and B… ugh.
Dissidia 012: Final Fantasy:
+ Almost everything from original has been improved upon. Even threw in the base story of the original Dissidia to pretty much replace the first game.
– It’s still a fighting game on the PSP with no natural Wi-Fi online play. Why didn’t they just make this a PS3 game from the beginning? It’s a beautiful PSP game, but it’s also limited by the same system. It’s been exactly a year now, so perhaps the Arcade reboot will be ported to the PS4?
Final Fantasy tends to change and experiment. While other RPGs work to refine the formula with each iteration (Square Enix’s other main RPG series Dragon Quest being a perfect example), Final Fantasy goes in different directions. Some are hardly recognizable as being from the same series, and that’s why it’s hard to rank them.
So, do you agree or disagree with me? Does one game rank supreme? What aspects do you think make each Final Fantasy really good and really bad at the same time?