By William Haderlie / November 18th, 2016
The next major entry in one of the most beloved video game series of all time was due to arrive in September of this year after a long gestation period. However, Final Fantasy XV has now been delayed until November 29, 2016. While I, like most people, find this news to be a bit disappointing, I would also rather see this major entry be in its most complete form when it sees the light of day. So I err on the positive side of the delay reaction, more than the negative side. I will be reviewing the game for Operation Rainfall when it does arrive later this year (I’m going to assume for now that it will not see another delay).
In the meantime, I will be posting my top list of Final Fantasy games as a countdown until the release of the next entry. I can almost guarantee that our lists will be different, and I encourage discussion. This will also let our readers know some of the history of this franchise, and my own personal thoughts on it. This ranking is my own opinion and does not represent the views of the rest of the Operation Rainfall staff, but it is a creation that I am proud of, so I stand behind it.
Countdown List Rules
These rules are rather arbitrary, but I had to decide on a list of them just to make it more concise and clear. The first rule is that I will only put one version, the best version I’ve played, of each game. And the second rule, and possibly most contentious, is that I am listing any game that contains Final Fantasy in the American title of the game. That does mean a couple games featuring Final Fantasy characters, but not having that title, will not make the list. Examples of games featuring characters would be Chocobo’s Mysterious Dungeon or Ehrgeiz: God Bless The Ring. And that also means that there are other titles which were not originally Final Fantasy games in here as well, such as Final Fantasy Legend. Other than that, this list is just to have some fun and have a conversation while we wait for the next release in this classic JRPG franchise. There are 34 entries on my personal list, even discounting the different versions, so plan on a long series of articles, and I hope that you enjoy them.
Top Final Fantasy Game Countdown
34. Final Fantasy XI
33. Final Fantasy Record Keeper
32. Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles
31. Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call
30. Dirge of Cerberus: Final Fantasy VII
29. Dissidia Final Fantasy
28. Dissidia 012 Final Fantasy
27. Final Fantasy Mystic Quest
26. Final Fantasy XIV
25. Final Fantasy Adventure
24. The Final Fantasy Legend
23. Final Fantasy Legend II
22. Final Fantasy Legend III
21. Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift
20. Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings
19. Final Fantasy Type-0
18. Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII
17. Final Fantasy Tactics Advance
16. Final Fantasy II
15. Final Fantasy III
14. Final Fantasy
13. Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII
12. Final Fantasy VII
11. Final Fantasy XIII
10. Final Fantasy VIII
09. Final Fantasy X
08. Final Fantasy XIII-2
07. Final Fantasy X-2
Other than the #2 spot on my list, which we will be getting to very shortly, this is probably the last controversial pick. But given how high it is, at number 7, you should be able to tell how passionate I am about how good this game is. I’ve seen a certain shift in the internet tenor about the game recently, a large part of that I believe has to do with people reexamining the game with the new HD Remaster version. However, I want to state for the record that this game would have already been this high on my list even before the fabulous new edition. I always loved Final Fantasy X-2 more than Final Fantasy X, and always considered the heavy criticism for this game to be rather ridiculous.
The cast for this game was pared down quite a bit from the 7 characters who formed your party in Final Fantasy X. Yuna and Rikku returned, but this time they also brought along a new friend named Paine. In some ways, she seemed like a warrior version of Lulu, but she comes into her own the farther you get into the game. It actually takes a while before you even learn why she is even along for the adventure. The reason for Lulu not being your third member, you discover a lot quicker, she and Wakka are expecting their first child. But one interesting aspect of the change is that leaves the party much younger by average than your last party. The writers definitely play upon this aspect by the feel of their adventure being much more different, without the super serious adults always guiding the events and the pace. Yuna is a lot better in this game than she was in the first, and Rikku is still amazing, Paine is also a fun addition to the cast. So if you are looking for a good RPG waifu, this is a great game for that.
The tone is also altered by the fact that it’s three girls who make up the entirety of your party. It helped give the story a fairly strong girl power vibe. This is often the part of the game that gets the most criticism, and it’s certainly the criticism that I find most irritating. I certainly get that the girl power message and the J-Pop style to certain events may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but they also have a lot of other games which are very male focused. I really loved the refreshing feel that new style brought to the series. Even beyond the fact that I prefer to play as female characters in my games, it felt really interesting to see everything from a more female perspective. Because in this case all three of the girls in this game are much more feminine than either Lightning or Fang were in Final Fantasy XIII. Not every woman needs to act feminine, but it’s nice to explore that aspect of people instead of their gender just being incidental, as I felt it was at times with Lightning and Fang.
That J-Pop style also gave some very interesting new songs to the Final Fantasy canon, but that was not the only interesting music added to this game. Final Fantasy X-2 has one of my favorite gaming soundtracks of all time. Even as notable as all the music from this whole franchise is, it stands out as especially good. In fact, one of my favorite songs from gaming is linked above, Eternity -Memory of Lightwaves-, which is the opening credits song. Music has always been a very important thing to me in life and in my gaming, so a great soundtrack will go a long way towards me loving that game overall. But it wasn’t the only reason to love this game, the open story structure was very interesting (Final Fantasy XIII-2 went in a similar direction years later), if you put a ton of effort into the game you were rewarded by getting a much more satisfying ending to the series than there was in the first game (only available after unlocking 100% of all scenes), the story was very fun and well told along the way, and then there was the combat system.
Combat systems have a very important role in how good any RPG is. Even if you spend more time on the story in an RPG, they are still not a Visual Novel. So you spend a lot of time engaging in combat to both progress the story and level up your characters. And in this case, Final Fantasy X-2 brought one of my favorite combat systems of all time. Other than the girl power aesthetic, the second thing that irritated me the most about the common criticisms were when people just dismissed the combat system as dressing up dolls. Yes, the girl’s outfits do change during battle, but that’s because you are changing classes. And the combination of a classic (from Final Fantasy III, Final Fantasy V, and so on) class system, with the ability to change your class in the middle of combat, was a wonderful new addition to the series. And honestly, almost every outfit they wear is sexy as hell. I totally am fine with not everyone who plays games to be attracted to beautiful women, but for me, the changing outfits on top of changing classes, was nothing but a win.
This game brought back many classic classes from the series past, but then it also added some new and interesting classes to the mix. One of my favorite parts of the class systems of previous games also made a return in the character growth system of ranking up them up by use. Unfortunately, you can’t keep every ability that you learn with a class and use them in another class, with the exception of extremely rare items that you will earn later in the game. But abilities can also be used by equipping certain grids on a character. The grids are where you allot the class spheres that you have gained into a specific configuration that will allow you to move to them in a sequence of your choosing. Unfortunately, none of the grids are large enough to hold every single class, which is my one disappointment in the system. But the value the grids add is that you can have passive overall grid abilities (like being able to use all the Thief skills while you are any other class) and you can have more active skills that become available if you Spherechange through a path on the grid. It’s a fairly complicated system, but it ended up being rather fun to master.
And fun is why I love this game more than Final Fantasy X. Not only do you have the chance to redeem the ending to the previous game, but even as serious as the story can sometimes get, it was never stuck in the mire of being focused on death and sacrifice and malaise. There are tons of mini-games and optional quests and areas in this game. This almost seemed like a love letter to the fans, but at a minimum, it was very obviously a passion project for the creators. And there is something very refreshing about letting your hair down and just enjoying a good RPG romp. Especially for gamers who have now become more accustomed to that style with the wonderful Hyperdimension Neptunia games, I cannot recommend enough that they give this game another look. Much like with Final Fantasy X, the HD Remaster is definitely the way to go. And the PlayStation 4 and PC versions of this game are definitely the best way to experience this wonderful adventure.
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