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Point of Entries in the Final Fantasy Series to Recommend to Newcomers

May 10th, 2017 by Andy

Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn

Approaching a new series of games is a daunting prospect. Every franchise has its own themes, art styles, personalities, and history. Listening to a fan drone on about their long-beloved series suggests that it is an infinite well of plot twists and nuanced mechanics. Therefore, it feels like jumping into it will be overwhelming, especially if it is an unfamiliar genre or has an unconventional play style. Final Fantasy is one such behemoth. Each entry is an island unconnected to an overarching story, so even though it does not require exhaustive knowledge to follow, there is still a lot to take in. Some main entries have sequels, prequels, and associated movies. There are spin offs and intra-universe titles. And even if one is prepared for the slow crawl, the question of where to start remains elusive.

Standards for games have improved. We now expect games to hit their stride quicker, the UI to be clean and responsive, and the gameplay gleaming with several layers of polish. Older titles, regardless of their quality, can seem dull or esoteric to an outsider, who may think that only one predisposed to this type of game-play can siphon enjoyment from it. Because styles of gameplay and expectations move fast the beginning is not always the best place to start when taking on a new series.

Below is a list of games that are good recommendations to make to newcomers of the Final Fantasy series. This is a general list of suggestions, as each game’s innumerable idiosyncrasies will appeal to a variety of folks. Additionally, this is not to suggest that these titles are the best, merely the ones that may be most accessible. I enjoy the job systems of III and V, the moodiness of VIII, the music and zeitgeist of XIII, and so on. This list is not exhaustive, nor is it accurate for everyone. However, if you wish to share Final Fantasy with others, I hope that his general guide provides you with ideas as to how to do so.

Final Fantasy IV— This title ties I and II for being the most widely available. Steam, mobile app stores, PlayStation Network, amongst other platforms, all contain one version of another of this classic game. IV is simple to follow. Those new to RPGs do not need to wrap their heads around any complicated systems or mechanics, or even give a thought to maximizing their stats. The game guides the player neatly through it. It has a structure that, for those who fear getting lost or getting stuck, acts as a loose, guiding hand. Freedom to explore and to discover hidden goodies is never restricted, but opens more and more at a manageable pace. Newer versions of it have an improved script. The story acts as a carrot that encourages progress, but does not bog the player down, especially for those who do not enjoy cut scenes. The plot circumvents many of the JRPG tropes of the time. The main character, rather than being the underdog against an evil empire, is a part of it, and his growth, in addition to the shifting cast that surrounds him, is remarkable given the original limitations of the Super Nintendo. Newer ports also add some amenities in the form of mini-maps and better tutorials. Finally, it offers a decent challenge, so while it is simple compared to some of the other games, it is engrossing enough that you do not even notice.

Final Fantasy VI

Final Fantasy VI

Final Fantasy VI — This is another easy recommendation, but is packaged with a caveat. I would not recommend the Steam or Mobile versions of VI if other versions are available. The sprites are not great to look at it, and it still has several issues. In fact, one of the first bosses is missing a requisite dialogue box that instructs the players on a new mechanic. The version is not terrible, merely lackluster, so if the GBA, SNES, or the slow loading PSX versions are inaccessible, it will do just fine.  VI provides the structure from IV early on, but appeals to those who are interested in experimenting. The Esper magic system allows someone to customize their characters fairly easily with stat boosts and magic they want. The second-half of the game is enjoyable for those who have a penchant for open-world games, and there is a greater focus on player choice with regards to assembling your party. The story possesses one of most famous and chaotic JRPG villains, and conveys a steampunk world that blends rural landscapes with modernity. I would recommend to recommend this game if someone is not totally new to RPGs, as while, like most Final Fantasy games, it is not too complicated, it is still a step above some other titles in this list.

Final Fantasy VII — This is one title most people have at least heard of. If the polygonal PlayStation era of games is not antiquated for whom you are recommending, there is a good chance they will enjoy VII. It’s emphasis on framing battered and beautiful scenes and a colorful battleground still can impact new fans in the same way it enraptured players twenty years ago. The urban environment grounds the story in a genre that is often otherwise fantastical. Like VI, there is no one way to play, and there is the freedom to adapt to styles and character line-ups that you prefer. Uncovering the characters who, while there are some localization and writing issues, are able to communicate their complicated emotions on screen in a way that does not feel terse or fabricated. Cloud is not quite the brooding and moody protagonist his reputation implies, but like everything in the world, is complicated. There is humor and incongruity worth witnessing.The villain rose to video game collective memory due to his interesting backstory, and haunting imagery, and exploring his, and other, stories is worth it, with our without preconceived notions. The implications of an oligarch acting as the VII is aging, but isn’t so old that a newcomer will feel out of sorts.

Final Fantasy IX — The ninth entry is also the most pure. This game is a colorful adventure wrapped in a dark mystery. Each character accentuates the others in balancing the games tones and themes, along with creating genuinely humorous situations. The battle and equipment systems are easy to learn, but offers complexity that is immediately understandable.

IX Battle

IX Battle

The story balances between character driven narrative amidst a political drama. The stakes continue to rise, and the consequences with them, skillfully juxtaposed to moments of relief and humor. Zidane, in my opinion, is one of the most interesting characters in the series, whose position in the world and role as leader serve as the perfect guide through the IX universe. It is a PlayStation original title, but one that came at the end of the systems life. Therefore, the graphics and presentation will not be a harrowing regression for those who entered gaming later. IX is an exploration of combat, character, story, and world, and these aspects together are immediately enticing for old and new players alike.

Final Fantasy X — The first PlayStation 2 game, and the first one with voice acting, is a strong start, and the newest versions for PlayStation 3, 4, Vita, and Steam also make it among the most accessible. If the newcomer is new to RPGs, or wishes to play a game with better proportioned characters and less pixelization, then this is the title for them.

Final Fantasy X

Final Fantasy X

The plot of this game is more movie-like in its progression, with a narrator looking back over their pilgrimage. The pre-rendered backgrounds were replaced with sprawling paths, from horizon to horizon. The battle system is great for both veteran’s and newcomers, where the player can choose how much customization they wish to apply. X is divisive, and it shows just how far voice acting has come in the series. But, there is no dearth of content, and those who wish to tackle Final Fantasy will not be lost, nor will they be compelled to grind or aimlessly meander in their first foray into the series.

Final Fantasy XIV —  For those who have a predisposition towards MMOs, and/or can handle grindy quests and repeated dungeons, XIV may be an effective point of entry. While it is more enjoyable for long time fans, due to its numerous references in the dialogue, clothing, areas, and a handful of cross-overs, these aspects will simply go unnoticed for those unfamiliar with the rest of the series. As is the case with the other titles, the story stands on its own (and what a story it is!). All Final Fantasy titles possess a je ne sais quoi feeling of Final Fantasy-ness, and XIV’s conveyance of this feeling is among the most palpable of all the main series titles. The factions and characters drive the world into a frenzy, each competing for power and control. As a backdrop, all of the content in the game, the God-like Primals, winding dungeons, and vast areas, are weighted with history and strife. If the massive world, disparate wildlife, and music capture a new fan, there is a good chance that they will be able to siphon enjoyment out of the single player games as well (or even, XI, the other MMO).

If your friend or relative is looking for a newer, updated game, or do not mind slinking back into the earlier days of gaming, Final Fantasy has multiple points of entry that appeal to players coming with different expectations.


About Andy

Andy23 | male | writer| admirer of storytelling through video games and other media, indefatigable fan (and apologist) of RPGs.

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