Final Fantasy is synonymous with JRPGs. While the franchise is not the grandfather of the genre - as Dragon Quest beat it to the punch - Square deserve credit for developing games that are suitable for a mass market. Even today, the majority of JRPGs tend to target a niche audience, with a decent percentage of the yearly releases not receiving an international version. Depending on your age, it is likely that Final Fantasy served as an introduction to the vast genre. Final Fantasy VII was a landmark release on the PlayStation, while Final Fantasy X extended the franchise's momentum into the next generation.
Like any decades-spanning series, Square's Final Fantasy has its share of ups and downs. Final Fantasy XIII split fans down the middle, and the most recent entry felt unfinished despite taking around ten years to develop. Whenever something new is announced, the expectations tend to be rather high, as fans try to relive their experiences with the earlier games. Since the original RPG was released on the NES, Final Fantasy has gone on to sell over 130 million units, with a gross revenue higher than $20 billion. Nowadays, Square Enix is among the biggest gaming companies in the world, and the industry would feel strange without them.
Here are 25 dark truths about Final Fantasy you really don’t want to know.
25 (Almost) A Swan Song
Final Fantasy is a rather odd title. Considering there have been more than 15 entries into the franchise, describing any of them as "final" seems absurd. Hironobu Sakaguchi, the creator of the original JRPG, explained that the name reflected the situation at Square during that time. The company was struggling to turn a profit, and they were at risk of bankruptcy. Final Fantasy could have easily been the developer's swan song, before permanently going out of business. Sakaguchi was faced with a similar faith, as he considered quitting the business if his JRPG failed to deliver. Also, Dragon Quest's success is the only reason that Final Fantasy got made, as Square did not believe that it would be popular. Thankfully, they were wrong and the rest is history.
24 Poking Fun At Nintendo
Prior to Final Fantasy VII, Nintendo was the place to be for JRPGs. Sure, SEGA offered a bit of competition, but they were not blessed with any of Square's games. The first six entries were released on the NES or SNES, but things changed once Sony got into the game. With the exception of a handful of GBA spin-offs, Final Fantasy has not featured on a Nintendo console since the mid-1990s. The change happened during the N64 era, as cartridges were more expensive and limited than Sony's discs, prompting Square to jump ship. There are rumors that the two companies had a falling-out, but we are unlikely to ever really know what went down. In the lead up to the release of Final Fantasy VII, Square poked fun at Nintendo in one of their ads.
23 The Limited Final Fantasy
Consoles have come a long way since the early 90s. While the NES and SNES were fantastic for their time, and should not be discredited, their limitations meant that not everything envisioned by a developer could be included. Takashi Tokita wrote the scenario for Final Fantasy IV - one of the most beloved entries in the franchise - but he could not quite get everything he wanted into the original version. In an interview with Famitsu, the writer revealed that around 75% of the storyline had to be chopped out due to hardware limitations. This goes a long way in explaining why this specific entry received a sequel after the fact, as there was still so much they wanted to do within this universe.
22 Dissidia Almost Included Mickey And Goofy
Dissidia Final Fantasy is Square Enix's take on the Super Smash Bros formula. The series brings together fan favorites from across the franchise, before throwing them into a free-for-all tournament. Funnily enough, Final Fantasy was originally called Fighting Fantasy, so this spin-off was destined to happen. Originally, there were plans to include Disney characters, as Dissidia was envisioned as a Kingdom Hearts fighting game. As that franchise already brought together many Final Fantasy heroes, it would have made sense to establish a sort-of tournament within that universe. Unfortunately, Disney was not keen on having their characters fight each other, so the idea was scrapped, resulting in Dissidia. Considering how complicated Kingdom Hearts' plot has gotten, it might have been for the best.
21 Yuna And Tidus Broke Up
At its heart, Final Fantasy X is a love story. Tidus is a famous blitzball player who ends up traveling 1000 years into the future, where a monster named Sin is running amok. After accepting that this is not just a weird dream, he ends up meeting a summoner named Yuna, who aims to defeat Sin. Their relationship can be rather cheesy, but they do make for an interesting couple. The sequel ends with the two lover's reuniting, as they finally get their well-deserved happy ending. If that seems like a perfect note to end on, we do not recommend checking out the audio drama entitled Final Fantasy X -Will-. Following up on the events of Final Fantasy X-2: Last Mission, they pretty much retconned everything that happened in the previous games. Sin is back, while Tidus and Yuna are no longer together. The plot literally ends with the group preparing to set out on a new journey to defeat Sin.
20 The Original Plan For Final Fantasy XV
Final Fantasy XV went through development hell. Square originally announced the RPG as a parallel story to Final Fantasy XIII, with a working title of Final Fantasy Versus XIII, and it was scheduled to be released on the PlayStation 3. Ten years and a generation later, Final Fantasy XV finally hit the market. Whether it was worth the wait varies on a player to player basis, but the original concept was fascinating. Versus XIII's story occurred alongside the events of Lightning's XIII. The tone was meant to be considerably darker than its counterpart, allowing fans to experience the world from a new perspective. Unfortunately, this never came to pass, resulting in a completely new story. As Final Fantasy XIII's storyline was rather messy, this change might have been for the best.
19 Too Hardcore For The Average (Western) Joe
Nowadays, it would be insane to not port a mainline Final Fantasy game to the West. During the franchise's early years, an Engish version was hardly a given. Final Fantasy II and III were only released in Japan, while Final Fantasy IV was renamed as Final Fantasy II for Western gamers. Despite translating its predecessor, the fifth entry did not receive an international release during its initial run. During a 1994 interview, Ted Woolsey explained that most of the JRPG's content was translated, but Square opted against a Western release. They felt that the US market was not accustomed to this style of gameplay; so, Final Fantasy Mystic Quest was developed as a starter kit. Eventually, Final Fantasy V was ported to the PlayStation.
18 A Quick-Fire Smash Hit
The "Crystal" Theme is arguably Final Fantasy's most iconic piece of music. Also known as the "Prelude," this masterpiece is a stable of the franchise, appearing in nearly every entry. With the exception of Final Fantasy X-2 and XIII-2, Square has repeatedly brought back the theme for the mainline games. In an interview with RedbullMusicAcademy, Nobuo Uematsu revealed that this iconic track was a last minute addition to the original game's soundtrack. Final Fantasy's music was already done and dusted when Uematsu was instructed to create a theme for the opening screen. As Square was on a strict schedule, the composer was allowed 30 minutes to work his magic. Fortunately, Uematsu handles pressure better than most people, resulting in the creation this short masterpiece.
17 Speaking Of Bad Ideas...
Final Fantasy XV stars four dudes who resemble a boy band. Okay, that joke has been done to death, but it was almost the case. For a very brief moment, Tetsuya Nomura considered turning the JRPG into a musical. Apparently, the director went to see Hugh Jackman's Les Misérables and fell in love. A good musical can result in a powerful experience, one that could be described as magical. Need proof? Just take a quick look at Disney. After the life-changing experience, Nomura returned to the studio with plans of turning Final Fantasy XV into a song and dance. Thankfully, reality quickly took hold, and the idea was scrapped. At that point, the RPG had already been in development for a number of years, so starting over would have been crazy.
16 A (Broken) Masterpiece
Final Fantasy games tend to be rather polished. Sure, XIV and XV had a few issues, but one does not go in expecting bugs in a Square Enix title. Unsurprisingly, this was not always the case, as the first game had more than a few problems. The NES version of Final Fantasy featured a fair few spells that were useless. We are not saying they were too weak to be worth using in battle or offered no particular advantage to the player; no, they LITERALLY did nothing. Magic attacks like "Tmpr" and "Sabr" were complete duds, while "Lock" never hits the target. In some cases, the game actively sabotages the player, as "Lok2" increases the enemy's evasion by 20% instead of decreasing it. Thankfully, these issues were ironed out once the RPG was re-released on future platforms.
15 Final Fantasy IX's Elusive Side-Quest
Who does not love a good secret? How about one that took 13 years to discover in the West? Maybe, there are some secrets that should be slightly less hidden. Final Fantasy IX featured a post-game side-quest that can only be triggered by visiting the game's final dungeon and speaking to the Nero Brothers a handful of times. While this quest was mentioned in a Japanese guide release for the RPG, this book never received an English translation, so Western players were left in the dark. The only reason we eventually learned about it is thanks to a GameFAQS user named The_Kusabi, who happened to read the Japanese guide. So, was it worth the wait?
14 Love (Not) Eternal
We already spoke about Tidus and Yuna's relationship; how the summoner and her guardian fell in love and, despite the impending end-of-the-world, learned to find happiness in each other. While Final Fantasy X finishes on a rather somber note, Yuna's last exchange with Tidus includes a tearful declaration of love by the summoner. This moment is rather famous, but it was not actually meant to happen. In the original Japanese version, Yuna thanks Tidus for everything he has done, ending their relationship on a more platonic note. Their romance was given considerably more focus in the English version. With the audio drama, what does Japan have against Tidus and Yuna being a couple? Yuna was presented as somewhat of an idol - especially in the sequel - and they tend to lose popularity once they are in a relationship. Could that be it?
13 Once upon a time, Lightning Had A Personality (Seriously!)
Lightning is the protagonist of arguably the series' most contentious run of games. Final Fantasy XIII sold relatively well, and the reviews were far from terrible, but certain fans were turned off by linearity of the levels and the unintuitive gameplay. While Lightning has a cool design, her dry and stoic personality was not always appreciated. During the development of the RPG, the heroine was envisioned as slightly more flirtatious, a trait that was transferred over to Fang once Square Enix decided to turn Lightning into a no-nonsense protagonist. Weirdly, Lightning's bust size received an upgrade for Lightning Returns, to allow the heroine to serve as a better model for the huge selection of in-game costumes. A female lead does not need to be showcased, although she might have benefited from a sense of humor.
12 Cid Is (Almost) Always There
Like chocobos and moogles, a Final Fantasy title would not feel right without an appearance by everyone's favorite grumpy engineer. Cid shows up in pretty much every core entry, although his role varies depending on the story. In most cases, he serves as the captain for the airship that allows fast travel during the RPG's final hours. His personality cannot be described as static, although there are a few traits that are always present. Occasionally, Cid even plays an important role in the story's main conflict. Only a single numbered entry in the series fails to include an appearance by the inventor, although Square did try to retroactively change it. The original Final Fantasy is Cid-less, while the remakes include a brief mention of the character. Sadly, Cid is not omnipresent.
11 The Times Are Changing
JRPGs are usually long games, but their budget is rarely comparable to Western AAA titles. The Tales of series is relatively successful, but the graphics and environments are usually a step or two behind the times. We are not criticizing these titles, as Berseria was awesome; but, when it comes to the visuals, the genre is rarely leading the way. Final Fantasy is the exception. Love or hate them, it cannot be denied that XIII, A Realm Reborn, and XV are graphically stunning. Square Enix is a powerful studio with a massive workforce, ensure that none of their games are left wanting. Final Fantasy XII had a development team of around 300, a substantial increase from the seven that worked on the original Final Fantasy.
10 When Final Fantasy Went Hollywood
While Final Fantasy XV definitely seemed influence by popular Western RPGs, it was not the first time that Square turned to America for inspiration. The results were kind of iffy. During Final Fantasy X-2's development, the studio turned to Hollywood, citing Charlie's Angels and the Tomb Raider movies as inspiration for the RPG's playable characters. Just a thought, by why not take a look at the original Lara Croft? Motomu Toriyama, the game's director, explained that these sources served as a starting point, although they abandoned some of their manlier traits. Looking back, this goes a long way in explaining Yuna's weird action-girl/idol hybrid phase. Note for the future, turning to Hollywood for fresh ideas is probably not the greatest strategy. Honestly, Hollywood films tend to shine when they ignore their own trends.
9 Cloud's Fashion Sense
Small changes can make a world of difference. Final Fantasy VII was a landmark release for the original PlayStation, serving as an introduction to the franchise for quite a few players. The RPG's protagonist, Cloud Strife, is among gaming's most iconic characters; even appearing in Super Smash Bros. From his legendary "Buster Sword," to that awesome Super Saiyan hairstyle, it is difficult to imagine Final Fantasy VII without its memorable lead character. In an alternative future, that could easily have been the norm, as Cloud's original design was substantially different. His spiky blonde hair was envisioned to be black and slick, while the absurdly huge sword was a few sizes smaller. Would this design have made a difference? Probably not, although Cloud's popularity might have taken a hit.
8 To Protect The Children
Censorship has a negative connotation, but that does not necessarily have to be the case. Usually, changes are implemented to make the experience better suited for a particular audience. Many JRPGs and anime series are edited prior to their international launch, resulting in different character names or plot points. Prior to the internet, the game played was the only one that mattered. Learning about other version was hardly easy or worth the effort, so people just pretended that they did not exist. With the rise of the digital age, things are not quite that simple. Final Fantasy VI was censored for its Western release, with Square covering up the assets of a few of the sprites. Creatures like the "Siren" and "Alluring Rider were censored, just to avoid any unneeded controversy.
7 Lost In Translation
A terrible dub is hardly anything new. Anyone who grew up watching English anime knows how bad it can get. One Piece, we are looking at you! Final Fantasy VII's English version had a few mistakes, but they did a serviceable job and avoided breaking the game. Spanish players yearned for mediocrity. They dreamed of a translation that did not occasionally forget the gender of its cast or mispronounce the villain's name. The Spanish translation is among the gaming industry's worst, as it is riddled with errors that completely take the player out of the moment. For example, the word "miss" is translated as "merma," which means to "decrease." We recommend checking out this amusing post, as there are way too many to mention in a solitary entry.
6 Vanille Vs Lightning
Looking back on Final Fantasy XIII, there is quite a lot of Oerba Dia Vanille sprinkled throughout the RPG. Besides being a playable character, the innocent deuteragonist serves as the narrator for the story. Sure, it is not particularly strange for a side-character to take center stage, but Vanille is nearly as important as Lightning. According to Final Fantasy XIII Ultimania Omega, a guidebook for the game, Vanille was recognized as the lead character during the development process. As the original trailer and posters were already released and showcased Lightning, the studio decided to relegate Vanille to a secondary character, freeing up the starring role for the stoic heroine. At the end of the day, Lightning proved popular enough to warrant a trilogy, so maybe it was the right choice.
5 Vaan Was Designed To Give People What They Want
Ah, Final Fantasy XII! We love and hate you at the same time. Ivalice is such a cool world to explore, but the battle system did take some getting used to. The cast is generally FANTASTIC, with the exception of the protagonist Vaan, who seems to serve no particular purpose. Seriously, why is this whiny brat the lead character? Balthier, Fran, and Reks were considerably more important to the plot, yet the street urchin stole the limelight. XII was a risky move for Square, so they needed a sure-fire way to market the RPG in Japan. Vaan was the result of trying to create the ultimate pretty boy for a Japanese audience, which somewhat explains his androgynous design and too-cool-for-school personality. This is what happens when studios let focus groups dictate their design choices.
4 Blaming Final Fantasy VIII For A Tragedy
This entry is arguably the most shameful of the bunch, and it has nothing to do with Square. Media outlets love to sensationalize any story, and video games remain a constant target for social outrage. In the year 2000, José Rabadán ended his entire family with a katana. The 16-year-old's violent act was heavily covered by the Spanish media, who blamed Final Fantasy VIII for the deaths. The tragic incident is complicated, but this was hardly the only time that video games were on the receiving end of some undeserved negative publicity. Apparently, the teenager idolized Squall, and the game's protagonist temporarily considers destroying someone close to him. Once the media found their scapegoat, Final Fantasy VIII was inadvertently villainized.
3 Settling On An Ending
A movie, game, or TV show are only as good as their ending. The first and last points of a story tend to leave a lasting impression; so, an unsatisfactory climax can retroactively ruin an otherwise great experience. On the other hand, a fantastic finish is capable of elevating a product from mediocrity to greatness. During an interview with IGN, Hideo Minaba, Hiroyuki Itou, and Nobuo Uematsu discussed the creation process for Final Fantasy IX. The site also included a transcript of a roundtable question and answer session held during the Tokyo event. Among other things, they revealed that while the concept remained consistent throughout, the RPG's ending was changed seven times. Unless one ending showed that a dog was behind everything, they were probably fine.
2 Law And Order: Final Fantasy
Considering how many different parts are involved in the creation of a game, it is incredibly they ever came out decent. The development process is similar to a rat race, with the rodents representing ideas. While each journey has an endpoint, the road is filled with fallen corpses. If another rat won the race, Final Fantasy VII could have been a completely different beast. Hironobu Sakaguchi's original script was set in New York City and felt more like a detective drama. Obviously, these ideas did not make it into the final version; although Square has to find a way to create a spin-off starring "Hot Blooded Detective Joe." Seriously, cast Christopher Meloni in the role and this could be the Law and Order/Final Fantasy crossover the world has been clamoring for. Wait, is that just us?
1 From Blood Siblings To Lovers...
Aerith Gainsborough broke our little hearts. Anyone who played Final Fantasy VII should know the feeling, and Sephiroth was to blame for our suffering. In the story, Aerith is on a quest to learn more about her heritage, which results in a run in with the antagonist. Aerith and Sephiroth's backstory is only loosely intertwined, but that was not always the case. An earlier draft included a stronger emotional bond between the two, as they were envisioned as siblings. Taking a somewhat creepy turn, their relationship took a romantic turn, as Aerith and Sephiroth became lovers. Yes, the latter was the original Zack. Final Fantasy VII is already great, but these changes would have added even more emotional weight to the story.