The World of Final Fantasy
Final Fantasy Style
Like every video game series, Final Fantasy has its unique style. This style becomes evident when comparing the stories, the settings, the characters, and the mythology of Final Fantasy to those of other games. The style to which Final Fantasy (and most other RPGs) belong is often called "epic". Typical for epic games is their considerable length, a broad story line, and the connection between the actions of the heroes to the destiny of the entire world.
All Final Fantasy stories are world-embracing. Which means: the main goal of its heroes is always to save the world by preventing an evil force from destroying or enslaving it. No matter how personal their motives might be, the ultimate destination in each and every Final Fantasy game is the final dungeon, the lair of the villain, and the showdown between the player's party and their final adversary.
Typical for Final Fantasy stories is also their wide time spectrum. The "current" story is often connected to ancient prophecies or events, to the history of the world, or to a similar story that has happened before.
The most characteristic feature of Final Fantasy stories, which became a true "trademark" of the series, is the abundance of emotions invloved in them. Topics such as love, despair, friendship, inner conflicts, betrayal, death, sacrifice, hatred are not only common - they usually represent the very core of a Final Fantasy game, at least since the series reached its "mature" age in "Final Fantasy IV".
The stories of all Final Fantasies since the fourth game concentrate primarly on personal feelings of their characters. This emphasis on the personal and the intimate is perhaps the most powerful "trump" of the series. Few other video games embrace so many different topics at once and are so rich emotionally like Final Fantasy.
All Final Fantasy games are set in fantasy worlds. Although those worlds share many common traces (in particular a common mythology), they are different in each Final Fantasy. Every world presented in a Final Fantasy game is in fact a planet, populated by humans and many other creatures. The most typical setting of the series is medieval fantasy, although even the most medievally inclined worlds of Final Fantasy are still not strictly medieval: there are always some elements of modern technology, the most popular one being the airship, an obligatory vehicle for all Final Fantasies. "Final Fantasy VI" tends more toward a modern setting; "Final Fantasy VII", "Final Fantasy VIII", and partially "Final Fantasy X" are set in futuristic worlds.
Although every new Final Fantasy game introduces a new set of characters, and although most of those characters are unique and original, it is possible to trace the spiritual similarity and relation between various Final Fantasy characters, and generalize them as types. Some of the most popular Final Fantasy character types are: a brave, often somewhat careless adventurer, which is often the lead character of the game (Butz in "Final Fantasy V", Locke in "Final Fantasy VI", Zidane in "Final Fantasy IX", Tidus in "Final Fantasy X"), a somewhat strange, "complicated" hero, also a typical main character (Cecil in "Final Fantasy IV", Cloud in "Final Fantasy VII", Squall in "Final Fantasy VIII"), a young woman who possesses mysterious powers, which are desired by the villains (Terra in "Final Fantasy VI", Aeris in "Final Fantasy VII", Rinoa in "Final Fantasy VIII", Garnet in "Final Fantasy IX"), a little cheerful girl (Cara in "Final Fantasy V", Relm in "Final Fantasy VI", Eiko in "Final Fantasy IX"), a non-human party member (Mog and Umaru in "Final Fantasy VI", Red XIII and Cait Sith in "Final Fantasy VII", Quina in "Final Fantasy IX"), a maniacal villain seeking world domination or its destruction (Exdeath in "Final Fantasy V", Kefka in "Final Fantasy VI", Ultimecia in "Final Fantasy VIII"), an effeminate villain with a mysterious past and concealed motives (Sephiroth in "Final Fantasy VII", Kuja in "Final Fantasy IX", Seymour in "Final Fantasy X"). A recurrent character which appears in every Final Fantasy game since "Final Fantasy II" is Cid. Although Cid looks and acts differently in every Final Fantasy game, he is always connected to airships or other flying devices in some way.
Final Fantasy series have an exceptionally rich mythology, which is common for the entire series. Mythological concepts of Final Fantasy are a testimony for the Japanese origin of the series. The vision of the world of Final Fantasy, its low mythology (mythology of fairy tales and folk superstitions), and its demonology (monster mythology) make it clear the series were created by Asian designers rather than by European ones. Although references to Western mythology abound, the overall feeling is unmistakably Asian.
The vision of the world in Final Fantasy series is close to the central idea of Asian religions and philosophy: the unity of all living beings. The planet on which all the inhabitants of a Final Fantasy world dwell is often described as a living, breathing being, the source of all life and power. Phrases such as "the planet is dying", "the planet is losing its power" are typical for Final Fantasy. Often the planet has inner ressources which supports its life. Those ressources are traditionally associated with crystals in earlier Final Fantasies. The crystals are the source of life, and, more importantly, of balance - a typically Asian idea which reflects their vision of the balance of nature, the balance among humans, and the balance between humans and nature as a matter of utmost importance. If the balance is broken, vile forces will appear to disturb the peace of the innocents. This is the central idea of Chinese philosophy, which had a considerable influence on Japanese culture. Another typically Chinese idea is the world being a balance of various elements - fire, earth, wind, etc. In later Final Fantasies, the crystals are replaced with other energy sources, but the concept is always the same. Moon as the origin of humanity in "Final Fantasy IV", Esper civilization in "Final Fantasy VI", Mako energy in "Final Fantasy VII", Tree of Life in "Final Fantasy IX" - all those concepts have the same prototype. Sometimes, a different kind of energy, a negative power, is opposed to the life-supporting power of the planet - the Void created by Exdeath in "Final Fantasy V", Sin in "Final Fantasy X". Often such power, previously sealed, is being unleashed by an evil character, or the supporting power of the planet is used by him for evil purposes: ancient statues in "Final Fantasy VI", Mako energy in "Final Fantasy VII", sealed powers of the sorceress Adel in "Final Fantasy VIII".
According to Asian traditional vision of the world, its creation (or its origin in general) is less important than the balance between its powers. The idea of God as the creator of the universe is not typical for Chinese vision of the world, and the visions of the nations influenced by the Chinese culture. True to this tradition, Final Fantasy rarely explains how or by whom the world was created. The mysterious energy supporting the world can also be considered its origin, which is again a typically Asian idea of the world being one and the same with the energy of life (Brahman in Hinduism, Dao in Chinese Daoist philosophy), instead of being created by an outer force.
Low mythology is a common name for folk believes, superstitions, fairy tales, and legends. Such mythology has virtually no ethical or philosophical value, but instead makes the world a much more mysterious and colorful place. The creatures that belong to the world of low mythology are sometimes hostile, sometimes quite harmless. In European low mythology, to such beings belong ghosts, vampires, mermaids, dwarves, elves, fairies, etc. Low mythological beings of Final Fantasy are usually harmless, or even friendly. Beside the traditional werewolves ("Final Fantasy V", "Final Fantasy VI") or dwarves ("Final Fantasy IV"), there are also more original creatures (such as the shumis and the mambas in "Final Fantasy VIII"). To the most popular representatives of low mythology belong the moogles, which appear in several Final Fantasy games. Moogles are small cute pink creatures, who look like flying cats or rabbits. They are very shy and live in well hidden moogle villages in forests. They don't talk much, and usually the only word they say is "kupo!". The most frequent and well-known Final Fantasy species are the chocobos, which appear almost in every Final Fantasy game. Chocobos are large ostrich-like birds, usually yellow, which are used by the humans for many purposes, mainly for riding.
The monster collection of Final Fantasy belong to the most colorful ones in the history of video games. There is hardly a type of monster known to any mythology that does not appear in a Final Fantasy game. The monster world of Final Fantasy is a mixture between all possible mythologies, but in many cases, monster design is quite original, so that it is hard to trace a monster to its origins. Although every Final Fantasy intriduces new types of monsters, the most popular species are recurrent. Certain types of monsters are also typical for certain parts of a game: for example, in the beginning of a game insects, lizards, or small humanoids such as imps or goblins prevail; the final dungeon is traditionally populated by powerful monsters such as behemoths, iron giants, or malboros with their bad breath attack (all status changes cast on the entire party). An example of a typical recurrent Final Fantasy monster is the fire bomb, which is weak to ice and which explodes after some time, killing itself and causing a lot of damage to one of the characters. It is often possible to recognize a Final Fantasy game just by looking at its monsters. Typical for Final Fantasy are visually original monsters that bear names taken from various mythologies of the world. This is especially characteristic for summoned monsters, which appear in every Final Fantasy game since the third, and which are also mentioned in the first two games. Popular sources for monster names in Final Fantasy are Greek, Nordic, Israeli, Indian, Arab, and Babylonian mythologies. To the Greek mythology belong the monster summons Siren (a beautiful singing girl who enchants sailors and then kills them), Titan (a race of god-like creatures, who fought against Olympic gods), Hades (the god of the dead), and Phoenix (a bird that can resurrect itself; a tribute to the dying and resurrecting gods of the Phoenicians, a nation closely related to the Jews, that lived in today's Lebanon). Nordic (Scandinavian) images are represented by Odin (the head of the Nordic pantheon) and Fenrir (a monstrous wolf). Behemoth (a hell demon) and Leviathan (a huge sea monster, means "whale" in modern Hebrew) are popular mythological beings of ancient Israel, while Golem (a mechanical robot) is a creature taken from the mythology of European Jews. The rich mythology of India delivers names for such Final Fantasy monsters as Shiva (one of the most important incarnations of God, and hardly the beautiful woman Final Fantasy fans are used to), Asura (a race of demons), Kali (a powerful goddess, after whom the city of Kalkutta was named), and others. The king of dragons Bahamut is in fact not a dragon, but a fish that is holding the earth in ancient Arab mythology, whose name is a variant of the Hebrew "behemoth". Ifrit, or Jinn, is also a typical figure of Arab tales and legends. The ancient mythology of Babylon is present in names like Gilgamesh (a Babylonian epic hero) and Tiamat (Chaos, the origin of the world).
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