There is now less than a month left before the launch of Final Fantasy XVI, the highly anticipated title of Square Enix which has split the community in two since the announcement due to the development team’s choice to create an action with RPG elements (we told you about it in our special on the RPG component of Final Fantasy 16).
To pass the time, we have selected those that we believe are the five best exponents of the sagaas well as the titles that every JRPG fan should play at least once in their life.
Final Fantasy VII
Our list could only open with the role-playing game par excellence, a title that had a monumental impact on the entire genre in 1997, influencing the direction it would take from then on (find more details in our special on the formula of a timeless legend). Very first episode of the brand to boast 3D graphics, Final Fantasy VII opened the gates of a Midgard that was nothing short of incredible for the time and although the combat system was less articulated than many of its successors, overall the seventh final fantasy remains the most precious piece among the jewels in the crown of Square Enix. The story of Cloud, Tifa and companions, which at least in the first hours exhibited overwhelming naturalistic connotations, hid something dark and sinister, which on several occasions wanted to completely redefine the concepts of good and evil. Using one of the best soundtracks signed by the great Nobuo Uematsu, who has contributed to the series since its inception, Final Fantasy VII knew how to excite like few other JRPGs of its timeand this is perhaps the reason why, 26 years after its debut, the adventure of Cloud and AVALANCHE continues to retain a special place in the hearts of players.
Final Fantasy IX
Even today we struggle to understand the reasons why Final Fantasy IX, which in our opinion rightfully deserves a place among the most valid exponents of the franchise, is often underestimated or even considered a kind of “regression”. Distancing itself from the futuristic settings of the seventh and eighth chapters, the ninth final fantasy returned to the origins of the saga created by Hironobu Sakaguchi, offering owners of the first PlayStation an exquisite medieval fantasy setting, where, however, some typical elements of the steampunk genre found space. Despite the defects of the original version, such as the endless loading times or the irregular performance recorded during the battles, Final Fantasy IX conquered the public by telling one of the most poignant stories of the whole brand: each of the characters was masterfully characterized, but if now iconic individuals like Vivi or Freya tended to raise profound philosophical and ethical questions, it was the love story between Garnet and Gidan (or Zidane, if you prefer the English version) that kept users glued to the screen.
Final Fantasy X
Among the most beloved iterations of the Japanese saga, Final Fantasy X is the watershed between the great classics that preceded it and the new course that the series took a few years after its release, which is why the detractors of the most recent episodes usually consider it “the last true Final Fantasy”. The first chapter to run on Sony’s immortal black monolith, FFX was the first numbered episode to ditch the usual world map and random encounters, as well as make radical changes to the combat system. The classic ATB was in fact replaced by the CTB (Conditional Turn-Based), a system that set aside real time to instead embrace a more classic shift: the turns of the individual characters were virtually infinite, it is no coincidence that time almost seemed to stop to offer the player the possibility of calmly and foresightedly evaluating the orders to be given to team members. No less impactful was the introduction of Sphereography, an innovative character progression system which basically consisted of an immense grid where the user could spend the accumulated AP to acquire new techniques or improve the parameters of their favorites. A solution that over the years has been repeatedly taken up by the main JRPG producers.
Final Fantasy VI
Open any search engine and rush into the countless ratings of the saga: you will hardly find one that does not place Final Fantasy VI on the podium. Released way back in 1994 on SNES and then converted to run on PlayStation, the sixth final fantasy put on the plate the most successful elements of its predecessors, mixing a story even richer and more complex than the one boasted by FFIV with the deep customization of the units offered instead by FFIII and FFV. Despite the presence of fourteen playable characters (each perfectly characterized and moreover equipped with exclusive mechanics), the plot managed to impeccably balance the space dedicated to each of its protagonists, telling an epic that almost thirty years later since launch continues to excite us as much as the first time. In defiance of FFVII’s Sephiroth, the title of best Final Fantasy antagonist is still held by Kefka Palazzo, psychopathic court wizard of the Gestahl Empire. The reason? Find out for yourself by catching up on the recent Final Fantasy VI Pixel Remaster (by the way, have you already read the Final Fantasy I-VI Pixel Remaster review?).
Final Fantasy IV
Launched on the SNES in 1991, Hironobu Sakaguchi’s fourth final fantasy is a fundamental step for anyone who professes to be an admirer of the genre, since it holds two primates that should not be underestimated. In addition to being the first episode to offer Active Time Battle, a real-time combat system that the series would only set aside with the release of the aforementioned Final Fantasy X for PlayStation 2, Final Fantasy IV was the first chapter to focus on the narrative structure and the characterization of the characters. Having taken up and improved this formula, his successor directors have ended up overshadowing the goodness of the story, however we are more than ever convinced that the epic story of Cecil Harvey – young knight of the Kingdom of Baron and commander of the air fleet of the ” Red Wings” – you deserve to be lived. If you don’t want to try its original version or with the Pixel Remaster, you could consider the idea of recovering the remake released on Nintendo DS and subsequently converted to run on iOS and Android devices.