Final Fantasy is a long-lived franchise, starting all the way back in 1987. While the series' start was shaky outside of Japan —with title numbering getting mixed up or not getting a proper release— it has survived. Standing in the top 3 JRPG franchises of all time, raking in millions of sales and profit, you can’t mention Final Fantasy without someone in the room knowing the franchise. That fame has garnered quite a high expectation of its games, to both its fault and advantage.
With 15 main series releases, sequels and spinoffs landing on plenty of consoles, including handheld ones, Final Fantasy has plenty of content to absorb. Being under different directors, you can notice a shift of story, gameplay, and focus with each release. Final Fantasy hardly keeps a constant world or theme. This is a common practice in longstanding franchises, like Tales Of (Bandai Namco) and Shin Megami Tensei/Persona.
With all this content, it can be easy to overlook plot holes or errors in the games themselves, with over 20-40 hours per game story. However, one thing that almost all fans can agree on is how confusing some of the concepts are. Magic, fantasy, and time travel are ever present — in new forms with every release. What is Tidus really? Who rules the underworld? How does the economy of the world function? Let us delve into 15 things in the franchise that don’t make sense. Rather than forcing reality onto fantasy, these points focus on things that don’t make sense within their settings. Oh, and be warned: SPOILERS.
Like many of the Final Fantasy Games, VIII had quite a huge following, from diehard fans of the story to those who fell in love with the world. Changing up its combat system was one of the first steps to set this release apart from the previous games in the series. Focusing on combat schools, politics and evil schemes, full of Magic and Conspiracy, FFVIII went even further with the reintroduction of Time Travel and delving into the characters minds.
In a twist, the final cutscene of FFVIII had several images zoom past, many with distorted faces and distorted sounds. The series of photos ends with a picture of Squall with a hole in his face. As the credits roll we see more images of the ending, but with such a confusing final cutscene fans are still questioning to this day its meaning.
In the old-fashioned days of Final Fantasy, we were treated to resurrections from church prayers and white magic, calling on the gods to revive our fallen brethren. As the series grew, characters relied more heavily on Phoenix Downs, as Gil become easier to obtain. While plenty of times it is stated that Phoenix Downs revive a KO’d member, one who isn’t dead, it is often confusing when spells like Life and other spells or items can kill the undead or infer the ability to revive dead people.
While these items and spells revive your characters from death effects and falling in combat, they fail to have any effect in the real world, or from cutscene deaths. From the famous Aerith scene, to that of a dying Chocobos. Even if these wounds don’t instantly kill a target, the world is often full of healing items and magic that would save their lives. Cutscene are still the hardest boss of all.
Plenty of Final Fantasy games have you playing an orphan or poor character, especially in FFXII where you live in the lower parts of town as a thief. Even if you’re not a poverty-stricken character, starting off you only have around 100-1000 Gil in your pocket. Yet whenever a player gets to control a character their overall wealth skyrockets, even from the simplest tasks.
Vaan from FFXII doesn't have a single Gil to his name, yet within the first few hours of hunting marks and monsters, you have thousands of Gil. Final Fantasy I, II and III have you killing monsters on the overworld who drop consistent Gil. This continues even into the newest game in the series, Final Fantasy XV. In the latest Final Fantasy, completing a few hunts nets you a couple thousand Gil. Even after plenty of the characters moan about money, all they need to do is some quick weeding and pest control.
A consistent theme with the Final Fantasy Franchise, whether you’re playing as children or suspect individuals, the world just hands you dangerous gear. FFVII has an open market for Materia, being able to buy it in the slums and higher districts. Magic is openly sold in the earlier games through mages of the same type. While magic can be argued against, some games let you purchase Swords, Armour and Guns.
Some of the merchants often show themselves to be shady, but with such easy access to this stuff, you would think the government or army would keep a closer eye on it. This creates, even more, confusion when you are actively hunted by Kings and Royals, who should have control over the realm. But no, you look like you can handle yourself, here have a spell to call meteors from the sky and this Revolver to boot.
Another specific entry, aimed at the protagonist of FFX, Tidus. While it isn’t confirmed until much later in the game, Tidus is surrounded by questions to both his existence and past. While fighting monsters, saving towns, and traveling the world we start to uncover the truth behind him. He doesn’t exist? Or he does, but he is just a memory… no, he is a soul like Auron? But then why wasn’t he sent ages ago? Why is Auron still here!?
A convoluted story to be sure, made even more confusing with the continuation of the game in its sequel FFX-2. With his memory living on and Yuna trying to bring him back, only to find a lookalike with the same weapon and moves. Not to mention the ending of X-2 and the subsequent novel that went further in depth. Can’t we just go back to when a kid wanted to be a Blitzball?
So, I’ve talked about how characters can just hunt some monsters to get rich, but why are there so many monsters running about? Where is the army? You have guards in your cities, sometimes, so why not make the local area safer and make money in the process? Plenty of the villages and cities in Final Fantasy are set within the world map, with little to no militia guarding them, let alone walls.
How do people survive outside of walls, when we are asked to kill Dragons and Behemoths, don’t tell me those people selling Fire 3 or Blizzara are the ones keeping the place safe. Even in cities that lack magic, there is a distinct lack of protection, as plenty of bandits walk around. Why are people so relaxed in their safety when a 30-foot tall snake is living in the marsh down the road?
One of the most glaring plot holes of them all: how does the economy of Final Fantasy work? In FFVIII we are given a salary over time, which kind of makes sense, but in almost all other games we sell hides, claws, and materials to get our Gil. How is this affecting the economy, when people in the slums have savings of 14 Gil, but we rake in millions on a selling spree, where do they keep that money?
It gets even more confusing when fuel can cost 50 Gil, but medicine costs 500 Gil, does your world have an abundance of fuel? At least in FFVII it's explained that Shinra is so wealthy, because of their income form Mako energy. Still, I can buy Materia worth thousands of Gil in a village out in the sticks. While this is a fantasy world, it does break immersion when I go to a poor town and essentially sell items worth ten times that of their entire town.
With any game or media that delves into Time Travel, fans will be left scratching their heads as well as some getting infuriated about how convoluted it gets. Metal Gear Solid tends to poke fun at Time Paradoxes when you kill characters in games set in the past, but Final Fantasy just skirts past the subject. As early as the first game the series has dealt with time travel, and each time their idea of it changes.
Are we creating another reality, or merely rewriting the past, and what happens when we go to the past in our older forms. Characters go between different times with no real thought to its consequences or what will happen. FFI has you time travel at the very end, whereas other entries focus solely on time or dimension travel like FFXIII-2. With little discussion to what time travel theory is being used in the game, every use of time travel is met with confusion.
Square Enix is a company, first and foremost is the profitability of its games. We rarely see sequels to its Final Fantasy games, let alone spinoffs set within the same universe. However, when they do add onto a story already set in, the plot's canon into question. FFVII has had several spinoffs, movie, animes, and books in its universe. With a remake on the way, we may see what is truly canon for that series.
FFX had a clear cut ending, which was continued on with a sequel and novel. FFXII also had a sequel of sorts on a handheld platform. But are these just grabs for money, or are they canon and should we take them as the new storyline? Things get even more confusing with Dissidia, where rumours started to spread about an interview where the developers said it was up to fans if it was canon or not.
While each game is set within a different universe, with different rules, the concept of souls and the afterlife is a constant theme. While FFVII put a higher focus on this, through the lifestream, the games tend to hop between ideas. How are zombies made, why does life spells affect them, do deities decide what happen to souls? VII, IX, and X have vastly different ideas on how souls can be used or what their purpose is.
Considering our discussion of Phoenix Downs earlier, when is it decided if a soul will go to the lifestream, or into the mist? And where do ghosts come into play? We even see the afterlife at certain points, but then we also fight and kill Gods, so who controls it? Does it control itself? And how do people turn them into power!? With such an important role in the stories, we have a distinct lack of in-game books or lore to go more in-depth.
Summons, Eidolons, and Espers are sometimes referred to as deities, or divine beings, while other times they are tools to help humanity. Fighting gods or godlike beings has also been a common theme in the franchise, so they must be separate from Summons. However, with Summons being common knowledge, why are they not sought after more? Characters barely take advantage of their power as it stands.
FFVI and FFIX focus more on Summon; they are at the center of the story. Still, they occasionally disappear into the background or are relegated to battle. Where do they live when we don’t use them and why do they listen to mortals. With so much power you would think the world would be scared of Summons, maybe even seal them away, or scream as they see the party summoning beings of destruction so nonchalantly. Later games also treat them as a type of Summon, insinuating there are several Ifrits or Shivas in the world.
Suffering from cutscene death is often a result of gunfire, yet during battles, we shrug off five clips of the stuff. Even outside of their battle damage, who wields the weapon also changes their effect (your hair needs to be crazy enough to kill a god after all). Our protagonists often notice the puny effect of gunfire, from Cloud preferring a sword twice his size to Sabin who prefers to suplex a train.
With all the events that end with guns having no effect, why are there not more guards who specialize in swords or non-firearm combat? Even with the recent Star Wars movie, we had a Stormtrooper who had an anti-lightsaber weapon as blasters are almost useless against them. Thankfully some games explain guns or their effect from magic or enhancement. Still, it is annoying when a main character dies from gunfire during a cutscene when their entire life was full of bullets hitting them.
So, you have computers, electricity, and magic, but you can’t find eight people who have the high-grade magical equipment and Eidolon summoning powers? You must be a terrible organization if you have no way of tracking your goods, or the individuals who steal them for that matter. Plenty of times in Final Fantasy you are hounded by people who control armies or the world itself, yet you can travel the world with ease.
This becomes even more absurd when you get an Airship the size of a small village, soaring through the skies. You have the magic to shoot fire and lightning out of your hands — at least put up a fight against the main party. FFXV saw this flaw and sent attack squads after the Choco-bros in intervals, or when they entered certain areas. It just feels weird, walking through town with glowing pieces of Materia in your weapon and no one bats an eye.
We have a massive Moogle, a talking red dog with a fire tail, a Ronso, crazy hairstyles, and a woman in summoning robes. Why do you not point fingers and ask questions? Surely you’re on the look for a guy with multi-coloured hair, or hair spikes that could pierce the heavens. While some games do have towns that are off-limits to you, or even send armoured guards if you try to enter, other games merely say, “Nah that’s normal.”
Following on from the tracking, the main party is often filled with unique individuals, from a ninja or someone with one eye and red coat. This point comes across even more when the world's have newspapers or electricity. You can send out wanted posters, or announcements, yet we are not asked our business or reported. I can understand people being scared of the guy who can lift a building, but someone must have connections to the guard.
This is a constant problem with the games, as well as something that makes next to no sense. Pushing aside revival and death, the characters' strength in battle disappears during story moments. Sabin can pick up a train and suplex it, Materia allows us to control electricity, and Summoners can call on huge beings to aid them. Why do the party members never suggest using these skills outside of combat?
There are plenty of times where rubble blocks out path, or machines are out of power, or stray travellers complain about wounds. Why is there no option to telekinesis the rubble, blast it with magic, call an eidolon to fly us over it, or use Cure on the populace. Golden Sun does this beautifully, yet our heroes of light can’t put two and two together. No, it’s fine, I’ll do your puzzle, just let that Burmecian die from their wounds.