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A Brief History Of The Evolution Of 'Final Fantasy'

How Hironobu Sakaguchi’s last-ditch effort spawned a behemoth (or should we say Bahamut) of a videogame franchise
by Karen Mae De Vera | Mar 6, 2017
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The Final Fantasy franchise has been around for 30 years and it’s hard to believe that it was supposed to be a standalone game.

Square was on the verge of bankruptcy and invested all their finances into creating one last game. It became a surprising hit.

Hironobu Sakaguchi’s vision was realized thanks to Yoshitaka Amano’s otherworldly designs, Hiroyuki Ito’s unique battle mechanics, and Nobuo Uematsu’s epic soundtrack.

With its gameplay, graphics, and storytelling constantly evolving, it’s no wonder that Final Fantasy stood the test of time. While most games had you roughing it out alone, FF had you fighting with a party that always had your back (maybe “F” stands for feels?).

Final Fantasy (1987)

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The OG! FF’s gameplay and setting is influenced by Dungeons and Dragons campaigns. The Warriors of Light become a recurring archetype throughout the series.

Final Fantasy II (1988)

Thank FFII for introducing us to series mainstays Cid and the Chocobo species. The game wasn’t exported internationally until the 2000s.

Final Fantasy III (1990)

The third installment set up the building blocks for the franchise’s famous Job Class system and gave us the Moogle race. With 22 different roles (23 in the remake), your party of four had more job opportunities than you ever had fresh out of college.

Final Fantasy IV (1991)

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The 16-bit game introduced the Active Time Battle (ATB) mechanic consisting of a gauge that determined when players could attack. The English release called it Final Fantasy II causing much confusion when they decided to release the previous games.

Final Fantasy V (1992)

The fifth game was the debut of the Blue Mage class, who wield the ability to learn enemy attacks. A four-episode anime called Final Fantasy: Legend of the Crystals expanded on the lore, taking place 200 years after FFV. The English version wasn’t released until the late 90s on the PS1.

Final Fantasy VI (1994)

AKA FFIII, had its first female protagonist with Terra Brandford. Yoshitaka Amano, who is lead character designer for most of the games and responsible for the iconic FF title logo, shared that Terra was his favorite hero to draw.

Final Fantasy VII (1997)

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SquareSoft moved to the PlayStation and started experimenting with CGI and cinematic sequences. This title launched the series to international success and proved that video games could be an effective medium for storytelling. FFVII also celebrates its 20th anniversary this year and has a remake coming up (we hope).

Final Fantasy VIII (1999)

This game removed traditional levels and replaced it with the Junction System, where each spell had a finite amount of usage. Also, the mini card game Triple Triad was popular enough to spawn a real-life equivalent.

Final Fantasy IX (2000)

The series returned to their medieval-inspired fantasy roots. FFIX even had a classic Black Mage (Vivi) as one of the main characters.

Final Fantasy X (2001)

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This would be the last FF series (including the sequel) that Hironobu Sakaguchi would work on before moving on to start his own company, Mistwalker. Following the release of FFX-2 came the merger between Square and Enix, which was one of the reasons he decided to leave.

Final Fantasy XI (2002)

Square Enix’s first foray into the MMORPG genre had an innovative approach to the Job System. The mechanic allowed users to switch between classes on the fly.

Final Fantasy XII (2006)

FFXII had an infamously long and difficult production, but despite behind-the-scenes stress it did fairly well and became a cult fave in recent years thanks to Vaan’s memetic “Captain Basch” speech.

Final Fantasy XIII (2009)

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The game had three-way battles (no, not in that way) and was the first established trilogy of the main series. Lightning was said to be a combination of Terra and Cloud.

Final Fantasy XIV (2010)

FFXIV’s first release was filled with glitches and bugs but thankfully, its sequel FFXIV: A Realm Reborn addressed these problems. The second major expansion, Final Fantasy XIV Stormblood will be coming out on June.

Final Fantasy XV (2016)

The latest installment proved that good things come to those who wait and wait until they go insane. The game has Action RPG elements, mind-blowing cutscenes, an open world, and a Cup Noodle mission. The FFXV adventure continues when a stream of DLCs arrive this year. Gladio’s solo campaign comes out on March 28 with Prompto’s DLC following on June.


Special Mention:

Final Fantasy Tactics (1997)

FF Tactics is the first entry in the Ivalice Alliance sub-series, which also includes Final Fantasy Tactics Advance and Final Fantasy XII.

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It gained popularity for its combination of turn-based strategy and JRPG elements.

Final Fantasy Festivities

Hold on to your Phoenix Down ’coz Square Enix is pulling out all the stops to celebrate their 30th anniversary.

-Nissin Cup Noodles will release 15 flavors inspired by famous Final Fantasy villains. Now you can literally consume your enemies! Don’t forget to slurp up their remains using the Final Fantasy VII Ultima Weapon fork that will also be available.

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-The organizers of the Sapporo Snow Festival cast Blizzaga Cloud and Sephiroth and turned them into snow sculptures.

-Select countries from around the world will have the honor of receiving an eargasmic experience care of the Distant Worlds concert. World-class orchestras will play classic Final Fantasy tunes arranged by composer Nobuo Uematsu and other musicians.

-Gentlemen gamers will dig the Final Fantasy special wine set worth roughly P48,000 that includes specially-marked 30th anniversary wine glasses encrusted with Swarovski crystals. Like a sir!


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