I played Final Fantasy in order. As fun as the first four are, they haven’t aged too well. Each one brought strengths to the table, and I feel like Final Fantasy V is the culmination of what they’ve learned. Let’s take a walk through Final Fantasy’s life up to this point.
I played through some of this on mobile, and then I played through the whole game on the GBA collection. I tried to play through this with the idea that turn-based RPGs were not overflowing with games. You know how in a lot of RPGs, especially JRPGs, there are monsters where they just change the color palette and call it something different? For some reason I LOVE that. With less limitations on space, that could be more of a lazy thing nowadays. It might be because I studied biology and simple things like that can mean crazy histories within a species. I always imagine what it took to reach that point in the video game world. I think that sort of “imagination running” keeps video games so alive to me.
The first game doesn’t really do a good job of telling you where you’re supposed to go and what you’re supposed to be doing, especially in the GBA version where there are bonus things to do that I thought were part of the original game but were totally not. It’s an annoyance now, but it’s also nice to see the gaming world how it was back then when game guides were totally a thing. Calling friends or those help lines were really a thing back then! Without them, you’re forced to explore every bit of world to try and get you where you need to go, which would be a lot more fun if there were more things to find. Haha.
That takes me to one more point. Back then, I don’t know how many people actually owned a lot of games. Remember when constant sales weren’t a thing? Remember when games costed a ton? So having a game last really long, whether through wandering around or grinding (or both at the same time) is actually fit for the time. Or you can …go outside and stuff.
Final Fantasy II
This was also played on the GBA collection. The proficiency system. I love it. It might not be the best thing ever, but that mechanic was enjoyable to me. They don’t really use this system that much up to V, but they were definitely exploring their way through RPGs and I think this is a nice result of that. It could have been worse.
There were also more people of significance. People that apparently meant something. …my memory is very fuzzy concerning story. It still wasn’t as significant as Final Fantasy games now.
But I still liked it!
Final Fantasy III
I played this one on…PC. A billion classes. Okay, not a billion, but there are a lot more classes, and this is when Final Fantasy decides they can do whatever the world they want with making more classes. That’s okay with me! You can pretty much do that with all the characters too. That was kind of…strange to me. But this was still a fun experience with understanding how we can go about leveling these classes to benefit the party as a whole. Also, on the 3D versions, the chibis are really cute. I really like the battle theme in this one.
Final Fantasy IV
This is where story and characters start getting into being…well, a story and characters with meaning. I was actually invested in the characters and the world. It was still a bit confusing at times, but a lot less so than the first game. At least I had more motivation to see what would happen next. I played that remake one on PC, so I think this has the time-based battles. It was kind of difficult to adapt to after three games in regular turn-based style, but I think it’s worth the change.
Final Fantasy V
V is most of these things combined. Unfortunately, I had to play the fuzzy version on Steam, but it didn’t affect things too much. It had a good story and characters that I really liked. The classes could be interchanged and I could still customize them to what I wanted my party to be like. It still keeps a good final fantasy feel. A lot of the emotion I get from playing V is because I went through the journey of the first four, and we can look and see how far we’ve gone. Especially in franchises, the games do not exist in a vacuum. The journey beforehand most definitely affects the way we see the games when we play them.
That being said, I think it’s arguable that Final Fantasy IV should have a spot on the ULTRA. It sits in my Honorable Mentions right now, and it is the first game to actually start that list. I’m not as knowledgeable on game design of turn-based RPGs as I am with other games, but I really think the turning point for Final Fantasy started with IV. V is proof that the developers can build on what was learned in the past, even if a game didn’t turn out to be perfect.
I think the thing that companies struggle with today is learning from previous mistakes. Some really have become executive amalgamations for the money, and although developers deserve pay, it can degrade game quality by quite a bit. Even worse, it may break down the morale of those wanting to make games that did their best only to have it shot down by the decision makers.
Humans can’t really improve unless they make mistakes, and we can’t move on from our mistakes if we cling to them. As consumers, we have a direct connection to video games that makes us extremely powerful. It is good to take action when a game dares to siphon the money out of us, or does something absolutely terrible design-wise. We also have the power to do some bad things to companies, like holding grudges for…well, ever. Companies may not be our friends, but they really can’t get better if we don’t let them. Thankfully, the vocal minority is the one shouting and claiming unfair designs or things like that when things are actually okay. I think sometimes we need to take a few steps back and remember that companies consist of human beings who have motives and dreams of their own. They’re dreamers, perhaps even more so than us in this industry, because they actually make the games, and yet we hold the power of the industry.
The best kinds of companies build on previous games and know what they should improve on by themselves. I see this in Square / Square Enix as they go along Final Fantasy. Mistakes will come. Sometimes there will be such mistakes that really knock a franchise off its course, but I think proper experimentation and getting themselves back up are what makes companies even stronger (if the executives are willing to part with the money again to try). The best companies don’t necessarily look for what players want, but what they need in order to have fun. We see this in some of the best designed games out there where fun is brought to the table in a way that gamers don’t realize they wanted. Although the early days were rough, Final Fantasy V (and yes, IV,) are good examples of that.
I love the far and wide opinions of the Final Fantasy series and how different people like different eras. What are your favorite eras?
Final Fantasy V is ranked 125 on the ULTRA. We’ll see you next time on What I love!