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Which Final Fantasy Game Should You Start Off With If You’re New To The Series? Let Us Help!
Final Fantasy is a Japanese role-playing game brand that has spanned numerous entries and spin-offs since its 1987 debut. As such, it can be overwhelming for new players who want to jump into the game, given its many combat terms and systems, plethora of characters and plot points, and overall themes and constant icons and mascots like the yellow taxi bird Chocobo and the Black Mage outfit.
In lieu of Final Fantasy 16’s release later this month, we figured it’s high time to dish out our thoughts on which older Final Fantasy game is worth going into. This is especially if you want to know more about its lineage and feel, given that the series has always reinvented itself and try something new with each standalone entry. The fact that there are too many of them -from mothership entries to spin-offs- also doesn’t help.
Which begs the question: what defines a classic Final Fantasy game? What defines a modern Final Fantasy title? Which ones are the best that still hold up from parts 1 to 15?
It sure as hell isn’t Final Fantasy XIII and Final Fantasy XV, that’s for sure. Check out the correct answers below.
Final Fantasy IV is about a dark knight named Cecil who ends up with the task of securing the world’s crystals after a slew of betrayals. At his side is best friend (sort of) Kain the Dragoon, his lover Rosa the White Mage, orphan tagalong Rydia the Summoner/Black Mage, and a slew of other party members ranging from a pair of twin kid magicians, an old sage, and a spoony bard.
Originally out in 1991 for Super Famicom and SNES, the game was ported and remastered a good amount of times, with arguably the best port being on the PlayStation Portable. FFIV was memorable because of its landmark storyline. While stupid and insane in retrospect with so many coincidences and deus ex machinas, the epic tale of Cecil’s redemption and his world-saving endeavour was rather groundbreaking for its time.
It also introduced the world to the patented Active Time Battle system which has you making commands and attacking while the fight goes on in real-time, eschewing turn-based patience with real-time tension and drama. The major boss fights that punctuated how effective the battle system was also deserving mention, as they go beyond the “have huge attack stats and win through big numbers” schtick that was commonplace with prehistoric RPGs at the time.
The fight with the desert antlion requires patience and paying attention to counterattacks. The Demon Wall battle requires you to be very adept with the ATB system and with status spells lest you get literally crushed. And one of the battles with the prominent group The Four Fiends is a back attack, putting your party at a huge disadvantage. You really had to think on-the-fly and figure out how to defeat them with your brains moreso than with the biggest weapon.
And what would a Final Fantasy game be without Nobuo Uematsu’s heavenly and epic compositions? Tracks like “Theme of Love” and “Rydia” add emotion and pathos to the game’s key scenes, while battle themes for bosses and the aforementioned Four Fiends still haunt and give chills to old-school JRPG players to this day.
Where To Get It: Final Fantasy IV is as classic a JRPG experience as you can get, and it’s now in pixel remastered form on PC (via Steam), Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4. So really, you have no excuse not to get one of the definitive versions of a classic Final Fantasy experience that isn’t distilled by newfound tropes and whatnot.
Final Fantasy X was a tour de force for the PlayStation 2 era, given that it was the sole reason JRPG fans flocked towards the Sony console back in 2001. FFX was Square Enix’s first time in dabbling with voice-acting and real-time story-telling using the then-new tech in a mothership title, and it paid off big.
Back in 2001, seeing in-game cutscenes and detailed character models in motion was just amazing. From the appearance of big bad enemy Sin to the scale of the game’s world of Spira and its many continents and locations, everything was just breathtaking to behold. The tale of outsider Tidus as he gets embroiled in main character Yuna’s plot involving her spiritual pilgrimage with her group of newfound friends is just captivating to watch and experience.
Though there are a few awkward moments particularly with sped-up dialogue bits and weird crossfade transitions out of the blue, it was nevertheless the game’s major selling point. Why do you think people still cosplay as Final Fantasy X’s Tidus and Yuna from time to time? The art style, backdrop, and epic music from Junya Nakano, Masashi Hamauzu, and Nobuo Uematsu certainly helped.
But it wasn’t just the graphics, art style, and music that held the test of time. It was the gameplay too as it introduced the Sphere Grid as a form of leveling up your characters and giving them new moves that branched from their roles or just amplified them. The game’s combat also reverted to turn-based fighting just like in Final Fantasy parts 1 to 3, but with the benefit of being able to swap your party members on the fly. All battles require at least a skillset from someone or two in your party that warrants the swap; Blitzball warrior Wakka can kill off aerial enemies with ease while Auron just power-hits everything to death.
Many folks might have complained about how linear the game is when compared to other Final Fantasy entries, but that’s the beauty of FFX: it’s streamlined but not dumbed down. It still contains hallmarks of an in-depth JRPG but it’s entirely focused on its story moreso than usual. Having said that, FFX does have its huge share of minigames and post-game uber-weapon-searching content that rivals those of Final Fantasy VI.
Final Fantasy X is perfect for what it’s telling: a moody and in-depth story with high-production values, along with a fun combat system that bucks certain traditions while keeping the patented Job system kinda intact. At the same time, it brought in stellar features like the Sphere Grid. All these features are more than enough to captivate players even in this generation of gaming, and deserves its coveted spot at the higher echelons of JRPG relevance and masterclass.
Where To Get It: You can get the Final Fantasy X HD Remastered edition on PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch.
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