Final Fantasy 4
Premise: A Dark Knight repents and tries to stop his Evil Empire
Battle System: This RPG has an “active battle system,” with a bar telling you when you can act, and when you have to wait. Each character you encounter has their own “class,” like Black Mage, White Mage, Warrior, etc. Your party has two rows, front does more damage and gets hit harder, back does less damage but gets hit least.
Gimmick: Unlike previous Final Fantasies, each “class” is their own character. The main character is a Dark Knight. In previous Final Fantasies, you chose what class the character was, or each character has access to each class. This makes the FF4 characters slightly more memorable, and the story will mix up your character line-up, so you get to explore each one. This can be rewarding or annoying depending on the character. You have a battle party of 4, but an overall cast of 13.
Verdict: One of the most textbook 2D JRPGs
Final Fantasy 6
Premise: A crazy clown wants to destroy the world
Battle System: Like FF4, this entry has an “active battle system.” Each character is once again their own “class,” only this time each class has a sort of “super move,” that you can abuse later one in the game for tougher enemies. The two row system also makes a return.
Gimmick: Most consider this the “Best Final Fantasy.” It’s certainly the best 2D Final Fantasy. The game is balance to cut down on grinding, so you’ll never feel too overwhelmed. In many ways, it is the ultimate culmination of Final Fantasy up to that point. Towards the middle of the game, you gain access to a separate world. You have battle party of 4, but an overall cast of 14.
Verdict: The last “classic jrpg” in the series
Final Fantasy 7
Premise: A mercenary and his friends hunt down an evil super soldier
Battle System: FF7 also implements the “active battle system,” with a bar representing your wait times and actions. Magic is no longer learned via leveling up. Instead, each weapon and accessory have slots for “materia,” items with special moves and spells. If you want a character to learn “Thunder,” then you must equip the “Thunder” materia. Each materia levels up with use, and you can buy or find high level spells and skills instead of learning them through grinding. Patient players can manipulate the materia system for great spells and skills. Each character also has a “LIMIT” move, or super move, that is learned through use or story event.
Gimmick: Final Fantasy 7 is the first Final Fantasy to be in full 3D, as well as the first to gain major fame due to its association with the Playstation 1. It has cinematic FMVs and character models, impressing many players. It is the most popular entry in the series. It has a Cyber-Punk theme, unlike the other Medieval themed games in the series. Battle party of 3, overall cast of 8
Verdict: Actually fun, but aged not too great.
Final Fantasy 8
Premise: A school of mercenaries have to stop a witch from freezing time
Battle System: FF8 is famous for its “Junction System.” Because the lore of the game involves a witch, magic is not available in the game. Instead, players have to “draw” or steal magic from enemies. 1 Draw=1 spell per use, meaning players have to continually steal magic to use magic. This is annoying. Some spells can be equipped, making a character immune to that spell, or simply stronger. Super moves also make a return. Enemies level up with the player, so you are never stronger or weaker than your opponent.
Gimmick: The most infamous gimmick FF8 has is the Junction System, which is a deal breaker for some players. Like FF7, FF8 did away with the Medieval setting and embraced a more futuristic private school setting. Future Anime Punk more than Steam Punk. Its also one of the few entries where the love story is the central plot. The game plays around with flashbacks, meaning a third of the game is spent controlling an entirely separate party. It has a battle party of 3, but an overall cast of 6.
Verdict: Potentially great, but I quit due to the Junction System.
Final Fantasy 9
Premise: An Monkey God tries to destroy the world
Battle System: FF9 returns the to classic active battle, 4 person battle system. Magic and Skills are not learned through leveling. They are learned through equipping items. After you have earned sufficient “AP,” or ability points through battling and use, the skill is learned permanently, freeing up space for other skills. The super move also makes a return. And once gain, each character adheres to a predetermined battle class.
Gimmick: FF9 is a sort of retread of older Final Fantasy troupes. This comes the closest to using a Medieval setting. And the battle system is more traditional. The characters have a more cartoonish character design. And the main character Zidane is light hearted. In many way, FF9 is a reaction to FF7 and FF8, which were criticized for having sullen protagonists and stories. Battle party 4, overall cast of 8.
Verdict: A underrated entry in the series.
Final Fantasy 10
Premise: Summoners must stop a giant monster from killing humanity every 10 years.
Battle System: FF10’s battle system is turn based. The order of combatants is shown on the right hand side of the screen. Characters are allows 1 free swap during a turn, meaning you will not lose a turn by changing characters. Once again, skills are not learned via leveling up. In battle, you earn “spheres” and move points, and must manually allocated these spheres in the “Sphere Grid.” Although it looks complex, its actually a liner straight skill tree. Each character has their own skill tree on the grid. You won’t be able to branch off until late in the game. This means that after characters have learned most of their crucial skills, you will be able to teach other characters their skills and stats. Potentially, your Black Mage could be as strong as your Warrior with all their skills, and vice versa.
Gimmick: Final Fantasy X is the first Final Fantasy with voice acting. It was the first Final Fantasy game to be released on the Playstation 2. It has a tropical setting, unlike the rest of the series. It actually quite liner in terms of world map, having no real overworld. Every area is connected to one another in a straight line. It’s also infamous for the mini-game “Blitzball.”
Verdict: One of the best in the series.
Final Fantasy 12
Premise: Two Empires are at War with one another
Battle System: FF12 is unique among the Final Fantasy series in that it largely abandoned the static turn based battle system of traditional rpgs. Instead, it adopted a more MMORPG hybrid system. While you still have menu for ATTACK, MAGIC, etc, your character is now allowed to move in battle. You position them, give them the command, and they execute it. This can make for some dynamic battles. Character skills and magic is based on the “License” system, where you buy a “license” for a skill, place it on the “License Board,” and then permanently have it. Certain characters, or course, do better with certain types of licenses. Super moves, or “Limit Breaks,” make a return, and you can link multiple limit breaks during battle.
Gimmick: FF12 was made soon after Final Fantasy 11, the series first MMO. FF12 adopted MMO liked features as a result. The battle system is not static turn based battle. Players can move the camera for the first time in the series. And areas aren’t prerendered. The story is more medieval-ish drama like older 2D FF games. Some praise shaking up the formula, while other view it as the franchise’s moment of declining quality.
Verdict: Definitely worth a look at.