Podzilla 1985

Monday, August 18, 2014

10 of My Favorite Final Fantasy Moments

With the announcement of Mechablogzilla's closure, I realized there was at least one article on the site that wasn't on BZ85, and I wanted to preserve it. Final Fantasy is in my top five game series of all time, and this particular list has a lot of moments on it that still make me feel what I used to know as "emotions." So, I plucked the article from that site and decided to repost it here.

For those of you who have already read it, thanks! Nothing new to see here, other than this explanation. Of course, feel free to relive all of those great Final Fantasy memories....

I present the original article here, kept mostly the same.

With the recent release of Final Fantasy XIII: Lightning Returns, the relaunch of FFXIV, and the excitement for the upcoming FFXV, I decided to honor my once favorite series with a list of my favorite moments from the series.

I've been told that lists on a blog site are both creative and fresh.

Final Fantasy has a wealth of great moments. The storytelling in the game has always been phenomenal, even though the series has been lacking ever since the original Playstation era. The SNES to PSX transition was smooth as butter, leaving behind the solid but lackluster Nintendo entries and not yet corrupted by the anime infused PS2 era and beyond.

It is entirely my own personal opinion, but comparing a game like VI to XIII is like comparing apples to Spam. Both will feed you, but while one makes you healthier and keeps the dentist away, the other festers in your bowels until you're doing a mad dash for the bathroom. XIII-2 is what is left over after the trip.

Still, even the newer games have their moments. Unfortunately, they're probably not moments you'll see on this list because it's my list, and I'm the kind of guy that hugs a cartridge and puts a CD up for adoption.

On the black market.

And then I use that money to buy Little Caesers. That's the cheapest of all pizzas.

I've lost my love for the series over the years. Eastern RPG's as a whole have gone downhill it seems, with most of them now appealing to the most hardcore fans of anime and Japanese culture. Western RPG's have become much more enjoyable to me, as I feel they are close to how Final Fantasy used to be, with mature writing and interesting protagonists. Still, there will always be a spot in my heart for that series that revolves around giant horse birds and stylish moogles.

Also, the very style of Final Fantasy makes this list harder than it may seem. All in all, FFIX is my absolute favorite game in the lot, and I could very easily make this entire list about that game. But, for the sake of showing off my knowledge of the series and giving you guys more than just Garnet to look at, I'm going to limit myself to two moments from any particular game.

Except for one certain game. And yes, I'm actually adding this in post publishing because I forgot I broke my own rules. I could have made it just one moment from any game, but I decided not to let you push me around. I do what I want.

Keep in mind that this isn't a list of the BEST moments in the Final Fantasy series, just my own personal favorite ones. If you don't see your favorite moment on this list it's because we have different opinions.

And your opinion sucks.

You also won't find many spin offs on this list, like the Game Boy games or Mystic Quest. It's not that they're bad, just less memorable. And once we start diving into games that are sort of like Final Fantasy but not quite, we'd have to look at games like Chrono Trigger and Chrono Cross. I could make a top twenty list on either of those games alone.

Of course, SPOILERS abound, so if you've not played these games and intend to do so, avert your eyes.

So, without further stalling to extend the length of this article, let's get to the action.

Delita Kidnaps Ovelia

We start off our list with the kidnapping scene from Final Fantasy Tactics: War of the Lions on PSP. In this scene, our heroes Ramza and Agrias defend Princess Ovelia only to have her kidnapped by Delita, an old friend of the main character.

Final Fantasy Tactics was an amazing game that broke a lot of the rules for the FF series. It was a tactics game that used a grid style battle system in place of the traditional left vs. right turn based one that the series was built on. There was also an in depth job system and an interesting graphic style, but what stood out most to me were the characters and plot.

This was a well written game that had such mature writing, as a kid I often felt lost because I truly didn't understand the world of grown ups. There was much betrayal, sorrow, triumph, and a sense of being forgotten that the game really assaulted you with at every turn. You didn't know it at the time, but after this cut scene you were in for a world of heartbreak.

The visuals alone in this video are amazing, and the PSP port did a fantastic job of creating a unique art style for a very unique game.

1000 Words

I'm not a fan of sequels to Final Fantasy games. The title itself should give some kind of indication on what to expect, which is a single story played from beginning to end. Each new game is its own chapter that really doesn't need to be extended.

But, I guess when they ushered in the PS2 era someone in charge discovered they could make more money by rehashing the same beloved worlds and characters instead of creating new ones. I don't know who thought X would be a good one to start with, but someone gave it the okay and in turn we got X-2.

It wasn't nearly as bad as other people made it out to be, and to be honest I enjoyed it more than X. It was goofier for sure, but I thought the characters were well written and it had a playful tone that you could tell hid a layer of sadness. And if there is one thing Square did right in the world of gaming, it is creating sadness.

In one of the best rendered scenes in any game, Yuna performs the song "1000 Words" at a concert meant to create peace or promote her new album, I'm not sure. Her change from a summoner to a songstress is one of the weirder aspects of the game. Earlier in the game it is established that when using a dress sphere the memories of the person who had it before can kind of take over. In this video the spirit of Lenne comes out and sings with Yuna, while everyone experiences the tragedy surrounding her death. It was a very serious and poignant moment in an otherwise lighthearted game.

This one still brings a tear or two.

Black Waltz no. 3

Speaking of tear jerkers, we have a more subtle heartfelt moment in my favorite of the series, Final Fantasy IX. Our heroes, having already defeated the soulless Black Waltz 1 and 2's, come face to face with number 3, who heartlessly destroys the other black mages while Vivi watches helplessly.

The Vivi character, though faceless, carries more emotion in the way he walks and fixes his hat than any RPG character could today with an hour of voiced dialogue. His quest of self discovery is a tragic one, and that he must watch his brothers die so carelessly is one of the saddest in the entire series.

On the other hand, Black Waltz no. 3 is such a great villain without even trying. His design is amazing without being ridiculous, and the way he destroys his own people without remorse makes him a truly frightening monster.

The Phantom Train

It doesn't take CG video to make a great moment.

Final Fantasy VI, or FFIII in the states, is arguably the best in the entire series. The characters were multidimensional, the graphics were astonishing, the music was epic, and the story lines were meaningful and memorable. You can pick apart any section of FFVI and it stands the test of time and remains high above the trash they call an RPG these days.

This is not my favorite moment of FFVI, as I've saved that video for last. However, this is probably the saddest moment in the entire game. Yes, that's including the END OF THE WORLD, which also happens,

Loyal and brave knight Cyan lost his wife and child earlier in the game, when main villain Kefka poisoned them along with the entire town of Doma. It's not unusual to see death in an RPG, but to see it on such a massive scale by a complete sociopath like Kefka is really unsettling. The joy he takes in death makes him a legendary bad guy.

But there is no joy in the Phantom Train scene. After making it to the end of this spooky locomotive, Cyan can do nothing but watch as his beloved wife and son are taken to the afterlife. His wife thanks him for his love, and his son vows to keep practicing with his sword to protect his mother as the train carries them off into nothingness.

All the while you sit there, controller in hand, mouth wide open, and tears running down both cheeks.

Final Fantasy VIII Ending

Final Fantasy VIII was the first FF I ever fell in love with. I had played 6 on SNES when I was younger, but I didn't truly appreciate the art of storytelling until I was a teenager and started writing my own tales. It influenced a lot of my writing early on, and I still love it to this day. It got a lot of flack for focusing so much on love, but I understand and appreciate it even more now as an adult.

The ending FMV to VIII was just about perfect in every way. It tied together all the loose ends and really gave you a sense of closure. It is a little odd to have a FF antagonist, in this case Seifer, actually have a happy ending. His scene with Raijin and Fuujin is fitting, and I'm sure my friend Michelle will get a kick out of this one.

The best part ties into the song that plays, which is the lovely "Eyes on Me" by Faye Wong. Everyone assumed the game was based on the love between Squall and Rinoa, but it was really designed for Laguna and Raine. Laguna is my favorite character in the entire Final Fantasy catalog, being a handsome journalist just like myself. When it sinks in that his wife is dead, I feel a little stab in my own heart.

But it's not completely sad, as it has a hopeful and sweet twist at the very end. I really was under the assumption that Squall had died, and I remember watching the credits and being furious that he was gone. When they show him through the camcorder at the party I knew then what it meant to really care about a character.

An honorable mention goes to the FFVIII opening, as it's just as cool, if not cooler. I didn't want to put both of them on the list, and I feel the ending carries more emotion, but go out of your way to see the intro. It's worth it.

Odin Gets PWNEDlolz

Speaking of Final Fantasy VIII, imagine the shock and awe you experienced the first time you saw this. Odin was one of the best summons in the game, but what happens when you put him against Seifer?

He dies.

In fact, he gets cut in half completely, and so does his horse.

I remember yelling at the TV about how unfair that was. You can't kill a summon! Literally, you could NOT kill a summon! But Seifer does it one hit? Also, I use the term "hit" loosely. Seifer never even moves his damn hand. He just points his sword forward, and suddenly Odin wonders if he left his door unlocked and forgets to not run directly into Seifer's gunblade.

The only saving grace for that stupidity is that you got an even greater summon in the form of Gilgamesh, who promptly whoops Seifer with the RAGE OF A THOUSAND SUMMONS.

Even so, Tonberry King > Gilgamesh.

The Coming Death

This is what probably set the tone for a lot of Final Fantasy fans that grew up in my era. An era which isn't that old, thanks for judging me. A lot of gamers may have played the original NES title or Final Fantasy IV (II, whatever, shut up), but it was VI that changed the landscape of Eastern RPG's in the United States.

The opening to Final Fantasy VI is amazing enough with the ominous music and thunderous background. But it's when we first meet a brainwashed Terra and watch as she's guided to the town of Narshe by two lackeys that we realize something epic is going to happen. They have destruction on their minds as they march towards annihilation in their Magitek armor while Terra's theme plays like a calm before the storm

VI was a prime example of how good storytelling and direction can overcome big budget computer generated graphics. I really wish SquareEnix would remember that.

Death From Above

This one is kind of a given. Let me tell you a little story about this particular moment.

Final Fantasy VIII was the first one in the series that I ever finished. I will always remember it as the entry that really made me love RPG's. I had played FFVI, but as I said before, I just didn't appreciate it at the time. I picked up a PSX to play Symphony of the Night a few years after the console launched, and I bought FFVII a little later based mostly on the unimaginable hype that surrounded it. And though I did enjoy it, I put it on the back burner once I got VIII. After I finished Squall's quest I went back to VII with an invigorated love of all things JRPG. I started downloading soundtracks to all of the various titles from Napster, and...

Yes, that's right, Napster. Ask your parents. But don't tell them I used it.

Anyway, while looking through track lists I came upon the song "Aeris Death." Needless to say, I was not to this point in the game yet. As far as I knew, Aeris was alive and well somewhere with the gang getting into hijinks and shenanigans. This song spurred me to read ahead in the story, which is always a mistake when you're playing an RPG. For the love of God, just don't do it.

But I did it.

And sure enough, there was Aeris getting impaled by Masamune. I was in shock. Aeris was one of the purest characters in video game history. She was sweet, loyal, strong, and fully dressed. She was not the typical JRPG heroine, but she was still a heroine! She was a main character! Never before had I ever seen a main character get killed, especially so early in the game! It was the game equivalent to when Janet Leigh was stabbed to death in the shower in Psycho. I imagine somewhere in Japan, the creators of the game were laughing maniacally as they swam in their bin of money and fanboy tears.

It was controversial, it was disheartening, and it made me really want to bring justice to Sephiroth. 

And I did. 

Knights of the Round, jack wagon.

Save the Queen

Ah, what a great moment. Final Fantasy IX has the best round up of characters in the entire series. From the smooth talking thief Zidane to a colorful supporting class, I thoroughly enjoyed the adventures of this rag tag group of heroes. The enemies were even more diverse and are easily the most interesting villains in any Final Fantasy game. Usually, you have one main bad guy, and you might get a named miniboss or two, but they keep the focus on the big bad, for the most part.

But FFIX shattered that rule with a host of memorable antagonists. This video shows off three of them, and it is the first time you fight the beautiful and deadly Beatrix. 

The battle music is haunting, and it's a subtle change from the pulse pounding theme that usually accompanies a fight. It's fitting, too, because she whoops you, plain and simple. It doesn't matter what level you are. It doesn't matter how hard you train or what items you equip. Beatrix is here to pummel you into the dirt no matter what you do.

And she looks gorgeous doing so!

She was my favorite character of IX, and her transformation from misguided villain to redeemed knight was one of the best aspects of this amazing game. Still, nothing will ever erase the memory of what a straight up beat down you get from her. Not just once, my friend. Not just twice. You have to fight Beatrix THREE times in this game, and each time she stomps you in the mud and wipes her boots on your broken face. 

Oh, Beatrix. You give a guy warm feelings. And broken bones.

We also see Kuja laugh at your poor pack of wounded warriors, setting himself up to be a much bigger threat later on. He could use some pants, however. I almost feel like somewhere along the line, Kuja and Beatrix got their gear mixed up and were just too embarrassed to say anything about it.

Opera Scene

This is it. This is the moment we've been building up to. You're probably asking yourself why I have so many entries on this list for FFVI, and rather than rage kick you into a Marlboro, I'm going to tell you.

A lot of the moments on this list are great, but at the time it was easy for a CG cut scene to be awesome. When you spend most of the game looking at blocky sprites, it's hard not to gasp at beautifully rendered scenes of sorrow and glory. It's even more amazing to invoke the same kind of response using nothing but SNES synth sounds and 16 bit graphics. A lot of FFVI did just that. It took the technology of the generation and made it so phenomenal that it could stand the test of time.

And my favorite moment of any Final Fantasy game I've ever played doesn't have flashy action or destruction. It takes place in an opera house, where the heroes are trying to lure out the enigmatic Setzer by placing Ceres in the role of Maria, an actress who he is in love with. What follows is one of the most legendary moments in gaming history, and in essence it's just a simple stage play set in a game about the end of the world.

And I love it.

It would be a lie if I said the actual SNES sounds were easy on the ears. It doesn't sound bad, but you really appreciate the scene more when you listen to a full operatic version of the music on display here.

And here it is! Enjoy, and I hope you enjoyed the trip down memory lane as well. Agree or disagree with my choices? Let me know.

For now, let's strike up the band...

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