I would like to begin by referring you elsewhere, for clarification of several points. There are more Final Fantasy games than you'd think, but this writeup is going to be an overview of the series as a whole. If you feel that this writeup is incomplete, or lacks some pertinent information, please feel free to /msg Devon_Hart with any questions, comments or suggestions you might have. Final Fantasy is an ambitious and huge title, and the corresponding node is no less frightening. Further, as more information becomes available pertinent to the series as a whole, this writeup will be updated.

A long time ago, in Japan, there was a company called Square Co. LTD., but they weren't a very happy company. They were facing some amount of financial woes; they were making games for the Famicom Disk System, but they were modest hits at best. They needed a major hit, to boost profits and sales. Hironobu Sakaguchi thought that a game like Enix's Dragon Quest, or Dragon Warrior, would be a great way to do that. So, Square Co. LTD. put all their somewhat meagre resoures into a game tentatively titled "Final Fantasy".

That first game, released for the Nintendo Entertainment System on December 18, 1987 in Japan, and July of 1990 here in North America, was a gigantic success. The game wasn't your basic, run-of-the-mill get-the-princess and save the day tale: it had a complex, involved plot, when laid against that of Dragon Quest or Dragon Warrior. This idea - that story is as important to the gameplay as cool spells and graphics - is what's kept millions of players playing. There aren't too many companies that can boast such high sales, like Final Fantasy VII selling six million copies, and Final Fantasy VIII selling just under that. Even though in the United States, Final Fantasy 2 and Final Fantasy 3 were not released, that didn't stop anyone from buying Final Fantasy IV when it was released as Final Fantasy 2 on the 16-bit Super Nintendo Entertainment System. After that, the rest is history: we would anticipate, and lose sleep over not only the playing of the games, but the wait for the big release of the now-matured Squaresoft's latest releases on Sony Playstation. The very first game for the 8-bit NES set the precedent for follow-up console roleplaying games (RPG), and it is the standard by which all console RPGs to date are measured. Further, there are perhaps no other roleplaying franchises that have been so lucrative: there is a set of CDs containing Final Fantasy music, and even a big budget movie, Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within.

After the 1990 release of Final Fantasy, the U.S. and Canada did not have to wait long for its "sequel". In November of 1991, Final Fantasy II was released. (It was Final Fantasy IV in Japan. For further information, see The Final Fantasy Numbering System.)

This game contains some of the most memorable moments in all gaming history, with the "You spoony bard!" reference (and others I'm sure are even more brilliant) and some of the best characters Square has ever imagined. That traitorous Kain, noble Cecil, and heroic martyrs Palom and Porom are only a small portion of the people encountered in this game. All the characters in this game are memorable, even some of the villains, like Golbez in all his Darth Vaderish glory, and Rubicant, the fiend of Fire, who is honorable enough to heal your team to full health before he tries to kill them all. And, of course, Zeromus, evil incarnate, who you manage to unleash on yourself and have to fight at the end of the game.

There were two major changes in gameplay from the three FF games preceding it: Active Battle and unique character abilities. Active Battle meant that the game was no longer truly turnbased, in that characters and enemies attacked at the same time, although this usually meant that your Healer (typically Rosa, a White Wizard) with 25 HP left would die while you tried to get her a potion. Each character was given a unique ability as well. For instance, Cecil could defend weak players with his own body, Rydia could Summon monsters, and Kain could jump, an attack that would skip a turn, but he couldn't be attacked while in the air, and his attack was super-strong. One other detail differed from the first game, too: your team was constantly revolving, new characters joining and leaving (and dying) as the story progressed.

With the release of Final Fantasy III in the U.S., Squaresoft had created a monster of a game. With as many secrets as you could want - two secret characters and many secret espers and weapons - this game still provides many hours of gameplay, and has an unthinkable amount of replay value. Until the release of their non-series game Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy III had little competition. Everyone had a copy of FFIII.

Surprisingly, Squaresoft had succeeded on many different levels with this installment to the series: even more diverse character abilities, a more complex and, at moments, powerful storyline, and even more beautiful music. The amazing Nobuo Uematsu had created a masterpiece score, which paved his way to fame with the scores for Final Fantasy VII and VIII. The monsters were a little weak, however: characters like "Repo Man", who threw wrenches, or its more powerful counterpart, Gabbledegak, who threw Goldwrenches. Or even a bear who would steal money from you.

As Squaresoft found its way to the Playstation console, they recognized the opportunity for great things, at least for the Final Fantasy series. Final Fantasy VII (released September 1997) and VIII (released September 1999) had amazing sales, and the games were huge in scope: where Nintendo and Super Nintendo releases were one cartridge, the Playstation releases were three and four CDs, respectively.

There are substantial writeups on these games already, so please see Final Fantasy VII, Final Fantasy VIII, and Final Fantasy IX. One important note to make on the Playstation releases is that Final Fantasy IX marked the return of classes and magic, rather than the pseudo-science fiction angle prevalent in VII and VIII, and also the movie, Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within.

No video game franchise has had as much of a following as Final Fantasy, and as widespread success. When contrasted against Nintendo's Mario franchise, it's fairly clear to see: no one bought Mario-related orchestral music, or knew the names of perhaps a dozen villains (Seifer, Sephiroth, Golbez), minor recurring characters (Cid, Biggs, Wedge), and places (Corneria, Lunatic Pandora, Baron). The next two Final Fantasy installments are in the works: ten and eleven in the series. Fans will expect nothing less than the best, and they will receive it. Final Fantasy X is to be released on Playstation 2, just one more system that Squaresoft has ported to. The Final Fantasy franchise will undoubtedly port to more consoles, and experience more success. It never fails.