Some people wonder about the numbers attached to the different games in the Final Fantasy series. To people who don't know much about the Japanese gaming market it looks as though the series jumped from III to VII. Here's why it looks that way:

Hopefully this will clear up any confusion.

Final Fantasy games for GameBoy:

Final Fantasy Adventure (Seiken Densetsu)
A Zelda-like Adventure Game that spawned the Secret of Mana (Seiken Densetsu) series. It introduced the Mana Tree, Jema Knights, and Moogles.
Final Fantasy Legend (Makai Toushi SaGa)
A Dragon Warrior-style RPG that spawned the SaGa/Romancing SaGa/SaGa Frontier series. It features exploration of many worlds on different floors of a central tower, in an ultimate quest to find Paradise on the top floor and be granted a wish by Creator. The character classes are Humans, specializing in weapon and armor use, Mutants, specializing in magic use, and Beasts, who can eat monster meat to gain abilities.
Final Fantasy Legend II
An unrelated game that also features exploration of many different worlds connected by a tower. This time the tower connects all the individual worlds to a single cosmic plane. Also, the player is on a quest to find his father. Character classes are Humans, Mutants, Beasts, and Robots.
Final Fantasy Legend III
In the rich tradition of Final Fantasy games, this one is set in a different universe from the ones before it, but has a vaguely similar storyline. The player travels through different time periods and dimensions to fight evil. Again, the player is on a quest to find his father. Characters can eat meat to transform into a Beast, and more meat to transform into a Monster, or they can install parts to turn into a Cyborg, and more parts to turn into a Robot.
(Deep Breath)

I intend to clear this 'problem' up once and for all, and will do so in the form of a FAQ.

Q. I want to write up a Final Fantasy game. What numbering system shall I use?

Use Roman Numerals. Next question.

Q. Why shouldn't I use Arabic Numerals?

Because that's not what the fucking games are called. There are a few instances where Arabic numerals are used by convention (even the developers use these names) for games that are officially titled with Roman numerals (such as Street Fighter 2 and Quake 2). However Final Fantasy is not such an exception. (The same goes for Ultima, Zork, Phantasy Star, Might and Magic and Wizardry.)

Q. So you're saying we should always use Roman numerals for any game?

No, I'm saying always use what the developers use. Otherwise we get confusion, duplication, and... it looks bad.

Q. But some FF games have different titles in their Japanese and Western incarnations! What should I do?

Write up the game under whichever name you are most comfortable with, providing you use roman numerals. If, for example, you are writing up Final Fantasy VI (Japan) / III (US), you can put it under Final Fantasy III providing that you mention that you are talking about the game on the SNES that is the sixth game in the series. Alternatively, you can write it up under Final Fantasy VI, but mention that you are basing your writeup on the English language version (if indeed you are), which was released as Final Fantasy III.

Q. I have special powers, regarding E2. What can I do to help?

Transfer any offending writeups from mis-numeralled nodes to the correct locations, add see also links to the correct names, as well as to the alternate names (see above lists, but substitute in Roman Numerals) where applicable.

Q. I don't see why this is such a big deal.

Well, you wouldn't write up Casablanca under "Casserblanker the Film". So why writeup games under the wrong names out of a) laziness, or b) to appease some highly inscrutable rationale (see some_guy's writeup, no offence meant)? Plenty of other games have different titles (and shock! different difficulty levels!) and all manner of alterations made for their international release, and yet we manage to get the names right. FF shouldn't need to be an exception.
Setting aside the above writeups, in which we learn that the numbers attached to the Final Fantasy games indicate the order in which they were created, there's actually something more abstract encoded in the numbers - the level of control the player is given over the characters which represent him in the game. Let's look at some brief and focused summaries of the series:

  • Final Fantasy I's party was composed of four characters undistinguished in background, personality, name, or story, who would remain with the player through the course of the game. Setting aside one "class change" in which each character would simply become a more powerful, "mature" version of their previous selves, each character retained a constant classification and set of skills, capabilities, and usable equipment, but it was possible to select the class of each character (from a list of six possibilities) at the beginning of the game.
  • Final Fantasy II, in contrast, featured a party of 4 characters, 3 of whom remained constant through the course of the game, and one "slot" being filled in succession by a series of personages. While characters were renamable, they came with "default" names, in addition to differentiable sprites, portraits, personalities, backgrounds, and capabilities in combat.
  • Final Fantasy III saw the return of the generic party in the form of the Onion Kids. These tabulae rasae come with no name or sense of identity, but with the "job system", first introduced in this installment, battle experience will allow each one to take on any class or role, though pragmatics dictate some degree of (player-directed) specialization.
  • Final Fantasy IV saw a 5-person party, once again composed of fleshed-out members of clearly delineated "classes", once again rotating outside of the player's control. As with Final Fantasy II and all entries in the series to follow, a significant amount of the plot revolves around the individual characters' histories, affiliations, and interparty dynamics.
  • Final Fantasy V abandoned its birthright of an anonymous party in favor of another four-character band, but with the return of "jobs", each member was again able to follow their own path and theoretically cultivate every ability and trait in the game, though not all could be applied at once.
  • Final Fantasy VI introduced the most expansive playable character list to date, composing twelve "central" and two "optional" characters. (Of course, one "central" character really straddled the line between both categories, and this is ignoring one-time only characters General Leo, Banon, "Vicks", Wedge, and the moogles and ghosts.) While each of these characters could learn any spell or cast "summons" of a sort through the system of espers, otherwise they each had individual equipment restrictions, general statistical tendencies, and one kind of special ability which would suit them to a particular role in battle. While some portions of the game would impose partially or wholly set parties, in most part the player was free to compose a party from any four of those who would logically be available at the time. Despite the high number of main characters, good writing with character-specific dialogue plus individually focused sub-, and side-quests gave each one a solid personality and background. (cf. Chrono Cross)
  • Final Fantasy VII put the player in the role of 7 central and 2 optional characters. Again, though circumstances may dictate otherwise, often these can be freely arranged into a (three-member) party of the player's choice. Characters aren't as well-developed as in VI, though the difference certainly is not one of orders of magnitude and characterization remains an important plot element, and the optional characters do have interesting backgrounds and personalities, in contrast to that earlier game's ciphers. Characters do have particular "Limit Breaks" and equipment is strictly segregated by character, but the materia system means any character can learn any skill, spell, or ability (and then transfer it to any other).
  • Final Fantasy VIII employed six characters, again groupable into three-person parties, although frequent departures were made to the prior lives of another group. Weak dialogue, a reliance on cliche and telegraphed plot twists (including the most ridiculous RPG flashback scene, ever), and generally poor writing left this with the weakest characterization of a Final Fantasy game with pretense to same, but it was there if only as a plot device. Limit Breaks and (almost nonexistent) equipment were the only thing distinguishing individuals from a gameplay perspective, as reassignable "Guardian Forces" and statistics linked ("junctioned") to spells in a fairly baroque system left characters nearly indistinguishable in battle.
  • Final Fantasy IX was purposely designed as an homage of and return to the series' early "roots", and the eight characters (found in "traditional" 4-member parties) clearly represent identifiable classes (with some overlap between Summoner and White Mage). The characters, while coming off somewhere between stereotypes and archetypes, do retain individual personalities, however, manifested in text and visually, making the most of the aging, CD-media (leaving voice-acting for so much dialogue infeasible) Playstation's capacities. Equipment expanded to reinclude the categories of helmets, gloves, and accessories, and most equipment could be used by multiple characters, though the majority of weapons remained exclusive. Equipment also formed the basis of the system of special abilities and traits, with each character gaining from equipment capacities appropriate to his "class".
  • Final Fantasy X included 7 characters, fighting in teams of three the composition of which could be changed mid-battle. From a story perspective, these characters were arguably the most set of any, as the inclusion of voice acting precluded the possibility of player-selected names. The voices, not perfect but commendable in video game terms, combined with decent writing and plotting and impressive visual detail to give a good sense of the mindset and situation of each, with the exception of the mostly silent token nonhuman. From a standpoint of mechanics, this was a bit of a happy medium. Equipment returned to the simple character-specific armor/weapon paradigm, and while the "sphere system" theoretically allowed each character to develop any technique or ability save summoning and once again Limit Breaks, here as "Overdrive", for most of the game concrete barriers or simple pragmatics guided each one along a fairly set path mirroring, to some extent, traditional classes such as White Mage, Black Mage, Thief, and Fighter (this with the exception of the aforementioned, mostly underdeveloped "wild card" character, who could in theory take after any other party member).
Now, for those of you who have developed basic pattern recognition skills, this leaves us with the following guideline:
Odd-numbered games offer player control over characters, while the even entries offer a set, constrained party...

...except after VII, where the pattern reverses.

How do we account for this discrepancy? Simple. Final Fantasy Tactics was released between VII and VIII, and throws off the numbering scheme. FFT should have taken VIII's number, pushing everything up one and throwing off the system. Tactics, which should have been an even game, featured an army of interchangeable, forgettable warriors and another iteration of the job system, allowing for complete character... specialization... um. Yes, did I mention the odd naming? This is... kharmic blowback. Yeah, that's the ticket. In any case, that brings us to the modern day, where it is not clear how the MMORPG Final Fantasy XI, or the similarly unorthodox Final Fantasy Tactics Advance and Final Fantasy X-2 can be squared with the previous system.

Q. Why shouldn't I use Arabic Numerals? (cont.)

The numerals in the main Final Fantasy series were meant to distinguish between different videogames but, unlike other works with a single name and sequential numbering, did not indicate a sequel.

This could be seen as a quirk of the developers, a gimmick to distinguish their games from other sequential videogames (which is more or less a valid argument, as both systems are used to count)

However since March 2003, more than a year after fondue wrote his FAQ, this is no longer the case. Arabic Numerals now indicate true sequels in the Final Fantasy multiverse. So far there are only two sequels: Final Fantasy X-2 and Final Fantasy XIII-2.

So now the roman numerals are used to name different stories in the multiverse and arabic numerals are used to indicate sequels within a single Final Fantasy universe.

The question of whether all FF games are set in a single more or less consistent universe is still up.

BQ14: 192 words

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