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Has Final Fantasy 15 Put the Series Back on Top?

Final Fantasy is such a long-running and established game series that people know little of why it's good. So what makes Final Fantasy good?

With the recent and long-awaited release of Square Enix's Final Fantasy 15, the series once again comes to the front of the minds of the general public, and once again people find themselves asking the question “just what is Final Fantasy?” What makes it so good? Among the myriad of answers that come up, everything can be boiled down to one, simple answer: Final Fantasy bases itself on pushing boundaries.

Although Final Fantasy was intended to be Square's last hoorah before going bankrupt, the title was released as a role-playing game in an era where home consoles rarely saw role-playing games -- especially not games with a heavy-handed narrative like Final Fantasy's. Unlike The Legend of Zelda or Dragon Quest, released a year earlier, Final Fantasy was based more on dialogue and storytelling, weaving a (for the time) complex and, in the end, wonderful story about four travelers. Such a thing on home consoles was nigh-unheard of.

Pushing the envelope for what role playing games, and video games in general could be and do, continued with each installment of Final Fantasy, the second and third iterations of the series developed the characters and narrative more and more. Then with its fourth installment, the Final Fantasy series proved that video games could tell epic stories with winding narratives and emotional scenes, with relatable characters and ideas. Final Fantasy showed that games could be more than just a silly pastime.

Characters now felt real and substantial, and were no longer just silly pictures on a television screen. Final Fantasy 6 implemented an avant-garde narrative with no clear main character. Instead, the game had several fleshed-out, realistic characters with conflicting views, morals, and backgrounds. Final Fantasy's Playstation era of games helped push role-playing games into the 3D era and began a trend of providing rich, interesting worlds and world-spanning epic stories across several discs, something rarely seen before.

While the series later tried to push the idea of what games could be a little too much, with Final Fantasy 13 resembling more a movie more than a game. Final Fantasy 15 has returned to the series' roots, making a statement that games can be legitimate avenues of story-telling by providing a story that seems more like an old Greek epic, than something out of a videogame -- along with high-quality visuals fit for a movie. Unlike Final Fantasy 13, 15 does not sacrifice its gameplay for its story, and finds the perfect balance between the two.

As the new installment in a long-running franchise met a very successful release, it's worth examining why the series was good in the first place, and how the new game meets those standards. Final Fantasy has been a series about pushing the envelope of what games can be and how they can be viewed since the 1980's. Final Fantasy 15 continues the series' long tradition of providing top-grade content, and reclaims its place atop the world of gaming.

Published Jan. 9th 2017

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