It’s quite ironic that one of RPGs‘ most successful series of all-time doesn’t behave much like a series at all. If you’re a gamer of any sort, you’ve surely heard of Final Fantasy. It is a franchise that lifted off in 1987 and has gone big places since. While I’m of the opinion that the later games in the series stray far away from the great roots that earlier games planted, it’s not worth arguing that Final Fantasy has cemented a legacy in the genre forever.
Assuming you’re one of the crazy folk who have never played a single game in this series, you’re probably not wondering where to start from. From the beginning seems like the obvious answer, but it’s not. Start from anywhere you want. From one game to another, Final Fantasy carries over practically nothing. Most games are a new story with a new cast of characters for us to enjoy. But, there are a few things that I bet we all remember.
Who’s the most memorable character from Final Fantasy VI? Celes, perhaps? In Final Fantasy VII, it was all about Cloud. Squall was the big name to come from Final Fantasy VIII. Lastly, who could forget Tidus? Well, all of these characters are named after meteorological effects.
Cloud, as in those white and puffy things in the sky? A squall is a sudden, severe storm. Tidus seems to be “tide” with a bit of a twist to it. So on and so forth. It had to be intentional! It even goes beyond that, with players like Vaan, Lightning, and more.
How about Cid? Wasn’t this guy in every Final Fantasy game you’ve ever played?
- Final Fantasy: Didn’t appear, but was squeezed into the backstory of remakes for the GBA and PSP
- Final Fantasy II: The original Cid, offering a taxi service with his airship to Firion
- Final Fantasy III: Cid Haze, who transforms the sailing ship into an airship and even briefly joins your party
- Final Fantasy IV: Finally introduced as a playable character, mentor of Cecil and Rosa
- Final Fantasy V: Yet again involved in travel, using the Fire Crystal to build a ship for Queen Karnak
- Final Fantasy VI: Cid Del Norte Marquez, inventor of the Magitek technology, who either lives or dies depending on the actions of the player
- Final Fantasy VII: Cid Highwind, one of the most foul-mouthed playable characters ever, who is yet again involved with travel (the Tiny Bronco and Highwind)
- Final Fantasy VIII: Again letting us fly around, Cid Kramer is the headmaster at Balamb Garden
- Final Fantasy IX: Cid Fabool IX, a briefly playable character who eventually is turned to a frog
- Final Fantasy X: Cid is the leader of Al Bhed
We’ll stop there. That’s enough Cid for now, although I can promise that you’re going to have trouble avoiding him as you dive deeper into the series.
The names Biggs and Wedge also appear in quite a few Final Fantasy games. If you have played several games in the series, seeing similar names makes you feel some sort of connection even if the characters are completely different.
Equipment & Magic Systems
A spell system appears in so many of the games in the Final Fantasy series. In earlier games, Magic was split into two categories: White and Black. Final Fantasy II is strangely different in the way it handles Magic compared to other games in the series, where it gives you spells and lets you power them up through 16 tiers.
Further into the series, we see Summon Magic, Time Magic, Blue Magic, spells like Shell, Protect, Haste, Raise, Esuna, and a lot more. One really cool thing that carries itself through several games in the series is the tiered suffix system. For example, Cure/Cura/Curaga/Curaja. That’s a lot more fun than saying “level 10 Cure” as you would in Final Fantasy II.
Another thing many games in the Final Fantasy series have managed to do is bring us some incredibly interesting systems when it comes to managing how we control our magic and equipment. It’s a bit of a biased opinion, since I absolutely adore Final Fantasy VII, but there is no better example than Materia.
Materia are items that allow a character to cast spells, summons, command abilities, and more. Materia are pieces that can be slotted into weapons, and can even be linked with one another to create a jointed effect between the two Materias.
Similar systems were birthed in later games, such as Junctioning in Final Fantasy VIII (which was far more confusing).
While Materia and Junctioning clearly aren’t the same, the series consistently makes use of really intricate systems that make gearing up your player a whole lot of fun.
This one was probably obvious. Chocobos are about as hard to avoid as Cid. They’re a beloved creature to fans of the series and practically the official mascot of the game.
While they appear slightly different in every other game of the series, a chocobo is generally a yellow-orange bird with three-toed feet, wings, and a very long neck. Chocobos are infamous for their musk, and in many games of the series you’ll notice NPCs constantly commenting on it. Gyshal Greens apparently help hide that smell.
Chocobos play many roles to playable characters. Most commonly, they are a form of transportation. On the world map in many games of the series, a chocobo will get you around much faster. You’re also able to summon chocobos into battle or fight against them in many games.
One of the best ways that chocobos are used in the series is in Final Fantasy VII, where catching, raising, and then racing them is an entire minigame.
This was apparently so fun that Squaresoft decided they’d make an entire game about it called, creatively enough, Chocobo Racing.
I bet you didn’t know that chocobos were actually a complete ripoff of Horseclaws from Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, did you? While moogles and black mages appeared in games over and over in the Final Fantasy series, nothing can compare to a good ol’ chocobo. Wark!
It’s not much, but that’s the special thing about Final Fantasy! Each game could be its own title, completely independent of the Final Fantasy name. They’d just have to leave out the Cids, awesome equipment systems, and feathered pets.
Which Final Fantasy game was your favorite? Let me know in the comments section below!