The History of Final Fantasy Through Consoles and Time
For fifteen games, thirty-five years, and countless gameplay hours, Final Fantasy has been one of the world’s favorite video games.
Final Fantasy is one of the most popular and famous video game titles ever made. Fifteen core games have been released since 1987, but spin-offs, sequels, and prequels take the total game count up much higher. And it makes many newcomers to the series ask how this is the final fantasy at all? Let’s delve into the thirty-five-year-long history of Final Fantasy.
The First “Final” Fantasy
In the mid-eighties, game developer Square joined the video game race with some pretty standard RPGs, platformers, and racing games. By ’86, games like The Legend of Zelda and Dragon Quest were gaining in popularity, and Square knew they had to get into that market. So they aimed to create a similar fantasy-style RPG. Square designer and creator of Final Fantasy Hironobu Sakaguchi would describe the series as a last-ditch effort to make a popular RPG for Square.
Had this game not succeeded, he said he would have quit game design entirely and gone back to university. For Square and Sakaguchi, this game could have very easily been their final fantasy RPG before financial ruin. But Sakaguchi has also pointed out that another possible name for the game – that was only scrapped for trademark reasons – could have been “Fighting Fantasy.” But I like to think of the more poetic reasons for making this their “final” fantasy.
This game was met with immediate success and an answer to Square’s financial problems. And with the success came plans for a sequel game. Only Sakaguchi had created Final Fantasy to be a stand-alone game. The story was over, the world was explored, and there wasn’t anything to be expanded into. So the developers decided to go with another. Gameplay, design, and theme beats would carry over. But the second would be its own game with a new story, new characters, and updates to the battle and advancement systems. And so the never-ending Final Fantasy series we all know and love was born.
A Brief History of Final Fantasy Games
Final Fantasy is the first game of the series. Released in 1987 for the NES, FFI follows the Warriors of Light as they defeat Chaos and bring light back to their world.
In 1988 FFII was released as a computer game. A group of orphans joins a rebellion against the empire after an army of hellspawn invade, killing their family.
Final Fantasy III’s 1990 release was also made to be played on the family computer. This game pulls many elements from the previous games with ‘crystals of the light’ and orphaned primary characters. Only this time the previous adventurers didn’t succeed in saving the world and your party much avoid repeating their failures.
FFIV and Final Fantasy in the 90s
On the Super NES in 1991, FFIV follows a dark knight, Cecil. He adventures with his allies to prevent the sorcerer Golbez from destroying the world with the power of crystals. This is the first game to give each character their own, unchangeable, character class, but party members are often swapped out depending on player needs. In 2007 FFIV was re-released for the Nintendo DS with updated 3D graphics.
Released for the Super Famicon in 1992, Final Fantasy V follows Bartz as he investigates a fallen meteor. This brings him to a part of adventurers who reveal that the four Crystals sealing the evil sorcerer, Exdeath are in danger.
FFVI became available for the Super NES in 1994 in a world of industrial revolution. Here characters revel against a military dictatorship where chemical weapons, magical arms races, and even total apocalypse are on the table.
One of the most famous games in the series, Final Fantasy VII was first playable on the PlayStation in 1997. Cloud and his friends must face off against the world-encompassing megacorporation, Shinra Electric Power Company to save the world from total destruction.
In 1999 FFVIII was released for the PlayStation. Players join Squall Leonhart in an adventure to save time itself from a sorcerer from the future. This game has been re-released many times and is now playable on a variety of PlayStation consoles as well as Xbox One, Android, and the Nintendo Switch.
Final Fantasy in the 21st Century
Final Fantasy IX came out in 2000 on the PlayStation. In this game, Zidane kidnaps princess Garnet only to learn that she is happy to help his party take town her mother, the evil Queen Brahne. FFIX is also playable on a variety of consoles now, including the Switch, Xbox One, Android, and PS4.
The first of the series released for the PlayStation 2, FFX was released in 2001. Tidus is a blitzball player-turned-adventurer who wants to destroy the monster Sin after it destroyed his home city. This game resulted in a direct sequel with Final Fantasy X-2 in 2003 for the PS2.
Final Fantasy XI Online was designed as a massive online RPG with a crossover between PlayStation 2 and computer players. This 2002 game allows players to create avatars to cooperate in a variety of objectives and take on quests.
Not to be confused with X-2, FFXII is a 2006 game originally released for the PlayStation 2. It takes place on Ivalice, a world plagued by endless war. The princess Ashe joins the movement against the tyranny of her kingdom, Archadia.
Final Fantasy XIII is a 2009 game for the PlayStation 3. A floating city’s leadership orders a purge of any civilians who may have come in contact with the world below. Former soldier, Lightning, takes on the entire government to save her sister.
Another multiplayer online game, FFIV was released in 2010 for Microsoft Windows. It was replaced in 2013 by Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn. Five years after the events of the 2010 game, players must deal with the threat of impending invasion after huge devastation sparks a recovery effort.
Released to PlayStation 4 and Xbox One in 2016, FFV takes us to the world of Eos. Peace talks are interrupted by the empire of Niflheim attacking Lucis and stealing the magic Crystals. You must defeat Niflheim, get back the crystals, and save the world from eternal darkness.
Coming in Summer 2023, Final Fantasy VI will be the latest game in the series, available on PS5.
The Games’ Confusing Numbering System
There are fifteen core Final Fantasy games, but somewhere in the area of ninety five games once you start looking at spin-offs, prequels, sequels, side games, etc. There is a lot of Final Fantasy out there and it can get confusing. But perhaps nothing is as confusing as the inconsistent numbering system. You have likely heard of how FF VI is actually FF III. But why is this the case?
When FF II, III, and V were released, they never made it to their potential North American audiences. So when IV came out they released it as “II” and when VI was localized it was re-named VI. In reality, this means that there were three Final Fantasy games out there that North American audiences couldn’t get official localized copies of. Since it has become easier to play, copies of these three missing games and the numbering convention have been changed back to match the original Japanese games.
Other Media & Spin-Offs
It would be nearly impossible and pretty boring to list every single of the spin-offs Final Fantasy inspired. But between Final Fantasy Legend, Tactics, Crystal Chronicles, and Kingdom Hearts, there are some big ones. And of course, there are the TV and film adaptations. Avant Children brought us back to the world of FF VII long before the remake. And a FF IX animated series is set to be seen for the first time this year.
What is your favorite Final Fantasy game or spin-off project? Have you played all of the games? Seen all of the movies and shows? Let us know in the comments!