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Final Fantasy (Japanese: ファイナルファンタジー Fainaru Fantajii) is a popular series of role playing games produced by Square Enix (originally Square Co., Ltd.). It may be the most widely distributed game series of all time, including both standard console games and portable games, a massively multiplayer online role-playing game, games for mobile phones, three anime series, and two full length CGI films. more...
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The first installment of the series premiered in Japan in 1987, and Final Fantasy games have subsequently been localized for markets in North America, Europe and Australia, on several modern video game consoles, including the Nintendo Entertainment System, the MSX 2, the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, the PlayStation, the WonderSwan Color, the PlayStation 2, IBM PC compatible, Game Boy Advance, Nintendo GameCube, and several different models of mobile phones. Future installments have been announced to appear on the Nintendo DS, Nintendo Revolution, PlayStation Portable, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 game systems. It is Square Enix's most successful franchise, having sold over 60 million units worldwide to date.
As of late 2005, eleven games have been released as part of the main (numbered) series, as well as many other spinoffs and related titles.
Square Co., Ltd. first entered the Japanese video game industry in the mid 1980s, developing a variety of simple RPGs for Nintendo's Famicom Disk System (FDS), a disk-based peripheral for the Family Computer (also known as the "Famicom," and known internationally as the Nintendo Entertainment System). By 1987, declining interest in the FDS had placed Square on the verge of bankruptcy. At approximately the same time, Square designer Hironobu Sakaguchi began work on an ambitious new fantasy role playing game for the cartridge-based Famicom, inspired in part by Enix's popular Dragon Quest (known in the United States as Dragon Warrior). Sakaguchi had plans to retire after the completion of the project so he named it Final Fantasy because it was his final game, although it was also going to be Square's final game. In fact, it's commonly believed that the game was named Final Fantasy because of Square and not Sakaguchi, although Sakaguchi himself has confirmed it was named because of his plans for retirement. Either way, Final Fantasy turned out to be far from being Square's or Sakaguchi's last game. Final Fantasy reversed Square's lagging fortunes, and became their flagship franchise.
Following the success of the first game, Square quickly began work on a sequel. Unlike a typical sequel, Final Fantasy II featured entirely different characters, with a setting and story bearing only thematic similarities to its predecessor. This unusual approach to sequels has continued throughout the series, with each major Final Fantasy game introducing a new world, and a new system of gameplay. Many elements and themes would recur throughout the series, but there would be no direct sequels until the release of Final Fantasy X-2, in 2003 (after the merger with Enix however, real game sequels have become increasingly prevalent). In a way, the Final Fantasy series has been a creative showcase for Square's developers, and many elements originally introduced in the series have made their way into Square's other titles, most notably two of its other major franchises, SaGa and Seiken Densetsu.
Though each Final Fantasy story is independent, many themes and elements of gameplay recur throughout the series. From the strong influence of history, literature, religion and mythology on the story to the frequent reappearance of certain monsters and items, these shared elements provide a unifying framework to the series. Some key objects and concepts that have appeared in more than one Final Fantasy game include:
- Airships — Powerful airborne vessels which usually serve as a primary mode of transportation for the player, enabling fast movement nearly anywhere in the overworld without the risk of random encounters. In many games, most notably Final Fantasy IV and Final Fantasy IX, the presence of airships is a key component to the story itself. In most of the titles, airships generally had the appearance of flying sailing ships with a series of propellors instead of sails. However, in some of the later games they look more technological, appearing to be zeppelins or even ornate space ships.
- Character classes and the Job system — Playable character classes have included the Fighter; White, Black, Red, and Blue Mages; Monk; and Thief. Even in games where the player is not given the choice of choosing class alignment, these classes often play an important background role in the story. Additionally, several installments in the series (Final Fantasy III, Final Fantasy V, Final Fantasy XI and Final Fantasy Tactics) have utilized a "Job" system wherein the player is able to switch character classes in between battles. In Final Fantasy X-2, the "Dressphere" system actually allowed a player to switch a character's job during the middle of a fight. In addition to this, certain recurring "Legendary Weapons" may be granted to certain classes, such as the sword Masamune for the Ninja, or the Black Mage's Ultima spell.
- Magical styles (see also Final Fantasy magic) — Magic in the Final Fantasy series is generally divided into different schools, which are usually named after a specific color. White magic and Black magic represent healing/support and attack magic, respectively, while Red magic incorporates elements of both healing and attack magic, at reduced effectiveness. Later additions have included Blue magic (sometimes referred to as Lore or Enemy skill), which incorporates specific special attacks learned from monsters, and Time/Space magic, which includes status affecting spells such as Haste and gravity spells such as Demi. The most recent magic set is called Green Magic, first appearing as Songs in Final Fantasy X-2, then as a fully separate magic type in demos of Final Fantasy XII. Green Magic introduces skills which were previously classified as Black or White magic, such as Darkness and Petrification.
- Status ailments and cures: Characters in Final Fantasy games are usually subject to a number of standard "status ailments" which cause deleterious effects, including silence, poison, petrification and confusion. While these are present in many console RPGs, Final Fantasy also has a standard list of items which may be used to cure specific ailments (for example, the "Echo Screen" cures silence, and "Soft" cures petrification), as well as magical spells, such as Esuna or Panacea.
- Creatures/monsters — Fictional creatures such as Chocobos and Moogles have appeared in most games in the series. Certain monsters also reappear frequently, including Goblins, Tonberrys and Cactuars. Lastly, summoned monsters (also known as Espers, Guardian Forces, Eidolons, or Aeons) such as Bahamut, Shiva, Ifrit, Leviathan and Ramuh have appeared in almost every title in the series.
- Character names — A character named "Cid" has been present in every Final Fantasy game since Final Fantasy II (with a simple mention in Final Fantasy Origins and Final Fantasy I & II: Dawn of Souls). Although he is never the same individual, he is usually presented as an owner, creator, and/or pilot of airships. The motion picture Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within also featured a character named "Sid," presumably an alternate spelling of the more traditional "Cid." In a similar vein, characters named Biggs and Wedge (homages to the Star Wars characters Biggs Darklighter and Wedge Antilles) have appeared in Final Fantasy VI to Final Fantasy X-2. Other repeated names include Gogo (Final Fantasy V and Final Fantasy VI), Gilgamesh (Final Fantasy V, Final Fantasy VIII, Final Fantasy IX, and Final Fantasy XI), Lonewolf the Pickpocket (Final Fantasy V and Final Fantasy VI), and Sara (Final Fantasy, Final Fantasy III, and Final Fantasy IX). The surname Highwind has also been used by several characters in the series: Ricard Highwind (Final Fantasy II), Kain Highwind (Final Fantasy IV), King Alexander Highwind Tycoon (Final Fantasy V), and Cid Highwind (Final Fantasy VII).
- Plot elements — Many entries in the Final Fantasy series involve broadly similar plot points, such as rebellion against a major economic, political, or religious power, a struggle against an evil which threatens to overtake or destroy the world, or nature versus technology. One of the most famous of such recurring themes involves elemental crystals, which have appeared in over half of the titles of the series (Final Fantasy, Final Fantasy III, Final Fantasy IV, Final Fantasy V, Final Fantasy IX, and Final Fantasy XI), as well as in several spin-off titles (Final Fantasy Mystic Quest and Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles).
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