By William Haderlie / November 15th, 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
This selection is almost guaranteed to surprise a lot of people. My top 6 should not come as too much of a shock, even if the order is a bit different than others, but numbers 7-13 seem to be where I differ the most from the lists that I normally see online. The general online reaction to the announcement of a sequel to the divisive Final Fantasy XIII could be characterized as a collective shrug of the shoulders. However, as a fan of the original game but someone who wished it ended differently, I was very much interested in this game. It also helped that there were sequels to the main franchise entries already that I had loved. So I was more than ready to give this game a chance. And you’ll notice that of all the Final Fantasy XIII properties, this one ended up ranking the highest on my list.
In this game, you are able to play as Lightning’s younger sister, Serah, who was pretty much the motivating factor for almost the entire first game. But joining her for this journey as a party member was a new cast member, Noel. It takes quite a while before you figure out why he is a part of this story at all, but it’s largely worth the wait. Initially, it seems that he’s there more because of Lightning, but it turns out that the villain of this story is more the motivating factor for Noel helping Serah. For Serah herself, the shoe is on the other foot and she is trying to save her older sister, Lightning. It was very strange how the game started off with Lightning suddenly disappearing and the timeline being skewed, but if you pay attention it starts to make sense.
Paying attention to the story is of primary concern in this game. The most common complaint I read in the games media when this game was first released was that they could not make sense of the story or that the story was bad. First of all, story quality is a very subjective determination, so I always throw out that complaint. Secondly, I think that this game is not the easiest game to review in a short time frame. That is not to excuse the reviewers for doing a poor job, but this is a game that really requires a fan’s dedication. And I actually like that about my games, I’m extremely uninterested in making games that are perfect for everyone. Not only is this timeline fractured, but you will be going back and forth in time quite a few times and changing events. Not only that, but you really need to have a good grasp of the world in the first game as well. So if you are not paying attention, or if you are trying to rush out your review (one of the pitfalls of traditional gaming media that is very difficult to remedy when your revenue is tied to clicks), it’s very easy to get lost. But if you do the game the service of giving it the attention it deserves, I think that there is a lot to love here.
Even as much as I enjoyed the story, that was not even my favorite part of this game. That distinction belongs to the combat, this is the ideal form of the Final Fantasy XIII combat system, in my opinion. Not only do you have much quicker access to your full range of abilities, but there were some nice tweaks that were made to the flow of combat which were welcome. And then there is your third party member, a monster. Instead of juggling a party of 6 in this game, you will only ever have Serah and Noel and a monster of your choice. The two humans can change their classes, but the monsters are only ever their base class. So you need to capture a variety of monsters and plug them into the paradigms you want. In addition, they do not gain new abilities and powers with the normal Crystarium. Instead, you will need to train up your monsters using various items. While this seems a bit tedious, it works out best in practice because it allows you to raise up a great monster without needing to use a very underleveled monster in combat.
With the sheer variety of those monsters that you can raise, you will have plenty to accomplish if you want to capture and raise them all (sounding a bit like Pokemon there). There are also several mini-games, a lot of fan service (especially in the arena fights), and multiple endings. So all told this game presents a ton of things to do, with a very open structure as to how and when you accomplish them. Of the three Final Fantasy XIII games, this also presented my most fun Platinum Trophy, because it never felt like an onerous grind. Even though there were a ton of things that I needed to do in order to earn every trophy, the game stayed fun throughout and I can’t wait to earn every trophy on the PC version. You can’t say much more for a game than that. I will always remain a passionate defender of this game, and a fan.
Final Fantasy XIIIFinal Fantasy XIII-2Final Fantasy XVFinal Fantasy XV CountdownJRPGPCPlayStation 3Square EnixSteam