- Games, Toys, and Hobbies
Why I Love Final Fantasy Games
And Just What IS Final Fantasy, Anyhow?
In short, Final Fantasy video games are the greatest books I've ever lived.
They've been around for over 20 years, plunging us into "strange new worlds and new civilizations" like our own personal Star Trek crossed with Lord of the Rings. In each Final Fantasy game, we guide a party of 6-8 characters with various skills, quirks, personalities and backstories through an epic adventure. Think Star Wars, but our heroes may be escaping the Imperial Overlord's prison one minute and pounced on by a dragon the next.
While I appreciate the battles and tactics, what I really like is that Final Fantasy games are complex, immersive stories, told in video game instead of book or movie form. Player-controlled gameplay alternates with pre-rendered, movie-like "cutscenes" dramatizing exciting or moving, personal moments. There is a huge international following of Final Fantasy fans who love these games as fans love Harry Potter, Star Trek and Lord of the Rings.
Teaser: 20 Years of Final Fantasy Tribute Video - created by Final Fantasy Fan DarkFF
Weaving together quick glimpses from nearly 20 different Final Fantasy games and movies, this fanvid captures a lot of the best themes and moments of the series: heroes and villains, dystopic futures and fantasy pasts, crystals and airships and giant swords, love and loyalty and sacrifice and joy. (While nearly every Final Fantasy game is self-contained with its own cast, world, and story, there are common themes and tropes that span the franchise.)
Ten Things I Love About Final Fantasy
What Makes These Games Great
Below, I'd like to share with you my top ten list of what I love most about all the Final Fantasy games.
Except where noted, screencaps and clips are from Final Fantasy games by Square-Enix.
10. It's Like Watching a Good Movie - Cutscenes that Add Plot and Context to Gameplay
Yep, I'm a sucker for fantastic graphics -- the best CGI available at the time each of these games was made. But more than that, some Final Fantatsy "cutscenes" are every bit as memorable as Luke Skywalker blowing up the Death Star. Here's some personal favorites.
(You only need to see 1:30 of the first vid, a creative way to escape a forced marriage.)
9. Our Very Own Airship - Woo Hoo, I Can Fly!
Sometimes we get to drive and steer it, or crawl around its corridors exploring. Other times it's just a way to get from point A to B. Either way, we adore our physics-defying airships.
8. Crazy Costumes and Insane Fashion Sense - Codpieces and Zippers and Belts, Oh My
The SF genre is infamous for impractical and scanty costumes, but Final Fantasy is so far beyond the staid chainmail bikini that it's in another dimension.
I look at all the outrageous costumes in Final Fantasy, and I laugh. And then I guiltily enjoy the fan service (yes, I enjoy ogling certain characters), and then I laugh some more.
(Final Fantasy fans: you HAVE to read this article: "Basch, a Study in Fashion Disaster." It highlights many of the, ahem, unique aspects of Final Fantasy costumes.)
7. Summon Powerful Magical Helpers in a Pinch - It's like being able to call Yoda for backup...
One of the cornerstones of Final Fantasy is the ability to "summon" large, powerful, magical beings. They whump things. Spectacularly.
6. World Mythology in Final Fantasy
Shiva? Odin? Fafnir? Yeti? Excalibur? It's Myth Mashup Time!
Here's a list of just some of the hundreds of real-world mythological characters making cameos in Final Fantasy games.
But Square isn't just borrowing names, monsters, mythical beasts. The Final Fantasy games themselves tell stories that are myths. Within the story, there are myths and prophecies which our heroes must fulfill or thwart. External to the story, these games bring to life timeless mythic themes: the hero's quest, the damsel in distress, the magic sword, the Sauron-like foe, death and rebirth, ghosts and the unquiet dead.
I love mythology, and that's really what hooked me on Final Fantasy games.
5. It's Fun Being Able To Wield Magic - Long Before Harry Potter, Final Fantasy Let Us Be Wizards
Let's face it, casting magic looks impressive, and it's good for getting out your frustrations after a long day.
3. Highly-Developed Worlds and Civilizations - Let's Explore Places We've Never Been
Just as in The Lord of the Rings, exploring the world and meeting its people makes the story feel more real. You care more about "saving the world" if you know and love it, even if sometimes the world tries to stamp out your party as troublemakers!
In fact, these worlds are far more interesting than a casual gamer realizes. For instance, I discovered that Final Fantasy X draws a lot on medieval Japanese Buddhism.
From floating sky cities and chiming crystal forests, fierce warrior tribes of the wilderness to the small, cuddly yet technologically advanced Moogles, there are amazing places to see and interesting people to meet.
1. Wonderful, Fully-Developed Characters
Final Fantasy Is A Story About People... True People
Throughout the course of each Final Fantasy game, we come to know the party members as beloved characters just like those in the best ensemble TV shows, movies, and books.
They're flawed. They're cranky. There's jokers and emo boys and mother figures and brave young girls and brash young guys and old warriors. Many of them harbor dark secrets or difficult pasts. They don't always react with wisdom or strength -- although often they do. Sometimes they are heroic. Other times, they're idiots. And sometimes there's a goofball in the group whose purpose is to make us laugh.
But we identify with them. We care about them. Sometimes we want to stick a pie in their face. We all have our favorites -- and our least favorites -- but I personally have been moved to tears of farewell for at least one.
Here's articles I've written on a few of my favorites:
Your Favorite Aspect of Final Fantasy Games - It's So Hard to Choose Just One Thing...
What is your absolute favorite thing about Final Fantasy games?
© 2011 auronlu