Tag Archives: final fantasy

FGC #647 Final Fantasy 10

Let's blitz ballFinal Fantasy 10 was a brilliant deconstruction of its franchise. And that statement is firmly past tense because it was immediately undercut by capitalism.

For the current moment, let us consider Kefka Palazzo. Kefka was ultimately the final antagonist of Final Fantasy 6, and he plainly stated his goal during his decisive battle: destroy everything, and build a monument to nonexistence. Colorful metaphor about modern art aside, Kefka had plans to kill the party, every other person alive, and (given enough time) obliterate the entire planet while he was at it. All that would be left would be a black void, and even Kefka himself seemed to nihilistically seek his own end if it meant everything else went with him.

And then the heroes of Final Fantasy 6 defeated Kefka. The madman crumbled to dust, and his evil plans were no more. Afterwards, there was approximately a half hour of credits and airship flying, Terra decided to feel the wind in her hair, and then…. Nothing.

Final Fantasy 6 ends with a The End logo, and the world stops existing. The next Final Fantasy starts on another world. Any heroes, townsfolk, or even moogles from Final Fantasy 6 are not seen in the franchise again. There may be “side stories” and alike, but these all seem to take place with versions of Terra, Kefka, and others from epochs before the end of Final Fantasy 6 (you can tell because Kefka is, ya know, alive). If the world of Final Fantasy 6 exists in any conceivable form after the fall of Kefka, there is no evidence of it across any official media.

Kefka wanted to destroy the world of Final Fantasy 6. Shortly after Kefka “failed”, the world of Final Fantasy 6 was forever destroyed, obliterated by an uncaring power button.

And, after this was the norm for nearly fifteen years and a solid nine Final Fantasy titles (and at least one spinoff), Final Fantasy 10 decided to definitively comment on this strange phenomenon.

Where good games go to dieAs is stated from literally the beginning, Final Fantasy 10 is the story of Tidus. And, since you are holding the controller that keeps that story going, you are meant to be Tidus, too. Tidus is good at playing games in a technologically advanced world, but his life is turned upside down when a tragedy transports him to Spira. Spira is a much more rural, primitive spot, and something very foreign to our “modern” Tidus. Ultimately, everything you see of this world exactly matches to the time Tidus spends in this strange place. You experience every second of his journey there, and you know exactly what you know of Spira exclusively through his eyes and what he learns from others. Tidus only discovers new things about Spira if you choose to talk to more people or see more places in Spira. And even though Tidus has his own issues to work through, you wholly inhabit his view of this alien world, complete with leaving Spira exactly when he exits. You are a strange visitor from an advanced (and implied to be more enlightened/less superstitious) society, here to save the world with ideas that could only belong to an outsider. When your job is completed, everyone is going to miss you to the point of tears, but despite their protests, you literally disappear.

Hey, there is probably a reason the only characters you get to personally name in Final Fantasy 10 are Tidus and the aeons, the super-powered agents of Tidus’s “other” world. These characters are yours. Everyone else you are just visiting.

And this ties neatly into Final Fantasy 10’s concept of finality.

My good friendMagical memory whammies or whatever is happening aside, Tidus apparently comes from a world where the afterlife is an unknowable mystery. But Spira has a concrete answer to this age-old question: if you die with regrets, you are likely to either become a fiend, or live on as some manner of ageless zombie. A summoner may “send” the dead to the Farplane (a magical but firmly visitable place), but if some undead avoid this fate, they will stick around for literally eternity and continue to make a mess of things. At best, the living dead of Spira are perpetuating endless spirals of destruction, and at worst they are literally monsters. So, in short, a huge theme of Final Fantasy 10 is “don’t wear out your welcome”. You died, get over it, move on. If you stick around, you are going to hurt everybody still alive.

Thus, the true “end” for Spira’s story is when the party reaches the end of the pilgrimage, and Yuna and the rest of the party decide they are not going to feed the cycle anymore by rejecting Yunalesca, the jackass who got this ball of rubbish rolling. This makes slaying Sin a sort of coda, as the “important” ending has already happened. Change is now an inevitability. And this is further reinforced by Seymour, who had been a threatening antagonist throughout much of the quest, but now only represents the old world and old problems. Once he is deprived of his “immortal” cycle, he is little more than a speed bump. Beating a man you killed two times already is just as insignificant as that task should be. Similarly, the technical final battle isn’t the big damn boss fight of Braska’s Final Aeon, but a slow, aggravating slog through killing your Aeons. And that sucks! That whole sequence sucks, and “you just beat the Elite 4, now kill all your Pokémon” is as terrible as that sounds. But it is there. It is the last time you control this party, and it is miserable. And that is the whole, deliberate point: you are not supposed to keep being Yuna’s Pilgrimage Party. That is over now, and making it go on any longer will just bring heartache. Time to go, Tidus, your dream, your story is over. Time to hit that power button, player, the game is over now, too.

You have to leave this world behind. All of Spira, all of Final Fantasy 10 will end now and be gone forever, but you will live on. This adventure is over, but you will be better for it.

BOOMAnd this would have been the ideal moral for a Final Fantasy title that matched every Final Fantasy that came before 2001. Sure, Seymour, Kefka, Sephiroth, and every villain that wanted to destroy their world had technically won by virtue of dying and leaving behind a world no longer requiring a player to defend it, but outside of the meta-narrative of the player living on, these were games with happy endings. Yuna, Terra, and Cloud would live to see a happily ever after, and we were left with only our imaginations to guess what happened to these heroes after we left them alone. Did Terra truly find love in her new family? Did Cloud and Tifa decide to settle down? Did Yuna become a pop idol cross treasure hunter?

Oh yeah, we definitely know the answer to a few of those questions now…

Final Fantasy 10 was the first Final Fantasy to truly embrace the concept of being “final”. It was also the Final Fantasy released closest to Kingdom Hearts, a franchise that immediately revived the likes of Tidus, Wakka, and eventually even Auron (who is six kinds of dead before the game even started!). Final Fantasy 10-2 was teased as part of a trailer tacked onto the finale of FFX’s American release, and the Eternal Calm gave way to a game that all but obliterated any sort of finality in Final Fantasy 10. Shortly thereafter, every Final Fantasy retroactively jumped onto Dissidia and alike to be similarly eternal. Final Fantasy 10 started the trend, but by the time we could buy cell phone games featuring the offspring of the Final Fantasy 4 cast plowing through the same stupid dungeons over and over again, the message had become clear: there would never be an end to any Final Fantasy adventure ever again.

And, in much the same way Final Fantasy 10 asked us to accept that death is the natural end of all things, we must now accept that eternal life is the natural state of all brands.

Never understood that graphical choiceThere will never not be new Final Fantasy 10 media for the rest of our lives. Any given “HD rerelease” of FF10 will inevitably stoke the rumors of a Final Fantasy 10-3, and we may eventually see such a product “because the fans demand it”. In the meanwhile, Tidus will appear in any game that requires Final Fantasy cameos, and any of those “cameos” could be excuses to foist new pathos or backstory on our intrepid Blitzball player (depending on how serious anyone wants to be about a game where a clown can fight a tree). In 2001, it was reasonable to assume that Tidus’s story was one-and-done, and we would never see anything further to elucidate his limited life beyond the odd Ultimania release. Now? Now our grandkids are going to be learning that the third lizard that Tidus curb-stomped was secretly the fiend-reincarnation of the dude that founded the Yevon chapter of the Boy Scouts, and further information will be available on a cell phone-based lottery game released to promote Final Fantasy 19.

Final Fantasy 10 told a tale letting go, but it was released exactly when Squaresoft (soon to be Square Enix) needed to recoup some losses. It was released exactly when it was discovered you couldn’t just repurpose your Final Fantasy 5 sprites to be Final Fantasy 6 sprites in the high-definition(ish) world of next gen consoles. It was released exactly when the luxurious days of the Playstation were ending, and Grand Theft Auto 3 was about to be the hot new genre of choice. Final Fantasy 10 had the audacity to speak of finality when Squaresoft would never be able to make anything “final” ever again. In Final Fantasy’s near future, even apparent bombs like World of Final Fantasy would have to put in their time in the Meli-Melo gacha mines!

I have always liked this sceneAnd is that all bad? Well, truth be told, if I had the choice between Final Fantasy 10 having a more focused message, or being able to play Final Fantasy 10-2, I’d choose Final Fantasy 10-2 every time. Morals and lessons are all well and good, but Wakka can come out of Blitzball retirement anytime Square wants, because there is at least a 30% chance a game including him will be good (just so long as no one actually plays Blitzball). Finality in a videogame may be impossible for Square Enix nowadays, but the world doesn’t really need videogames to be final. We like videogames, SE, so feel free to keep churnin’ ‘em out.

But it does mean Final Fantasy 10’s message is forever marred by its masters. Playing Final Fantasy 10, and then immediately segueing to its sequel is not only now possible, but seemingly encouraged by releases that pair it with Final Fantasy 10-2 (and 10-2’s “six months later” teaser). Final Fantasy 10 was a game all about finales, but now it will never see its own finale.

Final Fantasy 10 wants you to learn to let go. Square Enix missed that lesson.

FGC #647 Final Fantasy 10

  • System: Playstation 2, Playstation 3, Playstation 4, Playstation 5. Probably an Xbox here or there. Gotta be a Nintendo Switch available, too. Oh, and the Steam/PC version apparently has time saving toggles for boosting exp and alike. Why isn’t that available on a console again?
  • Number of players: This is Tidus’s story. So one.
  • GOOOOOOOALLevel Up: After years of leveling systems in Final Fantasy titles trying unique things like Esper customization or learning skills from armor, Final Fantasy 10 finally eschewed the whole concept of traditional leveling and brought us the Sphere Grid. And it’s good! I like it! Unfortunately, it kicked off a wave of sphere grid-alikes in every JRPG from here to NIS, and… maybe not every videogame needs a complicated leveling system barring entry to just jumping in and enjoying slaying monsters. If I need a strategy guide to determine whether or not I am screwing up my “build” from the first minute…
  • Play Ball: I do not care for Blitzball. But, hey, I was never a big fan of Triple Triad in its time, either. Maybe one day I will find joy in math-ball.
  • Favorite Summon: Anima. Geez, Anima. You are the living (kinda) encapsulation of everything wrong with the beliefs of Yevon, a creature harnessing unending pain to punish monsters, and you have a cool, freaky venus-fly-trap-mummy thing going on. And you punch a lot! Here’s to you, Anima!
  • Videogame Fayth: The puzzle rooms in every religious temple in Final Fantasy 10 really raise some questions. Are the cloisters of trials exclusively there for summoners, or does the cleaning staff have to juggle a series of magical orbs every time they need to dust Bahamut’s remains? And is your average Yevon priest solving block puzzles as part of their seminary?
  • Did I mention I love Auron?Goggle Bob Fact: I have always considered myself fairly… Woke? My parents are liberal and raised me in a fairly progressive fashion, but I… kind of didn’t notice Wakka when I first played Final Fantasy 10 back during my freshman year of college. But now when I play the game? Holy crap is he racist! It is fantasy racism, but the fact that he is a religious zealot that takes every spare moment he can find to denigrate the Al Bhed is exceptionally concerning. And I did not observe it at all twenty years ago! I guess I wasn’t as “woke” as I thought back then. Maybe I still have more to learn now…
  • Did you know? Final Fantasy 10 was released in America on December 17, 2001. I think ROB tried to aim their randomness at this date. I am starting to suspect something is up with that robot.
  • Would I play again: Assuming I have hours and hours to kill, I would like to play Final Fantasy 10 again. That said, it might be another decade before I get back to number ten.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen to take a few weeks off, as it is holiday time! Let’s aim for our annual winter celebration post next week! Please look forward to it!

This is hilarious
We’ll laugh about this later

Wild Arms 3 Part 13 Interlude: The Last JRPG

What are they thinking?As of Chapter 1 finishing, let us enjoy a brief interlude on the nature of Wild Arms 3. And we shall do this on July 25, Scarecrow Day. In Elw architecture, scarecrows are commonly placed on rooftops in place of weathercocks. But it was rumored to bring bad luck among non-Elws and slowly went out of style. A scarecrow slowly rotting away into dust is a sad sight.

Controversial statement: they do not make JRPGs anymore.

So here is how I’ve always seen the evolution of the JRPG. You start with Dragon Warrior/Quest. You move over to Final Fantasy. Over the span of the Nintendo Entertainment System, Final Fantasy evolves out of sight of Americans from simple nonsense with six characters (who must only be four characters) to a sprawling story of flying continents and children working multiple vocations just to make (airship) ends meet. Over in Dragon land, we actually saw the evolution from Hero venturing out alone into the wilderness, to gaining a party of companions, to gaining more “job” options than you could shake a Falcon Blade at, and finally reaching Dragon Warrior/Quest 4. That final title seems relevant, as in addition to utilizing all the advantages that had been granted to its forebearers, Dragon Warrior 4 told an epic, chapter-based story that included memorable, distinct characters all living their best lives in defiance of a hellish (but maybe misunderstood!) villain. While there are inevitably other examples, let us use 1990’s Dragon Quest 4 as the benchmark for how JRPG went from “inhabit these heroes and guide them on their quest” to something more akin to “sure, saving the world is great, but wouldn’t you like to know what happens next for your good buddy Torneko Taloon?”


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And then, a year later, we had Final Fantasy 4. Far beyond Dragon Quest 4, FF4 was the ceiling for videogame storytelling. The world is in danger! But so is your hero’s girlfriend! Brother is betraying brother! People are dying! And, even more important than said story was that all of this action was presented with… action. The twins make their noble sacrifice while the walls are actively closing in on you (and later battles remind you how difficult it is to fight a wall). Yang is blasted into amnesia while frantically trying to stop a cannon manned by goblins. And Cid does not simply lay a few charges to close the entrance to the underground, he actively jumps out of an airship and detonates his bearded ass. In short, whereas JRPGs and videogames in general had had dramatic moments before, Final Fantasy 4 went out of its way to present a story that was, more often than not, actively including as many explosions as possible.


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And then, in 1997, we got to Final Fantasy 7. After a console generation of JRPG luminaries (in multiple ways), Final Fantasy 7 could be presented as the pinnacle of the genre. Ignore the remake (as good as it may be), and go back and play OG FF7. Marvel at how much and how often something happens. You cannot so much as traipse through a forgotten mountain pass without having a brief discussion on chocobo hair. And while Tifa is talking to Cloud about grooming tips, there is movement. There are great graphics (for the era, natch). There are gorgeous environments. Combine these elements, and you are continually presented with an engaging story that incidentally has an amazing presentation. Final Fantasy 7 was primarily remembered for its FMVs, but it is the minute-to-minute performance that keeps a player engaged across three discs.


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But by the time the Playstation 2 rolled into living rooms, the great divergence occurred. On one hand, you had Final Fantasy 10…


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Final Fantasy 10 was, for all intents and purposes, a playable movie. There was voice acting. There was motion capture. And the end result is something that is just as engaging as a movie… because it basically is a movie. And, starting in 2001, if your company was making a JRPG, you had the choice to make that playable movie. You could chase the JRPG zeitgeist, and, whether you were continuing the Xeno-franchise or recruiting Studio Ghibli into your production, you could make a Hollywood blockbuster out of your JRPG. The only downside to this was that it cost more than a couple of bucks to make such a thing presentable. If you didn’t feel like doing that…


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The above was a possibility. Or this


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Hell, you could even see it happen in real time as the Xenosaga franchise gradually lost its budget…


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Now, is either way right or wrong? I am not going to make that determination. Personally, I have issues with getting bored by the “talking heads” of recent Persona titles, and, when they make the jump to action games (like the fighting, rhythm, and “strikers” spin offs), I find the text crawl downright insulting. I am playing a videogame! Please limit your visual novels to 30 seconds between levels! It worked for Ninja Gaiden! You can have these idiots talk a little less if they are going to be effectively motionless while I am supposed to…

Er-hem.

I said I am not going to judge which is better. Persona or similar titles may have presentation issues when they are just throwing static text at a player, but these games are also 80-hour experiences that would not be able to exist if they required full-on mocap for every conversation about how we’ll never discover the true identity of the killer who is probably not standing right over there oh wait he is that is super convenient. Videogames are amazing pieces of art that are also beholden to investors, budgets and deadlines. I would rather have Bravely Default in my life than a “coming soon” JPEG and a thousand twitter followers conjecting how the real Bravely Default will become Final Fantasy 22 and Nomura will never tell us why.

But as far as the “movie” JRPGs? They’re great! They are fun, interactive stories that often include other ways to wring amazing gameplay out of a giant budget. Final Fantasy 15 may have created a “Cindy” that exists exclusively in the world of swimsuit model motion capture, but each of the boys were very controllable when cruising around Insomnia’s outer rim. I have absolutely no qualms stating that JRPGs can be good if they are using “movie” presentation or “static text” presentations.

But JRPGs seem to have completely forsaken the middle ground of their ancestors. They don’t make ‘em like Wild Arms 3 anymore.

Wild Arms 3 is a very text-based game. This is not simply a matter of noting that no one is voice acting this dialogue, what is significant is that, as the game progresses, we will experience any number of info dumps that feature discussions on imaginary biology, planetary conquest, and (everyone’s favorite PS2 plot MacGuffin) nanomachines. In other words, Wild Arms 3 is filled to the brim with the kind of nonsense that causes people to disparage Kingdom Hearts or the Xeno franchise. But something important happens here! There is direction!


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There is movement!


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There is stuff happening!

And there are a lot of little things that not only would be impossible on older videogame systems, but also unlikely to appear in later, “better” productions. As an obvious example, Jet Enduro is an aloof jerk of a character, and barely says a word through much of Chapter 1. But you know everything you need to know by seeing this…


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He is the exact kind of jackass that would put his shoes on the table. What is Jet’s mood right now? The simple act of sticking his boots over his head tells you everything you need to know. And you know that when the shoes hit the ground…


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Something has hit the fan, and it ain’t pretty.

And it feels like we don’t get this kind of direction anywhere nowadays. Wild Arms 3 is the perfect middle ground between “we have more options than simple sprites that turn their heads” and “full on cinematic masterpiece”, and there are very few games that have ever occupied that space. Ultimately, you could describe several “classic” JRPGs as something almost like puppet shows: a middle ground between full-on acting and static talking heads. And looking back from the present when puppets have been forsaken for literally any other kind of presentation, Wild Arms 3 is one of the best puppet shows out there.

Wild Arms 3 is a beautiful unicorn in a field full of donkeys and horses, so keep an eye out for that horn as things progress into the next chapters…


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Next time on Wild Arms 3: Back to the Let’s Play proper as we head to the wrong side of the tracks.

FGC #627.2 Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin

This article contains spoilers for not only Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin, but also potentially the entire Final Fantasy franchise. It won’t get too nuts, but if you don’t want to know a certain location exists in a certain game, and if that location has any plot relevance, I wouldn’t keep reading. You have been warned!

This is not a placeStranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin has one very important thing going for it: it is an enormous love letter to the Final Fantasy franchise. With the exception of a few “plot” stages, every level in SoP:FFO is based on a different locale from a different Final Fantasy game. And that is amazing! You’re looking at 35 years of videogame locations! From castles to caves to whateverthehell was happening in Final Fantasy 15! It’s neat!

But, as a tremendous nerd and 35-year-old critic of the Final Fantasy franchise (uh, to be clear, I am not 35, but I have been a critic of Final Fantasy as long as it has existed) I, naturally, have opinions about the various locations chosen to represent various Final Fantasy titles. Were these good picks to be representative of their attendant games? Are these good choices independent of nostalgia? Does anything in this game make a lick of sense? Let’s answer these questions on a game by game, level by level basis.

Note that this list will be going in order of Final Fantasy game featured. Actual level order is an entirely other thing. Please be as confused as possible.

Stage 1: Illusion at Journey’s End
Location: Chaos Shrine
Origin: Final Fantasy (1)

It is chaos out thereConcept: Stranger of Paradise is a kinda sorta remake of Final Fantasy, so it is only natural the game starts with Final Fantasy’s first ever dungeon: the Temple of Fiends. Oh! And the final boss of the area is Garland (after a fashion)! That is as Final Fantasy as it gets!

Does it work for SoP? This is absolutely a ruined temple (of Fiends!) filled with monsters, which is all you really need from a Strangers of Paradise stage. There are enough decomposing balconies and collapsing turrets to justify something more complex than a straight line, but the layout is still recognizable enough that you won’t easily get lost. And there is at least one cactuar running around, so there’s everything a stranger could want.

Does it represent its parent game? Going to give this one a “yes”, too. The defining characteristic of Final Fantasy’s Temple of Fiends is that it was clearly the crappiest temple in the world (but looked pretty alright a solid 2,000 years back), and we’ve got a similar architectural flare going on here. The Temple of Fiends is meant to be the trojan horse of adventure for the Final Fantasy franchise, and it serves the exact same “more to it than it seems” function in 2022. Good job, Level One! Now let’s move on to Final Fantasy 2…

FGC #627.1 Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin

The Wild Arms 3 LP will be back and continuing next week. Right now I need to talk about Stranger of Paradise for reasons that are likely related to brain damage. Also, this article contains spoilers for Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin. The plot is vaguely incomprehensible anyway, but, ya know, if you don’t want to be spoiled on a game that came out like a month ago, just go ahead and read one of the 600 other articles on the site. Thank you for listening.

Eat it, ChaosStranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin has finally refined the genre with one simple trick: the perfect protagonist for a JRPG is a complete idiot.

Alright, this humble blogger must admit that is not quite right. For one thing, SoP:FFO is not a JRPG. It is an action game with significant JRPG elements. If you attempt to play this game with a typical JRPG mindset, you will watch your not-so-humble protagonist die. A lot. You cannot simply “trade blows” when you are facing a mad ogre in this Final Fantasy universe, and you must dodge, parry, and properly back-attack if you want to stand a chance. Learning exactly how to utilize your weapons is a must, and it is pretty clear early on why magic as we know it is a limited resource. Here’s a hint: if you can lob fireballs from a great distance away from your opponent, you are less a wizard, and more of a sniper. Gotta tape those superpowers down in an action game! And, to be clear, this is a departure from Final Fantasy 15, Final Fantasy 7 Remake, or even Kingdom Hearts. Those are more action-JRPG affairs, a storied tradition that traces back to waiting for 100%s on your action gauge in Secret of Mana. This is an action title, where “using a potion” is less of an inevitability, and more of a sign that you are choking in your battle duties. You should have been able to take down those wolves without getting hit, Jack! Are you sure you’re cut out to be a Warrior of Light?

But, as much as SoP:FFO is an action game, the plot and general framing is definitely a JRPG. That is as it should be, as this whole story is a loose adaption of Final Fantasy (1), the granddaddy of all JRPGs that do not involve compulsive gambling. This is the world that involves Cornelia, a dark elf prince, and exactly one named pirate. The ultimate threat is that same as in 1987, too, as the Four Fiends are menacing the primal elements of the planet, and, if four (or so) Light Warriors don’t get off their collective duffs immediately, the whole world is going to rot and/or burn. So world travel is on the menu, and every monster has to be stomped from here to the Sunken Shrine. Save us all, person with four letters in their name!

But Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin is no mere HD remake of Final Fantasy…