This is a continuing series. As I am rapidly “growing up” I find less and less time to play video games, so I’m celebrating my top ten favorites over a lifetime of playing and the impacts that games have had on me. See Number 4.
Ah, Final Fantasy, how you have courted me, taken me away to extraordinary worlds, wowed me with ingenious gameplay, and awed me with extraordinary characters and worlds. And how far you have fallen from your once-lofty seat by not only creating a deplorable game like FF13, but making an unwarranted and unwanted franchise out of it.
Picking a favorite Final Fantasy game is hard. Most people would say 7, but to be honest, I’ve never held a lot of love for it. Oh, it’s a decent game, but I don’t see what makes it number 1 on so many lists. That’s probably because I didn’t grow up with the game and now all I see is terribly-rendered sprites and cheap, high-school dialogue, not to mention more minigames than are necessary. Sorry, Final Fantasy fans.
Now FF6 I can see. Engaging story, gorgeous graphics for a 16-bit game, plenty of characters to like, phenomenal music, and plenty of emotion. Oh, and Kefka! But to me, there were just a hair too many characters and it was hard to be engaged with them all. Plus, storytelling drops off after a point.
Some say FF4, but honestly, I could never finish it. Sorry. Personally, I have a soft spot for FF12. It’s not the best, but there’s a lot of great world building and some intricately-detailed graphics that make it hard for me to ignore. But in all honesty, there’s another game that will always win this spot. Not only is it my favorite, but it’s also the game that got me into Final Fantasy as a whole. MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD!!
NUMBER THREE: Final Fantasy X (PS2)
This is a divisive game; you either love it or hate it. I don’t quite get the hate. True, the dubbing is poor, but the voice acting itself isn’t bad. True, some moments are silly and cheesy, but FF7 had plenty of those, too, and I think the good outshines the bad. And true, there’s that God-awful laughing scene…but that’s what mute buttons are for! Yeah, even I can’t defend that horrid scene.
People also seem to hate Tidus, but I don’t know why. He’s overly upbeat and energetic, maybe, but his positivity serves as a foil to the games inherent darkness. He whines, you say? Wouldn’t you if you were trapped in a world that followed ridiculous traditions instead of logic? He’s a crybaby? He cries a grand total of three times. The first time, he’s a KID…in a DREAM! The second, he just found out the girl he loves is going to die. The third…Tidus hated his dad for many reasons, then discovered that his dad is the bad guy but not really because he can’t stop himself, then finds out he has to kill that dad, then remembers his dad wasn’t quite so terrible, then has to confront that once-thought-dead father figure and though Tidus has forgiven him, he still has to kill him. Let’s see YOU keep a straight face after that emotional roller-coaster.
Besides, do you really want another Advent-Children Cloud?
So why do I like this game? Well, the characters are well-done. They’re all generally likeable, each plays a different role both in story and in combat, and their interactions are better than almost any game I’ve ever played. For example, Tidus talks to Wakka like a brother, Lulu like a scary big sister, Yuna like an awkward lover, Auron as a mentor, Rikku with more respect and acceptance than most, and Khimari not much at all. Lulu treats Wakka and Tidus like annoying little brothers, Yuna and Rikku like precious little sisters, Auron with respect, and Khimari as an equal. This is how real interactions work; you don’t speak to everyone the same way.
The music is also phenomenal. It was the last project that Nobuo Uematsu wrote for the Final Fantasy series, and he had been there since the beginning. It’s amazing how he uses a single piece of music in so many ways, often making upbeat tones and tragic dirges out of the same movements. Reprises are awesome to me, so this was a lot of fun. And the music really stirred the sadness in the heavy moments and still brings tears to my eyes.
The world building is also pretty good with each place feeling unique, with its own story and its own goings-on. But you know what really got me? The story.
This is the only game that can really be constituted as an epic tragedy. Oh, sure, tragic things happened in other games (like 4 and 7), but they weren’t out-and-out tragic journeys. FF10 starts out upbeat and happy, but with each leg of the journey, the story gets sadder and more hopeless. Eventually, you realize that the whole world is stuck in an unending cycle of misery where millions die and the only thing that stops it is more death, and even that’s only temporary. One character is going on a journey to death, fully knowing this, and grimly resolved, and you have to watch it happen. And the world leaders perpetuate this cycle and disgustingly call it hope. But even when you break that cycle, you already know that this story won’t end with as a many characters as it began. There is no fully happy ending.
But it’s a GOOD ending. It resolves logically and emotionally and leaves an impression. I get sick of people who don’t like unhappy endings. It’s like they’re entitled to a perfect resolution or something. Look, I love happy endings, too, but sometimes the story doesn’t need or earn one. Art isn’t just there to amuse us, it’s there to stir our souls and tell us stories worth telling. Tragedy can tell good stories, too. Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, and Othello, just to name Shakespeare’s.
All in all, the game just sticks with me. I love playing it and enjoying the same story again and again. I love interacting with the characters, and I’ll always remember that heck of a journey through pain and loss, but even through that, finding the light at the end of the tunnel. This game was the first Final Fantasy I ever played and I played all the others as a result of it, so because of that and on its own merit, it gets my vote as the best Final Fantasy there is.
QUESTION: What’s your favorite Final Fantasy game?