By William Haderlie / October 21st, 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
We have just over a month until the release of Final Fantasy XV, and it looks like there will be no further delays this time. What that also means is that we are starting to get into the real nitty-gritty of the list, and there is a lot more splitting hairs between the differences in these games. Because I honestly like every game from here on in quite a bit. So there will be some major surprises about where I rank some of the mainline Final Fantasy games, but it’s not like I genuinely dislike any of them. In that vein, while it’s not surprising that Final Fantasy II is the lowest of the (non-MMORPG) mainline games, some may be surprised that it is ranked so highly on this list.
First, let’s clarify what game we are talking about here. No, this is not the game starring Cecil and Kain which came out on the SNES, that would be Final Fantasy IV. That game was renamed due to the fact that the real Final Fantasy II and Final Fantasy III, both for the Famicom, did not receive a port outside of Japan until much later. That is really unfortunate, in my opinion, because both of those games would have been played for hundreds of hours each on my NES. In the United States, we did not see this game until 2003, with the release of Final Fantasy Origins on PlayStation 1. This game has also received further editions on GameBoy Advance with Final Fantasy I & II: Dawn of Souls, PlayStation Portable as a standalone title, and then a recent Mobile Phone iteration. Of those games, the PSP version is actually my favorite.
Final Fantasy II is a very important game in the history of the franchise. One of the reasons for that is that it is the first appearance of many mainstays such as Chocobos and Cid. Many of the monsters introduced in this title have been more iconic within the franchise than even the monsters introduced in the first game. But, by far, the most important thing that this game added to the franchise is making the game story-centric. The characters actually had their own personalities, they were not just a bundle of stats. And all the characters had real motivations to go to the next town or defeat the next boss. There was a good story in the original game, for its time, but if you played both of the first two games there was a noticeable growth in the story and character department.
Where this game struggles with fans of the series is in the combat system. Most diehard fans will agree that the story and characters were better in this game than either Final Fantasy or Final Fantasy III. But they went really far afield with the new combat system. In many ways, they were actually ahead of their time with this one. In a move that would be mirrored in the series later, they totally revamped the systems of the game. This time, instead of merely gaining stats by leveling up (and purchasing spells), your stats level up by the amount in which you use them. In other words, the more damage you take, the more your health goes up. The more you physically attack, the higher your Strength stat goes up.
Ironically, for as much hate as this system has gotten over the years, many other modern RPGs have mirrored this style of character development. For myself, both in 2003 when I played it originally and now playing it again, I’ve always enjoyed the combat system in this game more than the one in the first Final Fantasy. Yes, it does mean that it’s beneficial for me to do silly things like attacking my own characters (depending on which version you are playing, they removed that feature in some of the games). But with some strategic leveling you can make hugely powerful god characters, and that has always been one of my favorite parts of RPGs, especially the ones that come out of Japan.
There was not enough memorable in this game to raise it any farther up the list. I was less fond of the keyword system and some of the story was a bit frivolous and could have been told better. None of these characters have stood the test of time and were ever really popular. But if I had played this game when it first came out, I will bet that it would have been higher on the list. So I definitely don’t agree with other people who say that this is the worst Final Fantasy game, there are obviously many titles on my list below it, it’s just not quite up to par with 15 others. I would like to see the PSP version to be eventually playable on my PS Vita, instead of just the version included in Final Fantasy Origins. I want that to happen both for my own pleasure in going back to it, and also I hope more people can be exposed to this underrated game.
Final Fantasy I & II: Dawn of SoulsFinal Fantasy IIFinal Fantasy II PSPFinal Fantasy OriginsFinal Fantasy XVFinal Fantasy XV Countdown