Friday, March 28, 2014

Skypp's Final Fantasy Rankings Part 2: Fanfare

Part 2: Fanfare
(Part 1: Here)

Re-pasted disclaimer from Part 1: 

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 non-vague spoilers to a minimum.

5 Final Fantasy 13 (8) (9)

Here we have an oddity.  While doing my list, this is the only game that I would rate better today than I did the day it came out.  Not only have I vastly enjoyed this game, it has only grown in my eyes as time has gone by.  Many of the people that heap crap on this game seem to praise 10.  A lot of the crap said about 13 is true of all JRPG's, and I believe its ripping and bandwagon hatred is more a symptom of the rejection of JRPG's in the last 5 years or so(an era I believe we are finally growing out of due to Bravely Default, Ni No Kuni and South Park).  Anyway, I loved this game.  I loved the characters, I loved that the characters grew over the course of the game(something that never happened to Tidus or Squall), I loved that everyone was there for a reason(sadly something that can't be said about a game higher on my list).  I saw visual things that stunned me.  I heard music that made me tear up.  I took part in a story that grew epic, world changing, and emotionally draining by the end.  Despite looking "modern", despite having not that great combat(hence the 8 rating), it felt like a Final Fantasy should.  Why did it go from 8 to 9?  The characters are still growing on me.  The Sazh and Vanille scenes in Nautilus are worth the play through alone(unless your're a sociopath determined to prove to everyone you don't give a fuck about anything).

4. Final Fantasy 7 (10) (8)

This was the first Final Fantasy that I played near its launch.  I remember playing the demo, I remember picking up the game, and I remember playing every bit of the 3 play throughs I played it in a row when I got it(I got a lot less games back then).  I can't really say anything about 7 that hasn't been said.  It was THAT revolutionary when it came out, even if you did not like it.  It ushered in a rush of JRPG's that have not happened since.  A whole generation of Japan's best got sent our way because of the success of 7.  Why do I rate it 8 now?  Well, the character models aren't even cute any longer.  The cutscenes, while amazing for their time, are very short.  Many of them are rendered at much less quality than the others.  The music, story, and presentation get high marks, and the Materia system mechanic ranks as my favorite of all games, not just Final Fantasy series.

3. Final Fantasy 12 (8) (8)

The Matsuno Final Fantasy.  The one that took place in an already established world.  The one that has a semi-Final Fantasy and a non-Final Fantasy as part of its universe.  This strange Single-player MMO-esque Final Fantasy is polarizing.  The combat is confusing to many(though it is very much like what Dragon Age did later), and the main characters don't seem like main characters at all.  But that story.  I really wish there was more story in between certain dungeons in the game, and I kind of wish the story became more apparent much sooner, but holy crap; when the story gets going, its hard to not be fascinated.  This is my pick for best overall story in a Final Fantasy.  When I rate story above all, you can see that I find faults with the game's pacing and presentation enough to keep it out of the #1 spot.  Basch is ranked 3 in my favorite characters of all time list.  My favorite duo of all time is Balthier and Fran.  My favorite villain of the series is Vayne by a wide margin.

2. Final Fantasy 9 (8) (8)

Final Fantasy 9 is the game that most exemplifies what a Final Fantasy should be.  It was Sakaguchi's send off to the series, and he pulled out all the stops for it.  The story goes from a small matter of royalty to a universe changing, epic story of survival.  The entire game is an exploration of identity.  Identity as a person, as a legacy, as a civilization, as a memory, and what defines all that.  My favorite character in all of gaming is Vivi.  My favorite sub-story in all of gaming is Vivi and the Black Mages.  The cutscenes are the best in the series, with practically all of them comprising of "oh shit!" moments.  The world is beautiful, my favorite setting of all Final Fantasy games.  The reason this game is not in the #1 slot is not nostalgia, as many will accuse, but because that aside from Vivi and a smidgen of Freya, the cast is rather weak on meaningful characterization.  Only Irvine is a bigger disappointment to me than Amarant.  Amarant's cool look wrote a "badass" check that did not get cashed in.

1. Final Fantasy 6 (10) (9)

The only Final Fantasy to score a 10 from me that was not a first of its tech generation.

Graphics?  It did things you would not think would be done on the SNES.  It looked so good that many PS1/Saturn RPG's looked worse.  From the gears in the town of Narshe, to the beautiful sunset on Cid's island, the world was full of interesting details.  Music? Best in the series.  Every character got a theme, and I could hum them all by the end of it.  Hearing a certain music floods my mind with memories of where I heard it.  Only 7 comes close with a couple of tunes that match 6's memorable score.  Final Fantasy 6's score is close to perfect.  The story is grand, and while it may not get 12 or 9 "epic" it is suitably world shattering.  On top of that, all the side stories fill all the pats of humanity that the main story doesn't touch.  You get Cyan's duty and family, Edgar's unresolved relationship with his brother, Setzer's hidden sadness, and Shadow's silent enduring of pain.  There are over 10 characters in Final Fantasy 6 and all except 1, maybe 2, get the spotlight.  Combat is fun and complex, the Esper mechanic is really awesome, and the fact that every character gets their own special attacks makes every character different and fun.  Sabin even uses Street Fighter style movements to do his abilities.

Final Fantasy 6 is a masterpiece of gaming, and taken as a whole, it still stands the test of time.  It only loses a point for its apparent bad(yet memorable) translation, and the aging of the graphics(despite still being very beautiful in my opinion).

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