Squaresoft  Tagged Articles RSS Feed | GameSkinny.com Squaresoft  RSS Feed on GameSkinny.com https://www.gameskinny.com/ en Launch Media Network JRPGs Aren't In Decline... It's Just Square Enix's Offerings That Are https://www.gameskinny.com/g0j1j/jrpgs-arent-in-decline-its-just-square-enixs-offerings-that-are https://www.gameskinny.com/g0j1j/jrpgs-arent-in-decline-its-just-square-enixs-offerings-that-are Tue, 28 Feb 2017 08:00:01 -0500 Kris Cornelisse (Delfeir)

The JRPG genre rose to prominence almost entirely off the backs of two notable game development companies; Squaresoft and Enix. Responsible for bringing us the Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest series respectively, a huge amount of the most notable RPGs (and a number of less notable or unlocalized games besides) were created or published by these two developers.

Prior to the release of the PlayStation, you would be hard pressed to find a JRPG released in English-speaking territories that didn’t brandish either the Squaresoft or Enix logos. There are exceptions of course, notably on Sega systems -- I’d be loathe to ignore Phantasy Star or the Shining series -- but many would be unlikely to name those at first if asked for a JRPG series title.

More companies would start to join in the JRPG market throughout the PlayStation era, such as Konami or Monolith Soft, and the market quickly saw a boom of new titles that would continue well into the late PS2 era. But all throughout, many walked in the shadow of these two giants, or owed their continued existence to Squaresoft publishing for them. Every Suikoden or Xenosaga that was released would still never be held to the general pedestal that games such as Final Fantasy VII or Chrono Trigger stood upon.

Then, in 2003, the unthinkable happened: Squaresoft and Enix joined forces, merging into Square Enix and remaining as such to the present day.

One would think such a monumental occasion would change the landscape of JRPGs forever, and Square Enix would catapult themselves even higher to the top echelons of developers unopposed.

Did that happen? Nope. Not even close.

If anything, the vast majority of offerings in the JRPG genre since then by the company have been... well, questionable. In fact, I’d argue that since the merger, there have been almost zero titles from them to match their respective high points while separate. There was even a stretch of time where the vast majority of games from Square Enix weren’t JRPGs, almost as if they’d abandoned the genre entirely.

Does that mean that the JRPG has since died out, then? Nope. Not even close.

Despite some inklings that JRPGs are lacking in innovation or have declined in quality, the genre continues to see numerous excellent titles released from a range of companies.

Innovations and developments continue to be made, yet the core of the genre remains present, and many classic elements are still revisited in new and interesting ways. Thanks to the increased size of the gaming market in recent generations, more and more games of all genres are being made by companies new and old -- and JRPGs are no exception.

No, dear readers, it is not the JRPG that has fallen into disarray -- it is merely Square Enix’s offerings to the genre that are in serious need of improvement. Let’s dive deeper.

Classical History

Since Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest are the classic series most are acquainted with, we’ll start with those. For those familiar with the respective series, I offer a question: Which of the numbered games in those series was your favorite?

(Yes, Final Fantasy Tactics and Dragon Quest Monsters were great, but humour me here and pick a number.)

Were I to survey or inquire the answers to that question, I think you’ll find that the vast majority of people offering favorite Final Fantasy titles will say somewhere between VI and IX, with occasional outliers between IV and X. Dragon Quest is most likely to be a toss up between V and VIII, though any between III and VIII could also be selected. Does this sound about right?

How many of these particular titles were released prior to the merger of Squaresoft and Enix, though? Excluding Dragon Quest VIII, all of them.

The first numbered non-MMORPG Final Fantasy game to be released under the merged banner was XII. While reasonably well received, it had a lot of mixed opinions on it, and it’s rare to find people who would hands-down consider it their favorite. Since then, we had XIII and its sequels, and while there are occasional defenders or proponents of parts of those games, the overall opinion is that they were a massive misstep.

Not convinced? How about XIV, also an MMO? Well, on release, the game was universally panned and responses were massively negative, so much so that Square Enix had to bring down the game and rebuild it entirely from the ground up with a new team. A Realm Reborn turned out to be quite good, but we cannot ignore that initial disaster; Square Enix is quite possibly the only company in gaming history to salvage a game like that, and most others would simply consider the expenditure too great and cut their investment right there.

Last chance, then... FFXV? Well... I could write many, many things about FFXV, and there’d be plenty of negatives in there to talk about. There’s decent gameplay, but the story is an utter mess and the open world is graphically pretty but largely devoid of things to do. It’s a flawed and unfinished game, regardless of whatever positives you might take away from it.

Now for Dragon Quest, almost all of which were developed prior to the merger. The first to be released under the Square Enix banner was Dragon Quest VIII, which would be the best offering but for one catch: it was actually developed by Level 5, rather than a studio within Square Enix.

Lest we think that it’s just their flagship RPG series effected, let’s try another example: Star Ocean, created by Tri-Ace and Enix before transferring to Square Enix. With five major games in the series, it’s widely regarded that the first three are considerably stronger than the latest offerings. Guess what? Star Ocean 3: Till the End of Time was released shortly before the merger. Compare most of the RPG series released by Square Enix and similar trends will be evident.

What about Kingdom Hearts, I hear some people asking? That is something I will concede as breaking the trend, but only in part. The first game was released before the merger, but Kingdom Hearts 2 was some time after, and it was received quite strongly.

But as a whole, I would say that the series is still hardly an exception to Square Enix’s declining offerings to the JRPG genre. While it does have good games, it’s also had some pretty weak ones as well. In addition, it seems like the company is doing everything in their power to hold off releasing Kingdom Hearts 3, with countless remasters adding tiny little details and padding out anything they can.

People bought PS3s under the assumption that it would be on it, after all...

So what happened? Well, if anything, the merger saw Square Enix become more of a publisher than an in-house developer. A massive number of games from a large number of companies worldwide are published under the Square Enix banner. This initially focused more on JRPGs, but has grown to include many varied genres and notable series, including Tomb Raider, Just Cause and Deus Ex.

An epic quest in the palm of your hand

If there was a decline in the number and quality of JRPGs available, it would probably fall within the previous console generation. Many are quick to highlight the number of quality RPGs available for the PS2 -- and earlier consoles -- but you’d be reaching a little further to list an equivalent number of solid PS3 or Xbox 360 titles.

But that’s not to say that they weren’t there; rather, they were to be found on handheld gaming systems. With the rising costs of quality game development, many smaller developers turned to the DS or PSP, as well as their successors, to develop their RPGs.

Square Enix was no stranger to this trend as well. Two of their most successful JRPGs released since their merger -- The World Ends With You, and Bravely Default -- were released on handheld systems. Dragon Quest made the switch to DS with the release of IX, and the upcoming DQXI is slated to arrive on 3DS and PS4.

Those who considered there to be a dearth of quality JRPGs were probably focused more on home consoles, but the genre has been alive and well in a portable form throughout.

Admittedly, many larger JRPG series fell dormant during this time period from other companies as well. While there was a spinoff Suikoden game on DS, no numbered title has been released since V on the PS2; the same can be said of Breath of Fire.

Which leads into the next point: many JRPG series are actually seeing new titles and rebirth on smartphones. Unfortunately, many of these are little more than name drops in order to attract a quick dollar, even by notable companies -- anyone who says Breath of Fire VI is worthy of that number is, I’d argue, completely delusional.

Failing that, they often are freemium Gachapon games with minimal gameplay and little more than a theme connected to the series in order to lure fans. Even Nintendo has started to fall into this trend; Fire Emblem Heroes fits this bill to a tee, though in its defence, it is of considerably higher quality and has stronger gameplay than many other alternatives.

However, despite my cynicism and the existence of some blatant cash grabs, there are admittedly more and more JRPGs being developed for smartphones that are actually worthy of attention. Are they quality enough to compare to games on other systems? Your mileage will probably vary on that, but there are certainly some that are worthy of attention, such as the recently released Dandy Dungeon.

Square Enix has been quick to jump onto this mobile bandwagon, too. The number of freemium titles they have is quite frankly excessive, but there are a whole slew of their titles available on smartphones that range from ports of classic Final Fantasy games to wholly original titles or remakes. They’re often extremely pricey compared to the wealth of cheap competitors on systems, but a handful of them are arguably quality enough to justify a purchase.

The point is that the JRPG is (and has always been) alive and well on handhelds and mobile, even if not on home consoles. But it’s not as though the consoles have been bereft of quality titles, either.

Square Enix aren’t the only JRPG developers

With all the money and attention that Square Enix receives, it’s understandable that their projects are the ones in the limelight -- that’s AAA gaming in a nutshell. They are effectively the JRPG developing and publishing equivalent of Electronic Arts or Activision Blizzard for first-person shooters.

But a big budget and high profile isn’t necessary for making quality games, as the growing indie scene can rightfully attest to. It’s not uncommon for some great JRPGs to emerge on PC from relatively unheard of developers; Zeboyd Games, the makers of Cthulhu Saves the World, are currently close to release on Cosmic Star Heroine, which is a love letter to the classic Phantasy Star games.

Failing that, there is a thriving scene of developers utilising RPG Maker or other engines to craft JRPGs by the droves, many of which are quite innovative or put interesting spins on classic concepts. Consider Undertale, or any of the games like it.

It’s not just indie companies making JRPGs, either. Square Enix may have the limelight, but perhaps you’ve heard of a series called The Legend of Heroes? My love for Trails of Cold Steel is well documented, but Nihon Falcom has been producing quality RPGs of all kinds for as long as Squaresoft was. Thanks to the hard work of companies like XSEED, these series are finally starting to see more of a resurgence in the West or on home consoles.

You can also look to the absolutely staggering number of games that are localised and published by Nippon Ichi to find a number of JRPGs that you might have otherwise overlooked. Seriously, there’s a lot, coming from a number of development companies such as Gust or Compile Heart.

There are other high-profile JRPG developers that have been constantly working on their craft, too. Bandai Namco and their Tales franchise are usually the ones held up in comparison to Square Enix’s offerings, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t bring up the work of Atlus during all of this. Anyone who stated that JRPGs were a dying breed needed only to look at the Persona and Shin Megami Tensei games to know that wasn’t the case.

Even Mistwalker Studios, formed by ex-Squaresoft veteran Hironobu Sakaguchi -- the creator of Final Fantasy -- has been going strong. Lost Odyssey and The Last Story were both very good games, though due to their exclusivity to certain consoles their audience has regrettably been smaller than deserved. Sakaguchi-san is hardly the only developer to have left Square Enix and gone on to continue making great RPGs outside of their banner.

Bored of the main quest? Start looking for side quests

The gaming landscape is only growing larger every day, with a broad library of titles available to explore across all sorts of platforms. Regardless of platform or where you look, however, the JRPG continues to thrive and expand. Whether nostalgia-laden throwbacks or cliched affairs to innovative twists on plots and mechanics, they’re there in force.

But just like for other genres, sometimes you need to look past the AAA developers of Square Enix to see it.

Think of it like the grand RPG tradition: sometimes you need to go off the beaten track and explore away from the main quest in order to find the truly valuable treasure. It’s the same in finding games to play. You might find something good to play amongst Square Enix’s offerings -- and there are some good titles from recent years, don’t get me wrong -- but the hidden gems can only be found by looking around, asking questions, and delving into the side quests of other developers in order to find something you truly love but rarely hear about.

Give it a shot. Forget the Final Fantasy series. Instead, go play Ys! Swap Dragon Quest VIII out of your 3DS in favour of Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse! Forget I Am Setsuna and try Trillion! Live a little, explore, and expand your horizons. Who knows, you might surprise yourself with what you find.

It’s not that unheard of for the main quest to be pretty bad in comparison to the side quests, anyway. Right, Final Fantasy XV?

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Top 5 SquareSoft JRPGs that aren't Final Fantasy https://www.gameskinny.com/sy95u/top-5-squaresoft-jrpgs-that-arent-final-fantasy https://www.gameskinny.com/sy95u/top-5-squaresoft-jrpgs-that-arent-final-fantasy Tue, 12 Apr 2016 04:28:20 -0400 Jeffrey Rousseau

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1. Parasite Eve
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Number 1 is the "cinematic RPG" released back in 1998, which serves as a sequel to the novel by the by the same name. The game marks the first Rated M game developed by Square. It was also the first major title developed mainly in the US. The game stars NYPD newbie Aya Brea as her world turns into a sci-fi horror show overnight. Throughout the course of the week, Aya tries to stop Eve as she learns there's more to herself than she realized. 

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Being a very story-focused RPG, Parasite Eve's gameplay mainly focuses upon battle, customization, and exploration only. Aya makes use of firearms in battle that can be fully customized to maximize damage. She also gains access to using spells and battle success requires using all these aspects in unison. 

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Parasite Eve is number 1 on the list because nothing is quite like it. It stars a female lead who is fully capable of fighting all the dangerous mutants in NYC alone. The game also possesses an eerie atmosphere that persists from start to finish. 

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Square released many games during this console cycle, but few games challenged the standard conventions of the genre. Parasite Eve, like the other listed games, pushed those boundaries with both gameplay and narrative.

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Do you agree with this list? Is there a game missing? Let me know in the comments.

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2. Vagrant Story
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Vagrant Story, released in 2000, is an account of Ashley Riot and his mission to stop a cult leader. Within the first 5 minutes of the game, you'll encounter said cult leader, magic, and a wyvern. Things become more mysterious for him as he reaches the city of Lea Monde. With each supernatural encounter within the city, he regains parts of his memory and grows stronger.

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Vagrant Story is an unique mix gameplay features for a real time action RPG. The game has dungeon crawling, weapon crafting, is score based, and etc. The finer points of its mechanics aren't told, but need to be discovered. 

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3. Front Mission 3
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Front Mission 3, released in 2000, was the first game of the SRPG series to be released in the US. The game chronicles how test pilots Kazuki Takemura and Ryogo Kusama become embroiled in an international incident. The story branches off where you will either become an ally of the USN (fictional North & South America union) or an ally of the DHZ (fictional union of China & Taiwan). 

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It plays like most top-down SRPGs. The manner in which pilots acquire abilities is rather unique. Abilities are only learned in real time and triggered randomly. Hypothetically speaking, you could learn an attack or an evasion move that could save your pilot's life. It's very exciting and nerve-wracking!

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4. Chrono Cross
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Chrono Cross, released in 2000, is the spiritual successor of Chrono Trigger, and as such is partly inspired by it. The game tells the tale of protagonist Serge and his quest to discover the cross-dimensional mysteries surrounding himself. Throughout his adventure, the drama is wrought with themes and messages that continue to ask:  "Are we free to control our own destines?" 

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Chrono Cross plays somewhat similarly to most turn based games. Unlike most games, spells and attacks must be equipped for use. Your party doesn't gain levels by experience, levels are obtained from defeating bosses. There's also an element weakness system you can exploit or lose to.

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5. Xenogears
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Released back in 1998, this sci-fi JRPG follows the journey of Fei Fong Wong and his allies. Armed with Gears (robots), they face their pasts, the origin of civilization, and the dark plots of world leaders. The story has super robot action, martial arts, and drama among a large cast. What's impressive is that the narrative unfolds and makes more sense even as it proceeds to get more intricate. 

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Xenogears is a fast paced turn-based game with random encounters. Fights can also be encountered in your Gear. Fighting with big giant robots adds another layer of strategy. 

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Final Fantasy wasn't always the bread and butter for Square Enix. And it wasn't always the greatest JRPG in the West, either. Back in the days of the PlayStation 1 Square Enix (then SquareSoft) had developed many JRPGs. 

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This list is comprised of notable titles from their catalog that stand out within the genre. And it will focus on games from different series that are not part of the Final Fantasy franchise. Now onward to the list. 

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14 things you probably didn't know about Final Fantasy VII https://www.gameskinny.com/xkrus/14-things-you-probably-didnt-know-about-final-fantasy-vii https://www.gameskinny.com/xkrus/14-things-you-probably-didnt-know-about-final-fantasy-vii Fri, 11 Dec 2015 07:34:00 -0500 Gabriella Graham

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FFVII stands as a hallmark title in video game history. Its popularity may not be made or broken with trivia, but feeding your game-love never hurt anybody either.

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Remember to continue biding your time wisely between those exciting FFVII releases. When you begin to feel impatient and need a FFVII pick-me-up, just remember: Cloud was almost a New York detective named Joe.

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Were you surprised or intrigued by any new information? Is there a burning question deep in your heart you'd ask one of the original developers if given half the chance? Have your thoughts on Aerith's death changed at all given in-game dialogue? Share, discuss, and theorize. Shinra wouldn't like it if you did, and it's always a good day when you can thoroughly displease them.

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14. Speculation STILL surrounds the death of Aerith and whether or not her death was set in stone.

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Not everyone could deal with the demise of fictional Aerith in a healthy, composed fashion, including those who couldn't accept her death at all. Some of the more tech-savvy gamers hacked the original FFVII game to continue playing as the lost heroine.

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That's when things started to get a little weird (weirder than hacking a dead girl back to life, that is). Aerith actually speaks at separate intervals beyond her point of death, evidence of pre-programmed lines in-game.

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Fans took this evidence and developed it into separate theories, namely that Aerith was, at some point, meant to be revived, or that she had never been killed at all in the original story arc. The lack of originality in her lines have also been taken to indicate their spot as placeholders until finalization of the story occurred. 

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Tetsuya Nomura wouldn't feed these hopeful thoughts at all, if you can help it. He explains:

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"The world was expecting us to bring her back to life, as this is the classic convention. But we did not. We had decided not to do this from the beginning."

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Nomura's words don't quite bridge the gap between clearly existing dialogue for an already dead Aerith and a supposedly pre-determined, final death. Fans get to personally decide what to believe on this one.

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13. "One-Winged Angel" was inspired by a Latin cantata.

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Kotaku video editor Chris Person created a side-by-side comparison of FFVII's "One-Winged Angel" and the Latin cantata "Carmina Burana." The similarities are haunting, to say the least, due to the fact that the cantata largely influenced the very dangerous, very creepy, and deeply psychotic Sephiroth's theme music.

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The Kotaku exclusive video adds a crucial audio component to the comparison that simply can't be recreated in text alone, but two screenshots introduce a compelling examination:

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VS

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Let the nightmares commence.

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12. Aerith called dibs on casting Holy in NPC mode and for the first time, players couldn't use that magic in battle.

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Aerith (not the mistranslated "Aeris") uses the standard white magic spell Holy from previous franchise titles to stop Meteor. That's what the ever-crucial White Materia represented, anyway. Here's the interesting part: FFVII stands alone in keeping Holy set aside for NPCs only. Every previous Final Fantasy game included the spell as an in-battle option, but Aerith alone had access to the death-defying magic in FFVII.

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Interestingly enough, the American version translated "Holy" properly for the first time in this game as well. Prior to the release of the seventh installment, the Nintendo of America cried out in anxious fear at the thought of using any sort of religious reference. Holy was instead called "Fade," "White," and "Pearl" in the United States

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11. American and Japanese versions of FFVII don't match up, featuring 4 notable differences between the two.

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Before you make a wise crack regarding the obvious difference in language, I'm referring to changes that went beyond translation. In the English version of the game:

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  • Enemy encounter rates dropped
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  • New bosses appear (i.e. the Ruby and Emerald Weapons)
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  • Additional cutscenes illuminated Cloud's backstory
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  • Extra scenes were also added to clear up the game's ending
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10. Oh dear lord, the Honeybee Inn was supposed to even sketchier.

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Thanks to 1997 technology, content ultimately cut from FFVII gameplay remains unused and unloved on the game discs. A dig into this dummy data reveals changes made to the Honeybee Inn that toned it down a notch or two. If you didn't think the brothel that hosted Cloud's cross-dressing extravaganza could get worse, you'd be mistaken.

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Notable originals to the scene and location include:

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  • Even more girls/"bees"
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  • More racy pictures decorating the fine establishment
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  • A patron and pervy thief who not only acquired Tifa's panties somehow, but generously gives them to Cloud
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  • An additional cutscene requiring Cloud to pester a girl for her underwear, because apparently Tifa's simply isn't enough
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Only one question remains: Why?

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9. FFVII also introduced voice acting to the franchise.

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Players dealt with dialogue boxes alone until Final Fantasy releases on the PlayStation 2. There exists but one exception to this otherwise straightforward timeline. A lone, uncredited actor announces the oncoming release of the Sister Ray in Midgard in FFVII. Exciting stuff, no? The video should refresh your memory, if you haven't gone ahead and hit play already.

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8. The seventh installment in the franchise introduced the first show of diversity with the character Barret.

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In case you never noticed, Final Fantasy isn't exactly a racial melting pot. Technically, Final Fantasy VI did incorporate one character of African descent, a.k.a. Leo Christophe. He can't hold a candle to Barret's claim, however, seeing as how his sprite's light skin tone doesn't make his darker profile picture. To make matters worse, poor Leo only gets one battle before dying. 

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Barret thus stars as the series first fully developed black character. Clearly, he wasn't without stereotypes, and I am by no means praising every facet of his representation. This was no mastering of racial sensitivity, but it was more diversity than the franchise had seen to date.

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7. FFVII was the most expensive production of its time.

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Final Fantasy VII cost a whopping $45 million to develop and produce. Adjusting to inflation translates that number to $65 million today.  These kind of numbers were absolutely massive, especially for 1997's standards. FFVII featured the most impressive budget of its time, beating every other game to date during its initial launch.

"},{"image":"http://s3.amazonaws.com/gameskinnyop/0/9/2/0922ffed236ac525609c7183dfea92af.jpg","thumb":"http://s3.amazonaws.com/gameskinnyop/0/9/2/tiny_0922ffed236ac525609c7183dfea92af.jpg","type":"slide","id":"95689","description":"

6. It turns out that Cloud didn't carry his massive sword using strange devil magic, but he did use magnets on his back.

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Without a sheathe or any kind of basic harness in sight, you might have wondered: just how does our hero keep that blasted broadsword levitating against his back? Tetsuya Normura, Cloud's creator, answers this question in his character design sketches with the power of science. A magnet holds the Buster Sword in place, allowing for both an easy draw and convenient storage.

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Let's pretend science also explains how the weight of that thing doesn't topple Cloud over. We'll just have to trust the strength of the magnet and Cloud's formidable sense of balance.

"},{"image":"http://s3.amazonaws.com/gameskinnyop/b/6/4/b6497bd31bd6bc177268a012c5b04272.png","thumb":"http://s3.amazonaws.com/gameskinnyop/b/6/4/tiny_b6497bd31bd6bc177268a012c5b04272.png","type":"slide","id":"95853","description":"

5. Neon Genesis Evangelion largely influenced FFVII.

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The popular anime series stayed relevant to the game's development team. They pay tribute to its inspirational properties in-game. Examination of a background detail in the Gold Saucer amusement park reveals a 3D reproduction of Asuka Langley's D-Type Eva armor.

"},{"image":"http://s3.amazonaws.com/gameskinnyop/4/9/f/49f385842a1bbbcd2cfc0e34bf33ca4a.gif","thumb":"http://s3.amazonaws.com/gameskinnyop/4/9/f/tiny_49f385842a1bbbcd2cfc0e34bf33ca4a.gif","type":"slide","id":"95698","description":"

4. Real life tragedy shadowed FFVII in darkness after the producer and head writer's mother passed away.

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The original transformation from a detective adventure story to the unsettling and deep tale we know today resulted from heavy lessons of morality at home. Hironobu Sakaguchi, the original game's producer and head writer, lost his mother during FFVII's development

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Sakaguchi sought a break from Hollywood-style deaths painted in the hues of nobility. His effort's to present something more shocking and raw led to Aerith's murder in a game-defining twist. Sudden loss and a feeling of heartbreak emanate from the scene, resurrection taken off the table to complete the realism behind the writing.

"},{"image":"http://images.gameskinny.com/gameskinny/854a10759dc980b6e887a793cdae5fdc.jpg","thumb":"http://images.gameskinny.com/gameskinny/854a10759dc980b6e887a793cdae5fdc.jpg","type":"youtube","id":"7316","description":"

3. One of the first scripts, considered too dark for the franchise, became the basis of Xenogears.

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Remember when I said Squaresoft doesn't just trash ideas? Hold that thought.

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Soraya Saga and Tetsuya Takahashi submitted one particular FFVII script without success. Squaresoft denied the script's too-dark nature for their established franchise. Before Saga and Takahashi's disappointment could feed their sense of glum, the script was instead greenlighted as the concept for an original title. The result, you ask? Why, that would be Xenogears.

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Developers left a small tribute to Xenogears' origins in FFVII. After Cloud falls into the Lifestream and lands himself in Mideel's hospital, he offers the party a handful of nonsensical ramblings. Part of his mumbling includes "Xeno...gears..." in a creative burst of subtlety. He also misquotes lines from the song "Small of two pieces" by Yasunori Mitsuda, Masato Kato, and Joanne Hogg - a song featured in Xenogears.

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Compare some of the eerily appropriate original lyrics to his fragmented thoughts in the video above:

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"Broken mirror, a million shades of light
The old echo fades away
But just you and I
Can find the answer
And then, we can run to the end of the world
We can run to the end of the world

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Cold fire clenched to my heart
In the blue night
Torn by this pain, I paint your name in sound
And the girl of the dawn, with eyes of blues, and angel wings
The songs of the season are her only crown"

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"},{"image":"http://s3.amazonaws.com/gameskinnyop/f/8/2/f826af7bde51a25652a5400eb3087c1f.gif","thumb":"http://s3.amazonaws.com/gameskinnyop/f/8/2/tiny_f826af7bde51a25652a5400eb3087c1f.gif","type":"slide","id":"95851","description":"

2. FFVII originally took place in New York City and starred a completely different hero.

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Once upon a time, in a land without Shinra, Detective Joe prowled the mean streets of New York City for a lead. . .

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Instead of the rebellious but lovable Cloud, gruff and hot-blooded Detective Joe starred as the title protagonist. If you don't already see the glaring similarities between this original proposal and the final product, nothing I can say will help you. 

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While the Final Fantasy franchise never spotlighted the vastly intriguing and originally named Detective Joe, Square didn't haphazardly toss out the idea. In fact, this concept went on to become the foundation for the survival horror RPG Parasite Eve.

"},{"image":"http://images.gameskinny.com/gameskinny/0f12bf6e1d6696f360d7e19ffc0d2931.jpg","thumb":"http://images.gameskinny.com/gameskinny/0f12bf6e1d6696f360d7e19ffc0d2931.jpg","type":"youtube","id":"7307","description":"

1. Myth: Squaresoft originally intended for FFVII to release on the Nintendo 64. 

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Fans jumped the gun on this conclusion in 1996 after seeing Squaresoft's 3D proof of concept (shown in the video above). FFVII's former prospects as a Nintendo 64 release became common knowledge, despite one glaring problem: it isn't true. Silly Internet.

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The demo video wasn't actually intended as a game proposal of any kind. In fact, you may have noticed that the featured characters come straight from Final Fantasy VI. This venture explored the practicality of 3D models for a SIGGRAPH presentation. Admittedly, the boss attacks do remind one of a certain weaponized companion, but that alone doesn't make this "fact" any more true. 

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However! FFVII was already in development during Squaresoft's 3D experiment. Originally, the fan favorite should have launched for the Super Nintendo in 1995. Squaresoft and Nintendo's relationship woes resulted in an inevitable break-up, making FFVII the developing company's final farewell gesture, but Chrono Trigger's own production blew up and temporarily halted FFVII in its tracks. Oh well. It's the thought that counts, right?

"},{"image":"http://s3.amazonaws.com/gameskinnyop/3/d/c/3dc94c5d749bb73af509c14e5532ad8f.jpg","thumb":"http://s3.amazonaws.com/gameskinnyop/3/d/c/tiny_3dc94c5d749bb73af509c14e5532ad8f.jpg","type":"slide","id":"95890","description":"

Eighteen years ago, Final Fantasy VII brought gamers on an unparalleled multi-disc journey. State of the art graphics showcased three-dimensional capabilities, memorable character arcs nestled in fan's hearts, and hundreds of hours flew by in front of television screens and PlayStation consoles. Fans still squeal in delight at the very sight of Cloud, eagerly embracing all FFVII news, whether it be his Smash Bros. appearance, a revamped game port to newer hardware, and/or a complete title remake. (Don't deny the squeals, own them. Wear your love loud and proud, my friends.)

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In the midst of recent excitement and series updates, fans can still find fresh information of FFVII outside of big news announcements. To prove this point, I've gathered trivia about the original PlayStation release in 1997. Revisit the past for nostalgia feels and obscure knowledge. It may just hold you over between title releases.

"}]]]>
A look at the Final Fantasy series from best to worst https://www.gameskinny.com/8ut51/a-look-at-the-final-fantasy-series-from-best-to-worst https://www.gameskinny.com/8ut51/a-look-at-the-final-fantasy-series-from-best-to-worst Tue, 24 Nov 2015 06:42:03 -0500 Ty Arthur

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Final Fantasy XV is now on the horizon, and the highly anticipated remake of FF7 is coming as well, so there's no shortage of major releases arriving soon for RPG lovers.

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If the huge number of releases up till this point are any indication, we probably have many, many more spin-offs and numbered titles still on the horizon as Square Enix experiments with the formula and heads in new directions.

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What did you think of our picks, and what order would you have placed the best to worst ranking of Final Fantasy games?

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Worst: Final Fantasy 13

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You know how everyone feels about Final Fantasy 12? That's how I feel about part 13. Seriously, this abomination needs to be nuked from orbit and then some men in black need to show up and wipe the disappointment of FF13 from our memories. This is the only game in the series I've actually put down in disgust and never had any desire to pick back up again. That's 10 hours I'll never get back.

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The first entry for the PS3 / Xbox 360 era may have enhanced visuals, but absolutely everything else was a tragic misstep. The absolute bottom of the Final Fantasy barrel, XIII made the tragic mistake of losing composer Nobuo Uematsu and then gave the double whammy of actively annoying characters (Vanille is the worst thing to ever happen to gaming) and a truly uninteresting combat system.

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No matter how badly FF15 gets nerfed, I take solace in knowing it can't be as bad as this entry in the series.

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Final Fantasy Mystic Quest

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Mystic Quest is one of the very few Final Fantasy games to never get a remake or re-release, and unfortunately there's a reason for that. The combat system switched to a different view more along the lines of Phantasy Star, and the story and characters were incredibly weak, mostly existing as vehicles for a never-ending string of monotonous battles.

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Trudging through the constant onslaught of repetition becomes a serious chore that makes Mystic Quest hard to play for extended periods. Despite all that, I have to admit I still I have a soft spot in my heart for this red-headed stepchild of the FF series, mostly because of the many hours I put into it as a young 'un. And on the plus side, it's not Final Fantasy 13.

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Final Fantasy 2

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Not many games open with your party getting utterly annihilated, so FF2 has that unique start going for it. Everywhere else it remains as difficult to get into as the first game in the series, but without the nostalgia factor since it didn't hit the U.S. until decades after its Japanese launch.

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Final Fantasy 2 definitely has the most odd skill and leveling system for the series, improving your stats as you use them in battle or as you are hit by enemy attacks rather than as you gain experience points.

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Even for its age, the game design wasn't the greatest, as you could literally walk into an area where you'd die immediately in every battle without any warning or prompting to stay away until reaching a higher level.

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Final Fantasy 3

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Playing the original NES/Famicon versions of the first three games in the Final Fantasy franchise, the visual style is incredibly similar with only minor graphical tweaks. The major differences were instead in the leveling and class systems.

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Final Fantasy 3 is where many of the iconic elements of the series that appear in every game originated, but, unfortunately, they were only gestating here and not fully developed. Lacking the nostalgia of the original or the more polished style of the SNES games to come, FF3 exists mostly as a curiosity to be explored to see how far the series has come.

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For those who can't handle the simple graphics and clunky controls, updated 3D versions with gameplay tweaks came to the Nintendo DS, the PSP, and the PC.

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Final Fantasy 10

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As a kid who grew up on the excellent storytelling and very different art style of the SNES and PS1 days, I never developed the same emotional connection to the PS2 games the next generation of RPG lovers has, so frankly I'm not a big fan of this entry.

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Swapping out characters directly in battle was neat and some of the characters had their moments, but overall this is one of the weaker entries in Final Fantasy history on most other fronts.

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Adding underwater football also really didn't do anything for me, as I found myself wondering why I was learning Blitzball plays instead of battling monsters or saving the world...

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Final Fantasy 5

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While graphically pleasing (for the early SNES days anyway) and fleshing out the class system that would become very famous later on, there's actually a lot wrong with this game.

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Taking place in a variety of worlds that only had a few quests each meant that huge areas were pointless, and it's easy to get lost without figuring out just where you are supposed to go. The game also gets fairly repetitive after a few hours, and it's worth mentioning that in the North American version your main character's name is, oddly, “Butz.”

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Nobody in North America played it (legitimately anyway) for a long time due to the lack of an official release until much later on, so FF5 really missed its window to shine. Of course, everybody in the know had downloaded an English translation ROM way before Squaresoft figured out people actually wanted to play this game and gave it a proper stateside release.

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Final Fantasy 8

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Although the graphics improved and many new elements were added in, the characters just weren't as likable nor the story as engaging as Final Fantasy 8's groundbreaking predecessor. Adding in a card game was an interesting twist for a time when kids were still trading Pokemon cards at recess, providing an extra level of depth for those who spent the time learning its mechanics.

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Some of the changes were hit or miss, as the game didn't just completely change the magic system, it even changed the menu system. Letting you swap out which three abilities you wanted was cool in theory, but it was annoying to decide whether you wanted magic or items for the next few battles.

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The characters were sometimes amusing and charming... and sometimes just flat out annoying. I'm still split on which side of that divide Laguna lands when he gets a leg cramp while trying to muster the courage to chat up a sexy singer and then somehow gets her back to his hotel room but doesn't make a move.

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Final Fantasy

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This is where it all started, and whoever would have guessed the absolutely massive industry it spawned? Going back and playing it today there's a huge D&D influence to the first game (especially in the magic system) that many probably missed back then.

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Needless to say, this is a very bare bones game where the formula hadn't been refined yet. Some of the classes were completely pointless, and the combat system was in need of serious polish (you could actually attack an empty space if another attack took down an enemy), but there's a nostalgia to be had here, especially in that distinctly '80s fantasy box art.

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The witch Matoya's backwards talking broomsticks are also a little gem of gaming history that have been referenced in all kinds of media since those heady early days of console role-playing games.

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Final Fantasy 4

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Released as Final Fantasy 2 originally in North America, this is another game in the franchise that's completely iconic and remembered fondly but actually has a ton of flaws.

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While I probably played this game a couple of dozen times as a kid, returning to it as an adult will cause more than a few cringes. Despite the memorable characters and fun gameplay, much of the dialog and plotting is flat-out bad (who can forget such heart felt insults as “You spoony bard?”). But hey, you get to fly a space whale to the moon!

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This was also one of the earlier games to feature major character deaths that really stuck with you, as well as villains that you won't soon forget. The music from that battle against the dancing calcobrena dolls thoroughly creeped me out as a kid, and I can still hum it to this day.

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If you want to return to the kingdom of Baron and see what happened with Rose and Cecil's kids, there was a direct sequel for the Wii (in the exact same original art style) released in episodic format, with each segment revolving around a different character.

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Final Fantasy 12

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This one may be a bit controversial ranking above others, as plenty of Final Fantasy fans straight up despise this game and would like to see it stricken from the franchise's history. Those fans are also wrong.

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I'll grant you Vaan is somewhere between annoying and forgettable, and all the characters do oddly look too similar, but that's about where the criticisms end.

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Gameplay-wise, FF12 is very solid and offered a satisfying experience capping the PS2 era as the consoles were about to change over. The map-based skill system was interesting to learn and play around with, while the completely redesigned combat was a fun change of pace, and unlocking all the monster entries offered a reason to keep playing previous areas.

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Final Fantasy 7

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Age hasn't been kind to the most famous game in all Final Fantasy history, but it still remains a strong contender for the top spots, even if there's a whole lot of nostalgia influencing that positioning. Props also have to be given where they are due for introducing RPGs to a much wider western audience.

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On the positive sides, who could forget cross dressing for a mob boss, chocobo racing, snowboarding at Gold Saucer, the absurdly long Knights Of The Round summon, or the excellent materia system?

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On the downsides, the graphics are straight up ugly at this point, and the story was often bizarre and sometimes incomprehensible (it took me more than one playthrough as a kid to figure out just what the heck Cloud actually was and what his relationship to Zack was supposed to be).

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Final Fantasy 9

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Capping off the golden era of PS1 releases, FF9 returned to actual fantasy territory after two games that strongly blended sci-fi and modern day elements into the mix.

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Although there was lots of comic relief (particularly with the knight character Steiner), there's some gut-punching stuff in this story. Vivi's storyline is both thought-provoking and heart-wrenching, even when it's filled with adorable little guys in overly large hats.

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Final Fantasy 9 is also notable for working summoned monsters into the actual main storyline, rather than just being these beings of massive power you casually pull out for any given random battle and then send away a few minutes later.

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Final Fantasy Tactics

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The only game to truly compete with Final Fantasy 6, this turn-based strategy take on traditional Final Fantasy lore is another one where the music and sound effects are major highlights. For a game featuring a more serious and dark tone than the rest of the entries in the series, the music really ramps up the tension and perfectly matches the art direction.

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While the job-based class system and grid combat system are excellent, it's the story and characters that shine most brightly. It's a complex story but one that's still easily accessible, and it was a little daring for the time it was released in (when games were still considered “for kids”) with its openly anti-religious themes.

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That bleak ending is perfect for the story being told as Ramza – who saved the world – gets branded a traitor and forgotten by history, while Delita – who is actually the villain – becomes king.

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Best: Final Fantasy 6

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RPGs not only cut their teeth but really hit their stride on the SNES, with the cream of the crop on that beloved system easily Chrono Trigger... and Final Fantasy 6. Originally released as Final Fantasy 3 in North America, there's a whole era of kids who first experienced this legendary game under that title before RPGs were even close to mainstream. We may have been the nerd crowd, but we had something awesome no one else had caught onto yet.

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Fast forward from 1994, and Final Fantasy 6 still stacks up today as a game worth playing that frankly beats out a lot of modern titles in terms of characters, story, music, and yes, even art style. To be honest, I don't think Squaresoft/Square Enix has ever released anything better on any of those fronts to this day. The quality of the soundtrack can't be overstated, as this is some of the best music Nobuo Uematsu has ever crafted.

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That opera house scene is one of the best in gaming that still makes people tear up today, and that's just the tip of the iceberg. The multi-part battle while defending Narshe, switching between three groups of characters separated across the continent, stealing mechs in the imperial camp, the ghost train, and the world getting completely and utterly destroyed half way through the game are all classic moments in gaming.

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Every playable character had an interesting backstory as well as a unique combat ability that made them all play differently, but let's not discount the bad guys. Has there ever been an antagonist like Kefka? Turns out the insane clown was way more evil than the evil emperor he worked for, and he succeeded where every other villain failed in a quest to destroy the world and rule the ashes.

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Without question, Final Fantasy is easily the most famous and prolific console RPG series of all time, introducing several generations of gamers to the concept of turn-based side by side battles as heroes attempt to overthrow kingdoms and protect magic crystals.

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The coming next-gen remake of Final Fantasy 7 was one of the biggest pieces of news to land from E3 this year, but it's not all we have to look forward to, with the anticipated part 15 arriving next year and slated to shake up the formula quite a bit.

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Ranking these games from best to worst is a monumental task, especially considering the sheer number of titles released since the first Final Fantasy way back 1987. To keep things manageable, here I'm focusing on base single player games in the main series, with two spin-offs included solely because of their iconic nature. The mobile phone games, spin-offs, sequels, MMORPGs, and Legend / Adventure titles on the Game Boy are all being left off this time around.

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Even by culling all those extra games and whittling it down to the 14 titles included here, ranking them is harder than you'd think, as most of the Final Fantasy games have been re-released in alternate versions, some with major graphical and gameplay changes. The first game alone has come out in no less than 11 separate releases from the NES to the PlayStation to mobile phones and most recently for the 3DS.

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For consistency's sake, these are all being ranked based on their original versions and not on the later re-creations.

"}]]]>
Flashback: Chrono Trigger stands the test of time https://www.gameskinny.com/bq9j8/flashback-chrono-trigger-stands-the-test-of-time https://www.gameskinny.com/bq9j8/flashback-chrono-trigger-stands-the-test-of-time Fri, 21 Aug 2015 08:42:26 -0400 Larry Iaccio

Every Friday in honor of #flashbackFriday (yes, I went there) I plan on looking back at a classic game that had either a profound impact on my gaming career or impacted the industry in some way. Let's be clear, I am not reviewing these games, but rather expressing how I remember them in comparison with how I feel about them now after having played through them again.  This week I'm looking at the classic time-travelling RPG, Chrono Trigger

Excuse my terrible pun in the article's title (expect a lot of time-based puns throughout), but it's true - Chrono Trigger is an amazing RPG that needs be played by fans of the genre. It was a groundbreaking game that was both critically and commercially successful when it first came out for the Super Nintendo back in 1995. And even to this day could still be considered one of the best RPGs ever made.

Although some of this novelty has lost its charm today, Chrono Trigger's time travelling system is an essential part of the story that is fully realized and never wears out its welcome.

Chrono Trigger was developed by RPG king Squaresoft's 'dream team', which consisted of Final Fantasy creator Hironobu Sakaguchi, Dragon Quest and Dragon Ball character designer Akira Toriyama, and Yasunori Mitsuda with Final Fantasy composer Nobuo Uematsu.

Plot & Gameplay

Chrono Trigger follows around a voiceless hero who goes by the name of Crono (you can rename him though). Set on some earth-like planet initially in the year 1000 A.D., we see Crono and his friend Marle watch the tech-savy Lucca present a teleportation device at the Millenial Fair. Marle volunteers to be a test subject for the device, but she unexpectedly opens up a time portal when her pendant reacts strangely to the machine, which flings her into the past. From there Crono sets out to find his friend and ultimately learns that a being called Lavos wipes out civilization in the year 1999 A.D. So he vows to try and save his world.

Throughout the game, there are a total of 7 playable characters that can join your party (2 of them being optional), 7 different time periods that you will inevitably have to travel to (ranging from 65,000,000 B.C. to "the end of time"), and a total of 13 different endings you can get (14 if you're playing the DS version).

This is Magus, the only playable character not shown in the header art.

The gameplay is much like an older Final Fantasy game in many ways. The battle system, which is very polished, is a turn-based system known as active time battle. This basically means that each character gets a time gauge that allows them to attack once it is filled up. This gauge fills up quicker or slower depending on the characters speed. From there characters can attack, use items, or do special moves called "techniques" (tech for short) that use up their magic points.

The key way that Chrono Trigger is different than most Final Fantasy titles is the fact that battles aren't random. You can see the enemies on screen and only battle them if you bump into them. This is a very welcome change and basically eliminates the need to do any kind of level grinding, as the game does a really good job levelling your party up through required encounters. This in turn makes the battle system feel as if it really does rely strategy and skill more so than just how strong your character is. And that makes a difficult battle all the more rewarding in the end.

Aside from the battle system, one of the most unique things about Chrono Trigger is its time travelling component. While that may be a fairly commonplace thing now, back then it was a groundbreaking feature, and still to this day Chrono is one of the most well-executed time travelling games to exist. 

The Epoch was the name of the time travelling vessel in the game

Things done in the past would affect future events and actually seeing the ramifications of your actions hundreds or thousands of years down the line in this fully-realized world is pretty impressive. Although some of this novelty has lost its charm today, Chrono Trigger's time travelling system is an essential part of the story that is fully realized and never wears out its welcome.

Even to this day, Chrono Trigger could still be considered one of the best RPGs ever made.

The biggest downside to the game is that after beating it once, you have the option to start a new game with all of the stats and items from your previous play through so that you can try and get all of the different endings. This doesn't sound like a bad thing, but the game doesn't adjust to your leveled characters enough - so after beating the final boss and most powerful character in the game, the rest basically just becomes a grind to unlock the different endings (which could be good thing depending on the type of player you are). Although this was one of the first games to include a "new game +" option, the replay value starts to wear thin rather quickly.

Presentation

You are either going to love this art style or hate it. Toriyama's designs are recognizable and very consistent throughout, but if you are not a fan of the Dragon Ball or Dragon Quest series, chances are you are not going to care for these visuals very much.

If you are not a fan of the Dragon Ball or Dragon Quest series, chances are you are not going to care for these visuals very much.

With that being said, I absolutely love art style. I am a huge fan of Toriyama's work and he brought such a unique look to this game that is as endearing as it is impressive even to this day. Many enthusiasts rank this as one of the best-looking SNES games ever, right up there with the beautiful Final Fantasy III (or VI, however you want to look at it).

The soundtrack was mainly composed by newcomer Yasunori Mitsuda with some tracks being completed by legendary Final Fantasy composer Nobuo Uematsu after Mitsuda fell ill. This gave Chrono Trigger a breath of fresh air compared to an FF title. The score was not over-the-top, but somewhat simplistic and evoked a sense of atmosphere and emotion exactly where it needed to.

Verdict

Play this game, that's it. If you're not a fan of turn-based combat or traditional JRPGs in general, then maybe this game isn't for you. That's the only exception. For all of you who have ever played a Final Fantasy game, or any RPG for that matter, then you owe it to yourself to check this masterpiece out.

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