By William Haderlie / November 10th, 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
We finally enter the top 10 of my Final Fantasy XV Countdown list. It can be quite difficult to decide on any top 10 that you intend to stand the test of time, but particularly when a series has as many great entries as Final Fantasy does. So while many may not agree with the order in which I place my top 10 games, it’s valuable to remember there were 24 other titles that did not even make it into the cream of the crop. As such, it’s perhaps not so surprising that Final Fantasy VIII is toward the bottom of this list. There are a lot of vocal fans of this game, and I’m one of them, but there is little question that it was a bit contentious at the time, and it’s legacy remains so. Even though I definitely describe myself a fan of this game, even for me it is quite the bipolar experience.
Final Fantasy VIII was initially released on the original PlayStation after a fairly lengthy development cycle. To say that anticipation was high for this game after Final Fantasy VII took the world by storm, would be stretching the meaning of understatement. There was also a PC version which was released on PC several years later, but that PC port was less than ideal and to this day has it’s issues. They have cleaned it up a little on Steam, but frankly there is little reason to play it on PC. I would have to say that the definitive edition so far is probably the PSN release for use on PS3 or PS Vita. The polygon smoothing works okay, and the music sounds a lot better than it does on PC. And this game also works really well on the go as a PS Vita game to play when you have a lot of downtime. Because of all the time that you will need in order to draw all your spells and farm for all your components, it actually makes a great time sink which you can engage in short bursts.
The Draw system remains a controversial growth system in Final Fantasy history. I actually really enjoy most aspects of this system, it’s quite a bit different than other JRPGs and can be rather fun. But that’s not to say that it couldn’t use some improvements. The largest improvement I would make to that system, and this entire game, would be that the game would keep track of whatever your maximum number of spell junctions were and allow you to use that max total in your stat junctions. Due to the fact that you will be placing most of the best spells as a junction for your stats, it causes you to be punished for using the best spells. This does make a strange situation where you will have a ton of spells, but will typically not want to use them at all if you are playing the game optimally. To be clear, it’s not like you really need to use them if you do enough grinding, but it’s a strange choice regardless.
But that grinding for all the best spell junctions, and the associated component grinding to make the best weapons and armor, leads directly to my favorite part of this game. Final Fantasy VIII can be broken easier than probably any other game in the series, and I love that about this game. If you do some intelligent grinding and junctioning, you can become devastating gods of destruction. This game does have some of the most brutal bosses in the whole franchise, though, so it was obviously intended by the developers that you should discover those ways to become crazy powerful. This was also the first game in the series (but not the last) to really bring a lot more function and personality to the summoned monsters. So all around the battle system in this game is really a highlight for me.
Less consistently good are the characters. While I really like the overall world story, and it stays interesting throughout the whole game, the characters engaging in the story seem a little overwhelmed and forgettable in the long run. Squall is a hard one to get a handle on especially. I really like how powerful he is, and how he generally doesn’t whine about his circumstances. But he has almost no personality, and he can be a bit of an asshole when he does decide to talk. But his paramour Rinoa is a really great character, and one of my favorite female characters in the entire series. Yes, she is the princess who needs to be saved in this particular classic romance, but she never feels one note and her gentle humor is very welcome. Laguna is also a highlight for me, but his playable sequences can be a little annoying, especially when trying to juggle junctioned magic. But other than those three characters, I generally don’t really like any of the others. Even Quistis and Selphie seemed to be very underutilized and I always finish the game feeling like I barely got to know them.
So the pertinent question would be, why is this game in my Top 10, and what makes it better for me than it’s immediate predecessor? As underdeveloped or unlikable as the other characters are, the story is very focused on Squall and Rinoa. This gives the story a much more intimate feel than pretty much any other title in the series. And because their’s is a romance, it is particularly touching to me personally. As such, even if it doesn’t always succeed entirely, I am much more forgiving of it because it’s highlights are so very high. I’m a total sucker for romance, and I always will be, and it’s rather sad to me that it tends to not get explored as much in this series as I would have liked, or to quite the degree I prefer. So even if this game has a lot of really great things, and a lot of not so great things, it deserves being in my top 10 for it’s innovative battle system and it’s wonderfully sweet romance.
Final Fantasy VIIIFinal Fantasy XVFinal Fantasy XV CountdownJRPGPlaystationPSNSquare Enix