In many cases has the RPG genre been associated with the Final Fantasy series, that's how big of an influence this series has over it. While not being the origin of this relatively new game genre, Final Fantasy was responsible for the introduction of role-playing gaming to casual gamers, as well as being an influence to other more hardcore gamers regarding the RPG genre. It projected a gaming experience not wildly known outside Japan, and triggered the popularity of not only Square's epics, but also of some of its competitors', since the players' thirst for more RPG titles led them to branching out to other similar games.

This article is an overview of the evolution of Final Fantasy games (from now on: FF for short), on the legendary Playstation system, where I will talk about the titles that saw over-seas releases, taking into account my own experiences with the games, as the huge fan I am of them! I struggled to figure out whether I'd go with a "Top list" format, or a chronology-oriented article, but I ended up choosing the latter, considering I have yet to play every title, and many FF tops and "best of's" already plague the web due to the immense worldwide popularity of the franchise.

Final Fantasy VII

Final Fantasy VII


The game that boomed the popularity of the franchising, the company and the genre. FFVII, not only became the most popular and most regarded RPG of all time, but also one of the most famous games the Playstation has ever seen. Many gamers, casual or not, also appoint it as the best game ever, for its perfect balance of engaging gameplay and emotional epic story. Indeed a giant among video games that defined a genre, and a generation.

Final Fantasy VII
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FFVII puts in you the skin of Cloud, a member of a rebellious group that fights an evil organization, and a man of forward personality and mysterious past. What is initially a fight of ideals and values, quickly becomes an epic adventure of larger scale, that will take you through dark secrets, dramatic revelations and a memorable experience like nothing ever felt before.

FFVII has dated 3D graphics, revolutionary for their time. They won't distract you from the enjoyable gameplay, though. Throughout the game, you find and gain Materia, little shiny orbs that contain all kinds of abilities and magic, that you can use by attaching Materia to your character's weapons and armors. This allows for great costumization, and gives you the ability to kinda determine difficulty levels. The battles are classic turn-based, where you can control 3 characters, and can use their equipped Materia to unleash powerful attacks, magic spells and even devastating summons.

Final Fantasy VIII


FFVIII has been looked at as the black sheep of the Playstation FF family. Square has always been famous for not following the same story lines of its previous FF games, not even the same gameplay, as it has taken different approaches with almost every title of the franchising. Despite the risk of continually changing what has been working, this trademark of the company has been successful for the most part. The liberties with the games have been most felt from the Playstation era onwards, and FFVIII was the one that suffered the most dramatic changes, leaving many fans displeased with the totally revamped gameplay. Still, the game was very successful for fans, new comers (including myself) and critics alike, and remains a classic and a "must" for FF fans and RPG enthusiasts.

Final Fantasy VIII
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Squall is an introverted kid who has an unhealthy rivalry with Seifer, a provoker. Both are gunblade specialists and students at Balamb Garden, a place where a mercenary force is trained in order to carry out missions through out the world, through the use of powerful entities called GFs (Guardian Forces). Squall and his colleagues will embark on a journey that starts with the qualification exam, goes through missions for small rebellious groups, and will ultimately end with the quest to assassinate the Sorcerer. Or will it?

FFVIII gameplay was all around the polemic Junction System, a double-edged sword. On the one hand, players who couldn't grasp this system would be in for a challenge. On the other hand, those who mastered it could breeze through the game. In FFVIII, magic isn't used through MP, it's stocked (like items) by drawing it from monsters. With your acquired magic, you can junction it to the various status to increase them, or junction them to your weapons to create various effects. All this is done by equiping the various GFs found in the game, which are obtained at certain points, and provide unique skills and junction abilities to the characters.

Final Fantasy Anthology


With the increasingly success the FF series have been seeing on the Playstation, it was only natural for Square to start introducing their older titles to Playstation owners. FF Anthology came as an opportunity to introduce the previous FF generation to American audiences, by releasing a spectacular double-feature with the highly regarded FFV and FFVI titles, originally SNES[1] games. For European players, FF Anthology arrived much later, featuring FFV and FFIV instead, since FFVI had already been released seperately.

Final Fantasy Anthology (Final Fantasy V & VI)
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FFV is not the most known game of the series, but it is generally accepted as a very solid game. Its plot is centered around the 4 magical crystals that control the elements, in a similar fashion to the stories of previous games. However, the gameplay in FFV expanded on the classic Job System, providing great freedom for character costumization.

FFVI is considered by many the finest and most perfectly executed game in the series. The story develops in a steampunk world, deviating from the traditional medieval settings of previous game worlds. The player is taken through the conflict between the Empire that rediscovered the long-forgotten magic and the rebels that will fight to free its peoples.

The gameplay in the SNES times was, for the most part, very similar, and these two games are no exception. The classic battle screen and menu-based battles are present in both games, but provide an immersive 2D gaming experience.

Final Fantasy IX


Maybe Square took too many risks with FFVIII, maybe not. In any case, the company eventually came up with FFIX, a game that returned to the roots of the franchising, both gameplay and story-wise. The charm of this new FF title was very well received by gamers and highly regarded by critics. FFIX took players through a fantastic epic story, contrary to the more futuristic scenarios of the previous games, and provided a simple, yet addictive and well-executed turn-based battle system. Another interesting aspect of the game was the cartoonish and silly look of the characters, esthetic liberties that didn't fall into the good graces of some players! This was also the last title of the main series to come out on the Playstation.

Final Fantasy IX
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FFIX invoked the spirit of classic gaming with a simple, yet refreshing game. In FFIX, you follow Zidane, the charismatic leader of a group of thieves, that becomes responsible for the protection of a runaway princess. They embark on an epic journey filled with fantasy and wars, becoming caught up in much more complicated plots hidden behind the search for the princess. The sinister events that follow will spread chaos and tragedy through out the world, and its up to Zidane and his companions the task of restoring the balance, and return piece.

In my opinion, FFIX has the coolest item and skill system of the Playstation era. Your characters become stronger by leveling up, as is the case with most FF games, but they also learn skills and magic by highlighting them in their respective item. In other words, each piece of equipment you find in the game, has one or a set of skills that can be learned. Some can be equipped to many characters, some are exclusive, thus creating a sense of uniqueness to each one of your characters, while at the same time giving room for some customization and optimization of each one's role in battle.

Final Fantasy Chronicles


Delving further into Square's past generations, FF Chronicles exclusively brought American gamers two of the most sought-after RPG games in history, for their grand stories, immersive worlds, and memorable gameplays. These games were FFIV and the outsider, but similar in style, Chrono Trigger. For RPG players this was a dream come true, since two SNES titles of undeniable legendary status became available to Playstation owners in a dreamy package. Sadly, European players never got the chance to put their hands on FF Chronicles or Chrono Trigger for this platform.

Final Fantasy Chronicles: Chrono Trigger/Final Fantasy IV
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FFIV is another one that is often mentioned as a favorite among FF fans and RPG gamers in general. This time, you follow Cecil, a Dark Knight who rebels against his own king for being forced to lead sieges against pieceful kingdoms and slay innocents in order to steal the Magical Crystals. Considered one of the hardest and most challenging FF games to date, as well as a legend among the many titles of the franchise.

Chrono Trigger is another gem that Square has graced our consoles with. This game has been appointed as the best RPG of all time, even by hardcore RPG players. The incredible story of this legendary game follow Crono, as he is transported back in time after the chain of time has been broken, and the chronology of the world corrupted. Travelling through time to find his way home, Crono realizes that he has to restore the natural chain of events that have been altered, or else nothing will ever be the same.

Chrono Trigger is unique in many regards, while improving on other common aspects of Square's RPGs. For instance, it improves on the Active Time Battle system introduced in FFIV by taking into account enemy positions and character abilities. It also set itself apart from most of its RPG precedents, by replacing random battles with battles triggered by contact with the enemies, actually visible roaming the world map.

Final Fantasy Origins


As the title of the game implies, this is a journey back into the the origins of what started it all. FF Origins is the port of FFI and FFII, two oldies only really meant for the hardcore gamers. These were some of the very first games that Squaresoft released on the NES[2] platform, in an era when RPGs were still in the shadows. Together with the rival series Dragon Warrior, these two names helped define the genre, and were the basis for future RPG video games to come. If you can look past the dated looks of the games, FFI can provide an interesting and enjoyable experience, while the gimmicky nature of FFII may prove harder to get into, making this second entry of the legendary series, arguably the most obscure and forgotten game, next to FFIII.

Final Fantasy Origins Final Fantasy I & II Remastered Editions - PlayStation
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The very first FF title is one of simplicity. For its time, it was actually pretty original and innovating, introducing an archtype Class System, and many other elements found in other Final Fantasies: a party, customizable characters, upgradable equipment, magic, an open world map, lots of towns, dungeons and airships. The simple premise is about the 4 warriors of light that would come to restore the light of the 4 Magical Crystals representing the main elements, and bring balance to the world once again. The Gameplay is easy to grasp, and the battle screen basic and straight forward: use attack, item, black or white magic. However, this game can lead to frustration due to the often lack of next-destination hints and never-ending random battles!

FFII has you take control of 4 characters who are left for dead after their kingdom is invaded by the Empreror's knights. After recovering, the party sets on a journey to confront the evil Emperor. The story of FFII is actually quite elaborated compared to the standard fantasy adventure of the original game. However, this game suffered a lof for having an unbalanced and exploitable attribute leveling system. Contrary to the other FF games, in place of leveling by gaining experience points, the character attributes are enhanced depending on their use. This applies to weapons as well. In other words, a character will become better with a certain weapon or in a certain stat, if it uses it more often. All the other gameplay elements follow the same format as the first game.

FF Origins is really meant for the collector, the hardcore gamer, or for the curious wanting to delve into the roots of a legend.

The Final Fantasy series is just a part of Square's reportoire on the Playstation

The FF license is usually the most known part of Square's work. However, there is much more content that can be found from the Playstation days. Many of Square RPG titles could be considered essentials for fans of the FF saga, since the quality of many of these other games are for the mort part as good as some of the most popular FF titles, if not better. If you want to keep delving into the legacy left by this legendary gaming company, I invite you to also read my other article: Best Playstation RPG Games - Square EA Masterpieces (that are not Final Fantasy games).

Good Gaming!