Final Fantasy Chronicles
An Introduction, or Back to the Future
By Michael David Sims
21 December 2006 — There's this goal I have as a gamer, one which will help me understand a genre and franchise I've overlooked my entire life. On paper it's a simple goal, but in practice it will take hundreds of hours to accomplish. "This goal," you ask, "what is it?" I aim to beat every installment of Final Fantasy in order.
Currently I own Final Fantasy I & II: Dawn of Souls for the GBA, the newly released Final Fantasy III for the DS, both Final Fantasy IV Advance and V Advance for the GBA, VII through IX for the PlayStation, X and X-2 for the PS2 and... I guess that's it. So when it comes to core FF titles, the only games lacking from my collection are VI for the GBA (set for a February 2007 release), XI (which I won't play because it's an online title, and I dislike online games) and XII, the latest installment for the PlayStation 2 (which I'll grab when the price drops to $20).
Looking at the last paragraph, the obvious question comes to mind: if I've "overlooked" the Final Fantasy franchise for so long, how come I own all of the abovementioned games? Simple, really: I've been planning this "play them in order" thing for a long time; I was simply waiting until the earliest games in the series became readily available. And now that the first five are out on various handhelds, the time is ripe to begin.
But I've already begun. Not only have I begun, I've already played and beaten V Advance. Though it would seem my agenda has been thrown out the window, that simply isn't the case. Before I address why this is so, I should first cover why I want to play every game in order.
From what I gather, besides X and X-2, the games in the FF series aren't really sequels. There are connections, I hear, such as the Cids and the need to save the world by protecting crystals, but each one is really just a variation on a theme. With that being the case, the only real reason to play from the first installment to the current one is to see how much the franchise has evolved throughout the years. As someone who's mostly ignored RPGs all his gaming life, playing through gaming history, watching the genre and series grow from one game to the next, will be a true learning experience.
Besides that, how can I call myself a "gamer" if I've never tried my hand at one of the cornerstones of modern gaming? Even if this experiment fails, even if I hate the series by the end (or partway through), at least I tried. No longer can grizzled gamers roll their eyes in my direction when I say, "Naw, I've never played Final Fantasy." Doing so will also allow me to take part in conversations (online or, gasp, real) I previously shied away from; should I accomplish my goal, I can finally discuss who the deadliest boss is and why [insert character here] is the baddest mofo in all of gaming.
Furthermore, if I learn to appreciate the genre, I'll be more inclined to try other RPGs — such as Chrono Trigger, the Suikoden series, Disgaea and the various Shin Megami Tensei titles. The best place to begin, of course, is with the series the genre is built upon. So again, history.
Now back to what appears to be a problem, that being the completion of Final Fantasy V Advance before the first four games and why this isn't the end of my goal.
Though I spent 40-plus hours completing the game, I plan on doing so again when the time comes — that being after Dawn of Souls, III and IV are all beaten. Final Fantasy V Advance was begun out of boredom: on a recent trip to Ohio, cooped up in a hotel room as I was, I had nothing to do but play the game in question. So that's what I did — and I found myself drawn into it so completely that I couldn't put it down. Even after the weekend trip was over I continued to play the game on the train ride to work and back, late at night before bed and so on. In fact, the game was so enjoyable I don't mind replaying the adventure somewhere down the line.
On top of the enjoyment gained, it gave me an idea of what to expect in the preceding titles. Will they be the same? No. Each game brings something new, this I know from word-of-mouth and online research. So the two games that comprise Dawn of Souls will differ greatly from V Advance, but at least I know the battle system, classes, spells and basic gameplay now. I know Black Mages cannot withstand full-frontal assaults, but they can destroy an entire battalion of monsters with one spell. I know Thieves are fast, evasive fighters who are capable of attacking and stealing on the same turn. I know Knights will kick monster ass and can take a beating. I know White Mages are mostly useless fighters, but are great assets in terms of healing party members both during and after battles. All this I know from playing one game out of order.
Would I have learned this by playing the first game first? Absolutely! Except now I have an idea of where the series is heading. Thanks to III, V has a refined system of jobs. So though that's lacking from Dawn of Souls, I have something to look forward to (and appreciate) upon replaying V Advance — same with new classes, monsters and bosses. Having had a taste of the future, I crave the full experience — from beginning to end.
To those of you who have played and enjoyed the Final Fantasy series, I hope you'll follow along as I chronicle my highs and lows as I experience the franchise from the beginning. Maybe my misadventures will cause you to reminisce about your early FF days, or maybe you'll hastily type a heated response to my mistakes along the way. To those of you who are new to the series, I hope you too will follow along. Maybe my mistakes will assist you in your future Final Fantasy journeys. Either way, this should be an exciting gaming experience / experiment!