Final Fantasy is easily one of the most successful franchises in video game history. The true measure of any real geek is how extensive their knowledge of these games is. But for those who have never played the series, the whole thing can be really intimidating. What's it all about and where does one start? Well here are some answers and knowledge to wrap your happy gaming brain around.
Each game in the series is its own stand alone story. No one game in the major line is a continuation of another installment. This means you can jump in anywhere and play the games totally out of order without missing a beat. That being said, there are definitely a lot of similarities to be expected from each game. Almost every game will have a group of characters with one or two leads. This group will fight a universe altering evil. And many times, this evil is not always what it seems. The story lines usually involve at least one romance, but there have been a couple games that lacked this aspect. Many of them also contain a country or people ruled by a monarch or government that they are rebelling against. Sometimes, even the likenesses and the names of characters and weapons carry over from game to game.
There is always going to be a constant debate over which Final Fantasy is the best. It is usually linked to which game first got the individual player hooked on the series. My personal favorite is Final Fantasy X. I loved the story, the graphics, and the fighting system. Now many people will say that Final Fantasy VII is the best. It has by far one of the best stories ever told in a video game. Now there are obviously stragglers that chose FF VIII or III or even XII. But really they are all great. Well, not all of them. I think everyone will agree that FF X-2 was crap to the highest degree. I don't mean to offend anyone or knock on your personal preferences, but X-2 was definitely the blemish on a nearly perfect record. And when considering games, I looked at the ones that are traditionally considered part of the series (ones ending in Roman Numerals). There are lots of expansions like Crystals and Dirge of Cerberus. These don't really count in this situation.
There are definitely some tips for anyone fresh to the Final Fantasy series. First and most importantly is Be Patient. These are extremely long games. Most of them average somewhere around 100 hours of game play to complete comfortably. Much longer if you do all the side quests and missions. Next tip is to take your time to level up. If you don't take the time to do those side quests I just mentioned, you won't level up sufficiently. This is important because there will come a point in the game where the enemies get harder whether you are ready or not. They will literally become unbeatable if your characters aren't prepared. I had to learn that one the hard way the first time I played, as did my mom when she first started. Take the time to know your menus. These games are crazy intricate. You can customize weapons, learn new skills, improve your character's attributes, and so much more. The more you use these, the better you are going to do and the more fun you will have. And of course, if you are having problems, go check out the internet. This game is no joke, they are not designed for the casual, once a month gamer. There are dozens of sites with tips and videos made just to help you out. And if you are new to RPGs and Final Fantasy, you will need the help. Lastly, save as often as possible and make a new file, don't overwrite. There is a good chance you will need to go back and reload at some point.
So my final recommendation for the first-timer is Final Fantasy X. Yes, I said X. Let the hate mail roll in. But there are a couple really good reasons why I think this one is good to start with. It has a solid, easy to understand turn-based fighting system. You can take as much time in each fight as you want as well as being able to see the order of turns for the fight. The story is also really good. There's a budding romance, revenge, a deceitful government, and some epic father-son friction. Now this is true for Final Fantasy VII, but the one huge advantage with X is that its modern. The graphics are pretty good and will keep you entertained. Plus, since it is so new, there are tons of websites with tips and videos to show the rookie mage exactly what to do when they get caught up for the first time.
In the end, it really is a great RPG series. The stories are memorable as is the music. The fights are great and the characters are usually pretty sexy. And I can't think of a developer that makes a better looking, graphic packed game as well as Square Enix can. They truly are amazing to sit back and watch. Completing a Final Fantasy game comes with built in bragging rights and the ability to truly call yourself a gamer.