The World of Final Fantasy
The Miracle of Final Fantasy
"I don't think I have what it takes to make a good action game. I think I'm better at telling a story." -- Hironobu Sakaguchi
1987. A small Japanese company known as Square Ltd. is on the verge of a financial disaster. They have been developing games for Famicom Disk system, but the incomes have been quite poor, and the general feeling now is that the company would need a true masterpiece to save it from being shut down. Hironobu Sakaguchi, the president of the company, who has developed many smaller games for the Famicom system, decides it is time for a final effort from his side. An action game? No, that wouldn't be his style. To tell a story through a video game- that's what he always wanted to do. A true epic tale, about noble warriors and villains whose sole desire is world domination. Perhaps something more than just saving a princess from a bad guy, like in Enix' famous Dragon Quest series, the leading games of the role-playing genre on consoles. A tribute to Dragon Quest, and yet something different, something bigger and better. Will such a game be a success? If not, Square would fail completely as a company. If yes, he would at least be aware of the fact he saved his company and also created a good game. In any case, this will be his final contribution - his Final Fantasy...
2003. Millions of fans all over our planet play and re-play the games that belong to one of the most well-known and popular video game series of all times. They cry, laugh, mourn, and rejoice together with its small digital heroes. Many gamers unfamiliar with the series get completely baffled and amazed the first time they encounter one of those games, and many of them agree that playing a Final Fantasy game is an entirely unique and incomparable experience. The little modest game once created by Hironobu Sakaguchi has spawned eleven sequels (the last one is the recent "Final Fantasy X-2"), related games that also bear the title, and many games that were directly influenced by the series. Final Fantasy was, and still is, a huge commercial success, that miraculously turned Square from an obscure little company into a giant. Alone "Final Fantasy VII" for the Playstation has sold six million copies, and still continues selling today. Final Fantasy games have literally conquered the market of console-style RPGs.
What is the reason behind the huge popularity of the series? Or, in other words, what is the secret of Final Fantasy? What is that makes those games so special, so unique, so easy to recognize, and so miraculously appealing?
The answer to this question is simple: Final Fantasy games excel in every possible aspect, and it is their perfection, their balance that makes them so highly entertaining and so endlessly attractive. There are many games with great stories, many games with great gameplay, and many games with great production values, but few possess all of those qualities at the same time. Most of the sequels to great games try to imitate, or, in best case, to enhance the original. It is seldom that a sequel in a well-known series is truly innovative. Final Fantasy series, on the contrary, surprises its fans with every new game, because each new installment of the series tries something different, sometimes even revolutionary, something that goes far beyond adding some gameplay gimmicks or recycling the best ideas and technique of the original. It is especially true when referred to the genre Final Fantasy series belongs to: RPG. Role-playing games traditionally have very basic stories and casts of characters, while the emphasis of the gaming experience lies on the gameplay: upgrading characters, fighting, and performing quests. Final Fantasy games were the first console RPGs to introduce deeper stories and memorable characters, but at the same time they never neglected the gameplay. With the main emphasis removed from gameplay onto story and characters, Final Fantasy could have easily turned into "interactive movies" with minimal gameplay value. Instead, each Final Fantasy game (perhaps with the exception of early NES titles) is an absolutely engrossing experience, which combines captivating story, characters you care for, and top-quality console-style RPG gameplay. It is this balance between story, atmosphere, and gameplay, or, better to say, between the novel, movie, and game, that makes Final Fantasy so thrilling, that serves to distinguish between mere electronic entertainment and art, to which Final Fantasy series belongs. Like a book, Final Fantasy is interesting to read; like a movie, it is interesting to watch; and like a game, it is interesting to play.
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