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Posted by thatpinguino

@marokai: I "ignored" VII because it would not have won any of these categories and because what I was writing was long enough without having to write about VII. VII is a good game that is buoyed by nostalgia. It has the flattest characters of the three, it has the most simplest story of the three, it has a fine combat system but not a better combat system. I mean it doesn't even HAVE a card game; how can I take a game seriously if it doesn't have a card game?

Edited by 8Bit_Archer

Good Answer. IX is my personal favorite but I will not argue with anyone who says otherwise. All three were great games. I didnt care for VII as much but, I still believe it was good.

That being said....its a close fight between 4 or 6 as the best FF game.

Posted by thatpinguino

@8bit_archer: I played IV on the ds and I don't know that the gameplay in IV holds up anymore. The battle system in IV is really inflexible and the story moments that are the high point of IV, like literally half of your party sacrificing themselves at one point or another, are a little wonky.

Edited by hermes

Meh...

I get your arguments, and they are fairly well presented... But Final Fantasy VIII is still my personal favorite of that generation.

Posted by KoidZine

I am sure I am not the first one to point this out, but:

VII is the only main FF in which you can play as Vincent, so it is unarguably the best Final Fantasy. Also, this.

I really like FFVII.

Posted by DifferenceEngine

@marokai: I "ignored" VII because it would not have won any of these categories and because what I was writing was long enough without having to write about VII. VII is a good game that is buoyed by nostalgia. It has the flattest characters of the three, it has the most simplest story of the three, it has a fine combat system but not a better combat system. I mean it doesn't even HAVE a card game; how can I take a game seriously if it doesn't have a card game?

Henceforth, all Final Fantasies not featuring a card game shall be rendered onto the ash heap of gaming history regardless of the quality of their gameplay.

Posted by thatpinguino
Posted by Silvergun

@thatpinguino: That was really well thought out and well written. I'd love to see you dissect some of the other games in the series.

Posted by thatpinguino

@silvergun: I linked to some of my longer essays on 9 and 8 at the top of the blog post. I am thinking of writing about 10, but the newer games don't really compel me and the older stuff hasn't grabbed me as much.

Edited by GoliathAssassin84

As a reader, it has always been fun reading your posts because of the quality of writing and the obvious love you show for the FF franchise on the whole. That said, I have a major disagreement with your article right off the bat. While I don't fault you for excluding FF Tactics (it is a very different style of game than the rest) I believe it was wrong of you to leave 7 out of the race at the starting line like that. I happen to believe that FF7 is not the best game of the PS1 era, mostly because the developers just didn't have the same grasp of the technology that they had when it came back around to making 8 and 9. I agreed with almost all of your harsh statements about 7. Cloud was a weak lead and Sephiroth went off the deep end pretty quick. People remember the game so happily because it was graphically better than 6 at the time, but if you go back and play it now, the game just does not hold up at all visually, and the audio feels a bit dated as well. The only thing you had to say about 7 that I did not agree with was this:

"The materia system is fine but 8 and 9 have combat systems that are equal to or greater than 7's."

No, not really... You have a right to express your opinion, just as I now have the right to express mine. I love FF9, but like you said, its leveling system was very vanilla. With me, it scores as worst of the three in terms of overall quality. I do love its simplicity as a good "starting-point" game into the series however. It was the first FF I ever played, the first I helped my wife play, and quite honestly, the first I plan to help my kid(s) play. There's so little going on and it's all clear-cut. Very good to learn on, but not as deep or exploitable as 7 or 8.

I clearly don't think as highly of 8's battle system as you do. 8 did invent the Magic Draw system and the Magic/Stat Junction system, but it did not invent the Esper junction system by any stretch of the imagination. 6 was the revolutionary game that 8 stole from and actually downgraded in order to get to the GF system they achieved. Sure, you have things added in like GF compatibility and multiple different types of GF skills to learn... but it's all done completely backward. In FF6 you take a diety-like magical being and assign it to a player character. After an appropriate number of battles, the player character then begins to learn some magical ability from the diety-like magical being that it appropriately already knew. In FF8 you take a diety-like magical being and assign it to a player character all the same, right? But somehow through the battles ahead, the diety-like magical being gains experience toward its own set of skills based on the experience it has earned fighting alongside the junctioned player character? WHAT?!!! So if I am Ifrit... and HAVE BEEN Ifrit for like over 5 franchise titles now... and you junction me to Squall... then naturally the experiences and insights that I have learned whilst fighting alongside this emo gun-blade toting whiner will lead to me becoming a better Ifrit with a plethora of new abilities that I have never had before? It's preposterous! Player characters learn abilities from summons who already know them, it does not believably work the other way around. The FF8 gameplay/leveling system is very ambitious and it offers a great deal more depth and customization than 9, but I still find it ridiculously flawed in concept, rather than execution.

For my two cents, the Materia system owns all in the PS1 era competition for best gameplay/leveling mechanic. And for that win alone, I believe you should have given 7 a chance to run this race fair and square. (Pun intended) I agree it would not have come out on top anyway. It is a very dated game and it struggles to keep up with later titles on the same platform, but it did do something right to capture the hearts and minds of a whole generation of fans. It wasn't the graphics. It wasn't the basket-case main protagonist. It was the gameplay, and specifically the materia system. You can dump hours into the different combinations and uses and set-ups and equipment slots, etc, and just when you think you got it all figured out, your green status materia throws a whole different kind of status at you to master, or your yellow command materia opens up into a different command. It's pretty genius, dude. Calling it "the best" is purely my opinion. Calling it genius is just plain fact.

Best Protagonist: Lol, you didn't have to go there. It's kind of a low-blow, but it's honestly the truth. If Vivi were the main protagonist, he'd still be a better character than Squall. I happened to like Zidane better than Vivi for his insightful one-liners. "the sly eagle never shows his talons," or something like that. But Vivi was easily one of the most lovable characters in 9. Squall whined so much that I honestly wished Seifer would put him out once and for all. He didn't care about anything, didn't want to do anything and basically didn't want to interact with anybody... except for that one chick.

Best cast: You were right when you said that Squall and Rinoa were the only ones to change in 8. Unfortunately, they both did this so late in the game that I already could not be won back to either one of them. I actually cringed during their kissy moments because it was so cliche sub-par. Laguna, Kiros and Ward were the best characters in the game. Selphie and Irvine were actually my fav player characters which made me happy when they got together at the end. I have no compliants about any of the FF9 characters, party or NPC. Everyone was generally written very well. Exceedingly well actually. My favorite was Quina! If anyone felt a little lacking, it might have been Garland. But he was part android after all.

Best card game is complicated for me. I liked Tetra Master a lot better as a game, but it did not bring nearly the same rewards as Triple Triad. I thought that some of the rules in Triad were very stupid later on. I mean elemental rules are cool, but freakin' Random? Really? I don't even get to play my cards in the order I want? the CPU has to pick them for me? If they'd have left out some of those more radical card rules then I might have liked Triad better, but I stand by Tetra Master. Just too bad there wasn't a way to refine things from cards in 9 like there was in 8. THAT was one genius idea 8 had that I'm surprised did not stick with the franchise in general.

I'm getting inspired to do a little ratings system of my own across part of the FF franchise. Maybe 7,8,9,10,12? Five titles doesn't seem too hard. Might get a bit long, but... I'll kick it around and see what i come up with.

Edited by thatpinguino

@goliathassassin84: Well you just did a better job of explaining the materia system than I would have done, and I agree that it is the part of 7 to champion. I bypassed 7 because I just don't have the affection for it and honestly I would take more heat for giving it less attention in each category than I have for bypassing it. However, I think what makes 9's combat system so different is that, while it does not focus on making the gameplay especially flashy or intresting in and of itself, it does the best job of using the gameplay to develop the characters. For example, take my protect girls example or my blog on Amarant, in each instance the developers took the conventions established in FF 1-6 and applied those mechanics to flesh out the personalities and dispositions of the characters in 9. They take the known and adjust it to fit and accentuate 9's cast. 9 is exploitable, but not nearly to the extent 8 or 7 are. I mean you can really break those games sideways if you want.

Posted by GoliathAssassin84

I will have to take a look at the blog on Amarant, but as for tonight it's a lost cause. I need my sleep if I am going to read and appreciate another blog. Truly, there is no other FF that uses character class and ability sets to accentuate the specific attitude of the character who owns them... But much like 10, I wish there were a way to maximize the given role first and then later branch out to customize to your own liking in the endgame. Every time I play FF9 it feels like every other time ive played FF9. That is why I purposely do not play it every year. I give myself enough time to forget about what makes it so great from a story perspective so that I can be delightfully surprised again. The replay value, however strong, is therefore driven completely by love of the story. FF9 game mechanics do not add replay, and this does sadden me a little. But it's still my fav in the series.

Posted by GoliathAssassin84

@koidzine said:

I am sure I am not the first one to point this out, but:

VII is the only main FF in which you can play as Vincent, so it is unarguably the best Final Fantasy.

And that... almost works. Almost.

Posted by thatpinguino

@goliathassassin84: The replay value for me comes from switching up my party composition and favoring different party members. I think the ideal party from a battle efficiency standpoint is Zidane, Garnet, Steiner, and Vivi, but I tend to use Freya and Amarant for their playstyles. Next time I'll need to use Quina... I still haven't given he/she any love on any of my playthroughs.

Posted by mrfluke

k

Posted by xaLieNxGrEyx

While we're making blanket statements then allow me, Final Fantasy wasn't all that great until 7 and died after 10, it's ever so slowly resurrecting but it's going to need a lot of phoenix downs.

Final Fantasy VI, and Phoenix Downs heal being knocked out they don't resurrect anything.

Posted by CircleNine

FF8 is the best because of the Squall Is Dead theory.

Edited by thatpinguino

@circlenine: I personally hate it when a story needs an elaborate theory that completely re-frames the events of the plot just to make some kind of sense of everything. But as far as those crazy re-imaginings go, the Squall is Dead theory is my favorite.

Posted by GoliathAssassin84

@thatpinguino: Freya and Quina are my favorite people to play as. Freya, for her attack strength and Reiss's Wind, is automatically one of the safest characters to have around. Add in Lancer, White Draw, Dragon's Crest and the Jump command and BAM! Instant classic. People are incredibly put off by Quina's personality and it's just a shame that it hinders so many players from truly experiencing his/her functional greatness. As Quina's attack is variable, sometimes Quina hits for crap... but I've found that if you go in expecting every hit to do crap damage, you'll be delightfully surprised to find that a good 60-70% majority of Quina's attacks actually hit with damage comparable to fighting classes. You can offset this greatly by striving to capture an exorbitant amount of frogs early in the game until Quale comes and gives you the Bistro fork. In this respect, Quina actually has earlier access to his/her more powerful weapons than do any other characters. Plus you're maximizing Frog Drop, one of your best damage dealing spells, right off the bat.

There's a good trick to flesh-out Quina's blue magic list immediately after he/she's been optionally acquired for the first time. After you have your little talk with Quale and Quina joins the party, the best thing to do is immediately start learning blue magic in the marsh itself. Gigan Toad teaches Frog Drop and Aqua breath can be learned by just about everything else. Here's the trick that not many people get: Backtrack through Lindblum Dragon's Gate, through the city, and right out the front door. This clifftop portion of the world map between Lindblum Castle and pinnacle rocks is a very easy and exploitable area that's full of blue magic for Quina. For insance, learning Lv3 Def-less from a carve spider is tons easier than trying to learn it from Lamia. Limit glove can easily be learned from Axe Beak, and Mustard Bomb can be learned from the Bombs in that small forest area. (Ragtime Mouse spot.) This is by far the earliest you will ever learn this ability. Otherwise, you have to wait until the point of the story where you are fighting Red Vepals, Grenades and Wraiths. After backtracking to this easy magic gobbling spot, you can begin to digest creatures in the King Ed Plains Serpion teaches Mighty Guard, Hedgehog Pie and Lady Bug both teach Pumpkin Head, Ironite teaches Angel's Snack, and Vice teaches Vanish. (This is by far the most annoying blue magic to obtain early, but parting with a couple measly potions is not a huge risk.)

By this time, without having to move the story along even one box of dialogue text, you have already learned 9 of Quina's 24 Blue Magic spells. That's almost half! And not even that much effort or travel required. If you've done your homework up until this point, there's really nothing for Quina to learn in Gizemaluke's Grotto, so you can just stroll right through. Staying ahead of Quina's learning curve like this can allow you to learn most blue magic spells in groups, one after the other, and many times during "grind spots" that appear in-between scripted story segments so as not to hinder your game and leave you scrambling for the next save point. If you're ever interested, I can teach you another Quina-focused FF9 exploit that allows you to completely own the Grand Dragons and Garuda that inhabit the Popo's Heights area (accessed by climbing the vine in the moogle room in Gizameluke's Grotto.) Thus, you can learn the White Wind Blue Magic spell before ever visiting Cleyra, at a time when your party should not be able to stand a chance against those monsters. Quina is very easy to make into a game-breaking powerhouse of a character if you actually do choose to put some effort in. The hitch is, he/she will never just be a superior character automatically like Steiner or Freya might. And like I say, lots of people hate the character's personality... which I find to be the most egotistical and hilarious of them all! Quina is often confused, but rarely ever frightened. "I do what I want! You have problem?!"

Posted by XpressTuning

@8bit_archer: I played IV on the ds and I don't know that the gameplay in IV holds up anymore. The battle system in IV is really inflexible and the story moments that are the high point of IV, like literally half of your party sacrificing themselves at one point or another, are a little wonky.

There are a lot of problems with FF IV, but to be honest i'd take that simplistic, inflexible combat over the gut wrenchingly slow combat of VIII and IX.

The loading times on each random encounter, the poor framerate in the battle mode, the obscenely-long and time-consuming summons & spells, really made the combat unbearably boring in IX and VIII.

Posted by thatpinguino

@xpresstuning: I agree with the load times and the general battle pace, but I think IX cleaned up some of the animation time issues that were started by VII and VIII. I mean VIII's summon animations were so long that there was a boost system designed to occupy you while you watched. IX's summons have two animation sets, a long one and a short one. Unfortunately the long version is way stronger so the game actually incentivizes you to watch the long version, but even the longest summon in IX is not as bad as Eden or Bahamut in VIII.

@goliathassassin84: I never knew that trick about getting Quina's blue magic early. I always double back through Gizmaluke's Grotto because that is the only way to max out the chocobo side quest rewards before Clyra, but I have only ever done that to max out Vivi. But putting in the early work on Quina seems like a way more fun way to use her/him. I think Quina is a little like Amarant and Freya, in that they each do so much so well, but don't really snugly fit into one firm role.