I already covered the main Final Fantasy series in my list of the Top Ten Final Fantasy Games, but I thought I’d shed some light on a few on the epic rpg juggernaut’s spin-off titles. Nothing newer than PS2 here, and I am a confirmed hater of Final Fantasy 11, so with that in mind here we go.
#5 – Final Fantasy Tactics Advance
A worthy successor to the unbelievable PlayStation original, Final Fantasy Tactics come in at number five on my list. This style of strategy RPG was born to be portable (see the PS1 original’s re-release for the PSP). Granted, they stripped some of the depth out of the character customization and neutered the mature storyline of the original, but with Yasumi Matsun0 (the so called father of Ivalice) producing there was no way this game could miss the mark by too much, and it didn’t. Following in it’s predecessors footsteps, Final Fantasy Tactics Advance is a massive and life consuming strategy role playing game that plays nearly identical to the original, but also managed to spice up the formula by adding the Judges/Laws system and other features such as the ability to link with a friend via the GBA link cable. These additions made the game seem like more of the sequel is was meant to be and less the under-powered port many feared.
#4 – Sword of Mana
Final Fantasy Spin-off you say? You bet! Follow me down the rabbit hole, here; In 1991 square released a game called Seiken Densetsu: Final Fantasy Gaiden for the original Gameboy. By the time that the title hit our shores it had been retitled Final Fantasy Adventure. The game was essentially an action RPG spin-off of the Final Fantasy series. The game played alot more like The Legend of Zelda than any other JRPG of the time. The game spawned a sequel, entitled Seiken Densetsu 2 for teh Super Famicom. By the time the sequel was released the association with the Final Fantasy series was dropped, and the game continued on with the action RPG style game play from the first game. You and I know Seiken Densetsu 2 as the seminal SNES classic Secret of Mana. Final Fantasy Adventure was later remade as Sword of Mana for Gameboy Advance. I actually prefer the original Gameboy title over the GBA remake, but I am embarrassed to say that I don’t currently own the Gameboy version, as I lost my copy when I was a kid. I should get on that…
#3 – Final Fantasy Legend III
Square was really all over the map when it came to Final Fantasy Gameboy releases. This game is the exact opposite of my previous entry on this list, because where as Sword of Mana is a Final Fantasy game disguised as another title, the Final Fantasy Legend games released in North America actually belong to a completely different series. The games that we know as Final Fantasy Legend I, II, and III are actually rebranded games from another Square franchise called SaGa. SaGa remained pretty much unknown to North American gamers until 1998’s SaGa Frontier was released for the PlayStation. That was, however 7th game in the SaGa series to be released in Japan. Of note, is the fact that Makai Tōshi SaGa, or what we know as Final Fantasy Legend, was the first RPG made for a handheld console. WHen I was a kid my cousin Neil and I played the three Final Fantasy Legend games religiously, and I can say without a doubt that part III is th finest in the trilogy. Time travel, robots, unique character building system, the ability to get monsters as party members, a massive story; the game was truly ahead of it’s time and is still worth a play through.
#2 – Final Fantasy X-2
Final Fantasy X was so good and so beloved that it became the first main series Final Fantasy game to receive a sequel. I truly feel that this is one of the better Final Fantasy games because it served it’s purpose of tying up and expanding upon the bitter sweet ending of X, and also provided the player with a completely new and fun combat and character advancement system that helped to create a unique experience. The Dress Sphere / Garment Grid system introduced in X-2 gave birth to a new ultra fast paced combat system that had you changing jobs (Dress Spheres) on the fly and chaining together attacks with your other party members. On the topic of your party members, X-2 is unique in recent Final Fantasy titles in that you only have three party members, and they stay the same from the start of the game to end. On top of that, they are all girls. Is the story poppy and ultra light? Yes. Is the game filled with sexual innuendo and bubble gum j-pop? Yes. Does it open with a pop concert staged by the main protagonist? Yes. But underneath all the things that people love to hate about X-2 there is a challenging and rewarding story, a fun soundtrack, and an excellent combat system that actually makes all of the “girly” parts seem like they fit in seamlessly.
#1 – Final Fantasy Tactics
What to say about the almighty Final Fantasy Tactics? This is one of my favorite games of all time. Simply put, FFT is the best console strategy game ever made. Yasumi Matsuno’s first project after joining Square in 1995, Tactics was a spiritual successor to the Ogre games he had previously created for Japanese developer Quest. The influence of Final Fantasy Tactics can not only be felt in other strategy RPG’s (such as the advent of the localization and North American release of games in the Fire Emblem series, which where at one-time Japan only) but also in the Final Fantasy universe. Several subseqent Square titles that involved Matsuno took place in Ivalice, the world created in the original Tactics game. Games such as the Tactics sequels, Vagrant Story, and Final Fantasy 12 all have their roots in Final Fantasy Tactics. I don’t think that it’s a coincidence that the only two Square games to receive 40 out of 40 from Famitsu (Vagrant Story and FF12) fit into this category. If you have never played the PlayStation original and think of your self as an RPG fan, than you are just a poser. Find yourself a copy and educate yourself, right now.