Clearly I have an obsession with the Final Fantasy series, but that shouldn’t come as a surprise. They were extremely important to me in my pre-teen and teenage years, and at one point it was the most popular RPG series in the land. Final Fantasy 7 practically won a console war for Sony. It’s a bit of a big deal.
What’s interesting to me, though, is that there’s a decent case to be made that every major console that a Final Fantasy game has been on, it hasn’t had the best RPG for that system.
NOTE: This is from an American perspective, so Final Fantasy 2, 3, and 5 aren’t counted here, though I don’t think any of those would have been in any running for “best RPG of X console.”
NES: Final Fantasy 1 was a fantastic game, though I personally feel that it’s not even a top-3 RPG on the system.
- Dragon Warrior 3 and 4 are the best two RPGs for that system. They’re longer, have better stories, better characters, and were superior in graphics and audio. That last part isn’t surprising, since they came out later, but the point still stands.
- Lesser-known RPG Destiny of an Emperor is an excellent RPG that I feel barely edges out Final Fantasy. If you haven’t heard of it, give it a try.
- Ultima: Quest of the Avatar is a brilliant open-ended game with deep strategic combat and a sprawling world to explore.
SNES: Final Fantasy 4 and 6 are extraordinary games. Final Fantasy 6 is my favorite of the series. However…
- Chrono Trigger is a masterpiece. It’s about as close to a perfect game as most games get.
- Secret of Mana was revolutionary in its gameplay, specifically in its multiplayer features.
- Earthbound. Don’t need any more words than that.
PSX: Final Fantasy 7 needs no introduction. Final Fantasy is largely considered a misstep, while 9 was a return to form. I think FF7 is probably the best RPG on the PSX, thus busting up my theory, but some contrarian arguments:
- Breath of Fire 3.
- MOTHER FUCKING XENOGEARS
PS2: Final Fantasy 10, 10-2 and 12 (we’re not counting the MMO 11) are all great entries into the series. I think 10 might be the best on the console (horrible voice acting notwithstanding…and I’m playing through 12 now, so this might change). But there’s a gaggle of other great entries:
- The entire Shin Migami series
- Shadow Hearts
- Kingdom Hearts series
- Tales of Symphonia
PS3/XBox360: Final Fantasy 13 and 13-2 are tepid games at best, both plagued by iffy characters and slow plots. It’s not hard to find RPGs that could be/are better:
- Dark Souls
- Elder Scrolls series
- Fallout series
- Dragon Age series
- Diablo 3
- Tales series
It’s not to say that the Final Fantasy series is bad, but with the increase of the video games industry as a whole (and the playerbase being far different as a result), things have changed. Final Fantasy just isn’t the showstopping series it once was. This is OK. Hopefully things go in one of two directions:
- Final Fantasy reinvents itself in new, exciting ways
- Square-Enix caters to the niche that simply wants more old-school style JRPGs, and works to refresh that formula in new, exciting ways.
As an aside, I feel that FF13 was a step in that “new, exciting way” direction, but the fact that the entire cast of characters were cunts (save for one) hurt that game to a great degree.