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Final Fantasy

Final Fantasy is a popular series of role-playing video games produced by Square (aka Squaresoft), now Square-Enix. Most Final Fantasy games have a considerable level of detail given to the plot and character development. All the games in the series occur in different universes, and are unrelated, except for the occasional cameo (such as Cloud's apperance in FF Tactics, and Ehrgeiz[?]). However, there is a tradition where many of the games have characters named Biggs, Wedge, and Cid, as well as recurring creatures, such as Moogles[?] and Chocobos. The battles in these games are usually semi-turn based, using a system known as the Active Time Battle - introduced in Final Fantasy 4. The battle system differs somewhat among all the games, particularly in the use of magic. As of this writing, there are many games in the series (note that the information about the plot of the following games serves as an introduction only: it is by no means the entire depth of the story line; and in many cases the introduction is used simply to introduce the characters and is unrelated to the main story.)

Along with tradition, the Final Fantasy series is known for its many references to history, literature, and mythologies from around the world, particularly in the later games.

The name comes from head designer Hironobu Sakaguchi[?], who had done several different kinds of video games for Square, and was sick of the business. But he'd just found out about the RPG style of games, and decided to do his "final" game for the company as a "fantasy" RPG.

Yasumi Matsuno[?] assumed the role of chief producer and designer.

Table of contents

Game screens

The games usually have several types of screens, or modes of interaction, broadly categorized as:

  • Field screens: These are where the main interaction between the characters occurs, and indeed most of the exploration of the world occurs on these screens. Dialog mostly occurs on these screens. Prior to Final Fantasy 7, they were psuedo-othorgraphic, using a simple 2D[?] engine. Final Fantasy 7 and 8 (9?) used pre-rendered and pre-painted backgrounds over which 3Dsprites were overlaid. Final Fantasy 10 used a completely 3D[?] field screen system, which allowed the camera angle to change as the characters moved about.
  • Battle screens: Battles occur on a separate type of screen (or arena), usually with a change of scale and a backdrop "arena" that usually generically represents where the battle is occurring in the game. (For example, a random battle in a desert gets a desert backdrop.) Plot-relevant battles (as opposed to battling random monsters) may have a specially built battle screen/arena however. In Final Fantasy 7 and later, these screens are fully 3D, but very restricted in size.
  • World screen: A low-scale screen used to symbolize travelling great distances in times that would otherwise slow the game down unacceptably plot-wise. These are usually not to scale, as a character may appear the size of a small mountain. Relatively little plot occurs here, but there are exceptions.
  • Cutscenes[?]: These scenes are non-interactive playback that usually advances the plot. They can either be pre-rendered video, or they can be executed in with the same engine as the field screens. In some cases, pre-rendered video was overlaid with real-time rendered field screen graphics.

The games often feature various sub-games[?] with their own graphical engines.

Release History

Final Fantasy I

Only the first in the series was available in America. At the beginning of that first game the player chose four characters from a stock list: Fighters, Thieves, Black Belts, White Mages, Black Mages, and Red Mages. These four chosen characters, named by the player, became the Light Warriors, carrying four darkened orbs. The adventure started with the rescue of a princess from Garland, allowing a small amount of gameplay before the game's true opening sequence. This game featured various vehicles for use in crossing different terrains, including a pirate ship, a canoe, and ultimately an airship. This game has been re-released in an upgraded version in the package "Final Fantasy Origins" for the Sony Playstation, alongside Final Fantasy II.
Final Fantasy II
Final Fantasy 2's plot revolved around four friends who survived an invasion of their hometown from the Empire of Baramekia. Three of them met up again in the resistance headquarters, and from there they travel around the world and take on temporary companions in their fight against the Empire. FF2 is stylistically very similar to its predecessor, using the same battle system and similar graphics. This game was never released in America until recently with the "Final Fantasy Origins" package for the Sony Playstation Console, alongside Final Fantasy I.
Final Fantasy III
For the NES/Famicom, this was only released in Japan. The game featured 4 children on a quest to save the Crystals of the Elements from a force known only as the Dark Cloud. Traveling around the world, they go from the dark world to the Realm of Dreams, where they discover a plot by the gods to destroy the world. They can be changed into many character classes using the first incarnation of the job system that later was used in FFV and FFT. FFIII for the NES is not to be confused with FFIII for the SNES, which was the US name for FFVI.
Final Fantasy IV
For the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. The plot focuses on a main character named Cecil. The game begins when Cecil and the air force he captains (called the Red Wings) are forced to steal a Crystal. Cecil objects about this to his king, who promptly demotes him and sends him off (along with his friend Kain) on an errand to carry a package to a place called Valley Mist. The party soon encounters the Fiends of the Elements who are planning, with their leader Golbez, to free the enslaved Zemus, a powerful black wizard trapped on the Black Moon. This game was released as Final Fantasy 2 by Square of America. There is also an unofficial version of this game called FF4 Hard, which was translated into English from Japanese by players, as opposed to the standard version, which was translated into English by Square.
Final Fantasy V
For the Nintendo Super Famicom. It was not available in America until much later (in Final Fantasy Anthology). FF5 used the idea of a 'Job' system in which a character could become any type of warrior he/she wanted. FF5 involved the adventures of Butz, Lenna (Reina in the re-released PS1 version), her sister Faris, Galuf and his daughter KuRuru, who had to stop a powerful necromancer named ExDeath from taking all of the crystals of the elements, and using them to open a portal of nothingness, called the Mu. The party travels from their home world to the destroyed world of ExDeath, where they battle his plans until the end.
Final Fantasy VI
For the Super Nintendo Entertainment System and Nintendo Super Famicom. The plot focuses on a character named Terra. The game begins with two of the Empire's henchmen, Biggs and Wedge, and Terra, whose mind is being controlled by a device called the Slave Crown. They attempt to take a frozen creature called an Esper from a northern town, and in the attempt, Terra is knocked unconscious, and later saved by a member of the underground rebellion against the Empire. No relation to the Empire in Star Wars even though the names Biggs and Wedge were taken from the names of the two pilots that accompanied Luke Skywalker in Star Wars in the final assault on the Death Star. This game was released as Final Fantasy 3 by Square of America.
Final Fantasy VII
For the Sony PlayStation and PC. This is the first release where the character's names aren't arbitrarily capitalized. It is also the first Final Fantasy with 3D-graphics. The plot focuses on a character named Cloud Strife. Cloud is beginning his employment for a group called AVALANCHE, headed by Barret Wallace, after quitting from the Shin-Ra Electric Power Company's super-soldier unit named SOLDIER for reasons that he cannot recall to become a mercenary. They are attempting to sabotage a Mako reactor, a device which drains energy from the Planet to generate electricity, to create monsters, and to create Materia, magical orbs. These reactors are created and maintained by the Shin-Ra EPC. However, Cloud goes beyond being a hired mercenary with AVALANCHE by his side, and is drawn in to a vast storyline, centering around Sephiroth, who was the ultimate SOLDIER member.
Final Fantasy VIII
For the Sony PlayStation and PC. This release featured a dramatic improvment in graphics and cutscene quality. A highly artistic addition to the series, it involved a group of orphans about 17 years of age who were adopted by a school for mercenaries called 'The Garden'. There are many such schools throughout the FF8 world and their main (but secretive) duty is to protect the world from the threat of powerful Sorceresses, as the last one caused a great war.
This addition to the series was surprising in its incredible level of detail, including ancient stories of a being that gave humans magical powers, an unknown force that makes radio transmissions impossible, the mysterious lineage of the game's main character Squall Leonheart and a burgeoning love between Squall and a young girl, Rinoa Heartilly. While many hold that FF8 created a new zenith in RPGs for artistry and character/plot development, critics disliked the opaqueness of Squall's motives and his unpleasant, unlikeable and distant behavior.
Final Fantasy IX
For the Sony PlayStation. This release is a return to Final Fantasy's roots - likable characters, a main character with an unknown past, and stereotypical examples of the original series' various character classes (unlike the "Job" system of FF5 and FFT, the characters can't change their type of fighting). Very enjoyable and fun and with a fairly in-depth plot. The plot revolved around a mysterious villain who needs the people of a devastated culture to gain power as he disrupts the "flow of souls" in the natural cycle of life and death. There are several main characters: Zidane, Princess Garnet a.k.a. Dagger, Eiko, Amarant, Vivi, Adelbert Steiner, Freya and Quina. Chocobos and airships figure strongly in the gameplay.
Final Fantasy X
For the Sony PlayStation 2. Visually, much like Final Fantasy VIII, in that the characters have normal proportions. There are some noticable differences between Final Fantasy X and the rest of the series. The battle system is changed from the traditional "Active Time Battle" to a new "Conditional Time Battle." The levelling system has also received an overhaul. The story is still the primary focus, aided by exceptional graphics. The main character is Tidus, a cheerful blitzball player from Zanarkand, who is involved in an attack on his home city by a creature called "Sin". He is transported to the world of Spira, where he is enlisted in a quest to destroy the creature, who appeared on their world as well. Other playable characters include Yuna, Wakka, Lulu, Auron, Kimahri, and Rikku.
Final Fantasy X-2
For the Sony PlayStation 2. Marks the first in the series that is a direct sequel to the previous installment. Features Yuna and Rikku from FF X, and a new character Paine, as the main characters.

<More stuff on FF X-2>

Compilations

Final Fantasy Anthology

For the Sony PlayStation. This game is a compilation of Final Fantasy V and Final Fantasy VI, including some CG movies not available in the original games. In Europe, this compilation consists of Final Fantasy V and the "hard type" version of Final Fantasy IV, but not FF6.
Final Fantasy Chronicles
For the Sony PlayStation. This was the second multi-release of old games for the PSX, including Final Fantasy IV (which was included in the Japanese release of Final Fantasy Anthology, but not in the US release. It was previously released in the US as Final Fantasy II for the Super Nintendo) and Chrono Trigger (also previously released for the Super Nintendo). FF4 featured new CG animation, while Chrono Trigger featured new anime style cutscenes.
Final Fantasy Origins
For the Sony PlayStation. This is the third (and presumably final) compilation of old Final Fantasy titles for the PSX. It includes the original Final Fantasy and Final Fantasy II, both released for the NES/Famicom. Final Fantasy II was never previously released in the U.S.. Both games have undergone graphical improvements and gameplay streamlining, unlike the other Final Fantasy compilation games. Due to a widespread dislike of the game by critics and fans alike, it is not likely that Final Fantasy III will ever see a U.S. release.

Spinoffs


See also: Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, a Hollywood movie released on July 11, 2001.



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