To celebrate the upcoming release of Final Fantasy XV, we take a look back over a few highs and lows of the most inaccurately titled game series in history.
In the first part of our two-part retrospective, we take a look at three of the best highlights from the popular video game series.
Jenova-LIFE – Final Fantasy VII
Easily the best boss fight in the series, but that has nothing to do with the villain herself - it's all to do with the storytelling. Now the obvious choice in any ‘best moments’ list would be the infamous event right before this fight, the death of Aerith, but what’s more interesting is how writer Kazushige Nojima decides to follow it up.
Boss fights in the Final Fantasy series tend to involve repeatedly hitting huge, elaborate creatures to a score of fast-paced, dramatic music. On the surface, it seems like an odd choice to follow one of the story’s most heart-wrenching moments with something so different in tone, but in the context of what you’ve just seen, this fight takes on a whole new meaning.
It has none of the excitement or momentum of the other boss fights in the game. It’s the last thing you’re in the mood for having just lost a character you’ve come to know across hours of story.
Plus, instead of the usual boss battle theme, ‘Fight On!’, we’re treated to a continuation of the soft, slow ‘Aerith’s Theme’ from the previous depressing scene. What we end up with is a fight in which victory really doesn’t look much more appealing than defeat. We’ve already lost. But still we’re forced to wail on Jenova-LIFE till she drops.
Also, there’s no victory pose, deliberately removing the normal sense of achievement you get from defeating an enemy.
It’s a masterclass in evoking grief and frustration without a single word.
Biggs and Wedge – Final Fantasy IV onwards
A joke that’s been running for over 25 years. Someone at Square Enix is clearly a big fan of Star Wars, because since its fourth instalment (bar IX and XI), Biggs and Wedge, named after Luke Skywalker’s fellow pilots in A New Hope, have cropped up in one form or another.
They’re possibly the least incidental, incidental characters ever. They are never particularly important to the story, but are still always guaranteed to be there, no matter what universe we’re in, bumbling but strangely omnipresent.
From Red Wings soldiers, to AVALANCHE terrorists, to stadium guards, every game they’re up to something different. So which version of the duo is best? Well, even the most die-hard Final Fantasy fan will concede that the series’ quality tends to vary between instalments, but in those less successful games the appearance of Biggs and Wedge is always a reminder of how good the series can be.
For that reason, their FFXIV appearance comes out on top. In a game that’s rather far from perfect, it’s great to see some familiar names, and with Biggs as a chatty giant and Wedge as his tiny, shy companion, this is one of their more developed iterations.
Blank gets petrified – Final Fantasy IX
Seen as a bit of a breath of fresh air after its dystopian, angsty predecessors, Final Fantasy IX is still not without its dark, emotional moments. One of the most memorable comes during your escape from The Evil Forest: the tragic fate of Blank. Having crashed there after an attack by the terrifying-looking Queen Brahne, Blank helps the survivors, rescues a captured Princess Garnet and, as everyone rushes to escape as the forest turns to stone, saves you too. Sadly, doing so gets him caught by a giant spider, unable to escape the petrifying forest.
Final Fantasy IX was the last instalment in the series before the introduction of voice actors, and this scene makes you pine for those days. It relies entirely on the visuals, the music, and the unending screeching of the spiders to build tension, and all three work together perfectly, building to a surprisingly poignant moment given the lighter tone of the game.
The worst part is, after Blank is caught, we stay with the still-running protagonist. Blank’s fate is hidden from us until a final shot at the end of the scene shows him encased in stone as the music fades out.
He is ‘cured’ later, but that does nothing to diminish the moment.
Join us for part two in the coming days, where we’ll move on from the best parts of Final Fantasy to the worst - with a look at some of the series’ lowest points.
UPDATE: This product is no longer available to purchase from Zatu Games. All information above including prices were correct at the time of publishing but may not be accurate in present day.