The World of Final Fantasy
Final Fantasy Gameplay
Final Fantasy games belong to a genre known as RPG. However, they are quite different from Western role-playing games (also called PC style), and are better described as Japanese, or console style RPGs. Such RPGs are usually more linear than their PC counterparts, contain much more cut scenes and scripted events, follow the story more closely, and offer the player much less freedom of choice. In fact, a more precise genre definition for such games would be "interactive stories with battles", rather than "role-playing". You don't really play a role in Final Fantasy: you follow a story which usually can't be altered, and have to indentify yourself with the heroes of a game without being able to make moral decisions for them. The interaction with the surrounding world is scarce in Final Fantasy. Except fighting and walking around, the controlled party can talk to people and open treasure chests; no physical activities such as jumping or climbing are possible (although "Final Fantasy X-2" changes that). Except some occasional mini-games, Final Fantasy contains little action. The fights are also not controlled physically (by moving a character), but through a menu. In most Final Fantasies, a quick decision at choosing commands from the menu is necessary for a successful combat. Puzzle-solving is not uncommon to Final Fantasy, although the puzzles are usually fairly easy and don't occupy large portions of a game. "Final Fantasy X" contains the biggest amount of puzzle-solving, including whole areas dedicated entirely to puzzles.
Typical locations for Final Fantasy are world map, towns, and dungeons. In all Final Fantasies except "Final Fantasy X" it is possible to travel on the world map on foot, and to enter towns and dungeons through it. Enemies appear in dungeons, on the world map, but usually not in towns - unless a dangerous area of a town is specified. Final Fantasy traditionally lets the player explore the world not only on foot, but also (at certain parts of a game) using transportation means, such as an airship, colored chocobos (large ostrich-like birds which can run quickly, and sometimes fly), normal ship, submarine, etc. In towns, the player can usually buy equipment and items for the characters. It is possible to save the progress made so far in the game only while being on a world map, or at special "save points" located in certain parts of a dungeon.
All Final Fantasies are party-based games. The player controls several characters at the same time, buying weapons and equipment for them, organizing and customizing their skills, and making decisions for them in battles. A full party usually contains four members (three in "Final Fantasy VII", "Final Fantasy VIII", and "Final Fantasy X", and five in "Final Fantasy IV"). With very few exceptions, all party members are always controlled by the player, never by computer AI. In later Final Fantasies, it is always possible to exchange party members and to form a desired party of three or four characters out of several available; however, earlier Final Fantasies (until the sixth) don't have this option.
Regular enemies appear randomly in all mainstream Final Fantasy games and are not visible on the screen before a battle. When a battle starts, a special battle screen appears, and a menu with various commands pops up. The commands usually include Attack (physical attack with an equipped weapon), Magic (not always available for all characters), Item, and others, varying from game to game (change row, change equipment, special abilities, defend, etc.). All characters have hit points (HP), up to a maximum of 9999 (999 in the first two Final Fantasies). If the HP of all party members drops to 0, the game is over.
Like in most RPGs, party members gain experience points from battles in Final Fantasy games. After accumulating a certain amount of those points, the characters "level up" - they become stronger, quicker, gain additional HP, and their magic power and defense increase. The maximum level in Final Fantasy games is 99 (except in "Final Fantasy II" and "Final Fantasy X", where levels are not defined).
Most characters of Final Fantasy games belong to certain classes (also called jobs), although in games like "Final Fantasy VII" or "Final Fantasy VIII" the differences between various classes are very small or even non-existent. Each class has its own advantages and disadvantages. Some of the most popular and typical Final Fantasy classes are:
Fighter/knight. A fighter is a basic physical attacker. Fighters use the most powerful weapons (swords), can equip shields and heavy armor, and have great attack power and defence. Knights (paladins) can also use some basic white magic. A classic knight is Cecil from "Final Fantasy IV". Typical fighters are Cloud from "Final Fantasy VII", Squall from "Final Fantasy VIII", Tidus and Auron from "Final Fantasy X".
White mage. White mages are the healers of the party. They have weak attack and defence, but powerful curing and healing spells. They can also inflict status changes on enemies (put them to sleep, slow them, etc.). They usually don't use offensive spells, expect for powerful Holy magic. Rosa from "Final Fantasy IV", Garnet and Eiko from "Final Fantasy IX", and Yuna from "Final Fantasy X" are all white mages.
Black mage. Black mages are physically the weakest of the classes, with the worst HP, attack, and defense, but they can use many powerful offensive spells, elemental as well as non-elemental. Traditional black mages are Tellah and Rydia from "Final Fantasy IV", Vivi from "Final Fantasy IX", and Lulu from "Final Fantasy X".
Monk. This class is called "black belt" in the first "Final Fantasy" and in some translations. Monks often attack with bare hands, have very high HP, and good special abilities. However, their defense is inferior to that of fighters, and they can't use powerful weapons. The class became less popular in later Final Fantasies, while in the early games it was widely used. Yang from "Final Fantasy IV" and Sabin from "Final Fantasy VI" are classic monks.
Blue mage. Blue mages can learn magic spells from enemies and then use them in battles. They usually have a better choice of weapons and better defense than black and white mages. Some well-known blue mages are Strago from "Final Fantasy VI", Quina from "Final Fantasy IX", Kimahri from "Final Fantasy X", in a certain sense also Quistis from "Final Fantasy VIII".
Thief. Thieves are very quick, often have special abilities that allow them to escape battles, have passable attack and defense, and can steal items from enemies. Typical thieves are Locke from "Final Fantasy VI", Zidane from "Final Fantasy IX", and Rikku from "Final Fantasy X".
Ninja. Ninja is a popular and very useful Final Fantasy class. It is mainly a more powerful variant of a thief. Ninjas have better weapons than thieves, and have a very handy "Throw" ability available in battles, that allows them to throw weapons at enemies for big damage. Like the monk, ninja is a class which is used mostly in earlier Final Fantasies. Edge from "Final Fantasy IV" and Shadow from "Final Fantasy VI" are ninjas.
Summoner. Summoner is a class that often comes as an addition to white or black mages. Summoners can call monsters to help the party, performing special attacks. In the two last Final Fantasies, summoning is a special ability of white mages - Garnet, Eiko, and Yuna. In "Final Fantasy IV", the only summoner Rydia is also a black mage.
Dragoon. Dragoon is a typical Final Fantasy class, a strong fighter who uses lances and can jump on the enemies, wasting one turn, but causing double damage. Classic dragoons are Kain from "Final Fantasy IV" and Freia from "Final Fantasy IX", partially also Cid from "Final Fantasy VII".
Red mage. Those mages can use both white and black magic, but only to a certain limit. They have better weapons and defence than white or black mages. Red mages were very popular in early Final Fantasy games, but became entirely obsolete later.
Magic is very important in Final Fantasy. In most Final Fantasies, magic spells cost the caster mana points (MP). The more powerful a spell is, the more MP it requires. The maximum MP per character is 999. The first "Final Fantasy" uses a different system of magic, which allows a mage to cast only a limited amount of spells before resting. "Final Fantasy VIII" requires drawing magic from enemies and then casting it as one-time spells, that don't cost MP. There is no common system of classification of magic spells: in some Final Fantasy games, they are divided into white, black, and sometimes time magic; other games use other methods of classification, and in some Final Fantasies, magic is not classified by groups at all. It is possibly to roughly divide Final Fantasy magic in three groups: offensive, status-changing, and support magic.
Offensive spells are usually of two kinds: elemental and non-elemental. Elemental spells exist in three increasingly powerful variants, for example Ice, Ice2, and Ice3, or Ice, Icera, and Icega. Typical elemental spells are: Fire, Ice, Bolt (also called Lightning or Thunder), Aero and Quake. Bio (or Poison) is a spell that is also sometimes classified as elemental. The most powerful elemental spell is Holy, which is, by tradition, a white mage spell. Non-elemental spells are usually more powerful than basic elemental magic. They include Comet, Flare (the ultimate black magic), and two most powerful spells, often described as "forbidden magic": Meteo and Ultima. The latter is traditionally the most powerful spell party members can use in Final Fantasy.
Status-changing magic include spells like Sleep, Confuse, Petrify (Stone), Slow, Demi (reduces the target's HP by 1/4), Doom (instant death). Bio (Poison) can also be considered a status-changing magic. Powerful monsters and most bosses in Final Fantasy are usually protected against this type of magic.
Support magic is used on own party members. The most popular and indispensable support spell is Cure, which restores HP. This spell exists in three or even four variants: Cure, Cure2, Cure3, and Cure4. Other popular spells include Heal (also called Esuna), which removes status changes inflicted on the party, Shell (reduced magic damage by half), Protes (protects against physical attacks), Reflect (reflects magic back on the caster), Regen (gradually recovers HP), and Haste (increases the agility of one party member or entire party).
Since "Final Fantasy VI", every Final Fantasy game makes very powerful special attacks available for all party members, which can be used only if a character has very low HP (like in "Final Fantasy VI" and "Final Fantasy VIII"), or if his or her special "limit" bar, that slowly replenishes during battles, becomes full. In "Final Fantasy VI", those specials attacks can't be controlled by the player. In "Final Fantasy VIII", they become available randomly. Those attacks are called "limit breaks" in "Final Fantasy VII", "trance" in "Final Fantasy IX" and "ecstasy" in "Final Fantasy X".
Monster summons are a very typical feature of Final Fantasy games. Those summons usually belong to the most powerful attacks available in a game, and summoned monsters often play an important role for the story development. Monster summons are called Espers in "Final Fantasy V" and "Final Fantasy VI", Guardian Forces in "Final Fantasy VIII", Eidolons in "Final Fantasy IX", and Aeons in "Final Fantasy X". Here are some of the most popular summoned monsters:
Ifrit. Ifrit is often one of the first available summons. He is a red demon with horns. Ifrit uses a fire elemental attack.
Shiva. One of the most popular summons, Shiva attacks enemies with ice. Shiva appears as a beautiful woman in transparent white and blue clothes.
Ramuh. Another typical summon, Ramuh is an old man who attacks enemies with thunder.
Leviathan. Leviathan usually belongs to the most powerful summons. He uses a water elemental attack.
Phoenix. Another powerful summon, Phoenix revives dead allies and attacks enemies at the same time.
Bahamut. Traditionally the most powerful summon, the king of the dragons Bahamut inflicts a lot of damage with his Mega Flare attack.
Most of the items in Final Fantasy serve to cure, to heal, ot to revive fallen party members. HP-restoring items are usually called "potions". There are several kinds of potions, starting with the weakest normal potions and ending with X-potions, that restore a character's HP to maximum. Mana-restoring items are usually called "ethers" or "tinctures". There are many types of items that heal particular status changes, and an item called "remedy" or "medecine", which restores all status changes at once. The item that revives a dead (or "wounded") characters is called "phoenix down". Very rare and powerful items, the elixirs, restore character's HP and MP to the full, and the extremely rare final elixirs (or "mega elixirs") can do the same to the whole party. Tents and cabins (also called "cottages") also restore the party's HP and MP completely, but they can be used only while walking on the world map or at a save point.
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