BACK TO THE INDEX.
A Final Fantasy Perspectus.
-By Adam Pearson, Philip Wesley, Stephen Kelley-
-Presented by DMG Ice.com-
-Things of this nature.-
The purpose of this editorial is to give a few thoughts on the Final Fantasy series as a way of celebrating the re-release of Final Fantasy IV for the Game Boy Advance. An open invitation was inferred to our staff and we got a few replies to a few basic questions about Final Fantasy. First up, is our own Adam Pearson on Final Fantasy 7.
Adam Pearson on Final Fantasy 7: This game has become the archetype for most all RPG's to follow it. The truth is, I did not own a Playstation until long after the systems hey-day. I was playing The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time while most people were playing Final Fantasy 7. I decided a few years ago that it was essential for me to play this game, so I borrowed a friends copy. Simply put, my mind was blown away. The massive world of Final Fantasy 7 was still eye candy, despite that I had seen something like Halo before experiencing it. Every bead of sweat, blood and tears from the games creators that radiates from this game is apparent to this day. While it ushered in the era of FMV; did it really need FMV to be a great game? No. The music, the story, the characters, the battle system, it was all there, and it was perfect. So I do not see what the big fuss is about the limitations of the cartridge format... FF7 could have easily been ported to the N64... I think. However, that's a battle that is long past. FF7 is just stellar all around.
In our open invitation, I had posed a few questions for my staff. Harold Price answered that he prefered Dragon Warrior/Quest to the Final Fantasy series as a whole, and Sarah has not spent much time on the Final Fantasy series to begin with. Adam's experience with Final Fantasy stems mostly from Final Fantasy 7, which he considered to be one of the better games in the series. The next few paragraphs are from Stephen Kelley on his take of the franchise. Then I shall close up our little editorial with a few words of my own.
Stephen Kelley on Final FantasyWhat was my First Final Fantasy Game? I had friends that owned some of the old Final fantasy games as far back as SNES days. Although I had tried to play Final Fantasy IV at a friends house when I was 9 years old, I had no idea what I was doing (it was in the middle of his game) and left the series with no intention of ever playing it again. Fast forward to the 1997 Christmas season and the media Blitz Final Fantasy VII had been receiving on network television. Although knowing what was seen in the trailers was going to be pre-rendered cut scenes, the game was still insanely enticing to me. I had not owned a videogame system since the NES because games weren’t that exciting in the SNES/Genesis days for me, and I was poor. This was different, I had a job to make it where I was not leeching off of my parents, and I made it clear that a Playstation was all I wanted for my Birthday and Christmas. At the time the Playstation was down to 150 or 175 dollars (I ca not remember) and it really was not that expensive as a gift.
Christmas came around and I got my Playstation along with a brand new Shiny copy of Final Fantasy VII from my brother, who obviously got a tip-off from my Mom. I think I played that game pretty much non stop that winter, only pausing to be with my family or go to school. Any free time I had was with Barrett, Cloud, Tifa, and the rest. Sometime that following spring I beat the game, I had played it so long that I got all of the available secrets, and was pretty high level. Because of this, the final fight with “Safer Sephiroth” was insanely easy, but I had a sense of accomplishment not felt since I finished the original Ninja Turtles NES game back in the day.
What is your favorite Final Fantasy? Soon after I finished Final Fantasy VII, I had began seeing articles on a game called “Final Fantasy Tactics”, and was intrigued. I had never played a “tactical RPG” until then, but I liked strategy games, and Final Fantasy. I had a hard time convincing my friends that it was a good game, many who did not like anything without flashy graphics ridiculed the simplistic graphics, and those that tried to play it got frustrated because it was “too hard.” I pressed on and beat the game way too far after I bought it. I think it took me one calendar year to finally finish the game. This was mainly attributed to a battle in the very middle of the game that has to be the hardest series of battles throughout. What basically happens (I am calling this from memory) is that you face off with a military general named Wiegraf in an old castle without the rest of your party, you have to almost kill him to end phase one, and just like any bad Dragonball Z scenario, he becomes stronger after absorbing a “Zodiac Stone” and turns into a demon, he also brings an entire party of super powered demons from Hell to assist him when he gets in trouble. If you can make it passed that, you fight some other people on the roof as you escape if I remember correctly.
This would not have been so hard had my main character had one thing: auto potion. I had rushed through the game and not maxed too many of my party members out in the weaker classes such as “Chemist.” Since I was already 40 hours into the game, asking me to restart was like asking me to join a cult. I finally gave in after months of frustration, and started over. This time I was super powered when I got to said battle and breezed through it, and since it was the hardest battle in the game, the rest of the game was cake. All in all, FFT for the Playstation is one of my favorite videogames of all time, and possibly my favorite Final Fantasy game.
What is your least favorite Final Fantasy? 9-9-99 could not come soon enough, as it was the pretentious release date for Final Fantasy VIII. I had gotten so over hyped about this game that it was ridiculous, Any magazine article was like crack to me, and in my weakest state, I bought a copy f Brave Fencer Musashi (actually an enjoyable game) simply to play the demo for FF8. The demo looked good and played well, and just made me more hyped. I actually pre-ordered the game at Wal-Mart soon after.
9-9-99 arrived and the game seemed pretty good, but as I played, I noticed something. I had read in articles that FF8 was supposed to be 2 intertwined stories that would come together at the end, but what I got was the main story and the odd sequence with a different and far more interesting party. It got to the point where I was looking foreword to the times I got to play as Laguna more than anything else. I also hated how you got almost all of the characters at once, and you found out that they all knew each other, so there was no dynamic at all within the party, and half the characters were bland archetypes.
It became evident to me that by disk 4, the game had been rushed. The “time-compression” was a bad plot device that made no sense at all, and to me was in the same vein as the famous DALLAS retcon*, where an entire season was explained away as a dream, just to bring a dead character back. And to top it off, I guess I was being spoiled by Sephiroth, and his crazy taunting throughout FFVII. You actually hated him especially when he killed Aeris. He was a good Villan, Ultimicia, however, was a bad villainess. You never met her until the end of the game, and she had no bearing on the game itself, other than she was supposed to be “EVIL”. She was bad for the sake of being bad, and I did not care.
A rumor going around was that the game was originally going to be centered around Rinoa being turned into Ultimicia in the future because of something bad that happened and Squall and his father Laguna (hinted at but never specifically stated) doing their best in their respective times to fend her off, and stop whatever happened. This would have been better than what I played by a long shot.
The bad thing about FF8 was it was a good game, but it got too ambitious, and did not deliver story-wise. The graphics were spectacular, the game itself was great, and the characters should have been likeable, but to tell you the truth I wanted to kick Squall in the nuts.
What other FF Games Have I played? Pretty much all of them! After Final Fantasy Tactics got me hooked on the series, I played FFV and FFVI when they were released on the Playstation in 2000, and downloaded emulated versions of FFI, FFII, FFIII, FF: Mystic Quest, and even the 4 gameboy FF games:“Adventure” (which is really a “Seiken Densetsu” game), and the three “Legend” games (which are the old precursors to Saga Frontier.) I have played all of the other games in the series including spinoffs like Chocobo’s mysterious dungeon!
The only Final Fantasy game I really do not like (FF8 had its moments) is FFXI because I DO NOT like MMORPGs, and was sad to see that game only be an online game because it had good ideas.
What about the Movies?
Final Fantasy: Legend of the Crystals was probably the worst of all Rin Taro directed animated films, this movie goes down in history as “the girl with the glowing ass movie” with most of my friends (you would have to see the movie)I remember renting this movie on VHS a LOOOOOOONG time ago when I was just getting into anime, and not knowing whether I really liked it or not. The story is supposedly based on Final Fantasy V, but I can not see a resemblance aside from the two main characters. If you are a die hard FF fan, you might try to track it down, but it is mediocre at best.
Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within had great Visuals, but was not Final Fantasy to me. Aside from the character named Doctor Sid (Cid in the games) you could have called the Movie “The Spirits Within” and it would not have gotten such harsh criticism. The main problem in this movie was that they did not keep the same spirit as any Final Fantasy game, and opted instead for a generic sci-fi movie.
The story is about Scientists studying artifacts from an ancient planet, while the main character has visions of it. Her visions include said alien planet, where an extremely aggressive race fights a war so brutally it ends up destroying their own planet. A large chunk of it flies off into space, carrying with it several million of its inhabitants and fauna of various sizes. The flight through space kills all the living things on the chunk, but they are imbued with such malice and suffering that they become ghosts of a sort, made of energy patterns, with the ability to tear out the souls of any living being they touch. They can also "infect" a living person, growing from within him and taking over his body and soul.
I liked the movie, but it wasn’t Final Fantasy
Final fantasy Unlimited – This anime series was okay, but got cancelled before the story could get fleshed out, thus leaving it incomplete. In all honesty, I do not like the main character and his “soil gun” very much because he was too stereotypically “bad-assed” with no real characterization at all. But this series is still worth renting. The story follows two kids, Ai and Yu, in their travels in the hostile Inner World. We follow them and their occasional companions Lisa and Kaze as they use the Inner World subway, oddly named Elizabeth, to travel from place to place looking for their lost parents.
Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children and Final Fantasy VII: Last Order – These are the sequels to Final Fantasy VII that everyone has wanted FOREVER! The story centers around the world 2 years after the events in FFVII. A strange disease (Geostigma) that is caused by Jenova’s cells interfering with the Lifestream is ravaging the world, and children are very susceptible to it. Cloud is living a solitary life taking care of an orphanage, when 3 men who seem to be related to the villainous Sephiroth show up, and make him fight once more.
This movie was really good, as it continued the story of FFVII yet kept the same spirit as the game. The only thing that made me sad was that a few of the minor characters like Cid Highwind and Red XIII had little screen time, but that was obvious with it only being a 2 hour film versus a 50 hour game. Now I can’t wait for the new PS2 game called “Dirge of Cerberus” to tell the story of a few other characters.
This would be the part where I comment a bit. Please bear with the somewhat scatter-shot feel of this editorial. While a little strange, this would be an entirely intended feel and I hope that you appreciate it.
Philip Wesley on Final Fantasy.What was your first Final Fantasy? I would have to state that my first Final Fantasy game was the one on the old Nintendo Entertainment System. I played it for about half an hour and decided that I really did not care about rescueing the princess from Garland, or about the RPG genre in general. In a way, I was soured by the needlessly complex game design at the time. Of course, I was pretty young when I played it and there were much better games that demanded my attention. My opinion was that games were for action and playing. Books were for reading, not video games. So, I would definately say that I chose Super Mario Bros. 3 over Final Fantasy anyday. This went on for a while in my youth, until I discovered text adventure games on Commodore 64. I spent an hour trying to figure out how to get The Incredible Hulk to escape from a chair, then spent a long time exploring a dungeon where pits lay at every typed movement. I was suddenly aware that video games could challenge the brain, as well as the thumbs. But I did not get back into RPGs at that time. No, the purchase of my first video game system: The Nintendo Game Boy was a bit of an eye opener. I had been reading about an upcoming game known as The Legend of Zelda 4: Link's Awakening. I bought it, expecting a great looking action game, then was suddenly transported into a game that had a storyline, magical events, and characters I could actually like. This was pretty surprising for me at the time. While the game is not a real RPG, it was enough to whet my appetite for stories in my games. I eventually bought a Super Nintendo and someone let me borrow Final Fantasy 3 (Final Fantasy IV) and that was that. I had become so infatuated with the subtle character development of Marin in Link's Awakening, that Final Fantasy was a kick in the head. When we are first introduced to the main character Terra, she is just a silent, creepy puppet in the eyes of her co-workers. Almost an idyllic doll set upon the simple task of investigating a frozen creature found in the mines of Narshe. As they moved toward the town, I was treated to an amazing spectacle of giant steam driven robotic suits in an eye-shattering 3D march toward destiny. This was cemented in by some of the most amazing music I had ever heard in a video game.
That was my first, real, Final Fantasy.
Music is a very important part of video games, and movies for me. For me, I grew up reading stories and books; but I did not associate those with music. Music, to me, was about action. I loved the addictive music of Tetris, Super Mario Land, and others; but I did not associate music with storylines until Link's Awakening presented The Ballad of the Windfish to me. Music suddenly became something I could associate with much more meaning. I associated those few simple notes with the mysterious objective set before me. This was, to me, an awakening of sorts to the idea that video games could be something more. The overtures in Final Fantasy 3 completely changed all this. The music was epic and that march toward Narshe, with the credits fading in and out over the movement of the robot suits completely sucked me into the series. When they defeated the first boss, a giant snail creature, and found the frozen "esper" creature, I was already enjoying the game. When it started glowing, and everything went to Hell... I was astonished. When everything goes black, we are then treated to more of the storyline and are introduced to the other main character of the game: Locke. When they escaped to the mines and made their way to Figaro Castle, I watched everything with a new understanding of the RPG genre. RPGs were just like The Chronicles of Narnia, The Lord of the Rings, or those Dungeon & Dragon books. Suddenly, it all clicked for me: RPGs were the epitome of what a video game should be. Longer than a movie, capable of being changed more than a book, and containing more music and feel than a book. While I had played the first Final Fantasy in my past, Final Fantasy 3 was my real first Final Fantasy game. I did not get to finish Final Fantasy 3 though, and eventually had to return it to the people I borrowed it from. It was not until I bought it a few monthes later that I finished it. I had gotten to close to the end of the game and there was no doubt in my mind that I was headed toward something grand.
What is your favorite Final Fantasy? To me, this is an extremely difficult question, as I have played every single one of the Final Fantasy games and their spin-offs. The first Final Fantasy game I beat was Final Fantasy 2 (Final Fantasy IV) and, thus, it holds a place in my memories. Final Fantasy 3 brought RPGs to the forefront of my mind; but I can not deny the truth. Final Fantasy 3 (Final Fantasy VI) is a much larger game than the other ones and it has the most detestable enemy, the sweeping opera, and so much more. While a better game with a longer story, Final Fantasy VI does not hold a candle to Final Fantasy IV in terms of my feelings toward it. Final Fantasy IV has a much more interesting story with more twists. I liked the characters in Final Fantasy IV even more than the characters in Final Fantasy VI. The complexity of VI was not there in IV; because IV was all about one character. While VI is a much broader game, IV was only Cecil's story. The storyline follows him completely. He is always there, everything that happens has some purpose toward him. When you first see him, Cecil is carrying out a raid on a castle in Mysidia. After killing off a few mages and taking the crystal, he walks toward the door. He then stops for a moment and hangs his head slightly. This twinge of remorse is where the point of the game drastically differs. Whereas, Terra does things because she is being brainwashed, Cecil is entirely in his right mind when he carries out these orders he does not feel comfortable with. He suddenly becomes much more human; because he has a conscience. He hesitates, he is weak, unsure, and doubts his own actions. In a way, this makes him feel more like the character of Pilgrim in Pilgrim's Progress. Pilgrim's Progress is one of my favorite books and halfway through Pilgrims journey, he comes to a summit where he is released from his physical burden and made stronger. This same spiritual journey happens to Cecil on the Mountain of Ordeals. He sheds off his old self to become a Palladin. He is essentially saved and becomes more powerful from then on out. Final Fantasy IV is a story of salvation, it just struck such a chord with my christian upbringing that it endeared itself to me more than any of the other games.
It also helped that the game featured Rydia as well. Rydia, to me, was also a symbol of change. She leaves your party several hours in and comes back older and wiser. She was taken to the Land of Summons where she has aged several years into a stunning and strong young woman. She moves from being an unsure child to being a self-assured and bold adult. Her theme music also strikes me as the single most amazing theme that Umetsu has ever composed. Nothing else he has made since then has come close to Rydia's theme in my opinion. When she was taken by Leviathon in the game, I figured she was dead. When she shows up, she not only saves the party; but kicks Golblez's ass. This was something that Tellah could not do, and in fact, gave his own life to attempt to do. That was just an amazing feat in itsself. Also, her eventual romance with Edge was something interesting and different. Her growth as a character is the polar opposite of Cecil in how she becomes the way she is. She is the character with fear of others holding her back. Cecil is held back by a fear of himself. Cecil is not open to Rosa, who just wants to support him. Rosa is the strong one in the relationship; but to that end, she is also the weakest one in the relationship. She stays with Cecil in the beginning through what appears to be a sense of duty first and foremost. Whereas, Rydia is the aggressor in her relationship with Edge. It reminds me of the characters in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Where Cecil would be Li Mu Bai, and Rydia would be Jen. Thankfully, the outcome is much different. Cecil eventually becomes a truly noble and outstanding person, who is able to own up to his own feelings and grow beyond those. The entire storyline of the game moves so quickly, nearly every major boss fight is something substantial. Everything is important and the pace is both quick, deliberate, and amazing. We end up all over the world, below the world, even on the moon in this game. The characters all change in subtle and not so subtle ways. We are presented with a collection of interesting, and even a little spoony, characters in a grand drama. The main villian, Golblez is quite interesting; but he never really reaches the heights of evil that Kefka and Sephiroth do. The last boss is a bit of a throw in; but it works fine. The game seems to follow the idea that the beginning of a path and the final destination are not as important as the journey. The journey in Final Fantasy IV makes it my favorite game in the series. It also helps that the game has complete closure to it. It feels, once completed, like you have just finished reading an exceptionally good book. Unlike other Final Fantasy games, Final Fantasy IV feels final. There is no need for a sequel, because everything is resolved.
What is your least favorite Final Fantasy? This would be a bit of a shock to everyone, but I would have to say that my least favorite Final Fantasy game is Final Fantasy VII. I certainly thought that Final Fantasy VIII was a bit weak in the story department and I found the characters to be mostly bland; but I figured it would be that way after coming off of Final Fantasy VII. There are only two characters I like in Final Fantasy VII: Vincent, and Aerith. The first thing I disliked about Final Fantasy VII is that the main characters are eco-terrorists who blow up a power source to strike back at the self-caused unfairness of the people above them in the social caste. We have Barrett, who hires Cloud to go out there and pull off a few violent acts to make a political point. The "main" badguys are an evil corporation named Shinra that is mining the Earth's resources and therefore must be stopped. Maybe the whole political aspect of the game leaves a bad taste in my mouth. In the end, the whole entirety of the game is about throwing progress and technology away in favor of returning to a veritable stone age. Instead of working toward a resolution that would accept progress and use it toward productive aims; this is eschewed by storyline in favor of thinly veiled Captain Planet preachiness. This is a game that expects you to not feel bad over causing death to the people of upper Midgar; because those people are "rich." Then it expects you to feel sad that the only reasonable character with BRAINS dies at the hands of in-bred science project with a mother complex.
Maybe my dislike of the game stems from my generally conservative views that are flavored with a little bit of historical liberalism. I believe that we should take care of the Earth; but I believe that technology is there to help us do that. I believe that money, power, and wealth are good for helping us do what we should do and not what we feel like doing. I also believe that the main characters of Final Fantasy VII, at the beginning, are immature and morally bankrupt stereotypes. Barret is Osama Bin Laden with a daughter, which is supposed to make us feel better about him. He honestly seems to believe that the best way to solve a problem is with violence; but then he gets mad when Cloud backs up his belief. The characters do not change much during the course of the game. Cloud is the opposite of Cecil in that he never goes through a transformation. His ideals get generally nudged toward something similar to nobility; but this is never shown as a real change of heart: just a slack re-characterization with no real meaning or significance. Tifa is similar to Rosa; but she never changes or becomes stronger in character at all. The entire "we were childhood friends" aspect of her relationship comes off as more of a fetish for fanboy doujinshii than a real moment of character development. Yuffie is worse, and do not get me started on Cait Sith. At least Red has some dignity. Vincent is quite fun, and I am glad that we will be exploring his past in the Final Fantasy VII sequels.
The morality of Final Fantasy VII is a great example of the moral confusion that abounds in Japan today, and what I consider to be the worst aspect of both Japan and the game. Japan is a place that harbors a deep hatred of progress and a deep drive for technology at the same time. It may be a little hard to explain; but I will attempt to. The opening of Final Fantasy VII features a train running through the city track. An interesting thing to note is that these trains are transit trains with no final destination. They just pass by, carrying all manner of people around in a circle with no feeling other than indifference. The game follows this bit of indifference throughout its entirety. You have good and bad people who enter the train, but the train -like this game- makes no real distinction between the two. Just like the skies of Midgar, there is no black and white, only grey. The characters look cool, and the game is fun; but the entire philosophy of the game meanders. It definately needed sequels because nothing was truly accomplished in this game. Characters never reached any kind of moral high point, and there is no closure to the game. Some people would say that this is to make it feel more realistic. This lack of absolutes does nothing for me, except frustrate things. Maybe this stems from liking fantasy books like The Chronicles of Narnia, or Tolkien's books. I want my good to eventually be good and my evil to be evil. I do not mind it if the good is not perfect. If that good becomes eventually better, this moral high ground makes for better conflict and better resolution. If there is no difference between the good and the bad, then what is the point. A lack of defined good and evil is a lack of the basic foundation for a good story. The idea to move beyond good and evil is what eventually pushes me away from the story in Final Fantasy VII. It is a good game, good gameplay, great music; but the basic underined theme of the game is grotesque and a step backwards for the series. If it were to be re-released on a portable system, I would buy it in a heart beat. It was a fun game; but I like it the least of all the Final Fantasy games I have played because of its meanings. I could go on for a long time, but I feel that it may be best left to a debate in a future article. Final Fantasy VIII, while rushed and fluffy, reminds me a bit of those parts in the Harry Potter books that focus only on the students and their relationships. Annoying at worst, yet unmemorable at best. I think the only real sin Final Fantasy VIII committed was being unmemorable. Final Fantasy XI would be on this list; but not because it is an online game. I think the problem with Final Fantasy XI is that the majority of the people who play it do not play it in character and that is not the fault of the game.
And there you have it! Thank you for taking the time this Christmas to read through our thoughts and feelings on Final Fantasy. I hope you all remembered to pick up and love Final Fantasy IV, and also pick up that Final Fantasy XII demo. It even comes with an entertaining game called Dragon Quest VIII that is worth playing, as I am sure Hbomb would attest to.
*Retroactive continuity – commonly contracted to the word retcon – refers to adding new information to "historical" material, or deliberately changing previously established facts in a work of serial fiction.
-Editorial by the DMG Ice Staff-
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