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Final Fantasy

From Academic Kids

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Final Fantasy (Japanese: ファイナルファンタジー Fainaru Fantajii) is a popular series of role playing games produced by Square Enix (originally Square Co., Ltd.). It may be the most widely distributed "game series" of all time, including both standard console games and portable games, a massive multiplayer online game, games for mobile phones, a computer-generated movie, two anime series, and an upcoming direct-to-DVD movie. The first installment of the series premiered in Japan in 1987, and Final Fantasy games have subsequently been localized for markets in North America, Europe and Australia, on nearly every modern video game console, including the Nintendo Entertainment System, the MSX2, the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, the Sony PlayStation, the WonderSwan Color, the PlayStation 2, IBM PC compatible, Game Boy Advance, Nintendo GameCube, and several different models of mobile phone. Future installments have been announced to appear on the Nintendo DS and PlayStation Portable game systems. It is Square Enix's most successful franchise, having sold over 60 million units worldwide to date.

As of early 2005, eleven games have been released as part of the main (numbered) series, as well as many other spinoffs and related titles.

Contents

Overview

Square Co., Ltd. first entered the Japanese video game industry in the mid 1980s, developing a variety of simple RPGs for Nintendo's Famicom Disk System (FDS), a disk-based peripheral for the Family Computer (Famicom, known internationally as the Nintendo Entertainment System). By 1987, declining interest in the FDS had placed Square on the verge of declaring bankruptcy. At approximately the same time, Square designer Hironobu Sakaguchi began work on an ambitious new fantasy role playing game for the cartridge-based Famicom, inspired in part by Enix's popular Dragon Quest (known in the United States as Dragon Warrior). Recognizing that the project could very well turn out to be Square's last game, the project was entitled Final Fantasy. Far from being Square's last hurrah, however, Final Fantasy I reversed Square's lagging fortunes, and became Square's flagship franchise.

Following the success of the first game, Square quickly began work on a sequel. Unlike a typical sequel, Final Fantasy II featured entirely different characters, with a setting and story bearing only thematic similarities to its predecessor. This unusual approach to sequels has continued throughout the series, with each major Final Fantasy game introducing a new world, and a new system of gameplay. Many elements and themes would recur throughout the series, but there would be no direct sequels until the release of Final Fantasy X-2 in 2003. (After the merger with Enix however, real game sequels have become increasingly prevalent.) In a way, the Final Fantasy franchise has been a creative showcase for Square's developers, and many elements originally introduced in the series have made their way into Square's other titles, most notably two of its other major franchises, SaGa and Seiken Densetsu.

Common themes

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Airships have appeared in every Final Fantasy game (Final Fantasy IV shown).

Though each Final Fantasy story is independent, many themes and elements of gameplay recur throughout the series. From the strong influence of history, literature, religion and mythology on the story to the frequent reappearance of certain monsters and items, these shared elements provide a unifying framework to the series. Some key objects and concepts that have appeared in more than one Final Fantasy game include:

  • Airships — Powerful airborne vessels which usually serve as a primary mode of transportation for the player. In many games, most notably Final Fantasy IV and Final Fantasy IX, the presence of airships is a key component to the story itself.
  • Character classes and the Job system — Playable character classes have included the Fighter; White, Black, Red, and Blue Mages; Monk; Thief; and Mime. Even in games where the player is not given the choice of choosing class alignment, these classes often play an important background role in the story. Additionally, several installments in the series (Final Fantasy III, Final Fantasy V, and Final Fantasy Tactics) have utilized a "Job" system wherein the player is able to switch character classes in between battles. In Final Fantasy X-2, the "Dresssphere" system actually allowed a player to switch a character's job during the middle of a fight.
  • Magical styles (see also Final Fantasy magic) — Magic in the Final Fantasy series is generally divided into different schools, which are usually named after a specific color. White magic and black magic represent healing/support and attack magic, respectively, while red magic incorporates elements of both healing and attack magic, at reduced effectiveness. Later additions have included blue magic (sometimes referred to as "Lore" or "Enemy skill"), which incorporates specific special attacks learned from monsters, and time/space magic, which includes status affecting spells such as "Haste," "Slow," or "Warp."
  • Status ailments and cures: Characters in Final Fantasy games are usually subject to a number of standard "status ailments" which cause deleterious effects, including silence, poison, petrification and confusion. While these are present in many console RPGs, Final Fantasy also has a standard list of items which may be used to cure specific ailments; for example the "Echo Screen" cures silence and "Soft" cures petrification.
  • Creatures/monsters — Creatures such as Chocobos and Moogles have appeared in most games in the series. Certain monsters also reappear frequently, including Goblins, Tonberrys and Cactuars. Lastly, summoned monsters (also known as Espers, Guardian Forces, Eidolons, or Aeons) such as Bahamut, Shiva, Ifrit, Leviathan and Ramuh have appeared in almost every title in the series.
  • Character names — A character named "Cid" has been present in every Final Fantasy game since Final Fantasy II. Although he is never the same individual, he is usually presented as an owner, creator, and/or pilot of airships. The motion picture Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within also featured a character named "Sid," presumably an alternate spelling of the more traditional "Cid." In a similar vein, characters named Biggs and Wedge (homages to the Star Wars characters Biggs Darklighter and Wedge Antilles) have appeared in Final Fantasy VI to Final Fantasy X-2 (inclusive).
  • Crystals — Most Final Fantasy games feature some obscure reference to elemental crystals (each representing earth, air, fire, and water), and the stories of Final Fantasy I, Final Fantasy III, Final Fantasy IV, Final Fantasy V, Final Fantasy IX, Final Fantasy XI, and Final Fantasy Tactics Advance revolve around such Crystals.
  • Rebellion — Story-wise, many entries in the Final Fantasy series feature a plotline about rebellion against either an economical, political, or religious power. For example, Final Fantasy II 's story involves a revolt against the Emperor of Palamecia, Final Fantasy VI 's plot begins with resistance to Emporer Gestahl's rule, Final Fantasy VII 's story starts with an attack against Shinra Corp., Final Fantasy VIII 's plotline revolves around restraining evil Sorceresses, and Final Fantasy X 's story involves revealing the true nature of the religion of Yu-Yevon, to name a few.

Design

See also: List of Final Fantasy designers
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Yoshitaka Amano designed the characters for the first six Final Fantasy games, as well as providing some conceptual artwork for Final Fantasy IX (shown).

Artistic design, including character and monster design work, was handled by renowned Japanese artist Yoshitaka Amano from Final Fantasy I through Final Fantasy VI. Following Amano's departure, he was replaced with Tetsuya Nomura, who continued to work with the series through Final Fantasy X, with the exception of Final Fantasy IX, where character design was handled by Shukou Murase, Toshiyuki Itahana and Shin Nagasawa. Akihiko Yoshida, who served as character designer for the spinoff title Final Fantasy Tactics, as well as the Square-produced Vagrant Story, has been announced as the designer of the upcoming Final Fantasy XII.

In October 2003, Kazushige Nojima, the series' principle scenario writer, resigned from Square Enix to form his own company, Stellavista. He partially or completely wrote the stories for Final Fantasy VII, Final Fantasy VIII, Final Fantasy IX, Final Fantasy X, and Final Fantasy X-2. Square Enix continues to outsource story and scenario work to Nojima and Stellavista.

Music

Main article: Final Fantasy music
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Nobuo Uematsu and The Black Mages, a hard rock band that has released two albums of remixed Final Fantasy music.

Nobuo Uematsu was the chief music composer of the Final Fantasy series until his resignation from Square Enix in November 2004. His music has played a large part in the popularity of the Final Fantasy franchise abroad. In the 2004 Summer Olympics, the American synchronized swimming duo consisting of Alison Bartosik and Anna Kozlova were awarded the bronze medal for their performance to music from Final Fantasy VIII. Uematsu is also involved with the rock group The Black Mages, which has released two albums of arranged Final Fantasy tunes. Other composers who have contributed to the series include Masashi Hamauzu and Junya Nakano.

Final Fantasy soundtracks and sheet music are increasingly popular amongst non-Japanese Final Fantasy fans and have even been performed by the London Symphony Orchestra. On November 17, 2003, Square Enix U.S.A. launched an America Online radio station dedicated to music from the Final Fantasy series, initially carrying complete tracks from Final Fantasy XI in addition to samplings from Final Fantasy VII through Final Fantasy X. Many video game and MIDI world wide web sites offer renditions of Final Fantasy musical pieces.

An orchestral Final Fantasy music concert in the United States was performed by the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra at Walt Disney Concert Hall on May 10, 2004. That concert was a three-day sell out. The next performance was February 19, 2005 in Rosemont, Illinois by the Chicagoland Pops Orchestra, and currently, as of 2005, the "Dear Friends" concert is on tour in the US. Music from Final Fantasy was first performed outside of Japan as a part of the Symphonic Game Music Concert series in Germany. The Final Fantasy soundtracks have also joined the catalogue of the iTunes Music Store.

While the music in games offers wide variety, there are some frequently reused themes. The games often open with a piece called Prelude, which was a simple arpeggio theme in the early parts, with further melody parts added in latter installments. The Prelude is actually based off of Bach's piece by the same name. The battle sequences that end in victory for the player in the first ten installments of the series would be accompanied by a victory fanfare that used the same nine-note sequence to begin the fanfare, and it has become one of the most recognized pieces of music relating to the Final Fantasy series. Other memorable tunes include the Chocobo theme, the Moogle theme , and a piece called "Epilogue", which is usually played during the ending credits of the game.

Graphics and technology

The 8-bit and 16-bit generations

Final Fantasy began on the Nintendo Family Computer ("Famicom," known internationally as the Nintendo Entertainment System) as Final Fantasy I in 1987, and was joined by two sequels, Final Fantasy II and Final Fantasy III, over the next three years. On the main world screen, small sprite representations of the leading party member were displayed because of graphical limitations, while in battle screens, more detailed, full versions of all characters would appear in a side view perspective.

The same basic system was used in the next three games, Final Fantasy IV, Final Fantasy V, and Final Fantasy VI, for the Super Famicom (known internationally as the Super Nintendo Entertainment System). These games utilized updated graphics and effects, as well as higher quality music and sound than in previous games, but were otherwise similar to their predecessors in basic design.

The text of the Japanese language versions of early Final Fantasy games was comprised purely of kana. Much of the dialogue was simply clumps of text, making it especially hard for older gamers and foreigners learning Japanese. Finally, in Final Fantasy V, the games began to use kanji. This would continue to get more advanced in Final Fantasy VI, and the trend would continue to make the games much more erudite.

CD/DVD-based generations

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Final Fantasy VII was the first game in the series to incorporate full motion video.

1997 saw the release of Final Fantasy VII for the Sony PlayStation and not Nintendo 64 as originally anticipated. The characters and entire game world were now 3-dimensional, with fully pre-rendered backgrounds. Final Fantasy VII was also the first Final Fantasy game to use full motion video sequences, part of the reason why the game spanned a full three CD-ROMs. However, Final Fantasy VII's FMVs often lacked consistency, with characters appearing tiny and very indistinct in one scene, and extremely detailed in the next.

Released shortly after Final Fantasy VII, the spinoff title Final Fantasy Tactics, once again utilized sprites for the characters. As the only real user-interaction outside of battle was menu-driven, the developers saw no need for fully 3D-rendered overhead graphics.

Starting with Final Fantasy VIII, the series adopted a more photo-realistic look. The full motion video sequences utilized a display technique wherein video would play in the background while the polygon characters would be composited on top.

Final Fantasy IX returned briefly to the more stylized design of earlier games in the series, but maintained most of the graphical techniques utilized in the previous two games in the series.

Final Fantasy X was released on the PlayStation 2, and made use of the more powerful hardware to render certain cutscenes in real-time, rather than displayed in pre-rendered video. Final Fantasy X was the first game in the series to use voice overs to any degree. Final Fantasy X-2 utilized the same game engine as Final Fantasy X, and was aesthetically not much different.


Gameplay

Game screens

The games typically 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. Final Fantasy VII marked the point that Final Fantasy would have realistic computer graphics, while Dragon Warrior stayed with anime style cel-shaded graphics. Prior to Final Fantasy VII, they were pseudo-orthographic, using a simple 2D engine. Final Fantasy VII, VIII, and IX used pre-rendered and pre-painted backgrounds over which 3D models were overlaid. Final Fantasy X 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 VII and later, these screens are fully 3D, but very restricted in size. Final Fantasy XII will do away with "scene-battles": battle sequences will occur on the main field screen.
  • World screen — A low-scale screen used to symbolize traveling 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. The world screen was eliminated in Final Fantasy X.
  • Cutscenes — These scenes are non-interactive playback that usually advances the plot. They can either be pre-rendered video (FMV), 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 (FMV-3D).
  • Menu Screen — This screen is used for navigating your party's status, equipment, magic, etc. This screen is usually a very simple blue-table layout, with a gloved hand to select one's options. In some games, the option to change the color of the tables is given.

The games often feature various minigames with their own graphical engines.

Battle system

Final Fantasy borrowed many gameplay elements from its primary rival, the Dragon Quest franchise. As such, Final Fantasy uses a menu-driven, turn-based battle system. Most games in the series utilize an experience level system for character advancement (although Final Fantasy II and Final Fantasy X did not), and a point-based system for casting magical spells (though Final Fantasy I, Final Fantasy III and Final Fantasy VIII all featured different approaches). Most games in the series (from Final Fantasy III on) feature a variety of "special commands," over and beyond the traditional "Attack," "Defend," "Cast Magic," and "Run" battle commands, such as the ability to steal items from enemies, or performing a leap attack. Often these special attacks are integrated into the "job system," which has appeared in several games in the series (Final Fantasy III, Final Fantasy V, Final Fantasy Tactics, Final Fantasy X-2).

Final Fantasy I through Final Fantasy III all featured a traditional turn based battle system. The player would input all battle commands at the beginning of each combat round, which would then be carried out based on the speed rating of each character. Starting with Final Fantasy IV, and continuing until Final Fantasy IX (and revived in Final Fantasy X-2), the "Active Time Battle" (ATB) system was introduced. The ATB system was semi-real time, and afforded every creature in combat a time gauge. When a specific character's time gauge was filled, the character could act, which would then reset the timer. Generally each of these games included both "active" and "wait" modes: when "wait" mode was chosen, then all activity relating to the time gauge would pause whenever the player was using a submenu to choose a magic spell, item, or special attack.

Final Fantasy X abandoned the ATB system in favor of the "Conditional Turn-Based Battle System" (CTB). In the CTB system, every creature in battle would be ranked according to speed. As this ranking was displayed on screen during battle, it was possible to know when a character and/or enemy would move several combat turns in advance, and to plan battles accordingly.

Final Fantasy XI featured a fully real time combat system similar to that employed by the game EverQuest: when confronted with an enemy, a character would automatically perform basic physical attacks unless otherwise instructed by the player. Early details suggest Final Fantasy XII will adopt a similar system. Unlike previous games, battles in both Final Fantasy XI and Final Fantasy XII take place on the world map, with no separate battle screen.

Critics

Although the franchise is extremely popular, it is not without critics. Some cite a lack of interactivity (overuse of full motion video), rigid and often linear story structure, and unoriginality. More recent installments of the series (following its premiere on the Sony PlayStation in 1997) are especially attacked by critics within the video game community. Nintendo's Legend of Zelda, Konami's Suikoden, and Square Enix's own Dragon Quest franchises are strong competitors of Final Fantasy. Fans of these games often argue that the nostalgia factor plays a significant role in many of the negative critical responses to post-Final Fantasy VII installments.

Of the more recent installments in the series, Final Fantasy XI and Final Fantasy X-2 have been most frequently singled out for criticism. A number of diehard fans have accused Final Fantasy XI for neglecting the traditions of the series by switching to a massively multiplayer online format. On the other hand, the single-player Final Fantasy X-2 has attracted negative attention for its status as the first direct sequel to a previous Final Fantasy game, and for its supposed overreliance on fan service.

The games

Note on numbering system

Originally, Final Fantasy II and III for the Famicom and V for the Super Famicom were not released in America, so Square of America decided to change the numbers of the US releases to hide this fact. Final Fantasy IV became "II" and VI became "III". Starting with Final Fantasy VII the pretense was dropped, and all subsequent games used their original numbering, leading to an apparent "jump" over 3 games. This has been a source of much confusion, with many American fans continuing to refer to IV and VI by their American numbers. To solve this, many fans use the disambiguating suffixes "us" and "j" for American numbering and Japanese numbering respectively, e.g. FF3us or FF6j.

Later ports include translations of the Japanese games with their original numbering. Final Fantasy IV was released in Final Fantasy Chronicles for the PlayStation, while Final Fantasy V and VI were released in Final Fantasy Anthology for PlayStation. The original Final Fantasy I and Final Fantasy II are released in Final Fantasy Origins, and for the Game Boy Advance as Final Fantasy I & II: Dawn of Souls. Final Fantasy III has not yet officially been released in the US, and never rereleased on any platform in any market, but Square-Enix currently plans to release it for the Nintendo DS.

Main series

Direct sequels, spin-offs, and related games

Until the release of Final Fantasy X-2 the idea of a "direct sequel," that is, a game which picked up directly from the story of a previous game in the series, was unprecedented in the series. Starting with that game, however, several such sequels emerged, especially the Compilation of Final Fantasy VII series of games/movies, all of which continue the story of the game Final Fantasy VII. This is most likely a result of the merger with Enix, which was well-known for producing sequels and spinoffs associated with the Dragon Quest series.

Compilations and collections

  • Final Fantasy Collection1999Sony PlayStation
    • Compilation of the PlayStation remakes of Final Fantasy IV, Final Fantasy V and Final Fantasy VI in special edition packaging with omake extras
    • Never released in North America or Europe
  • Final Fantasy Anthology1999/2002Sony PlayStation
    • North American version – released in 1999, a compilation of the PlayStation remakes of Final Fantasy V and Final Fantasy VI with a special edition soundtrack CD.
    • European version – released in 2002, a compilation of the PlayStation remakes of Final Fantasy IV and Final Fantasy V
  • Final Fantasy Origins2002Sony PlayStation
    • Compilation of the PlayStation remakes of Final Fantasy I and Final Fantasy II in special edition packaging with omake extras, under the title Final Fantasy I+II Premium Package
    • Released in North America and Europe in 2003 without any packaging extras

Final Fantasy in other media

See also

External links

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