Ending B

With our powers combined... not much happens

In November, I promised a post about the best games in the Final Fantasy series. Though it wasn't ready before XIII's release, it's less than a week after, so I guess I can count that as a win.

Once again, here are the rules that I set forth for not only this part of the retrospective, but as a whole as well.
1.) Unless stated otherwise, only the games in the main series will be analyzed. AKA, Final Fantasy 1-10 & 12. The main reason Final Fantasy 11 is not a part these lists is because I strongly believe that MMORPGs cannot and should not be compared using the same criteria as console games. They are two almost completely different things. So, the other 11 core games will be analyzed.
2.) If a list we create states "Best or Worst of," then the order is that of preference (least liked to most liked).
3.) This is a new rule that I'm adding specifically for this post: Remakes/Re-releases are not eligible for analysis. Original releases only.

So, here it is. Ending B's "Best and Worst" of Square-Enix's Final Fantasy series. The results are a combination of my votes along with the votes of others who are either members of Ending B or are affiliated in some way. The opinions on why the games got the ranking they did are mine alone. One more note should be that this review may contain spoilers (just an FYI).

Rydia summons Mog while riding on Red XIII's back

A special thanks to Kim Samson who put this picture together on such short notice. You can find more of her art on MHHO.com or on her deviantART site.

#11: Final Fantasy 8 (Playstation)


And Gunblades were such a cool idea.

The Bad: This may be an unpopular selection for the worst game in the series, but I stand by it. The battle system had either too hard for most people to figure out or it made the game ridiculously easy when you found out how to exploit it. I also had a problem with the "cast magic and you'll decrease your status" which made some spells acquired impossible to cast. The cast of characters themselves were unpleasant to deal with as well. Squall is trying way too hard to be the next Cloud, Quistis might as well be a cardboard cutout, Zell is a wonderful mix of annoying and hyper, Rinoa is one of the most stereotypical love interests I've ever seen, and Irvine is fairly forgettable. The only character I liked was Selphie because of her upbeat/positive attitude. One last detail, while the game boasted it had a lot of side-quests, the game became impossible if you didn't do any of them. Not to mention the time frame in which you can do some of these quests are limited; once you get to disc four, you can't do any of them.

The Good: Now, I'm of the opinion that there is no such things as "all bad" or "all good." Final Fantasy 8 has a beautiful soundtrack (probably one of the best in the series). To borrow some info from an earlier post, some of the best songs from that game are: "Balamb Garden," "Fisherman's Horizon," "Eyes on Me," and "Liberi Fatali" (which was the Ending B pick for best song in the game). The graphics aren't bad either, and have aged fairly well even by today's standards.

#10: Final Fantasy 2 (NES)

Final Fantasy 2 Battle Scene

Firion looks a lot like a Fighter from the first game. Seems kinda lazy.

The Bad: Again, another game brought down by a bad battle system. While I understand they were trying to go for an idea of increasing status through using skills associated with them, it's not executed well. Stats seem to increase and decrease seemingly at random with no apparent formula on why. It's also a little unsettling that the main strategy for increasing HP is to attack your own party members. Also, I read somewhere that the INT status doesn't work, which is just... lazy (huh, two times I've used the word "lazy" to describe this game).

The Good: Final Fantasy 2 was the first game in the series that tried to have a coherent storyline. The game revolves around stopping an evil empire from taking over the world; though not the most original storyline for fantasy/science-fiction, the effort was noticed and noted.

#9: Final Fantasy 12 (Playstation 2)

Final Fantasy 12 Battle Scene

Ah yes, one of the many views of Vaan's ass this game provides.

The Bad: This game was my personal vote for worst game in the series, so I have PLENTY of bad to talk about. But as to waste too much time, I'll compress it to my most major complaints. The game clearly borrows from the idea of the MMORPG, which in itself isn't bad, but the execution on this console game was poor. The battles were sluggish and way too easy. One time, I left my party in the middle of a monster infested field, then I went downstairs and made myself a ham sandwich. When I came back, all my characters were still alive and at full health. Why would I want to play a game that plays itself? Also, the game's characters are carbon copies of characters from older games. Vaan and Ashe are exactly like Zidane and Garnet from 9, Balthier is Irvine from 8, Basch is Auron from 10, Penelo is similar to Selphie, and Fran is reminiscent of Terra from 6. I've said it many times before, but... LAZY.

The Good:Like I said, this was my least favorite, so I really don't have a lot of good to say. I do think, however, that the game is a graphical masterpiece. Take a look at the cinematic scenes and you'll understand what I mean.

#8: Final Fantasy 3(NES)

Final Fantasy 3 World Map

*yawns* I'm bored just looking at it.

The Bad: In all honestly, it's not because this game is bad, but it's just mediocre throughout the game. The story okay, but not great. The battle system isn't bad, but nothing special. Because the main characters are generic/faceless "Onion Children," there's little to no character development. Overall, just very "meh."

The Good:Instead of copy/pasting the sprites from the previous installments, this game at least made the effort to update most of the models. I also like the idea that you can adjust your party's job classes to your particular play style.

#7: Final Fantasy 1(NES)

Final Fantasy 1 Battle

Fire: The best solution to imps in the forest.

The Bad: I was surprised how low on the list this game was, but c'est la vie. The game doesn't really have a story beyond "go here, now go there, now go there, and you're done." The game tries to put everything together at the end, but it just doesn't work. Your characters also had a nasty habit of attacking nothing if a previous character killed the target, which was more than a little annoying. In addition, the INT status, just like the second game, supposedly doesn't work.

The Good:The first game was customizable in the way that you could construct a party of four by selecting from a pool of six job classes. For the time, it was rare to play a game that was that customizable. Though most sequels did a better job, it was done first here (and done pretty well, I say).

#6: Final Fantasy 10(Playstation)

Tidus on a chocobo

I’ve been spending my whole life trying to find one chocobo and Meg Ryan finds three no problem.

The Bad: Since we’re starting to get into the better games, my complaints are going to get more sparse. Personally, I didn’t care for the over-synthesis element of creating abilities on items or aeons. It created a lot of need to grind for items, something that I don’t care to do unless I’m playing an online RPG. I also had a few problems with a few of the characters. Tidus was a little annoying with his overconfidence, but I disliked Wakka most of all because he was your party racist (he says many mean things to Rikku). The game itself is fairly linear with few side quests, but at least you can do most of them at anytime.

The Good:I enjoyed the battle system of this game. You had to use a bit more strategy than a lot of the others because you could see the order of your characters and the enemies. While you can only have three members on the field, you can switch them out at anytime, which can be useful when your current strategy isn't working out quite so well. The sphere grid was also an interesting way to level, allowing you to (with time) completely customize your party. The graphics aren’t bad either and the music is quite nice as well.

#5: Final Fantasy 5(Playstation/SNES)

Lenna casts Meteo

On our way to fight ExDeath, the worst named villain… EVER.

The Good:Before I start, I should premise that though it was originally released as a SNES game, it was originally released stateside on the Playstaion. Since both versions are basically identical, they will be reviewed as a single game. Also, since we’re starting to get into the better games, it’s time to talk about what works well first. This game allows the gamer to customize their team of four with many job classes. Almost all of your party members (Reina/Lenna, Faris, Galuf and Krile/Cara) are well developed and sympathetic. Plus there are a bunch of side quests available for your amusement.

The Bad: The main character, Bartz/Butz, is the least developed character of all. In fact, I dare say he’s the worst developed in the series. His storyline pitters out quickly in the second world and never returns. Along that line, the story itself is rather weak, following the formula of “bad thing happens, you fail to stop it,” lather rinse repeat. Oh, and of course, ExDeath is a stupid name.

#4: Final Fantasy 9(Playstation)

Garnet Wakes Up

Princess Garnet awakes from a nightmare. She was probably playing Clock Tower or Silent Hill

The Good:This is the last installment of the series where you can have more than three members in your party at a time, which allows the player to explore more characters than the previous two installments. The game has a wonderful soundtrack (particularly its theme song Melodies of Life) and it also has good graphics (if not cartoony). I also liked the skill system where you could learn abilities based on what equipment you had.

The Bad:The story is a little ADD at times, jumping around to different sub-stories frequently, which can get a little hard to keep apart. The trance system, AKA this game's limit break, automatically activates, making it near impossible to save for important encounters. You also don't get to save any leftover trance power and have to start over at 0%. It also doesn't help that building up the bar takes forever and a half.

#3: Final Fantasy 7(Playstation)

Aeris uses Great Gospel

Aeris is using her Great Gospel limit break... IN THE FINAL DUNGEON!

The Good:Final Fantasy 7 was the first game in the series to try the epic storyline, where a player could rake up as much as 70 hours (50 if you knew what you were doing) in a single playthrough. 7 also provides a lot of sidequests, including the fun and addictive Chocobo Races at the Golden Saucer. Also, the materia system allowed the player to almost completely customize his/her party with spells, abilities, stats, and enhancements. Though I've said this for many of the games, 7 also has an amazing soundtrack.

The Bad:In all honesty, the game hasn't aged very well. The graphics, which I didn't think looked that great at the time, just look sloppy by today's standards (IE blocks for hands). The characters also aren't as interesting as I remember and a lot of them don't get the development I think they deserved. There is also a section where Cloud can go on a date with one of the characters, but it doesn't seem to have any point other than a time filler because nobody speaks of it ever again afterward.

#2: Final Fantasy 4/American Final Fantasy 2 (SNES)

Bahamut kicks Zeromus's ass

Bahamut = Win

The Good:Out of all the games in the series, 4/2 has the best story and the most developed characters by far. Cecil, the hero of the game, actually has a dark past where he committed murder in the name of the crown, and it's a trait that haunts him for a large chunk of the game. The games other main character: Kain, Rosa, Rydia and Edge are also well developed with strong personalities. The story itself is also interesting, dark at times, and shows a sense of urgency. The game also provides the largest battle party in the series at five members.

The Bad:4/2 can be painfully linear with very little side-quests, most of them revolving around getting Rydia new summon spells. You also can't pick your party, so you'll have to settle for a final party of the game's choice. And yes, while this is changed in later versions (GBA), I'm only looking at original versions. As far as localization goes, some of the characters' abilities were actually taken out of the American release (like Cecil's Dark Wave, Rosa's Pray, and Edward's Salve). I still don't know why they did that.

#1: Final Fantasy 6/American Final Fantasy 3 (SNES)

Terra kicks Ultros's ass

Behold, the results of the famous "Lete River" leveling trick.

The Good:While many of the games got varying rankings from the different voters, the only consistant result was that Final Fantasy 6 should be at the top (three first place and two second place votes). With a huge cast of characters and using the magicite system, 6/3 may offer one of the most customizable systems in the series. The characters are fun and interesting, and each one gets at least a little bit. What sets this game apart from all others is the story's main villian, Kefka. Partway through the game, he achieves his goal and actually beats the main characters. In the second half of the game, Kefka actually rules the world, and the main characters are out to stop his winning streak. While that element alone makes it the most clever storyline, there are also other fun aspects as well, such as the opera.

The Bad:Terra, the game's main character, is interesting and complex. However, during the game's second half, she seems to fall of the radar a bit when the focus shifts from her to Celes. Don't get me wrong, Celes is complex in her own right, but transforming the main character into an optional is a little strange. Then there is the infamous "Sketch glitch." If you miss with Relm's Sketch command, there is a strong chance the game will crash and erase all of your data. Fortunately, this seems to occur after the event where you have to use it.

And there you have it. The worst to best games in the Final Fantasy series. I hope you enjoyed this list.