When you think about JRPG games there is one series that should immediately leap to mind: Final Fantasy. Few games have redefined gaming as often as Final Fantasy, with several entries redefining not only the RPG genre, but gaming as a whole. With over 30 years of history and almost 100 titles including spin-offs, re-releases, movies and more, Square Enix has built an empire around a franchise that has secured itself a spot among the greatest gaming franchises ever. But with all that history, some of the facts get lost or misconstrued. The following is a list of five such facts.
1. Square Enix’s farewell to gaming? Not exactly…
Many people believe that the title 'Final Fantasy' stems from the idea that it was supposed to be the last game Square Enix ever made. That’s only partially true; it was originally meant as a legacy project for series creator Hironobu Sakaguchi, who had grown disheartened from his lack of success. The title was more of a stylistic choice than an intentional goodbye. In fact, the word 'Final' was only included because they wanted the abbreviation 'FF', and would have been named Fighting Fantasy if a tabletop game by the same name hadn’t already existed. So it didn’t save Square Enix from failing, just stopped Sakaguchi from leaving the company until 2003.
2. The iconic battle system has an unusual set of inspirations
Final Fantasy is by no means the first series to use turn-based combat, but it is widely considered to be the series that perfected it. What people don’t usually know is that the original Final Fantasy’s combat system was modeled off of two incredibly different sources. The first was Dungeons & Dragons, taking the concepts, and even some monsters, and incorporating them into the combat. The second, however, is far more unusual: American Football. The concept of having two opposing sides lined up from top to bottom as they face off was born from examining Football teams on the scrimmage line. And who says sports and fantasy can’t mix?
3. The number system for early entries are completely different between Japan and Western localizations
When you think of Final Fantasy your first thoughts are typically of the main series. Ask anyone which Final Fantasy is best and you don’t get some fancy title, but rather a number between one and (as of the writing of this article) fifteen. However, if you were to go to Japan and ask that question, you may get an answer that doesn’t line up as well with the titles you know. Thanks to late localization, many of the numbers on early Final Fantasy titles are actually switched around. For instance, Final Fantasy VI is known to English audiences as Final Fantasy III, thanks to late localization.
4. Different worlds mean different characters, except for one.
One of the set pieces of the franchise is how every title in the main series is its own separate world. Separate characters, separate storylines, even separate monsters and summons in many cases. The list of things that carry from one game to another is incredibly small and mostly limited to obscure references that only dedicated fans would recognize, many of whom have built entire theories that try to connect each game to the other, but with minimal success. One character, however, breaks that mold. Gilgamesh is a character introduced in Final Fantasy V as a minor antagonist. He has since found himself playing a small part in many other titles in a variety of roles but always knowing where he came from and even referencing his home game during encounters. No explanation is ever given for his appearance, but he is always a wanderer in search of the fabled sword Excalibur, instead always finding the cheap knockoff Excalipoor. Hopefully one day he’ll succeed and they’ll let him return home.
5. Of the entire franchise, only about a fifth are considered main entries to the series.
You’ll remember from the beginning of the article where I mentioned that Final Fantasy has almost 100 titles making up the franchise. What you may not know, however, is that only 22 of those titles are considered part of the main series (not including re-releases). 15 numbered titles and 6 direct sequels, as well as Final Fantasy Type-0, as it is technically among the number, and that’s the entire main series. Every other title is either a re-release, spin-off, or movie. That’s an incredibly small amount considering the entire history of the franchise.
And there you have it. Five little known facts about one of gaming’s biggest franchises. The fun thing about Final Fantasy is that it never really is the final one, and I have to say I am personally looking forward to many more years of crystals, chocobos, and grumpy old men with a knack for engineering. Thank you, Square Enix, for crafting such a unique and impressive series that has made an indelible mark on the video game industry.