Tuesday, April 29, 2014

How I categorize Final Fantasy

The Final Fantasy series, as a whole, can be categorized into different eras.  To many people it is the era of Sakaguchi vs the era of Wada/Nomura.  Some people erroneously believe that there is a "Fantasy vs Future" division in the game, which I call "bullshit" because even the first one has a space station and mechs.  Anyone that claims 6 was too advanced likes to forget about sci-fi elements that were in 4(come on... you know... the whale? the giant titan.. its sci-fi).  Anyways, I divide them up differently.

See, I think that Sakaguchi actually made 2 different game franchises under the same title and used the same legacy hallmarks to group them together.  To me, the Sakaguchi era was a Final Fantasy A and a Final Fantasy B that largely took turns for the first six games.  It gets a little messy toward the end, when others got more control of the series.  The term "modern" era denotes the era we are still in now, and also the reality the game takes place in.  Social and cultural cues from our modern society are the norm for these games, and not set in earlier time periods as the earlier games were.  Then we have the easily classified MMO's, and then the tricky to classify FF12.

Final Fantasy A(1, 3, 5)

This archtype was began in the first of the series.  It took a lot of inspiration from games that came from the US that were in turn based on Dungeons and Dragons.  The party does not have a huge cast of characters joining and leaving over time, and instead is based on giving the characters a "job" and have them advance through the jobs as growth.  New characters were not needed because if you needed a different kind of fighter for an area, you simply changed jobs.  I can not say that these focused on the technical aspects of gameplay because actually they were the least adventurous in this aspect.  The combinations of classes and the melding of them in the later versions is really fun, and is the featured core of the series.

Final Fantasy B(2, 4, 6, 7, 9)

These series of games are more focused on giving us a narrative experience.  Characters join and leave the party, and generally you are left with a group of characters to create your adventuring party yourself.  These games prove to be complex because the developers never know who will be in the party, so branching side-stories can happen.  The stories also happen to be more political and sweeping in these games, especially early on, which is why I feel the Ivalice world worked so well in the series.  I put Final Fantasy 9 here, even though it is supposed to be the sendoff of all the 8 and 16 bit eras, the final "farewell" of Sakguchi to the fans of this series.  Some argue that 6 should not be here because of its more victorian/steampunk era, but like I said, you can't really put technology era as a center category in Final Fantasy.

The weirdness of Final Fantasy 7

In the end, because of the hallmarks it uses, I placed Final Fantasy 7 with the "B" series instead of the "modern" series.  I feel like 7 was going to be the start of a whole new era for Sakaguchi, but by this time Square needed a much larger team to make the game, and elements of 7 became intertwined.  It is in transition between Sakaguchi and the new guard at Square Enix.  If you look beyond the setting, looking at the mechanics of the game, the choices in which "Final Fantasy" parts they used, I feel like it is closer overall to the "B" series.  The modern series is focused on literally being fashion forward, while the character designs of 7 are sort of modern, they are still stylized and not based on anything in the current real world.  I can certainly see why others would rank it with the Modern series, so feel free to do as you will.

Final Fantasy Modern(8, 10, 13)

Many claim that the anime styled characters and the technologically advanced setting of Final Fantasy 7 make it the first "Modern" Final Fantasy.  I think the "Modern" set is much more than just that definition.  Looking at game mechanics, story considerations, and overall "tone" of the narrative means that Final Fantasy 8 was the start.  The "Modern" games set a more serious feel to the cast, and the silliness is much more buffoonery than joking in general like the earlier games.  The stories focus more intimately on the characters, with the outer theme of the game taking back seat to the drama inside the group until near the very end of the game when you find out that all the inner drama is actually connected to the overworld epic story lines.  While Nomura did give an anime feel to Final Fantasy 7, I feel that the "Modern" classification is much closer to using realistic clothing and fashion choices, with an emphasis on Japanese culture taking center stage.  They all feel much more like they take current Japanese pop culture.  This era is much more Japanese-centric than the previous games which had a strong European influence.

Alternate Sub-Classifications

Final Fantasy Ivalice(12)

This era's world was created when Square asked Matsuno to create a Final Fantasy world in the style of his politically thrilling "Tactics Ogre" game.  If we're not counting spinoffs, then we only count one.  By the time Final Fantasy 12 was set in Ivalice, there had been 3 games set in this world, and after 12 there have been 3 more.  It is an oddity that is likely to never be repeated, and thus is the odd man out.  Look for my other posts about Ivalice for more thoughts from me, or even an explanation about why Ivalice is so controversial.  Posted Here

Alternate Sakaguchi(1-10, Lost Odyssey, The Last Story)

There are some that consider some of Sakaguchi's games as still "Final Fantasy" games.  Superceding everything after Final Fantasy 10.  The strongest contender being Lost Odyssey, which would be included in the Final Fantasy B category for me.  Another of his games, The Last Story, has also been said "this is where Final Fantasy went".  His game Blue Dragon is one I'd classify with Chrono Trigger(of which I do not count Chrono Cross) instead of Final Fantasy though.

Alternate Ivalice(FFT, Vagrant Story, FF12, FF12: Reverent Wings, FFTA2)

We also have an alternate Ivalice set up that is all Matsuno.  Because Ivalice's world was never really shown fully, many consider it to be the same world as Tactics Ogre.  Next you would include Final Fantasy Tactics, Final Fantasy 12, Vagrant Story, FF12 Reverent Wings, and Final Fantasy Tactics A2.  Funny enough, the only game to show Ivalice as its own world was Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, which is not included in this as its Ivalice was an alternate universe created parallel to our own... yep, not the same world as the other.

Bravely Default?

I have not played this game yet, but I hear so many views on where it would be classified.  The game's character narrative and art style is very much of Ivalice.  Then it has the job system of Final Fantasy 5 worked in there.  Others say it is the spiritual successor to Final Fantasy: 4 Heroes of Light, and yet others say it is the spiritual sequel to Final Fantasy 9.  It was not developed "in house" at Square, rather it was created by the team that made 3D Dot Game Heroes, a game that is known as a love letter to Zelda and 8 bit RPG's.  So for now, I'll come at it as a fan-letter to old Final Fantasy, the FF9 of Final Fantasy type A.

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