When asked to write about my favourite game of all time I probably spent far too long thinking to myself ‘What is my favourite game?’ After much deliberation, I came to the conclusion that I don’t have one. Over the years I have played many games, from many different genres, each of which having their own impact on my gaming life. After realising I don’t have a favourite game, it hit me like a brick to the face that I do however have a very clear winner when it comes to my favourite gaming series, and that series is Final Fantasy.
Upon writing that I can already hear a collective groan from people that will be reading this and thinking to themselves ‘what an obvious choice’ well for me Final Fantasy wasn’t just a game, it was a release from my world.
Secondary school for me was a pretty crappy time. I wasn’t the most popular of kids (shock horror) and was bullied for the majority of my 5 years, so for me getting home a turning on my PlayStation and booting up Final Fantasy was a release from all the crap. Whether it was Cloud, Squall, Zidane, Tidus or Vaan, each of them provided me with an escape into their world, and allowed me to just drift away and forget everything.
Setting that aside, Final Fantasy for me has been a series that is always pushing itself to the limits, and isn’t afraid to change things up- even if it doesn’t work out (I’m looking at you X-2). With every new instalment there is something new to set it apart from the previous one. Even in Final Fantasy 7-9 there was always some subtle change that made it different even though they played the same. For example, in Final Fantasy 8 you were able to equip a summon to a player in order to give them extra attack options, while in Final Fantasy 9 they resorted to assigning characters to a specific role in combat e.g. Vivi was the only character that could use black magic. The also introduced weapons with added skills attached to them that could be learnt permanently once enough experience with that weapon had been gained.
Then came the move to the PlayStation 2 and with it the next instalment in the series, Final Fantasy X. This for me was a huge jump, not only did it change the way Final Fantasy played, but it also forced you to think about how you wanted you character to level up with the introduction of the Sphere grid. The Sphere grid for me was a stroke of genius, putting you in full control of how you wanted your players to level- providing of course you had the right types of spheres. There was even the option when you started the game to choose an expert grid for the more experienced RPG player.
There are, however, a couple of Final Fantasy’s that I haven’t played; the MMO entries of FF XI and FF XIV. The reason I haven’t jumped head first into these titles is because I am not and never will be a PC gamer. Now I know these titles have been made available for console, but again I haven’t jumped at the chance because I can’t see myself looking at them in the same way that I do the rest. To me Final Fantasy is a single player experience and should remain that way. I don’t want it ruined by some horrid little twerp who thinks it’s ok to run about killing you at every chance and ultimately ruining your gaming experience, which for me is one of the best things about Final Fantasy.
Now you’re probably sitting there reading this and asking yourself ‘ surely you must have a favourite in the series?’ and in response a rousing chorus of people shouting 7……7……7……7! But the answer would be no, I do not have a favourite in the series for the exact same reason that I don’t have a favourite game. With each new instalment in the Final Fantasy series comes a brand new story, a brand new idea and a brand new challenge. That is what keeps me going back for more. It’s the thought of booting up a new adventure and meeting the new characters. It’s getting to know their back story or learning their skills and working out which team of people work best. It’s looking up the new (and returning) monsters that I will be able to battle. It’s all of these things that have me pre-ordering the next game months before its release.
Final Fantasy will forever hold a place in my gaming history and hopefully it will hold a place in my gaming future for many years to com. I look forward to what the next generation of Final Fantasy holds and can only imagine the kinds of worlds I will be transported to, and the many weird and wonderful characters I will get to meet and control. What I can’t imagine is being disappointed.