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When you stop to think about it, it’s hard to decide which is more astonishing; the fact that developer/publisher Square-Enix is hard at work on the 15th game in their long running JRPG franchise, or the fact that those 15 games are just the tip of the Final Fantasy iceberg.
Few game series can match the sheer volume and variety of content that has come out under the Final Fantasy name. Fighting games? Rhythm games? Real-time strategy games? Check, check, and check! Short of first-person shooters, I can’t think of a genre into which Square-Enix hasn’t tried to cram a chocobo at least once.
Take a look at some great games outside of the core Final Fantasy series, and find out if any catch your eye!
Final Fantasy Tactics: War of the Lions [PS1, PSP/Vita, iOS]
Final Fantasy Tactics launched for the original PlayStation only months after Final Fantasy VII brought the franchise to mainstream popularity. Newcomers to the series were likely disappointed if they were hoping for another chapter set in a dark, industrial future full of magical technology, but those who stuck with Tactics discovered a deep, satisfying turn-based strategy game that showed off the series’ medieval fantasy roots.
The War of the Lions remake boasts beautiful new cinematic scenes with a unique sketchbook style, and a rewritten script that cleared up the original’s sloppy localization. It suffers from a bit of graphical slowdown when certain spell effects trigger, but the gradual trickle of more complex classes and mechanics promises to keep the attention of even the most demanding strategy game fan. Get into the later parts of the game, and delight in stealing unique weapons right out of the hands of the bosses that use them, or devastating your enemies with the Arithmetician’s mathematically targeted spells.
Dirge of Cerberus: Final Fantasy VII [PS2]
Around 10 years after Final Fantasy VII’s enormous success, Square-Enix sought a way to capitalize on the game’s popular world and characters with additional games. The result was the Compilation of Final Fantasy VII project, which produced a few new titles set in VII’s world. Dirge of Cerberus followed the continuing adventures of broody, goth gunslinger Vincent Valentine in his fight against a group of engineered super soldiers called the Tsviets.
Third-person shooting action is the order of the day in Dirge. The game isn’t terribly deep, but moves along at a pretty brisk pace and rewards the Final Fantasy VII fan with a way to see the world’s old pre-rendered locales in 3D. The game’s beautiful cinematic scenes use character models from the Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children movie, so they stand out alongside some of Square-Enix’s visual best work. The Assault on Midgar sequence in particular features all the over-the-top action you’ve come to expect.
Theatrhythm Final Fantasy [3DS, iOS]
Composer Nobuo Uematsu is deeply adored by Final Fantasy fans for his work creating the series’ musical identity. Though Uematsu’s collaborations with Square-Enix today are limited to on-and-off freelance work, you can enjoy a sampling of his best songs in Theatrhythm Final Fantasy on your 3DS or iOS device.
The core gameplay involves tapping, swiping, and holding spots on your touchscreen in time with the music. If you’ve got a powerful sense of nostalgia for the series, you’ll likely gravitate toward the Event Music pieces, which showcase gameplay and memorable cinematic scenes in the background while you play. Field and Battle Music stages keep things lively by using the game’s mechanics to emulate travelling and fighting respectively.
Still can’t get enough Final Fantasy music? Check out some completely free Final Fantasy Remixes!
Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Echoes of Time [Wii, DS]
Looking for a Final Fantasy-styled adventure that you can pick up and play with your friends? Look no further than the Crystal Chronicles spin-off series. Echoes of Time allows players on Wii and DS to get together in local or online parties to fight through dungeons and hunt for treasure together.
While Echoes of Time is playable as a solo experience with AI party members, you’re going to have the most fun if you can get a bunch of friends together to play in the same room. There’s a great satisfaction in pulling off some of the game’s cooperative mechanics, like stacking magic reticles together with allies to cast amplified versions of spells, that just doesn’t provide the same rush with an AI buddy.
Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings [DS]
A Final Fantasy real-time strategy game on the Nintendo DS? It may sound like an unusual combination, but it actually does work. Revenant Wings catches up with Vaan and Penelo a few years after the events of Final Fantasy XII as they explore a lost island in the sky, and recruit armies of monsters to command.
Don’t expect the complex base building of, say, Starcraft II here. Revenant Wings keeps things simple, and that’s for the best on the DS. The monsters you can recruit fall into simple paper-rock-scissors categories of melee, ranged, and flying, and tag along with main character commanders who can turn the tide of battle with limited use special abilities. Elemental weaknesses and resistances add a bit of depth, but your main concern will be to make sure you don’t get broadsided with a bad type matchup if some fliers try to sneak up on your melee, for example.
Dissidia 012 Final Fantasy [PSP/Vita]
It’s a great shame that the Dissidia series hasn’t made its way off of the PSP to a system with more popularity in the west. This Final Fantasy fighting game features action packed battles, deep character customization, and a long, voice acted campaign with Final Fantasy protagonists from throughout the series’ history.
Dissidia 012 is the second of the two games, and the one you should get. It features an expanded character roster with franchise favorites like Kain, Tifa, and Yuna, as well as new mechanics like the ability to assist characters. The fights are intense, free-roaming showdowns in which fighters blast each other across arenas and through walls with thrilling attacks. Fights can last several minutes each, but stay exciting from the sheer amount of variety. You may need to press the attack at one moment, break off and hide while you wait out a debilitating effect in the next, and then rocket across the arena to beat your opponent to a critical power-up. If you can convince a friend to nab the game as well, you’ll have great competitive battles in your future.
There’s not enough room here to talk about every cool Final Fantasy game that’s worth your time. Final Fantasy VII: Crisis Core comes to mind as another great title on PSP. The Kingdom Hearts games feature enough Final Fantasy fan service that they could be called spin-offs too. And don’t forget the recent Bravely Default for 3DS, which feels like a SNES era Final Fantasy game in everything but its name. If you’ve never touched the series before, you’ve got thousands of hours of adventure available to you, and much of it readily available on services like the PlayStation Network Store and Nintendo eShop.
In the comments, it’s time for a topic even more divisive than favorite pizza toppings. What are your three favorite Final Fantasy games ever, and why? Let the battle begin!