|Final Fantasy (series)|
|Square Co Ltd, Squaresoft, Square Enix|
|Square Co Ltd, Squaresoft, Square Enix|
|Fantasy, High Fantasy, Science-Fiction|
|Action, Adventure, RPG, MMO|
|Android, iOS, Family Computer, Super Famicom, NES, SNES, PlayStation, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Portable, PlayStation Vita, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Nintendo DS, Microsoft Windows and Game Boy Advance|
The Final Fantasy (ファイナルファンタジー, Fainaru Fantajī) series is a video game series currently developed and published by Square Enix. It is a Japanese role-playing game series with varying gameplay, settings and stories between each instalment, retaining unique plot and gameplay elements throughout, focusing on fantasy and science fantasy settings. Though the core series is primarily a role-playing game series, many titles are action RPGs or MMORPGs, while the Final Fantasy franchise as a whole includes spin-offs which have branched into many other genres, such as tactical RPGs and fighting games. The series has been distributed on many platforms, beginning with the Family Computer and Nintendo Entertainment System, and including consoles, computers, and mobile operating systems.
The majority of the games are stand-alone stories with unique characters, scenarios and settings, though several direct sequels to main series games continue stories within the same worlds. The series is defined by its recurring gameplay mechanics, themes and features. Commonly recurring features include the series' "mascot" creature, chocobos, that are often used as steeds; a character named Cid who is usually associated with engineering; Moogles, cute flying creatures that often aid the player by facilitating some of the game mechanics; the mythology-based summoned creatures that can be called forth to aid players in battle and also commonly battled as bosses; the Job System where playable characters are defined by their job class; and the active time battle system, an evolution of the classic turn-base system common for JRPGs where the units' speed determines how many actions they can take.
The series' plots tend to focus on a group of characters from various backgrounds who team up to save their world while dealing with their own struggles and fighting against a central antagonist whose goal is usually world destruction. Names, designs and spells are often based on real-world mythologies, religions and cultures.
During the mid 1980s, Square Co., Ltd. entered the video game industry by developing games for the Family Computer. In 1986, Enix released its first Dragon Quest game and popularized the RPG genre in Japan (after western games, such as the Wizardry series, introduced them to Japanese audiences). Coupled with Nintendo's Super Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda, Dragon Quest was one of the defining games of the Family Computer system.
Square had been developing simple RPGs, psuedo-3D games and racing games, although they failed to compete with the market, and did not perform well commercially. Series creator Hironobu Sakaguchi and his team grew pessimistic at the failures as the company faced bankruptcy, so he began to develop the RPG Final Fantasy as a personal final project to leave a legacy; if the game had sold poorly, he would have quit the industry to return to university.
Sakaguchi wanted the game to have a simple abbreviation in the Roman alphabet (FF) and a four-syllable abbreviated Japanese pronunciation (efu-efu). "Fantasy" was chosen due to the setting, though "Final" was originally intended to be "Fighting", and was changed to avoid conflict with the tabletop game · . Though Final Fantasy was released at a time when competing games, such as · 's · and Dragon Quest III, were released, it pulled Square out of its financial crisis, and when released three years later in North America, outsold several of its peers.
As Final Fantasy had not been planned with a sequel in mind, Final Fantasy II was developed in a new world separate to the first with new characters designed by Yoshitaka Amano, and given a deeper story to match competitors such as Phantasy Star II.
Although not the first game to be released outside of Japan, Final Fantasy VII was the first overseas to popularize the series, and the JRPG genre. Although the game is still the best-selling game in the series, with over 11 million units sold between its original release and subsequent re-releases, the series has continued to find financial success since and has become Square Enix' best-selling franchise worldwide.
Character concept artwork was handled by Yoshitaka Amano from Final Fantasy to Final Fantasy VI who also handled logo and promotional image designs for games to follow. He was replaced by Tetsuya Nomura from Final Fantasy VII onwards (with the exception of Final Fantasy IX—where it was handled by Shukō Murase, Toshiyuki Itahana and Shin Nagasawa—and Final Fantasy XII—where it was handled by Akihiko Yoshida).
Gameplay systems were originally based on those seen in RPGs released at the time the series was developed, though many systems which would become series staples were designed by Hiroyuki Ito. Ito developed systems, such as the Active Time Battle system inspired by · racing (the concept of different character types being able to "overtake" each other). Ito refined the Job System in Final Fantasy V to become the system used frequently throughout the series, and designed the Gambits system for Final Fantasy XII. Other systems, such as the Materia system in Final Fantasy VII, were designed as a group effort, and was designed so the combat changed depending on how the Materia was used, as opposed to characters having innate skills. Toshiro Tsuchida would design systems for other games, such as the removal of Active Time Battle in Final Fantasy X to replace with conditional turn-based battle, and later designed the Command Synergy Battle system for Final Fantasy XIII to make battles appear as visually impressive as in the movie Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children. The MMO gameplay systems have been drastically different, but mostly drawn inspiration from a mix of the Final Fantasy games and from other games in the genre.
Stories have been worked on as a collaborative effort from multiple developers with concepts having drawn inspiration from multiple sources. In the early games, Sakaguchi drew inspiration from anime film maker · , and staples such as chocobos and airships originally derived from them. Furthermore, many have noted similarities between the series and Star Wars, present in references such as Biggs and Wedge and in recurring plot points such as an "Empire". The series contains many darker themes of tragedy and loss, many inspired by the developers' own experiences. While developing Final Fantasy VII, the series creator Sakaguchi's mother died, which caused him to drastically reform the game's story to be about coping with loss.
The series has had multiple directors: Sakaguchi directed the first fivinstalmentts, Yoshinori Kitase and Ito collaboratively directed Final Fantasy VI, and the two went on to direct many later installments on their own. Ito directed Final Fantasy IX and Final Fantasy XII, while Kitase developed Final Fantasy VII, Final Fantasy VIII and Final Fantasy X. After Final Fantasy X Kitase decided to stop directing but remained involved as a producer instead, choosing Motomu Toriyama as the director for Final Fantasy XIII and its sequels. The MMO releases have had multiple directors, though most recently, Naoki Yoshida has directed Final Fantasy XIV. Hajime Tabata started with directing spin-off games for portable gaming systems with Before Crisis -Final Fantasy VII- and Crisis Core -Final Fantasy VII-, but when Final Fantasy Versus XIII became Final Fantasy XV, Tabata took over the role of director.
The majority of the music in the series—including the main recurring themes, and the full official soundtracks for the first ten games in the main series—was composed by Nobuo Uematsu, and has been praised as one of the greatest aspects of the series. The music has had a broad musical palette, taking influences from · symphonic music, · and · - · .
Each game typically features themes for different locations (or types of locations), story events, characters and battle themes (typically a basic battle theme, boss battle theme, and a final boss theme, as a minimum, with some special bosses having their own battle themes). There are many recurring themes, such as the "Chocobo Theme" associated with the series "mascot" creature, main series theme that has often played in the intro or in the ending credits, the "Victory Fanfare" that concludes won battles, "Prelude", also known as the "Crystal Theme" that has become one of the series' most recognizable themes, and "Battle on the Big Bridge", the boss battle theme of the recurring character Gilgamesh. Themes have often been rearranged for their appearances within different games to suit the various settings.
From the beginning Uematsu was given creative freedom, though the series' creator Hironobu Sakaguchi would request specific set-pieces to fit themes, and early on there were specific notes Uematsu was unable to use due to hardware limitations. From Final Fantasy IV onwards, he had more freedom of instrumentation. For "One-Winged Angel", the Final Fantasy VII final boss theme and the series' first vocalized theme, Uematsu combined both rock and orchestral influences having had no prior training in orchestra conduction.
The developers had originally planned to use a famous vocalist in the ending of Final Fantasy VII, but the plan didn't go through due to being too abrupt, and there was no suitable theme in the story for a vocal song to suddenly come up in the ending. This idea was realized in Final Fantasy VIII whose "Eyes On Me" has a meaning in the plot and it relates to the game's main characters. Uematsu went on to compose vocal theme songs for the main series games Final Fantasy IX, Final Fantasy X, Final Fantasy XII and Final Fantasy XIV, even though he didn't otherwise participate with Final Fantasy XII, its soundtrack being composed by Hitoshi Sakimoto.
From Final Fantasy X onward the series has had other composers as Uematsu eventually left Square to go freelance, though he has continued to compose music for the series for as recent as the original Final Fantasy XIV. The soundtrack for Final Fantasy X was a joint effort between Uematsu, Masashi Hamauzu, and Junya Nakano, the music for Final Fantasy XII was mainly composed by Hitoshi Sakimoto, Masashi Hamauzu did the soundtrack for Final Fantasy XIII, and Yoko Shimomura—who had previously composed the music for Square Enix's Kingdom Hearts series series—composed the music for Final Fantasy XV.
The first three titles where developed on the 8bit Nintendo Entertainment System while the next three were developed on the 16bit Super Nintendo Entertainment System. These games were two-dimensional and used sprites to depict characters and enemies on screen. The enemies in battle would have more detailed sprites that more closely resembled their artwork, but far fewer animations. The character sprites had several frames of animations, as well as different sprites based on their various statuses or weapons equipped, but were less detailed. Field sprites were less detailed than battle sprites. Though the SNES allowed games to have greater graphics and use higher-quality music with more instrumentation, the games were mostly the same format and similarly basic.
When transitioning to the 32bit era, Square began to develop games in 3D. A tech demo in 2005 using Final Fantasy VI characters, Final Fantasy VI: The Interactive CG Game, showed the kind of technology they were using. Square opted to develop on the PlayStation, as opposed to the Nintendo 64 as originally intended, due to its use of disc storage instead of the more limited cartridges, and the game still required three discs of storage. Final Fantasy VII was the most expensive game at the time to develop, costing $145 million, though $100 million was spent on marketing. It used pre-rendered backgrounds and character models instead of 2D sprites, in addition to introducing full-motion video sequences . Character models used on the field and those in battle differed, with blocky and less detailed models used on the field. When developing Final Fantasy VIII, Square Enix opted to use a more photo-realistic style, and there was no longer a distinction between field and battle models. The game used more FMVs, and required four discs of storage. Final Fantasy IX was similar, and though its art style was not one of a photorealistic game, it did allow for greater detail than seen previously in the series.
The next three titles would be released on PlayStation 2. Due to the more advanced technology, the games no longer relied on pre-rendered backgrounds, instead using the game engine to render the backgrounds immediately. Final Fantasy X improved the facial expressions displayed by the characters, using skeletal animation technology and motion capture to allow the characters to make more realistic lip movements to match the new voice acting, a first in the series, which was previously restricted to text-based story telling. The following release, Final Fantasy XI, was the first in the series to use online multi-player features, which was another expensive development project for the company. Final Fantasy XII would later use only half as many polygons as Final Fantasy X in exchange for improved lighting and texture rendering.
When transitioning to the next generation of video game consoles, the now-merged Square Enix developed Final Fantasy XIII for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. It was developed using Crystal Tools, a proprietary video game engine built to develop games for those consoles. As the first high definition title in the series, it allowed for a major improvement in graphics with many reviewers citing its visuals as a strong point. The original release of Final Fantasy XIV was also developed using Crystal Tools, although its subsequent re-release, Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, was developed using different technology.
Final Fantasy XV was developed for the generation of consoles following, on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. It uses the new proprietary Luminous Engine, which was showcased during the demo Agni's Philosophy, and the engine early in development allowed the game to produce 5 million polygons per frame, with suggestions that the final game could be even more advanced.
Over time, many of the original titles have been updated and re-released for modern platforms. Final Fantasy and Final Fantasy II were graphically updated for the PlayStation Portable, as well as receiving Android and iOS ports of that release. Final Fantasy III and Final Fantasy IV would get remakes on the Nintendo DS that would also be released later on Steam. Final Fantasy V and Final Fantasy VI would get Android and iOS re-releases (whic would also be released on Steam), although the graphical updates were limited mostly to replacing the sprite-based character and enemy models with more modern equivalents that scaled up better at higher resolutions. Final Fantasy VII, Final Fantasy VIII and Final Fantasy IX would see releases on the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and Steam, as well as Android and iOS ports. Final Fantasy X got a HD remaster along with its sequel Final Fantasy X-2 for PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita, although it would later on be released for Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and Steam. Final Fantasy XII also got a HD remaster, released for PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Steam. Final Fantasy XV would also see a later Steam release. In addition, Final Fantasy VII would also see a remake of the original video game released for the PlayStation 4.
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