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by Timothy Georgi

The year was 1987. A time when video gaming was beginning its rise into the lives of the general populace of the world. Just a few years earlier, two plumbers, a princess and some mighty strange co-stars had introduced the world to the first promising new gaming console in years, the Famicom cartridge system by Nintendo Co. Ltd. of Japan. A small gaming company that had been developing some fairly respectable titles for the Nintendo Famicom disk based system decided that it needed to make a change in order to evolve in the emerging video gaming market. Unfamiliar to most of the gaming world at the time, that company was Square.

Executives at Square had seen the Famicom's growth. With sales of their current disk-based titles doing okay, they wanted more of a piece of the video game pie as the higher capacity cartridge was becoming the popular delivery device for games. They had their eye on a game by one of their competitors, Enix, a little game called Dragon Quest (Dragon Warrior to all us U.S. fans). It had taken gamers into the world of the RPG game and Square had decided that they could take the Dragon Quest concept and improve upon it. It was an all-or-nothing move that, if it payed off, Square would launch themselves into the big time. If it failed, Square was fated to be no more. All the development, money and resources at Square had gone into the bet for their future.

Finally, in December 1987, Square released their most ambitious project to date. It was a one-megabit monster of an RPG-based game called... Final Fantasy. All they could do was wait and see if the world would accept or deny what could be their last game ever.

We could just leave it there. The usual "and the rest is history" could be applied and we could move on. But, the world had been blessed with a true classic in 1987, one that would create the most innovative and outstanding series of video games in the history of the gaming world. Final Fantasy went on to become the king of the RPG hill and Square hasn't stopped to look back since.

This month in @anime! we're serving you up Part One of our look at Final Fantasy. First, we'll take a trip down memory lane and look at Final Fantasy thorugh the ages with a Chronology of what could be called the most influiential Action RPG series of all time. We're also going to take a look at last December's big hit, the highly anticipated sequel, Final Fantasy X-2. Finally, we take a trip into the anime world of Final Fantasy in the first volume of Final Fantasy: Unlimited.

So now, let's take a look at...

Final Fantasy
Nintendo Famicom
The revolution begins! Square releases its first foray into the RPG gaming world, betting the bank on it's success. Good bet as we look back. The original FF was the cliché type scenerio, boy must fight the nasty bad guy to save the girl. May have been cliché, but the world loved it.

Final Fantasy II
Nintendo Famicom
A year after the success of the first Final Fantasy game for the Famicom, Square bring fans back into the FF world as we join Frionel, Maria, Guy, and Lionheart as they must help stop The Empire of Barmekia and its mad quest to enslave the world.

Final Fantasy III
Nintendo Famicom
This is the only Final Fantasy title that has never been released in the U.S. Here we follow the adventures of four orphens who have found the long lost Wind Crystal and a message that the fate of everything in the world rest upon it. A long contained evil force is about to unleash itself and lead the world into ruin. The only ones that can stop it are the four mythic Light Warriors.

Final Fantasy
Nintendo Entertainment System (NES)
The original is finally released upon the fans of North America. Fans start drooling for more.

Final Fantasy IV
Nintendo Super Famicom
Square finally says goodbye to the 8-bit Famicom system as they release FFIV, their first 16-bit Final Fantasy game. Here, the kingdom or Baron is scowering the world trying to collect all of the elemental crystals. When Cecil, Baron's air force commander, questions the kings motives, he must join up with wizards, warriors and others to stop Baron from becoming a threat to the world.

Final Fantasy II
Nintendo Super NES
The Japanese Final Fantasy IV is released in the US as FFII, skipping over the FFII and FFIII

Final Fantasy V
Nintendo Super Famicom
Strange environmental anomolies cause some cataclismic events as the elemental crystals have been shattered. Someone or someTHING have released the dreaded power of "Mu", or "nothingness" upon the world and four travelers may be the only hope to save the world!

Final Fantasy Mystic Quest
Nintendo Super NES
After a long string of hits, you have to have at least one instance where you fall flat on your face. After the success of the FF titles in Japan, the U.S. releases were lagging behind their Japanese counterparts. Square, in an effort to boost awareness of the FF line, created a U.S. only title, Mystic Quest. Hard core gamers in the U.S. just came off playing FFII and were jazzed to see a U.S. exclusive title, but were sorely disappointed when the game was less involving than FFII. The short answer here, Mystic Quest was a phenominal flop... something that Square would make sure never happens again.

Final Fantasy VI
Nintendo Super Famicom
It was the end of an era that may not have seen the light of day again. Square reportedly finishes its last title for a Nintendo console, though the fans wouldn't really find that out for a while. FFVI brings the cartridge based RPG to its highest level. Greatly surpassing the graphics in previous FF games, FFVI would end up being the last time we'd see battles from a fixed vantage point.

Final Fantasy III
Nintendo Super NES
Keeping the numbering system consistant, Square releases FFVI as Final Fantasy III in the U.S.

Final Fantasy: Legend of the Crystals
Animated OVA
Comtinuing the events from Final Fantasy V, the 4-episode OVA starts 200 years after Butz and Co. had saved the world from the threat of ExDeath. Now a new threat is coming and a new heroine must stop it. Follow Rinary and her friend Plitz as they journey to the Temple of Wind to discover what awaits them.

Final Fantasy VII
Sony PlayStation
After the ill-fated Sony/Nintendo CD-ROM add-on project, Square and Nintendo have it out and Square dropkicks the Nintendo systems and continues the FF series on the new Sony PlayStation console. Square is rumored to never develop another game for Nintendo ever again...

Gone are the days of the 16-bit systems. FFVII take us into the world of 32-bit 3D graphics as we follow Cloud, Aerith and friends as they battle the evil Shinara Corporation. Square enrages fans by doing the unthinkable... Killing off the girl.

Later in the year, most U.S. fans try to keep their numbers straight as Square releases FFVII in the United States, wondering what happened to FFIV through FFVI, then realizing that they were renumbering the Japanese releases.

Final Fantasy Tactics
Sony PlayStation
The first true departure from the numbered FF games, the method of your madness is the name of the game with Final Fantasy Tactics. You start off the game as a mercenary and you must work your way up to becoming the ultimate warlord. But only your decisions on the field of battle will determine if you can ascend to greatness.

Final Fantasy Tactics
Sony PlayStation
Final Fantasy Tactics is released in North America.

Final Fantasy Collection
Sony PlayStation
For the first time, Square re-releases the earlier Famicom titles FFIV, FFV and FFVI for the PlayStation, complete with new CG movie sequences.

Final Fantasy VIII
Sony PlayStation
Building off the great start with FFVII on the PlayStation, Square forever changes the world of RPGs and 3-D graphics with the release of FFVIII. Here we're treated to the most realistic 3-D opening ever produced, blowing away everything in the 3-D world and really showing what the PlayStation is capable of. Here, we follow our hero Squall Leonhart, a troubled young man, as he travels down a difficult road, filled with hardship, love, betrayal, and all sorts of other good stuff to keep us all on the edges of our seats.

Final Fantasy Anthology
Sony PlayStation
Square releases the U.S. version of Final Fantasy Collection, removing FFIV from the package. This is the first time FFV is released for the U.S. market.

Final Fantasy IX
Sony PlayStation
It's a chance to return to a simpler time in RPG Land. Square takes us back to the earlier days of FF games with shorter, less realistic characters, the use of knights and wizards and more of "traditional" RPG elements. In FFIX, we follow Zidane and his friends as they must help Princess Garnet keep the world form being taken over.

Final Fantasy Chronicles
Sony PlayStation
The first U.S. specific re-release is unleashed on the North american markets, including FFIV and Chrono Trigger in one package.

Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within
Motion Picture
The EXTREMEMLY long-awaited FF movie finally comes out in theatres. All the hype over the long production time causes fans to be less than enthusiastic when the movie is finally released.

Final Fantasy X
Sony PlayStation 2
Square moves into the 64-bit world with the advent of the PS2. We're treated with the most complex FF game to date, Final Fantasy X, quite possibly the most anticipated video game title ever. The world falls in love with Tidus, Yuna and the rest of the FFX crew. At the end, Square does the unthinkable again... they leave us hanging. Something they've never done before. What could they be up to?

Final Fantasy XI Online
Sony PlayStation and Windows PC
The ultimate Final Fantasy experience arrives. For the first time in history, you can go up against the rest of the world as FFXI introduces the online gaming experience to Final Fantasy. It's a game of never-ending proportions as you and other players can group together from all over the globe to fight the evils that could plunge the land of Vana'diel into a massive war.

Final Fantasy: Unlimited
Animated Series
Welcome to Wonderland! The second incarnation of Final Fantasy on the small screen takes us to a bizarre and wonderous place. We join Ai and Yu as they try to find their missing parents who had entered Wonderland and disappeared... For more on FF:U, check out the review of Volume 1 in this issue.

Final Fantasy X-2
Sony PlayStation 2
The first true sequel to a Final Fantasy game is here. It's also the first FF game to feature an all-female headling cast. Two years have passed since Sin was defeated. Yuna has been living peacefully in her home on Besaid Island when she is visited by her former gardian Rikku. She shows Yuna a movie sphere with a recording of... him. Or is it? Head out and help Yuna, Rikku and their new friend Paine as they seach for more clues about the mysterious movie sphere. Will Yuna be able to see him one last time? Only time will tell.

Final Fantasy Tactics Advance
Nintendo GameBoy Advance
Square jumps into an arena they said they'd never touch again, but this is just the first trip into Nintendo-land as they release a GBA version of their 1997 game, Final Fantasy Tactics.

Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles
Nintendo GameCube
The real trip begins as Square releases its first original FF game for a Nintendo system in almost 10 years. Crystal Chronicles is a multi-player Action RPG adventure using the GameCube and the GameBoy Advanced to create a play system unlike any other. You can have up to four people join in on a trip to help keep your village from being destroyed by the miasma that has overtaken the world. The only thing keeping the people safe are Crystal fragments. The crystals don't protect forever though and must be purified by collecting myrrh from the myrrh trees around the world. You and your friends can join the Crystal Caravan and help your village keep its Crystal pure!

Final Fantasy XI Online
Windows PC
The online extravaganza comes to the Windows platform. Fans in the U.S. can finally join in the fun of beatting down the Beastmen.

Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles
Nintendo GameCube
Crystal Chronicles is released in the U.S., probably the biggest thing to hit a Nintendo console since Link and Zelda.

Final Fantasy XI Online
Sony PlayStation 2
The ultimate Final Fantasy experience is here. March 23rd is the release date for the PlayStation 2 version of FFXI. The package comes complete with a 40GB hard drive with the game preloaded as well as the first expansion pack, Rise of the Zilart. Online gaming will never be the same...

 
And that brings us back to the present day. Now, you may ask, what lies ahead for our friends at Square Enix and Final Fantasy? Well, here are a bunch of things that are currently in the works:

  • Final Fantasy XII is in development and is currently scheduled for a late 2004 release in Japan. Little news bits have been flowing here and there, but nothing overly definite has been said about the game. Also, no date has been announced yet for a U.S. release.
     
  • "Dear Friends: Music from Final Fantasy", a concert featuring compositions by Nobuo Uematsu from Square-Enix's long running RPG series, will be performed at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles on May 10, just days before the annual E3 convention rolls into town. Unfortunately, tickes are sold out for the single performance... hopefully Square Enix will take the demand to heart and schedule more opportunities for fans to hear the music of Final Fantasy in true concert fashion.
     
  • Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children is a film to continue the story of FFVII. Square Enix character designer and director Tetsuya Nomura confirmed that the movie sequel will make its U.S. debut at this year's E3 in May. Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children is set for a summer release in Japan. Square Enix USA has yet to comment on a date for a possible DVD release.

Those are just a few of the things that are coming soon to us from the good folks at Square Enix. As you can see, after 17 years of great stuff, the world of Final Fantasy is still the place to be and it's showing no signs of stopping anytime soon. If you want to get more information about Final Fantasy and Square Enix, check out some of these websites:

   
     
 
 

 

 
   
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