Regardless of your opinion on the current Final Fantasy games, (or Square Enix in general) everyone can agree that the newer games are becoming less and less like the classic RPGs so many people cherish. This is understandable because times have changed and more importantly some of the original creators are no longer involved with the series, so it makes sense they won’t feel the same.
A problem arises though when long term fans of the series no longer enjoy the direction the developers are taking Final Fantasy, the games themselves are no longer earning the critical praise they once were and the attempts to “attract new fans” to the series is not proving successful. It seems Square Enix wants to return Final Fantasy to it’s former glory, but are not sure of the right way to do so.
Recent attempts from the developers at Square Enix seem to have been based around trying to emulate what made Final Fantasy VII so popular. Unfortunately the idea that Square Enix seems to have about why everyone loves Final Fantasy VII in the first place is far from the actual reason from the fans themselves.
So is there a better option? Well as much as Final Fantasy VII is my favourite RPG of all time, I think Square Enix should instead look to Final Fantasy IX and its design as a way to create a Final Fantasy that everyone can enjoy.
I have been recently replaying through Final Fantasy IX and the first thing I noticed is how well it bridges the gap between the older 2D games of FF1-6 and (at the time of its release) the modern 3D games of FF7-8. Final Fantasy IX had the soul and character of the SNES games, but utilises the graphics, mechanics and gameplay systems expected of the modern hardware it was designed for. Hironobu Sakaguchi has stated that Final Fantasy IX is the “closest to (his) ideal view of what Final Fantasy should be” and having played all of the single-player titles in the main series it is easy to see why.
Suikoden II is a turn-based RPG for the PlayStation that showcased a magnificent political narrative, over 100 playable characters to recruit and featured three different types of combat.
Set years after the events of the first Suikoden game, this sequel improves upon the good ideas of the original and blends them into an impressive and epic RPG. Released in an age when 3D was the next big thing and developers were pushing themselves to understand the new technology, Suikoden II featured a 2D world with highly detailed and expressive character sprites that works very well to convey the emotional narrative. This is a fantastic looking 2D RPG.
The story focuses on the invading army of Highland lead by the destructive Prince Luca Blight and the various City States of Jowston. The two main characters fight both together and apart against Highland to bring peace to the land. The relationship between the silent protagonist and childhood friend Jowy is the highlight of the story and the character development and plot twists are extremely emotional. Rarely are characters written with this much depth and complexity. The scope of the narrative allows for an unbelievable 108 unique playable characters to recruit to your party, with many memorable and unique faces.
The Suikoden series is known for utilising three different types of combat and the second game uses them all wonderfully. The regular turn-based battles allow for up to six-characters with unique partner attacks and magic rune spells. The second combat system is one-on-one duels, with each character choosing between three attack options and the winner decided in a rock-paper-scissors style. The last combat type is massive grid style tactical battles similar to the Fire Emblem series. The stakes are higher in these battles and if characters are killed they stay dead in the storyline. Suikoden II has a plethora of game play features and also includes great mini-games such as the addicting cooking competition.
Just like the rest of the game, the music of Suikoden II is epic and ambitious. The “Opening Theme” sets the standard hitting magnificent highs and lows, while the ethereal “Reminiscence” is a beautiful melody. With all the quality soundtracks from the PlayStation era RPGs, Suikoden II stands tall with the best of them.
Suikoden II is a classic and rare RPG. If you wish to play an RPG with an intriguing story, over 100 characters to recruit and massive battles then you should play Suikoden II.
Final Fantasy VII will be remembered for it’s great characters, atmosphere and narrative, but another aspect that really stands out is the memorable boss battles. All the way from the Guard Scorpion at the very beginning of the game to the final showdown in the Northern Cave you better be ready for action. Here are the Top 5 Boss Battles from Final Fantasy VII:
- – Rufus Shrina –
The opening hours of Final Fantasy VII is filled with more memorable moments than most games have in their entirety. You bomb two Mako Reactors, meet Aeris, dress in drag in the Wall Market to sneak into Don Corneo’s Mansion, narrowly escape the plate being dropped on Sector 7 and then infiltrate Shrina HQ to find the President murdered by what appears to be Sephiroth. This all leads up to an epic one-on-one showdown on the roof of Shrina HQ between Cloud and the President’s son Rufus. The introduction of Rufus, his speech and the fight all make up a fantastic experience. If you didn’t know much about RPGs you could have been mistaken into thinking this was nearing the end of the game, when in fact it had only just begun!
- – Jenova LIFE –
Final Fantasy VII has an unparalleled knack of building up tension and then throwing an epic boss battle at you when your emotions are high. There is no better example of this, than after working your way through the mysterious City of Ancients in search of Aeris, to then witness her sudden death at the hands of the heartless Sephiroth, to then be confronted with an intense battle against another form of Jenova. You hardly get a chance to catch your breath or comprehend what just happened when you are forced to fight for your lives. The emotional rollercoaster is complete when you realise the normal boss battle music when fighting Jenova is not playing, but rather the beautiful Aeris’ Theme instead, a spectacular design choice from the developers.
- – Sephiroth –
After battling your way through the Northern Cave and one last gathering of the party, it’s time to face the final challenge: defeat Sephiroth and release Holy to allow it to try and save the planet. Sephiroth’s first two forms are the real challenge and the angelic second form utilises the lengthy cinematic Super Nova attack that destroys entire planets just to try and stop you. The final battle is just Cloud and a human Sephiroth facing off as Cloud unleashes his ultimate attack, Omnislash to end Sephiroth once and for all. Even though the last battle is unlosable, it is every bit as satisfying as you can feel all of Cloud’s anger, sadness and resentment spill out as he finally settles the score after all those years.
- – Ruby/ Emerald WEAPON –
Final Fantasy VII has a few optional boss battles, but none come close to the complexity of these two WEAPONs. While some of the other battles on this list are memorable because of the storyline that surrounds them, Ruby and Emerald WEAPON are here because of the challenge they present and the strategies needed to cover come them. Final Fantasy VII has a deep and rewarding combat and customisation system and you need to have a strong grasp of how to master it if you are to have any chance of being victorious in these battles. Both offer different tricks such as Ruby being able to permanently knock party members out of the fight or Emerald’s attack that hits harder depending on how many materia you have equipped on each character. The ultimate boss battles in Final Fantasy VII.
- – Demons Gate –
Fought in the Temple of Ancients, this is a terrifying and difficult boss battle. It is likely the toughest battle at that stage of the game and will really challenge the player’s ability. The design is intimidating and there is a real sense of urgency to the fight as Demons Gate is fast and has some devastating attacks such as Demon Rush. It is a great accomplishment to see the end of this battle and it feels like the start of many more challenging bosses to come.
When the original Kingdom Hearts was released on the PlayStation 2 over 10 years ago I wasn’t playing video games much at the time. I had completed and loved Final Fantasy X but other hobbies had taken my interest. I saw an advertisement for Kingdom Hearts on TV (it was 2002 remember!) and it enchanted me straight away. It had a great atmosphere and story, a fun combat system, a nice throwback to Disney animated films and of course cameos from Final Fantasy characters from my favourite games ever!
Fast forward over the years and I played Kingdom Hearts 2 which was also great and even the PlayStation Portable entry Birth By Sleep which I also enjoyed. There were many other side stories that have been made that I just haven’t had the same interest in compared to the original and never played. There was something about the simplicity of the first game and I hadn’t felt that way about the series since then. The development team that made Kingdom Hearts 1 and 2 have been working on Final Fantasy Verses XIII (newly changed to Final Fantasy XV) for at least the last five years so a new mainline entry seemed forever away. That all changed with the recent announcement of Kingdom Hearts 3 in development by the studio that made Birth By Sleep overseen by original director Tetsuya Nomura.
For whatever reason, the announcement trailer has got me excited all over again about Kingdom Hearts. Whether it was the new graphics engine that looks fantastic, new worlds to explore or just the promise of the conclusion to the storyline of the mainline trilogy my imagination quickly thought of all the things I hoped Kingdom Hearts 3 could be.
Firstly, getting back to playing as Sora on the big screen with an evolution of the crazy action battle system the series is known for. I have always enjoyed turn-based RPGs more, but the Kingdom Hearts real-time battles have delivered some tense fights and I clearly remember the amount of effort and attempts it took to best Sephiroth in the original or the epic battle against the 1000 heartless with the aid of Cloud and Squall in the sequel.
Then I thought about all the returning and hopefully new Final Fantasy characters they could include and to see them in the new updated, but still stylised graphics. I’m sure Cloud will return (hopefully more in line with his original appearance, with the hair flick and more cheery personality intact) and maybe the introduction of characters from other games not originally designed by Nomura such as Terra from Final Fantasy VI, Zidane from Final Fantasy IX or even Ramza and Delita from Final Fantasy Tactics.
Lastly, with the storyline focusing on searching for the “Seven Guardians of Light” I hope it can get back to a more straightforward narrative like the first game, travelling from world to world (with new appearances from Disney films) and just piece each part of the story together to end in a massive final keyblade battle between Sora and the forces of light, against series antagonist Master Xehanort and the darkness!
Anybody else excited for the possibilities?
Kingdom Hearts is an action RPG for the PlayStation 2 that featured the bizarre, but magical combination of classic Disney characters with Squaresoft’s own Final Fantasy characters.
Kingdom Hearts created a universe where characters from Disney animated films such as Aladdin and Peter Pan co-existed with Final Fantasy characters ranging from Cloud Strife to Squall Leonheart. It didn’t just rest on the popularity of Disney’s timeless characters and settings though, expertly mixing it together featuring an entertaining original story, fun real time combat system, high quality voice acting and an amazing soundtrack. Kingdom Hearts was so unpredictable, yet so ingenious.
The story focuses mostly on original characters, while leaving the Disney and Final Fantasy characters as cameos, which works extremely well as it lets Kingdom Hearts stand on its own two feet. The main character Sora is tasked with using the Keyblade to travel to different worlds and protect them from being consumed by the dark creatures known as the Heartless. The story evolves from the light verse darkness theme and provides many twists and turns such as your allies becoming enemies. The locations are also a highlight as each new world brings a classic Disney film to life.
Unlike most of the RPGs Squaresoft were releasing at the time, battles in Kingdom Hearts are in real time with the player having full control over Sora, who is joined by Donald and Goofy (plus other Disney characters) as computer controlled party members. The combat system still has plenty of depth as Sora can attack with his Keyblade, cast magic spells, use special techniques, jump, fly and even use summons. Despite the bright and colourful look of the games graphics, some bosses are very difficult and require the player to master all of their abilities such as an optional fight against the infamous Sephiroth in the Hercules’ Olympus Colosseum.
Kingdom Hearts excels in its voice acting, as the main characters are brought to life by Hollywood actors and many of the Disney characters have their original voice talent. Adding to the fantastic audio experience is the impressive soundtrack by Yoko Shimomura who carefully blends arrangements of iconic Disney melodies with memorable original compositions such as “Dearly Beloved” and “Hollow Bastion”.
Kingdom Hearts is a wonderful mix of originality and nostalgia. If you wish to play an action RPG with thrilling game play and memorable characters then you should play Kingdom Hearts.