By William Haderlie / November 27th, 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
06. Final Fantasy IX
05. Final Fantasy Tactics
04. Final Fantasy V
03. Final Fantasy IV
02. Final Fantasy XII
The selection of Final Fantasy XII as my 2nd favorite Final Fantasy game of all time (and therefore one of my favorite games of all time, period) will either be totally shocking, or not shocking at all. Middling opinions seem to be fairly rare about this game, you usually either absolutely love it or you hate it. Neither side of that is particularly wrong or right, we all bring our own thoughts and opinions on any artistic or entertainment medium. For me, Final Fantasy XII hits all the right spots, and the only thing I might have changed about the game is to have Basch and Ashe fall in love during the journey and end up ruling the kingdom together at the end. But that’s me, I’m a sucker for romance. Still, this game has an amazing story and characters, so either way, I still am amazed at how rich this story is every time I go back and play it.
For now, the best version of this game to play is the International Zodiac Job System release of the game on PlayStation 2, which never officially came out in the US. It still has that wonderful English voice acting in it that is famous in the industry for one of the greatest dubs of all time. And is one of the few dubs which was reverse-imported back to Japan due to demand. But that is about to change soon, as I showed with my first image of the game, Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age is nearing completion and is due to come out sometime next year. To be quite frank, I’m much more excited for an HD update of this game, and the ability to play it on my modern consoles, than I am to play Final Fantasy XV. I’ll let Final Fantasy XV convince me to love it, I really want to, but I already deeply love this game. And I’m also a lot more excited for this upcoming remaster than I am for the remake of Final Fantasy VII, but looking at their positions on this list, that should not be much of a surprise.
There are still many people who don’t like Vaan or Panelo from this game, but other than those two the cast is pretty much universally beloved (for those that actually played through the whole game). For me personally, I really love Panelo (just not as much as the other two girls in your group) and Vaan doesn’t really bother me. But I also don’t consider him to be the main character of the game, that distinction goes to either Ashe or Basch. In some ways, Balthier could even be said to be a more central character than Vaan is. Vaan and Panelo seemed more like R2-D2 and C3PO to me, the perspective that the more primary characters are seen through, and the outside force that brings disparate influences together into one group. This is a fairly common narrative technique, but Star Wars is a good example that most people will immediately recognize. Even though the characters are all really good, and extremely well voiced, the rich tapestry of races and nations in this story stands even greater.
Everything about this game is polarizing for so many people. You either love the characters or you don’t, you either love the war story or you don’t, you either love the Shakespearean acting or you don’t, but nothing is more controversial than the combat style of this game. They made the combat completely real time and with all enemies seen on the overworld without any screen wipes between battles. As such other enemies can join in on your battle while in progress, or you can join in on enemy monsters that are already trying to kill each other. But the most contentious part of the combat system seems to be the Gambit system. Your party is given a set amount of Gambits (the maximum grows as you progress) which are a list of command priorities. Think of it as the first small step towards computer (or game) programming. You give all your characters a sequence of If/Then commands, such as “If Party Member HP < 30% Then Cast Curaga”, and then your next Gambit can be “If Enemy With Lowest Health Then Attack”. That allows that character to physically attack the enemy with lowest health but they will interrupt their action with a cure if any party member starts to be in danger with their health. As you move along in the game the enemies will have a wider range of attacks and status effects so the list of potential Gambits you want will grow.
When you set up your Gambits appropriately your party should generally be able to fight all on their own with you only taking them from one fight to the other. But that is only generally, for the more difficult battles (or if you are trying to accomplish something very specific) you may have to change your Gambits up or turn off/on certain priorities. You still have a lot of the same strategy that you get in other RPGs, but this time you spend much more time thinking about a battle before you engage in it. One thing that tends to be forgotten though, is that you don’t have to use the Gambit system at all if you don’t want to. That “G” next to the names above means that the Gambit system is active, and you can turn it off totally and take control over your individual characters. The action will pause anytime you open up a character’s command menu, unlike with Final Fantasy XIII, and that becomes a very necessary tool even if you do use the Gambit system. The best course of action is to actually combine the two and generally use Gambits for their quick reaction times but to also pause the action when you need to in order to change up the strategy manually based on enemy reaction.
Using the Gambit system ideally and taking control when you need to comes in handy many times for this game. This game supersedes both Final Fantasy V and Final Fantasy Tactics as my number one most difficult Final Fantasy game. The main story bosses (including the last boss) are not cakewalks by any means even with the best gear, but the optional bosses of this game are truly nefarious. The Guild Hunts are a huge part of this game and equates to almost as much content as the main story itself. There are 45 Guild Hunts, and even some side hunts from another location (Hunt Club), for powerful creatures and will end up netting you most of the best equipment in the game. But they can all be very difficult fights, culminating in possibly the ultimate Final Fantasy boss of all time, Yiazmat. Yiazmat has 50 million health (in a game where you cannot do more than 9999 damage with one attack) and typically takes between 6-8 hours to defeat. Thankfully you can leave his immediate vicinity for a short time if you need to take a short break, but usually, you will just need to pause the game to take a break while fighting him. And he does have abilities that are automatic kills.
Not everyone is fond of the character growth system, although I personally have always been a fan of it. In the Zodiac Job System update, they did change up the general character grid to make exclusive grids based on whatever class you choose for your character. In the above screenshot, you can see that they chose Black Mage for Vaan. That does take away a lot of the versatility for the characters but does give them some new abilities. Personally, I tend to enjoy the old character grids more than the new Job grids, but you can thankfully choose which version you want to play when you begin the game.
What has stayed with me the longest about this great game is just the wonderful feeling of occupying this world. This director’s previous works were all amazing games, Tactics Ogre, Final Fantasy Tactics, and Vagrant Story. And even though the director had to be removed midway through this game (for supposed health reasons), his fingerprints are all over this game and I consider it to be his greatest work. The world feels very rich and lived in, and all the characters and races are extremely well realized. The Judges were first introduced in this game and now their appearance is as much a part of classic Final Fantasy lore as anything else. There were a lot of changes to this game, not only with the combat system but even with the Espers (summoned creatures). Almost every change was a change that I felt was for the better, in my opinion. I can’t wait to see creatures like Mateus, Zeromus, Exodus, and even the disgusting Cuchulainn in full HD. But I’ll be even more interested to see what the current generation of gamers will think of this game after it’s HD upgrade is complete. Don’t plan on hearing from me for a while after it’s released, though, because I want to get lost in this world all over again.
Final Fantasy XIIFinal Fantasy XII: The Zodiac AgeFinal Fantasy XVFinal Fantasy XV CountdownJRPGPS2PS4Square Enix