When The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks was released last fall, I put up a post delineating my five favourite Zelda games.
The response from readers was swift: My opinion was wrong and invalid because some Zelda games are somehow measurably and incontestably better than others, and they either weren't on or were found too low on the list.
You'd think I'd learn.
Here are my five favourite Final Fantasy games.
5. Final Fantasy XIII
Metacritic is tracking the most recent Final Fantasy at 83 per cent for both Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3; by no means a bad score, but a bit low for the franchise. Pish posh. I've had a great time with it. It may be surprisingly linear, and it's definitely a lot cornier than most modern Western RPGs (a genre that has recently risen in popularilty), but the franchise's visual spectacle is here in full force. What's more, its newly revamped active-time battle system may well be my favourite of the entire series (I have a post on that subject forthcoming). It takes a good 12 hours or so to ramp up, but once you know all of the ins and outs of combat it becomes exceptionally satisfying. (See my review of Final Fantasy XIII online here or in Wednesday's paper.)
4. Final Fantasy VI (A.K.A. Final Fantasy III on the SNES in North America)
No doubt, many old-school gamers will take me to task for including just one of the classic sprite-based Final Fantasies on this list. Here's my reason: Graphics make a difference to me. I enjoyed Final Fantasies I through VI (a few of which, I'll admit, I've only played for the first time in recent years as their ports have come to newer platforms), but I'm a visual kind of guy, and the series' three-dimensional characters, spectacular summon spells, and beautiful cut scenes are found only in its later games. That said, the reason I chose Final Fantasy VI has nothing to do with graphics. Of all the melodramatic characters and epic narratives in earlier Final Fantasies, this game's giant cast of complex and conflicted protagonists was most memorable.
3. Final Fantasy X
The first entry in the series to land on the PlayStation 2 was a breath of fresh air, delivering vastly improved visuals, a new kind of combat, and some of the least syrupy writing of the franchise. At the time, it was the very definition of a next-generation game. Interestingly, its sequel, Final Fantasy X-2, which is very similar in look and design, didn't impress me nearly as much. Perhaps I was simply underwhelmed by its lack of innovation, which I view as such an important part of the Final Fantasy experience.
2. Final Fantasy VII
Easily the most renowned and best-loved game in the series, Final Fantasy VII is a true classic of the medium. I called it the game world's version of Citizen Kane in a post I wrote about its re-release on PSP last fall, and my position hasn't changed. Iconic imagery, bar-raising graphics, engaging storytelling, and a wonderfully deep battle system combine to create an experience that remains just as compelling today as it was 13 years ago.
1. Final Fantasy VIII
From the opening sword fight through to its closing kiss, Final Fantasy VIII resonates with me more than any other game in the series. Its bar-raising cut scenes left me open-mouthed, the massive world I explored seemed to hold endless secrets waiting to be discovered, and the now classic, beautifully delivered romantic moment in zero-G really tugged at my heart strings (I'm a sucker for space love). It's the only Final Fantasy that I've played through to completion three times, and I'm waiting for a chance to dive in again once I hit a break in my schedule (I recently downloaded it through the PlayStation Network for $9.99).
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