Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Skypp's Final Fantasy Rankings Part 1: Bottoms Up

This is a listing of my ranking of Final Fantasy Core games as of 2014.  I'm not going to go too in depth into the why's and how's of each game, as each game could and probably will eventually have its own post.  I am keeping to the Core numbered Final Fantasy games, excluding the MMO's(11 and 14), and excluding 3 as I have not finished it.

I am including some information along with the rank.  There will be 2 numbers after the game's title: the first is my game grade(1-10) in context of when it came out.  The second is what I'd grade the game today.  I would also like to point out that when I talk about "Graphics" I am also talking about the original versions, as the remake graphics of FF1 and FF2 are really really nice, and the 3D versions of 3 and 4 are pretty good

Also, I will try to keep vague on my spoilers.

11. Final Fantasy 8 (5) (3)

Final Fantasy 8 is the only "bad" rated game on my list of Final Fantasy games.  It got good marks for visual world design and the impressive sound track, but is dead last in having a horrible story.  Story is my most important factor in a Final Fantasy, and I much more enjoy the almost non-existent story of Final Fantasy 1 to the horrible story of Final Fantasy 8.  Characters could have saved the game for me, but my "last big hope" was Irvine, and then he turned out to be the biggest wuss of all.  Gameplay failures include: Junction Magic, Weapon crafting, level scaled enemy difficulty, lack of exploring on the final disc.  I dislike 8 so much that I feel bad that the 10th spot is near it, because the game in the 10th spot is good.  Why do I rate it lower now?  Well the graphics were too ambitious for its time.  While FF7's dated graphics are cute and funny, and the 16 bit era games are "retro cool" pixel art, FF8 just looks like a bunch of jagged spikey non-descript stick figures.  With Vagrant Story and Metal Gear Solid showing you can have decent polygon characters in this era, it just embarrasses the FF8 team.

10.  Final Fantasy 1 (10) (5)

Final Fantasy, the first.  When it came out, it was just as big a jump in gameplay and graphics as the mid-era Final Fantasy games were.  Compare this to its competition(Dragon Warrior, Zelda) and you see weaponry that changes depending on what is equipped.  You have items that can cast spells instead of just be used as usual weapons.  You have enemy artwork that look like paintings compared to the pixel approximations of the competitor games.  The world was amazing, taking you from the usual medieval vistas, to an underwater Atlantis, and even a space station full of robotic enemies.  Final Fantasy has been sweeping in scope from the beginning.  While unfortunately now we want more story, the game is short and still fun to revisit to see how things have changed, but mainly to see how things have not.  Final Fantasy is a legacy that has lasted even to the current games.

9. Final Fantasy 2 (8) (5)

This is a very controversial Final Fantasy.  Many feel that its experiment in mechanics was the biggest failure of all the games, and I would tend to agree.  I spent many fights attacking my own characters during battle so they would level up skills.  For this reason, I would give it an 8 when it came out instead of the 10 that it very nearly deserves for its innovations.  This game introduced plot into the series, and the now familiar non-player character becoming a player character but leaving to make room for a new non-player character.  It began as many legacies as the first, being the introduction of the Dragoons, Cid, and many others.  Evil Emperors, "false" bad guys, betrayal, death, nations at war, all these things are in Final Fantasy 2.  While I would not recommend it for casuals, people that know enough Final Fantasy to match me in debate should definitely play it so you can see where a lot of the legacy stuff comes from.  Fans of Final Fantasy 6 will see many many parallels.

8. Final Fantasy 5 (7) (6)

The much loved Final Fantasy 5 was hyped, in my opinion, because we did not get it.  When I think back on Final Fantasy 5, I malign the lack of character personality, the drop in emotion as compared to Final Fantasy 4(2 US), and the plot that is all over the place.  But.  Then I realize, this is because this game never got a good translation.  I thought about all the AMAZING things that happen in 5 and I realize the translation has sold it short.  If this game had modern graphics, cutscenes and a coherent re-write, we would have one of the most epic stories this side of the original Star Wars trilogy.  Multi-world space wars, generational evil epic battles, fallen heroes redeemed, honor bound enemies, its got it all.  The bad marks for when it was released include a general lack of graphical improvement over 4.  If you love the job changing system, this game does it best.  I loved the combinations and set ups I had in this game, and mechanically it might have been my favorite, though 7's might win that battle.

(note: I have played through the game on the PS1 and the GBA, and my view of the translations of both stands; the translations are crap)

7. Final Fantasy 10 (8) (6)
This Final Fantasy title is the nomad of my list.  It keeps going up and down in stature as time goes and I can not decide.  It will likely stay lower from now on as I feel Final Fantasy 13 did everything that X set out to do, except it did it much better, leaving me to rely only on its story and characters, something it lacks.  In fact, its character designs and characters in general are probably my least favorite cast aside from 8.  At least 8's characters looked like they belonged in the world and fit "together".  Final Fantasy 10's characters looks like they were created separately and thrown together for the hell of it.  Its characters, and indeed the game, is somewhat saved by Auron, who would rank high on list of "most badass characters" in games.  The game gets extra high marks for its pre-rendered cut-scenes and its musical score, which it ranks near the top.  Its beginning and ending is also ranked high, previously being my favorite ending to a Final Fantasy, though now it is behind both 12 and 13.  The beginning with the Blitzball invasion by Sin is still my favorite beginning to a Final Fantasy.  The song, "Otherworld", was perfect for it, I just wish the game kept that energy throughout.

6. Final Fantasy 4 (10) (8)

Final Fantasy 4(known as Final Fantasy II in US), was the first introduction to an epic plot to many JRPG fans in the United States.  The epic story of redemption is still one of the best in video games, now only starting to show its age because of bad translation.  There are, however, many translated parts that have survived and become much beloved.  There is emotion in the script, something that can not be said about Final Fantasy 5's translation.  It is a return to Final Fantasy 2's epic plot line with many supporting characters and overarching themes in the characters influencing their abilities(instead of a job class).  When it came out, it was just as much a game changer as 7.  It used advanced 16 bit graphics(particularly with the airships) and it went to places you never thought of.  Like the first it blended Tech and Fantasy into what Final Fantasy always has been, a blend of the two(and it did not start with 7 like many purists will have you believe).  I dock it points now because the graphics really need more detail in the overworld, and the translation stinks and is confusing.  Still, unlike 5, 2 and 1, I'd recommend casual RPG players give it a go, its very very important in gaming culture.

(note: I have not played the 3D remake)

There we go, that's it for now.  To recap:


FF 1, FF 2, FF5, FF10, FF4

Next up is my favorites list 1-5.  Remember, this is my "Favorites" list, not any other person's.  I'm not trying to argue with you and convince you to like them, like them in your own order.

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