The Final Fantasy (FF) canon is one of the best known electronic games console-based role-playing game (RPG) franchises. The main games have premiered on four different consoles (not including re-releases on the WonderSwan Colour console), although other games linked to the series (such as Final Fantasy Tactics Advance and Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles) exist on other systems.
Square/Square Enix - the Developers
Final Fantasy is the most successful title from originally the company generally referred to as Square, but also known at various times as Square Co Ltd and SquareSoft. However, the last few games have been created and released by Square Enix Co Ltd, following their merger in April 2003 with the Enix Corporation (who had previously made the RPG-based Dragon Quest/Dragon Warrior series). Between Final Fantasy V and VI, Square was also responsible for the English-language version of the original Breath of Fire game when released on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (or SNES) in 1993.
Square has developed other games, such as the Mana series, and the SaGa series - both RPGs - but it's the Final Fantasy series that has dominated their portfolio; indeed, some early chapters of these other games were released in the West under the Final Fantasy label.
A more recent project of Square is the series of RPG 'dungeon hack' called Kingdom Hearts1, which is a combination of multiple games from the Final Fantasy series (including characters such as Cloud, the hero from FFVII, Selphie from FFVIII and Tidus and Wakka from FFX) and... Disney characters. Teamed up with Goofy and Donald Duck, the hero, Sora (who uses a 'keyblade' for his weapon - slightly reminiscent of Squall's gunblade from FFVIII), must traverse Disney worlds and meet characters from both franchises.
The Final Fantasy Games
At the time of writing, the main franchise consists of Final Fantasy up to Final Fantasy XII including the online multiplayer game Final Fantasy XI. As is common in the games market, FF release dates in Europe and Australia are about six months behind the American market, which itself is about six months behind Japan, mainly due to the time it takes to translate the games from Japanese into English, and then further localisation for the European releases2.
All of the main games are stand-alone adventures, whose storylines, characters and (probably) universes are unique to each game. However, there are many elements that are common to many of the games. The essential game structure remains the same through most, with three main views: the exploration view, in which a party of characters wanders around a world, talking to people and encountering enemies; the battle view, in which the party is transported to an arena to face an enemy or group of enemies; and the menu screens, where important choices and selections can be made that will affect the outcome of certain events. In the battle views, a set arena is shown, depending on the location of the characters (for example, while wandering the plains, the arena would be open fields, whereas if the party is exploring a dungeon, the arena would depict dark stone walls), with your 'party' lined up facing your opponent(s). These battles are largely statistic (stat) based, with the hit points (HP) of each character and their opponents being key.In FFXI and XII, the "battle view" is removed as a seperate entity from the "exploration view"; battles occur seamlessly from exploration of the world, with enemies visible from a distance and free movement allowed throughout the battle.
Final Fantasies That Aren't
The labelling and release of the games is pretty straight-forward... in Japan, at least. The first three in the series were released on the Famicom in Japan (which was called the Nintendo Entertainment System, or NES, in the West), with the first game released back in 1987. The following three instalments were published on the Super Famicom (SNES), from 1991 (FFIV) to 1994 (FFVI). FFIV was released in two versions (the original, followed later by Final Fantasy IV Easytype).
Confusion arises because FFII, III and V were not released in the US or Europe originally. Because FFII and III were not around in areas other than Japan, the game known as Final Fantasy IV in Japan became Final Fantasy II in the US - despite no relation at all to the Japanese FFII. The gameplay for the Western FFII was also simplified in the transition. Following on, FFVI became FFIII in the West. In addition, a game called Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest was released, aimed at US gamers but also released in Japan (as Final Fantasy USA - Mystic Quest), between FFIV and V.
To make things even more complicated, around this time SquareSoft released the first in another of their RPG canons: the Mana series. Though the first in the series was called Seiken Densetsu3 in Japan, SquareSoft decided to rename it for the American market by calling it Final Fantasy Adventure - despite it not being a Final Fantasy game. Fortunately, the sequels stuck to the proper Mana titles, and the original game was eventually released for GameBoy Advance in America and Europe with the name Sword of Mana.
The Final Fantasy brand name was also used for the release of the first three Makai Toushi SaGa games - in Western releases, they were called Final Fantasy Legend 1 - 3. The next three in the SaGa series were released as the Romancing SaGa 1 - 3 in the West, and SaGa 7 became SaGa Frontier. As you've probably already gathered, following Square's naming and releasing of games is often even more complicated than following the games' plots.
The next step in the real FF series was, in some ways, the largest that Square ever made. In the three year gap between the releases of FFVI and VII, a new console was released: Sony's PlayStation, which boasted a new CD format (as opposed to the traditional cartridge format of other games systems) and 32-bit graphics, which allowed for a revolution in the RPG world. FFVII appeared on three CDs, making it a lot longer and more detailed than previous FF games. The addition of jaw-dropping Full Motion Videos (FMVs), and the fact that the game was released as Final Fantasy VII everywhere, ensured that the Final Fantasy brand was firmly established as the world's leading RPG videogame.
Final Fantasy VIII and IX followed, also on PlayStation, in 1999 and 2000. These both took up four discs, and pushed the computer visuals to new limits. Also on PlayStation, a number of spin-off games appeared. The best known is probably Final Fantasy Tactics, which is a cross between this series and Ogre Battle4; despite sacrificing some of the graphical qualities, this was a very popular game. Another couple of spin-offs starred a mascot of the series, the chocobo (see below for details on the chocobo) - Chocobo Racing and Chocobo's Mysterious Dungeon (and its sequel, Chocobo's Mysterious Dungeon 2). Earlier Final Fantasy games were also converted to the PlayStation format; some in pairs (such as the game Final Fantasy Origins, which contains FFI and II) and some on their own (such as Final Fantasy VI).
Then came PlayStation 2 (or PS2). With it came the next step in the Final Fantasy series, FFX. Now on DVD, but also with a shorter game, it only took one disc (although it had an extras DVD with it). However, the graphics in it, and especially the FMVs, displayed some of the most realistic and detailed visuals in any game in existence. Moreover, Final Fantasy X took the next step in realism: as opposed to the previous games, which had boxes or speech bubbles, the main characters in this game were voiced.
The series begins to get more complicated at this point. Partially because of the controversial ending to FFX, the first true sequel to the Final Fantasy series was spawned: FFX-2, which returns to the characters and world of FFX two years after it ended and provides a new conclusion for the story. As well as this, FFXI has been released. This is not the usual case of a single-player fighting their way through a pre-determined story, but a massive online game where other players can be met and interacted with. It is worldwide, but in Europe can only be played on computers rather than PlayStation 2. FFXII, which attempted to combine the playing style of an online RPG into a single-player game, is the latest release in the series.
Final Fantasy VII's popularity has recently come to the fore as well, with more games set in the same universe being released. A film sequel - Advent Children (AC) - to the original game, a mobile phone prequel, Before Crisis (BC), a forthcoming PlayStation Portable (PSP) game, Crisis Core (CC), and Dirge of Cerberus (DC), starring the mysterious gunner Vincent, for PlayStation 2 have all been created. As can be seen from the pattern of naming, another entry (or even 22) would not be overly surprising5.
Although still making games for Sony's consoles, Square Enix have also moved back to their old console-makers, Nintendo. In 2003 (in Japan), they released Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles for Nintendo's GameCube; a sequel is being developed for the Nintendo Dual Screen (or DS)6 system. These are predominantly multiplayer but offline games. Square Enix has also released Final Fantasy Tactics Advance for the GameBoy Advance, which takes the style of FFT, but has a different story, etc7. On top of this, some of the original NES/SNES instalments are being re-released on the Nintendo GameBoy Advance. Final Fantasy III has been re-vamped (such as the inclusion of 3D graphics, as well as many gameplay changes) and re-released for the Nintendo DS - the first time this game has been released outside of Japan, or on a console other than its original (the Famicon, or NES).
FFXIII is currently underdevelopment for Sony's most powerful console, the PlayStation 3 (PS3). While not much is known about it at the time of writing, the battles have been described as an attempt to see "how much of [the Advent Children battles] can be represented in the game".
The Films and Anime
On top of all this, there are the films and anime. Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, a completely computer-generated movie not linked to the games, was released in 2001. Panned at the box-office, it was an important factor in Square's need to merge with another company, and hence the formation of Square Enix. More successful, although only released on DVD and UMD formats - not in cinemas - was the film Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, which is based on the characters and world of FFVII, but takes place two years after the events of the game. An English language website about the film, adventchildren.net, has further details. Be warned, though, it contains potential spoilers to the game.
Two anime series have also been spawned from the Final Fantasy games. These are Final Fantasy: Legend of the Crystals, which follows up the story of FFV, but more loosely than the way Advent Children does with FFVII, and Final Fantasy: Unlimited (unconnected to any specific game), which was left after only 25 of the originally planned 52 episodes, possibly due to lack of budget, but has been continued (in Japan only) through other media, including novels and radio.
The Spirits Within and Unlimited differ from any of the games by using our own Earth in the story (although in Unlimited the characters soon leave for 'The Outer World'). They do, however, retain many of the series' central points, such as the character Cid (although in the credits of The Spirits Within, he is called 'Sid').
Playing the Games
So what does playing a Final Fantasy entail? Well, for a start, you've got to be prepared to spend a considerable amount of time on it - unless you do little else or deliberately rush it, these games are not the sort you complete in a week. With or without a guide.
Also, you've got to like stories. Accept the fact that these are not games where you determine the characters' fates - these have already long been decided, and then viewed by thousands, or more often millions, of others. You get to make decisions in the game, but they often have little effect on the overall story.
There are four major parts in every Final Fantasy game, which make up the majority of the playing time - walking, fighting, powering up and watching - with other actions taking up the remaining time.
There's a lot of this. This gets the characters in the story from one location to the next in order to advance the narrative. Remember: in each game, there's a whole world. Over the course of the adventure, you'll probably have to go to most of it. Fortunately, you will eventually get some sort of transport, such as a airship or a chocobo, but otherwise, it'll probably be walking (well, running). While walking, you'll quite often have random encounters - see under fighting. Sometimes you'll be expected to be doing something - talking to people, solving puzzles, etc. Other times, it's simply a case of reaching the end of the road.
The main interactive part of the games is fighting enemies: both random encounters and set battles that you're required to fight. When the fight begins, the screen dissolves in one way or another (eg the screen goes into a whirlpool in FFIX; the screen breaks like a pane of glass in FFX) and you end up in a screen with two lines of fighters - your team facing the enemies. In some of the games, each team member has the option of being in the 'front row' or the 'back row' - being in the latter halves the damage that character takes from physical attacks, but halves the damage they deal with physical attacks as well, and hence the back row is usually for the mages among your team. Characters can switch row mid-battle - at the cost of a turn.
The neat line arrangement is not the case in FFX-2, where the characters can move around the battlefield and will stay there, allowing attacks to the back of an enemy, increasing damage.
The fighters take turns to hit each other. In FFIV, the Active Time Battle (ATB) was introduced, and has remained in every Final Fantasy game since, bar FFX. These are gauges that fill up over time, and when full, the menu for that character's possible moves is made available. In FFIX and earlier, you can select the instructions immediately, but the character will not act until everyone who had their commands entered previously (including the enemies) has acted, meaning quite a backlog can build up. In FFX-2, some actions can occur at the same time as other ones, making it more realistic.
This system is quite drastically different in XII, where random encounters and transitions to battle screens are removed; rather, enemies are visible as you wander around and you can either approach them and attack immediately, or run away8. The battles then use a mixture of real-time actions and time guages filling up, while free movement of the characters around the battlefield is also available.
This is also a major part of the games: choosing how you want your characters to develop, and what stats and abilities you want them to have when they are in battle. This changes drastically between each game, and it can often take a long while to understand how the system fully works, especially as the systems are usually introduced a bit at a time.
Yes, yes, we know... it's a game, not a film. But watching the story progress in movie-like cut-scenes is one of the very major parts of a modern Final Fantasy game, and in the earlier games there was still a lot of speech to read. At these points, you can put the controller down (unless you want to feel any vibration there may be for the scene), sit back and relax - or feel extremely tense, depending on the scene. These scenes will usually advance the story, will often lead to revelations in terms of their impact on the way the plot is going, and may cause you to get more involved in the story and characters than you expect. The developers have taken these opportunities in the more recent games to produce what are probably the pinnacle of the Final Fantasy games: the Full Motion Videos (FMVs). These showcase the most realistic graphics developed at the time of production and are often truly stunning.
Not necessarily one of the main points involved in the games, as you can go through them without turning your speakers on, but it can be very worthwhile turning the volume up. Not for the sound effects, usually; not even necessarily for the voices in the PS2 incarnations; but, rather, for the music. A very large proportion of the music is written by the composer Nobuo Uematsu, although he has now left the company, after a period of decreasing involvement - he only wrote the main theme for Final Fantasy XII, and was not involved in Final Fantasy X-2. He has now founded his own company, although this will not preclude him from working with Square Enix in the future. His work is much loved by many fans of the series; so much so that CD soundtracks are available of the game music - but primarily in Japan. His theme song for FFVIII, 'Eyes on Me', sung by Faye Wong, sold 400,000 copies and won 'Song of the Year (Western Music)' in 1999, at the 14th Annual Japan Gold Disc Awards.
Yes, there is other stuff, such as mini-games (some of which are optional, some compulsory), but the above parts make up most of the game. If you don't like one of the parts, then Final Fantasy is quite potentially not the game for you. So: ye now be warned.
Recurring Features, or Why You Might Experience a Feeling of Déjà Vu
And, as promised, some information about the continuous points for those not in the know.
To be honest, you may well recognise some of the characters despite the fact they are new to any one of the games. When the heroes are actually characters rather than simply figures who have no background and no specific personality (as is the case in FFI and III), the main party often follows a slightly typical mould - such as the hero using a type of sword, being rather self-centred, and his parentage playing an important part in the story. The heroine will be quite innocent, often uses magic rather than physical force in battle, and will be fundamentally involved in the plot. Often there will be a passionate, dedicated secondary hero, who uses physical force and is devoted to the mission he is involved in.
However, as well as these, there are characters who do retain their names. Cid is the most memorable of these. He appears usually in a quite high position, such as the head of SeeD in FFVIII or the Regent of Lindblum in FFIX9. He was one of the main playable characters in FFVII, but not since. His appearance changes between the games, as does his character, but the name remains. He has a tendency to own airships or other vehicles.
Another pair are Biggs and Wedge10, who often appear together - they were two of the rebellion group AVALANCHE in FFVII, and were two members of the army of Galbadia in FFVIII. They don't appear with anywhere near the regularity of Cid, but they do re-occur in a similar manner.
Summonable creatures appear in all the recent Final Fantasy games, although their title (Summons in FFVII, GFs in VIII, Eidolons in IX, Aeons in X), their ranks and the number of them appearing change quite drastically between games (for example, there are around 20 different GFs in FFVIII, compared to only eight Aeons in FFX). Some always appear: namely, Ifrit, Shiva and Bahamut; while others make regular appearances, such as Odin and Ramuh. Many of the names are taken from gods and heroes of legends or major religions. From game to game, they have approximately the same appearance, although obviously visuals are improved through the series. In the older games, when they were summoned they appeared in a cut-scene (mini movie) and then disappeared. In FFX, they stayed and fought, controlled by the player, in place of the party. Some specific details:
Ifrit - a traditional beast from the fiery pits of Hell; he is sort of like the Minotaur, with control over fire. He has immense strength and throws rather large rocks at the enemies - or you, when you have to beat him. His name comes from Indian myth, where Ifrit was a god of fire.
Shiva - a graceful, beautiful queen of cold; she has blue skin, little clothing and complete control over ice. She tends to freeze all the land around her opponents and suddenly destroy it, damaging them. She shares her name with the third deity in the Hindu Trimurti, but the Hindu Shiva is male (he is the Destroyer). In Final Fantasy, Shiva's name is derived instead from Shirahime, the Japanese goddess11 of snow and ice.
Bahamut - a large dragon with immense, non-elemental powers. Its name came from Muslim traditions, where Bahamut is a giant fish, supporting on it a bull, which has upon it a mountain, and above that are the Hells, Earth and the Heavens.
Ramuh - a wizened old man with a staff and power over lightning. He is sometimes replaced by other lightning Summons, such as Quetzacotl in FFVIII, and Ixion in FFX.
Odin - a warrior riding on a horse with too many legs; he always uses the Zantetsuken to attack (except in FFVII, where it was translated as 'Steel-Bladed Sword'), which instantly kills all enemies by chopping them in half - if they're vulnerable to the attack. Odin (also known as Wodin or Woden) was the king of the gods in Norse mythology.
In FFXII, summonable creatures still exist, under the name of Espers, but do not include the above among their ranks. The names of the previously summonable monsters, as above, are still present however - they are now the names of airships.
Many monsters remain throughout the games, sometimes with the same name and sometimes not. In FFX-2, most of the monsters from FFX are used, but usually with very different names. Some of the most regularly recurring ones are:
Malboro - this old 'favourite' is a large plant-thing with lots of tentacles and a large mouth - it looks vaguely like the Venus People-Trap in the musical Little Shop of Horrors - and it has the despised 'Bad Breath', which inflicts several status ailments on all party members. All too often does a party suddenly meet this and, before you know it, all party members are blinded (regularly miss when they attack), poisoned (lose health every few seconds), confused (attack each other) or go berserk (automatically attack the enemy). At this point, all you can do is sit back and hope you regain control of one of them before they wipe themselves out...
Behemoth - a large purple bull-like thing that usually has the ability to use 'Meteor', which will heavily damage your party (let's just ignore the fact that meteors are the things that burn up in the atmosphere and meteorites are the ones that hit the ground...) Again, not at all nice.
Tonberry - a relatively innocent looking, little12, usually green creature that is bipedal, wears a sort of cloak, has glowing yellow eyes, a small tail, and carries a lamp... and a knife. Known in the earlier games as 'Pug' (and 'Master Pug'), it walks very slowly towards your party, then, if still undefeated (which is quite likely, as it has a lot of health), stabs you with the knife. If you do try attacking it, often you'll be hit back by its 'karma', which deals damage depending on the number of enemies that character has defeated. Despite its innocent appearance it can be an opponent that you will come to fear (until you can defeat it easily), reminding you of the important phrase: 'Trust no one...'
Cactuars - well, the name sort of gives a hint... they're basically cacti, and used to be called 'Cactrots'. However, they take a humanoid form: imagine a stick figure, where the sticks are replaced by green, ridged cylinders. Cactuars are given a quite comical, unrealistic pose - their limbs are always bent at right angles and alternate between two positions (backwards and forwards) without passing in between. They are extremely agile, and hence can be hard to hit, and often run away from battle. When they don't, they can use the move '1000 Needles', which inflicts an augmented 1000 damage on the target. The Jumbo Cactuar exists in some of the games, and is a much larger version (at least three times the height of your characters). It can use '10,000 Needles', which works on the same principle but hurts a lot more.
Iron Giant - although their name changes slightly, they're often there. They are just large sort-of-humanoid robots that carry large swords and enjoy slashing your party to bits.
Ahriman - as with Iron Giant, the name of Ahriman changes sometimes. Their body is basically a large eye, covered in a strangely coloured skin (often red), and it has wings and a tail. Often hard to hit, due to the fact they fly, they use attacks based on their glare - often confusing your characters (see description of Malboro for what confused characters do).
And now, for those beloved creatures (or maybe not...), the chocobo and the moogle.
Chocobos - large yellow birds that run around on two legs at quite high speeds, and can be ridden by humans - they are the horses of Final Fantasy, being about that size and exploited for turning things and riding in much the same way. They are available for the player to ride at various points, although the method for getting them changes a lot between games.
Moogles - little white, vaguely cat-like things with wings - supposedly designed as a cross between a mole and a bat13. Yes, odd. They don't always appear, unlike chocobos, but they make a few appearances. Unlike most chocobos, they have the power of speech, and in XII are one of the the five main intelligent species populating the world of Ivalice.
In-jokes turn up pretty frequently. Whether it's Zidane in FFIX commenting, on seeing a large sword, 'I used to know someone with spiky hair who used a weapon like that' (Cloud, the main character from FFVII), or Gilgamesh appearing as a summon in FFVIII, still sometimes equipped with the sword 'Excalipur' from his first appearance in FFV (does minimal damage to all enemies), be prepared for sly references to the game's own history.
A Brief Guide to the Main Games
A quick description of each of the games:
Final Fantasy I
Story - The Four Light Warriors embark on a quest to save the planet from the darkness that has enveloped it...
Characters - Four undefined characters; the player chooses their class and name at the start, but they have no personality.
Current availability - Part of the PlayStation game Final Fantasy Origins. Also on GameBoy Advance on a package called Dawn of Souls, combined with Final Fantasy II. In Japan, it has been released as a mobile-phone game.
Final Fantasy II
Story - A rebel army tries to overthrow the tyrannous regime of the Paramecia Empire over the world.
Characters - Three set members (Firion is the leader); various different characters join at points.
Current availability - Part of the PlayStation game Final Fantasy Origins. Also on GameBoy Advance on a package called Dawn of Souls, combined with Final Fantasy I.
Final Fantasy III
Story - Four warriors, chosen by fate to become The Light Warriors (yes, as in from the first game) try to stop the overflow of darkness into the world.
Characters - Four undefined warriors, again. The player has a choice of job classes for them.
Current availability - On Nintendo DS only, in a fairly considerably changed format.
Final Fantasy IV
Story - Dark Knight Cecil has successfully completed his latest mission - the capture of the Water Crystal - but is dubious about his commander's ambitions. He is betrayed by his friend and must fight his way through the world in order to save it.
Characters - Cecil, a soldier for Baron's army who becomes dubious about what he is required to do, is the main character, and the only constant member. In this game, the party consists of up to five characters at a time.
Current availability - Part of the PlayStation package Final Fantasy Anthology; also available individually on GameBoy Advance.
Final Fantasy V
Story - The four elemental crystals play a major part in the story again, and must be saved from the Dark Knight X-Death.
Characters - The party is led by Bartz, a Crystal Warrior and a nice guy who happens to get crushes a little easily. He is accompanied by a set three other characters - Faris, the female leader of a band of pirates; Galuf, an old man with no memory of his past; and Reina, the princess of the kingdom Tycoon.
Current availability - Part of the PlayStation package Final Fantasy Anthology, and also on GameBoy Advance, again with some strange changes - including references to US pop culture in the new English translation.
Final Fantasy VI
Story - The blue-haired Terra prevents humans exploiting the magical powers of a race of creatures called Espers and fights an evil emperor and a powerful maniac in the process of trying to save the world.
Characters - Terra, the only female lead before FFX-2, is the main character - as much as there is one. She is accompanied by a complete variety of allies: 13 in all.
Current availability - In the US, it is part of the PlayStation package Final Fantasy Anthology. In the UK, available in PlayStation format on its own. Comes with a PlayStation 2 demo disc for Final Fantasy X in the UK. It is also available on GameBoy Advance in Japan and the US, although not in Europe at the time of writing.
Final Fantasy VII
Story - The world-wide corporation Shin-Ra is tapping into the energy of the very planet to power their unethical workings. A violent protest group, AVALANCHE, tries to stop the company and ends up on a quest to save the planet, as well as stopping it from destroying everyone on it in its self-defence.
Characters - The extremely reserved mercenary, Cloud, leads the team with his iconic giant sword; he is joined by up to eight others (two are entirely optional): Aeris, a flower seller pursued by Shin-Ra; Tifa, a childhood friend of Cloud; Barret, an impassioned fighter against Shin-Ra; Red-XIII, a lion-like experiment of Shin-Ra's genetic R&D labs; Cait Sith, a fairground toy with dubious loyalties and even more dubious fortune-telling abilities; and Cid, a disgruntled would-be astronaut, are the six set allies. Yuffie, an obsessive thief, and Vincent, a gunner with a dark past14 are potential allies, if the player works out how to get them.
Current availability - Available in its original format and a Platinum15 re-release on PlayStation. Also available on computer.
Final Fantasy VIII
Story - Galbadia has started a policy of taking over nearby countries, including Dollet and Timber. After becoming a member of the mercenary force SeeD at the start of the game, the dispassionate Squall is sent to help liberate Timber - but as they reveal the true power behind each front, the party have a much larger challenge on their hands...
Characters - Only the six: Squall, an expert with the gunblade (a gun with a large sword attached; the blade is the main weapon, but the gun can be fired to increase damage) is the main character; he is apparently mismatched with the passionate, overly-optimistic Rinoa. They are aided by fellow SeeDs Zell (a fiery character who is too easily riled by the insult 'Chicken-wuss'), Selphie (a friendly, extremely clumsy girl), Irvine (a sharp-shooter and ladies' man) and Quistis (logical and lethal).
Current availability - Available in its original format and a Platinum re-release on PlayStation. Also available on computer.
Final Fantasy IX
Story - Queen Brahne, ruler of Alexandria, launches a series of unprovoked attacks on the other nations on the Mist Continent. Her daughter, Princess Garnet, runs away in an attempt to get help with stopping Brahne, and ends up in a quest to save all life on the planet, Gaia.
Characters - A party of eight characters, led by Zidane, a thief with a tail; Princess Garnet (Dagger), a summoner, is the main female; and they are accompanied by the viera16 Freia; the pompous knight Steiner; Vivi, the timid black mage; Eiko, a little girl who is a friend of the moogles; a cold-hearted mercenary, Amarant; and the very odd creature Quina.
Current availability - Available in its original format and a Platinum re-release on PlayStation.
Final Fantasy X
Story - Tidus is propelled one thousand years in the future by an evil entity called Sin. He fights alongside Yuna, a summoner, and her guardians, to try and defeat Sin and return home.
Characters - Seven characters; the hero is an impulsive, outgoing Blitzball17 player called Tidus (Tee-dus); his love interest, the selfless Yuna; and are accompanied by the mysterious warrior Auron, the detached black mage Lulu, the bigoted Blitzball player Wakka, the enthusiastic and passionate Rikku, and the ferocious Ronso (a bipedal blue furry creature) Kimhari.
Current availability - Available in its original format and a Platinum re-release on PlayStation2.
Final Fantasy X-2
Story - Spira, the world from FFX and X-2, is under threat once again; this time from a giant machine called Vegnagun - the ultimate weapon, but unable to distinguish between friend and foe.
Characters - Yuna and Rikku return from FFX, and are joined by a new, reserved woman called Paine.
Current availability - Available in its original format and Platinum re-releases on PlayStation 2.
Final Fantasy XII
Story - The small country of Dalmasca, situated between rival large nations Rozarria and Archadia, is invaded by the latter in preparation for the seeminly upcoming war. In an attempt to avenge loved ones' deaths, restore Dalmasca and prevent the war, a strange mix of characters must travel over the world and face down the terrible foes...
Characters - Vaan, a Dalmascan street urchin with the desire to be a sky pirate, is the main playable character - however, in terms of the story his companion Ashe, princess of Dalmasca is far more important. Other playable characters are Vaan's girlfriend Penelo, a seemingly treacharous Dalmascan knight, Basch, and the sky pirates Balthier and Fran.
Current availability - Available in its original format on PlayStation 2.
Other Entries in the Guide
Some appropriate links to look at for more detail about the specific games and genres involved are as follows:
A basic description of the Final Fantasy series.
A description of Final Fantasy - the original game.
A Guide Entry on Final Fantasy VII.
Role Playing Games explained.
The Final Word on the Subject...?
Final Fantasy is a popular series. That means that there are an awful lot of websites out there with a myriad nuggets of trivia, guides, fan-fiction and even just useful information. However, a couple of places to use to start any quest for more information are:
Final Fantasy XI official website - information about the online game world and ability to create an account to play if you have the game.
Final Fantasy Compendium - a site with enormous amounts of information, but full of spoilers.
Final Fantasy Insider - A fan site with lots of info.
Final Fantasy Online - An unofficial site containing news about Square Enix and the series, as well as information about the games.
Eyes on Final Fantasy - A fan site with a lot of information about the series and links to similar sites. The name is based on the theme song from FFVIII 'Eyes on Me'.
Amano's World - The homepage of Yoshitaka Amano, design artist for the first six games and FFIX. Unfortunately, at the time of writing, the section on his Final Fantasy artwork is still under construction.
A Final Note: Why 'Final' Fantasy?
Wondering, or complaining, why they're called Final Fantasy when there's a series (like Final Destination)?
Very simple: before the original Final Fantasy was released, Square was the dream child of a Japanese programmer, Hironobu Sakuguchi. However, he, and Square, were seriously short of money. So, in the aim of doing what he really wanted to do before the company went bankrupt, he put together the idea behind the original Final Fantasy game. He got the permission to make it from his publisher, but everyone felt that this game would be the final nail in the coffin of Square.
Hence, the game was his 'Final Fantasy'.
The game was obviously actually very successful, and with the name well known, rather than changing it for the later games, it remained the slightly contradictory Final Fantasy...