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_FINAL FANTASY_ (ファイナルファンタジー, _Fainaru Fantajī_) is a science fiction and fantasy media franchise created by Hironobu Sakaguchi , and developed and owned by Square Enix (formerly Square ). The franchise centers on a series of fantasy and science fantasy role-playing video games (RPGs). The eponymous first game in the series , published in 1987, was conceived by Sakaguchi as his last-ditch effort in the game industry; the title was a success and spawned sequels. The video game series has since branched into other genres such as tactical role-playing , action role-playing , massively multiplayer online role-playing , racing , third-person shooter , fighting , and rhythm . The franchise has also branched out into other media, including CGI films, anime , manga , and novels .

Although most _Final Fantasy_ installments are stand-alone stories with different settings and main characters, they feature identical elements that define the franchise. Recurring elements include plot themes, character names, and game mechanics . Plots center on a group of heroes battling a great evil while exploring the characters' internal struggles and relationships. Character names are frequently derived from the history, languages, pop culture, and mythologies of cultures worldwide.

The series has been commercially and critically successful; it is Square Enix's best selling video game franchise, with more than 130 million units sold, and is one of the best-selling video game franchises of all time. The series is well known for its innovation, visuals, and music, such as the inclusion of full motion videos , photo-realistic character models, and orchestrated music by Nobuo Uematsu . _Final Fantasy_ has been a driving force in the video game industry , and the series has affected Square Enix's business practices and its relationships with other video game developers . It has also introduced many features now common in role-playing video games and has been credited with helping to popularize console-based RPGs in markets outside Japan.

CONTENTS

* 1 Titles

* 1.1 Games

* 1.1.1 Main series * 1.1.2 Remakes, sequels and spin-offs

* 1.2 Related media

* 1.2.1 Film and television * 1.2.2 Other media

* 2 Common elements

* 2.1 Plot and themes * 2.2 Characters * 2.3 Gameplay

* 3 Development and history

* 3.1 Origin * 3.2 Design * 3.3 Graphics and technology * 3.4 Music

* 4 Reception

* 4.1 Critical response

* 5 Impact and legacy * 6 See also * 7 References * 8 External links

TITLES

Further information: List of Final Fantasy media

GAMES

Main article: List of Final Fantasy video games

The first installment of the series premiered in Japan on December 18, 1987. Subsequent titles are numbered and given a story unrelated to previous games; consequently, the numbers refer more to volumes than to sequels. Many _Final Fantasy_ games have been localized for markets in North America, Europe, and Australia on numerous video game consoles , personal computers (PC), and mobile phones . Future installments will appear on seventh and eighth generation consoles . As of November 2016, the series includes the main installments from _Final Fantasy _ to _Final Fantasy XV _, as well as direct sequels and spin-offs , both released and confirmed as being in development. Most of the older titles have been remade or re-released on multiple platforms.

Main Series

Timeline of release years 1987 _Final Fantasy _

1988 _Final Fantasy II _

1989

1990 _Final Fantasy III _

1991 _Final Fantasy IV _

1992 _Final Fantasy V _

1993

1994 _Final Fantasy VI _

1995

1996

1997 _Final Fantasy VII _

1998

1999 _Final Fantasy VIII _

2000 _Final Fantasy IX _

2001 _Final Fantasy X _

2002 _Final Fantasy XI _

2003

2004

2005

2006 _Final Fantasy XII _

2007

2008

2009 _Final Fantasy XIII _

2010 _ Final Fantasy XIV _

2011

2012

2013

2014

2015

2016 _Final Fantasy XV _

Three _Final Fantasy_ installments were released on the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). _Final Fantasy_ was released in Japan in 1987 and in North America in 1990. It introduced many concepts to the console RPG genre, and has since been remade on several platforms. _Final Fantasy II _, released in 1988 in Japan, has been bundled with _Final Fantasy_ in several re-releases. The last of the NES installments, _Final Fantasy III _, was released in Japan in 1990; however, it was not released elsewhere until a Nintendo DS remake in 2006.

The Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) also featured three installments of the main series, all of which have been re-released on several platforms. _Final Fantasy IV _ was released in 1991; in North America, it was released as _Final Fantasy II_. It introduced the "Active Time Battle " system. _Final Fantasy V _, released in 1992 in Japan, was the first game in the series to spawn a sequel: a short anime series titled _Final Fantasy: Legend of the Crystals _. _Final Fantasy VI _ was released in Japan in 1994, but it was titled _Final Fantasy III_ in North America.

The PlayStation console saw the release of three main _Final Fantasy_ games. The 1997 title _Final Fantasy VII _ moved away from the two-dimensional (2D) graphics used in the first six games to three-dimensional (3D) computer graphics ; the game features polygonal characters on pre-rendered backgrounds. It also introduced a more modern setting, a style that was carried over to the next game. It was also the second in the series to be released in Europe, with the first being _Final Fantasy Mystic Quest _. _Final Fantasy VIII _ was published in 1999, and was the first to consistently use realistically proportioned characters and feature a vocal piece as its theme music. _Final Fantasy IX _, released in 2000, returned to the series' roots by revisiting a more traditional _Final Fantasy_ setting rather than the more modern worlds of _VII_ and _VIII_.

Three main installments, as well as one online game, were published for the PlayStation 2 (PS2). The 2001 title _Final Fantasy X _ introduced full 3D areas and voice acting to the series, and was the first to spawn a direct video game sequel (_Final Fantasy X-2 _, published in 2003). The first massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) in the series, _Final Fantasy XI _, was released on the PS2 and PC in 2002, and later on the Xbox 360 . It introduced real-time battles instead of random encounters . _Final Fantasy XII _, published in 2006, also includes real-time battles in large, interconnected playfields. The game is also the first in the main series to utilize a world used in a previous game, namely the land of Ivalice , which had previously featured in _Final Fantasy Tactics _ and _ Vagrant Story _.

In 2009, _Final Fantasy XIII _ was released in Japan, and in North America and Europe the following year, for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. It is the flagship installment of the _Fabula Nova Crystallis Final Fantasy _ series and became the first mainline game to spawn two direct sequels (_XIII-2 _ and _ Lightning Returns _). It was also the first game released in Chinese font-size:112.5%">Final Fantasy in film

1994 _Final Fantasy: Legend of the Crystals _

1995

1996

1997

1998

1999

2000

2001 _Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within _

2002

2003

2004

2005 _Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children _

_Last Order: Final Fantasy VII _

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010

2011

2012

2013

2014

2015

2016 _Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV _

_Brotherhood: Final Fantasy XV _

Square Enix has expanded the _Final Fantasy_ series into various media. Multiple anime and computer-generated imagery (CGI) films have been produced that are based either on individual _Final Fantasy_ games or on the series as a whole. The first was an original video animation (OVA) titled _Final Fantasy: Legend of the Crystals _, a sequel to _Final Fantasy V_. The story was set on the same world as the game, although 200 years in the future. It was released as four 30-minute episodes, first in Japan in 1994 and later in the United States by Urban Vision in 1998. In 2001, Square Pictures released its first feature film, _Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within _. The film is set on a future Earth invaded by alien life forms. _The Spirits Within_ was the first animated feature to seriously attempt to portray photorealistic CGI humans, but was considered a box office bomb and garnered mixed reviews.

In 2005, _Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children _, a theatrical CGI film, and _Last Order: Final Fantasy VII _, a non-canon OVA, were released as part of the _Compilation of Final Fantasy VII_. _Advent Children_ was animated by Visual Works, which helped the company create CG sequences for the games. The film, unlike _The Spirits Within_, gained mixed to positive reviews from critics and has become a commercial success. _Last Order,_ on the other hand, was released in Japan in a special DVD bundle package with _Advent Children_. _Last Order_ sold out quickly and was positively received by Western critics, though fan reaction was mixed over changes to established story scenes.

A 25-episode anime television series titled _Final Fantasy: Unlimited _ was released in 2001 based on the common elements of the _Final Fantasy_ series. It was broadcast in Japan by TV Tokyo and released in North America by ADV Films .

Two animated tie-ins for _Final Fantasy XV _ were announced at the Uncovered Final Fantasy XV fan and press event, forming part of a larger multimedia project dubbed the _Final Fantasy XV_ Universe. _Brotherhood: Final Fantasy XV _ is a series of five 10-to-20-minute-long episodes developed by A-1 Pictures and Square Enix detailing the backstories of the main cast. _Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV _, a CGI movie set for release prior to the game in Summer 2016, is set during the game's opening and follows new and secondary characters.

Other Media

Several video games have either been adapted into or have had spin-offs in the form of manga and novels. The first was the novelization of _Final Fantasy II_ in 1989, and was followed by a manga adaptation of _Final Fantasy III_ in 1992. The past decade has seen an increase in the number of non-video game adaptations and spin-offs. _Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within_ has been adapted into a novel, the spin-off game _Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles _ has been adapted into a manga, and _Final Fantasy XI_ has had a novel and manga set in its continuity. Seven novellas based on the _Final Fantasy VII _ universe have also been released. The _Final Fantasy: Unlimited_ story was partially continued in novels and a manga after the anime series ended. The _Final Fantasy X_ and _Final Fantasy XIII_ series have also had novellas and audio dramas released.

Two titles, _Final Fantasy Tactics Advance _ and _Final Fantasy: Unlimited_, have been adapted into radio dramas .

COMMON ELEMENTS

Although most _Final Fantasy_ installments are independent, many gameplay elements recur throughout the series. Most titles feature recycled names often inspired from various cultures' history, languages and mythology, including Asian , European , and Middle-Eastern . Examples include weapon names like Excalibur and Masamune—derived from Arthurian legend and the Japanese swordsmith Masamune respectively—as well as the spell names Holy, Meteor, and Ultima. Beginning with _Final Fantasy IV_, the main series adopted its current logo style that features the same typeface and an emblem designed by Japanese artist Yoshitaka Amano . The emblem relates to a title's respective plot and typically portrays a character or object in the story. Subsequent remakes of the first three games have replaced the previous logos with ones similar to the rest of the series.

PLOT AND THEMES

_ Final Fantasy V _ is typical of the earlier games in the series, in that the heroes must attempt to retrieve crystals to save the world from an ancient evil.

The central conflict in many _Final Fantasy_ games focuses on a group of characters battling an evil, and sometimes ancient, antagonist that dominates the game's world. Stories frequently involve a sovereign state in rebellion, with the protagonists taking part in the rebellion. The heroes are often destined to defeat the evil, and occasionally gather as a direct result of the antagonist's malicious actions. Another staple of the series is the existence of two villains; the main villain is not always who it appears to be, as the primary antagonist may actually be subservient to another character or entity. The main antagonist introduced at the beginning of the game is not always the final enemy, and the characters must continue their quest beyond what appears to be the final fight.

Stories in the series frequently emphasize the internal struggles, passions, and tragedies of the characters, and the main plot often recedes into the background as the focus shifts to their personal lives. Games also explore relationships between characters, ranging from love to rivalry. Other recurring situations that drive the plot include amnesia , a hero corrupted by an evil force, mistaken identity, and self-sacrifice . Magical orbs and crystals are recurring in-game items that are frequently connected to the themes of the games' plots. Crystals often play a central role in the creation of the world, and a majority of the _Final Fantasy_ games link crystals and orbs to the planet's life force . As such, control over these crystals drives the main conflict. The classical elements are also a recurring theme in the series related to the heroes, villains, and items. Other common plot and setting themes include the Gaia hypothesis , an apocalypse , and conflicts between advanced technology and nature .

CHARACTERS

Further information: Character design of Final Fantasy and Template:Final Fantasy characters

The series features a number of recurring character archetypes. Most famously, every game since _Final Fantasy II_, including subsequent remakes of the original _Final Fantasy_, features a character named Cid . Cid's appearance, personality, goals, and role in the game (non-playable ally, party member, villain) vary dramatically. However, two characteristics many versions of Cid have in common are 1) being a scientist or engineer, and 2) being tied in some way to an airship the party eventually acquires. Every Cid has at least one of these two traits.

Biggs and Wedge , inspired by two _ Star Wars _ characters of the same name, appear in numerous titles as minor characters, sometimes as comic relief. The later titles in the series feature several males with effeminate characteristics. Recurring creatures include Chocobos and Moogles . Chocobos are large, often flightless birds that appear in several installments as a means of long-distance travel for characters. Moogles, on the other hand, are white, stout creatures resembling teddy bears with wings and a single antenna. They serve different capacities in games including mail delivery, weaponsmiths , party members, and saving the game . Chocobo and Moogle appearances are often accompanied by specific musical themes that have been arranged differently for separate titles.

GAMEPLAY

Main article: Gameplay of Final Fantasy

In _Final Fantasy_ games, players command a party of characters as they progress through the game's story by exploring the game world and defeating opponents. Enemies are typically encountered randomly through exploring, a trend which changed in _Final Fantasy XI_ and _Final Fantasy XII_. The player issues combat orders—like "Fight", "Magic", and "Item"—to individual characters via a menu-driven interface while engaging in battles. Throughout the series, the games have used different battle systems. Prior to _Final Fantasy XI_, battles were turn-based with the protagonists and antagonists on different sides of the battlefield. _Final Fantasy IV_ introduced the "Active Time Battle" (ATB) system that augmented the turn-based nature with a perpetual time-keeping system. Designed by Hiroyuki Ito , it injected urgency and excitement into combat by requiring the player to act before an enemy attacks, and was used until _Final Fantasy X_, which implemented the "Conditional Turn-Based" (CTB) system. This new system returned to the previous turn-based system, but added nuances to offer players more challenge. _Final Fantasy XI_ adopted a real-time battle system where characters continuously act depending on the issued command. _Final Fantasy XII_ continued this gameplay with the "Active Dimension Battle" system. _Final Fantasy XIII_'s combat system, designed by the same man who worked on _X_, was meant to have an action-oriented feel, emulating the cinematic battles in _Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children_. The latest installment to the franchise, Final Fantasy XV, introduces a new "Open Combat" system. Unlike previous battle systems in the franchise, the "Open Combat" system (OCS) allows players to take on a fully active battle scenario, allowing for free range attacks and movement, giving a much more fluid feel of combat. This system also incorporates a "Tactical" Option during battle, which pauses active battle to allow use of items.

Like most RPGs, the _Final Fantasy_ installments use an experience level system for character advancement, in which experience points are accumulated by killing enemies. Character classes , specific jobs that enable unique abilities for characters, are another recurring theme. Introduced in the first game, character classes have been used differently in each title. Some restrict a character to a single job to integrate it into the story, while other games feature dynamic job systems that allow the player to choose from multiple classes and switch throughout the game. Though used heavily in many games, such systems have become less prevalent in favor of characters that are more versatile; characters still match an archetype, but are able to learn skills outside their class.

Magic is another common RPG element in the series. The method by which characters gain magic varies between installments, but is generally divided into classes organized by color: "White magic", which focuses on spells that assist teammates; "Black magic", which focuses on harming enemies; "Red magic", which is a combination of white and black magic, "Blue magic", which mimics enemy attacks; and "Green magic" which focuses on applying status effects to either allies or enemies. Other types of magic frequently appear such as "Time magic", focusing on the themes of time, space, and gravity; and "Summoning magic", which evokes legendary creatures to aid in battle and is a feature that has persisted since _Final Fantasy III_. Summoned creatures are often referred to by names like "Espers" or "Eidolons" and have been inspired by mythologies from Arabic , Hindu , Norse , and Greek cultures.

Different means of transportation have appeared through the series. The most common is the airship for long range travel, accompanied by chocobos for travelling short distances, but others include sea and land vessels. Following _Final Fantasy VII_, more modern and futuristic vehicle designs have been included.

DEVELOPMENT AND HISTORY

ORIGIN

See also: Development of Final Fantasy (video game) and Development of Final Fantasy II _ Hironobu Sakaguchi , creator of the Final Fantasy_ series

In the mid-1980s, Square entered the Japanese video game industry with simple RPGs, racing games , and platformers for Nintendo 's Famicom Disk System . In 1987, Square designer Hironobu Sakaguchi chose to create a new fantasy role-playing game for the cartridge-based NES, and drew inspiration from popular fantasy games: Enix 's _ Dragon Quest _, Nintendo's _ The Legend of Zelda _, and Origin Systems 's _Ultima_ series . Though often attributed to the company allegedly facing bankruptcy, Sakaguchi explained that the game was his personal last-ditch effort in the game industry and that its title, _Final Fantasy_, stemmed from his feelings at the time; had the game not sold well, he would have quit the business and gone back to university. Despite his explanation, publications have also attributed the name to the company's hopes that the project would solve its financial troubles. In 2015, Sakaguchi explained the name's origin: the team wanted a title that would abbreviate to "_FF_", which would sound good in Japanese. The name was originally going to be _Fighting Fantasy_, but due to concerns over trademark conflicts with the roleplaying gamebook series of the same name , they needed to settle for something else. As the word "Final" was a famous word in Japan, Sakaguchi settled on that. According to Sakaguchi, any title that created the "_FF_" abbreviation would have done.

The game indeed reversed Square's lagging fortunes, and it became the company's flagship franchise. Following the success, Square immediately developed a second installment. Because Sakaguchi assumed _Final Fantasy_ would be a stand-alone title, its story was not designed to be expanded by a sequel. The developers instead chose to carry over only thematic similarities from its predecessor, while some of the gameplay elements, such as the character advancement system, were overhauled. This approach has continued throughout the series; each major _Final Fantasy_ game features a new setting, a new cast of characters, and an upgraded battle system. Video game writer John Harris attributed the concept of reworking the game system of each installment to Nihon Falcom 's _ Dragon Slayer _ series, with which Square was previously involved as a publisher. The company regularly released new titles in the main series. However, the time between the releases of _Final Fantasy XI_ (2002), _Final Fantasy XII_ (2006), and _Final Fantasy XIII_ (2009) were much longer than previous titles. Following _Final Fantasy XIV_, Square Enix stated that it intended to release _Final Fantasy_ games either annually or biennially. This switch was to mimic the development cycles of Western games in the _ Call of Duty _, _Assassin\'s Creed _ and _Battlefield _ series, as well as maintain fan-interest.

DESIGN

See also: Category: Final Fantasy designers

For the original _Final Fantasy_, Sakaguchi required a larger production team than Square's previous titles. He began crafting the game's story while experimenting with gameplay ideas. Once the gameplay system and game world size were established, Sakaguchi integrated his story ideas into the available resources. A different approach has been taken for subsequent titles; the story is completed first and the game built around it. Designers have never been restricted by consistency, though most feel each title should have a minimum number of common elements. The development teams strive to create completely new worlds for each title, and avoid making new games too similar to previous ones. Game locations are conceptualized early in development and design details like building parts are fleshed out as a base for entire structures.

The first five games were directed by Sakaguchi, who also provided the original concepts. He drew inspiration for game elements from anime films by Hayao Miyazaki ; series staples like the airships and chocobos are inspired by elements in _ Castle in the Sky _ and _Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind _, respectively. Sakaguchi served as a producer for subsequent games until he left Square in 2001. Yoshinori Kitase took over directing the games until _Final Fantasy VIII_, and has been followed by a new director for each new title. Hiroyuki Ito designed several gameplay systems, including _Final Fantasy V_'s "Job System ", _Final Fantasy VIII_'s "Junction System " and the Active Time Battle concept, which was used from _Final Fantasy IV_ until _Final Fantasy IX_. In designing the Active Time Battle system, Ito drew inspiration from Formula One racing; he thought it would be interesting if character types had different speeds after watching race cars pass each other. Ito also co-directed _Final Fantasy VI_ with Kitase. Kenji Terada was the scenario writer for the first three games; Kitase took over as scenario writer for _Final Fantasy V_ through _Final Fantasy VII_. Kazushige Nojima became the series' primary scenario writer from _Final Fantasy VII_ until his resignation in October 2003; he has since formed his own company, Stellavista. Nojima partially or completely wrote the stories for _Final Fantasy VII_, _Final Fantasy VIII_, _Final Fantasy X_, and _Final Fantasy X-2_. He also worked as the scenario writer for the spin-off series, _Kingdom Hearts_. Daisuke Watanabe co-wrote the scenarios for _Final Fantasy X_ and _XII_, and was the main writer for the _XIII_ games. _ Final Fantasy VI _ artwork by Yoshitaka Amano , who provided designs for much of the series

Artistic design, including character and monster creations, was handled by Japanese artist Yoshitaka Amano from _Final Fantasy_ through _Final Fantasy VI_. Amano also handled title logo designs for all of the main series and the image illustrations from _Final Fantasy VII_ onward. Tetsuya Nomura was chosen to replace Amano because Nomura's designs were more adaptable to 3D graphics. He worked with the series from _Final Fantasy VII_ through _Final Fantasy X_; for _Final Fantasy IX_, however, character designs were handled by Shukō Murase , Toshiyuki Itahana, and Shin Nagasawa. Nomura is also the character designer of the _Kingdom Hearts_ series, _Compilation of Final Fantasy VII_, and _Fabula Nova Crystallis: Final Fantasy_. Other designers include Nobuyoshi Mihara and Akihiko Yoshida . Mihara was the character designer for _Final Fantasy XI_, and Yoshida served as character designer for _Final Fantasy Tactics_, the Square-produced _ Vagrant Story _, and _Final Fantasy XII_.

GRAPHICS AND TECHNOLOGY

Because of graphical limitations, the first titles on the NES feature small sprite representations of the leading party members on the main world screen. Battle screens use more detailed, full versions of characters in a side-view perspective. This practice was used until _Final Fantasy VI_, which uses detailed versions for both screens. The NES sprites are 26 pixels high and use a color palette of 4 colors. 6 frames of animation are used to depict different character statuses like "healthy" and "fatigued". The SNES installments use updated graphics and effects, as well as higher quality audio than in previous games, but are otherwise similar to their predecessors in basic design. The SNES sprites are 2 pixels shorter, but have larger palettes and feature more animation frames: 11 colors and 40 frames respectively. The upgrade allowed designers to have characters be more detailed in appearance and express more emotions. The first title includes non-player characters (NPCs) the player could interact with, but they are mostly static in-game objects. Beginning with the second title, Square used predetermined pathways for NPCs to create more dynamic scenes that include comedy and drama.

In 1995, Square showed an interactive SGI technical demonstration of _Final Fantasy VI_ for the then next generation of consoles . The demonstration used Silicon Graphics 's prototype Nintendo 64 workstations to create 3D graphics. Fans believed the demo was of a new _Final Fantasy_ title for the Nintendo 64 console; however, 1997 saw the release of _Final Fantasy VII_ for the Sony PlayStation. The switch was due to a dispute with Nintendo over its use of faster but more expensive cartridges , as opposed to the slower and cheaper, but much higher capacity Compact Discs used on rival systems. _Final Fantasy VII_ introduced 3D graphics with fully pre-rendered backgrounds. It was because of this switch to 3D that a CD-ROM format was chosen over a cartridge format. The switch also led to increased production costs and a greater subdivision of the creative staff for _Final Fantasy VII_ and subsequent 3D titles in the series. _ Final Fantasy VIII_, along with _VII_ and _IX_, used pre-rendered backgrounds

Starting with _Final Fantasy VIII_, the series adopted a more photo-realistic look. Like _Final Fantasy VII_, full motion video (FMV) sequences would have video playing in the background, with the polygonal characters composited on top. _Final Fantasy IX_ returned to the more stylized design of earlier games in the series, although it still maintained, and in many cases slightly upgraded, most of the graphical techniques used in the previous two games. _Final Fantasy X_ was released on the PlayStation 2, and used the more powerful hardware to render graphics in real-time instead of using pre-rendered material to obtain a more dynamic look; the game features full 3D environments, rather than have 3D character models move about pre-rendered backgrounds. It is also the first _Final Fantasy_ game to introduce voice acting , occurring throughout the majority of the game, even with many minor characters. This aspect added a whole new dimension of depth to the character's reactions, emotions, and development.

Taking a temporary divergence, _Final Fantasy XI_ used the PlayStation 2's online capabilities as an MMORPG. Initially released for the PlayStation 2 with a PC port arriving six months later, _Final Fantasy XI_ was also released on the Xbox 360 nearly four years after its original release in Japan. This was the first _Final Fantasy_ game to use a free rotating camera. _Final Fantasy XII_ was released in 2006 for the PlayStation 2 and uses only half as many polygons as _Final Fantasy X_, in exchange for more advanced textures and lighting. It also retains the freely rotating camera from _Final Fantasy XI_. _Final Fantasy XIII_ and _Final Fantasy XIV_ both make use of Crystal Tools , a middleware engine developed by Square Enix.

MUSIC

Main article: Music of the Final Fantasy series _ Nobuo Uematsu , composer of most of the Final Fantasy_ soundtracks

The titles in the series feature a variety of music, but frequently reuse themes. Most of the games open with a piece called "Prelude", which has evolved from a simple, 2-voice arpeggio in the early games to a complex, melodic arrangement in recent installments. Victories in combat are often accompanied by a victory fanfare, a theme that has become one of the most recognized pieces of music in the series. The basic theme that accompanies Chocobo appearances has been rearranged in a different musical style for each installment. A piece called "Prologue" (and sometimes "Final Fantasy"), originally featured in the first game, is often played during the ending credits. Although leitmotifs are common in the more character-driven installments, theme music is typically reserved for main characters and recurring plot elements.

Nobuo Uematsu was the chief music composer of the _Final Fantasy_ series until his resignation from Square Enix in November 2004. Other composers include Masashi Hamauzu , Hitoshi Sakimoto and Junya Nakano . Uematsu was allowed to create much of the music with little direction from the production staff. Sakaguchi, however, would request pieces to fit specific game scenes including battles and exploring different areas of the game world. Once a game's major scenarios were completed, Uematsu would begin writing the music based on the story, characters, and accompanying artwork. He started with a game's main theme, and developed other pieces to match its style. In creating character themes, Uematsu read the game's scenario to determine the characters' personality. He would also ask the scenario writer for more details to scenes he was unsure about. Technical limitations were prevalent in earlier titles; Sakaguchi would sometimes instruct Uematsu to only use specific notes. It was not until _Final Fantasy IV_ on the SNES that Uematsu was able to add more subtlety to the music.

RECEPTION

Overall, the _Final Fantasy_ series has been critically acclaimed and commercially successful, though each installment has seen different levels of success. The series has seen a steady increase in total sales; it sold over 10 million units worldwide by early 1996, 45 million by August 2003, 63 million by December 2005, and 85 million by July 2008. In June 2011, Square Enix announced that the series had sold over 100 million units, and by March 2014, it had sold over 110 million units. Its high sales numbers have ranked it as one of the best-selling video game franchises in the industry; in January 2007, the series was listed as number three, and later in July as number four.

Several games within the series have become best-selling titles. At the end of 2007, the seventh, eighth, and ninth best-selling RPGs were _Final Fantasy VII_, _Final Fantasy VIII_, and _Final Fantasy X_ respectively. _Final Fantasy VII_ has sold more than 9.5 million copies worldwide, earning it the position of the best-selling _Final Fantasy_ title. Within two days of _Final Fantasy VIII_'s North American release on September 9, 1999, it became the top-selling video game in the United States, a position it held for more than three weeks. _Final Fantasy X_ sold over 1.4 million Japanese units in pre-orders alone, which set a record for the fastest-selling console RPG. The MMORPG, _Final Fantasy XI_, reached over 200,000 active daily players in March 2006 and had reached over half a million subscribers by July 2007. _Final Fantasy XII_ sold more than 1.7 million copies in its first week in Japan. By November 6, 2006—one week after its release—_Final Fantasy XII_ had shipped approximately 1.5 million copies in North America. _Final Fantasy XIII_ became the fastest-selling game in the franchise, and sold one million units on its first day of sale in Japan. _Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn_, in comparison to its predecessor, was a runaway success, originally suffering from servers being overcrowded, and eventually gaining over one million unique subscribers within two months of its launch.

CRITICAL RESPONSE

The series has received critical acclaim for the quality of its visuals and soundtracks. In 1996, _Next Generation _ ranked it as the 17th top game series of all time, speaking very highly of its graphics, music and stories. It was awarded a star on the Walk of Game in 2006, making it the first franchise to win a star on the event (other winners were individual games, not franchises). WalkOfGame.com commented that the series has sought perfection as well as having been a risk taker in innovation. In 2006, GameFAQs held a contest for the best video game series ever, with _Final Fantasy_ finishing as the runner-up to _ The Legend of Zelda _. In a 2008 public poll held by The Game Group plc , _Final Fantasy_ was voted the best game series, with five titles appearing in their "Greatest Games of All Time" list.

Many _Final Fantasy_ games have been included in various lists of top games. Several games have been listed on multiple IGN "Top Games" lists. Eleven games were listed on _ Famitsu '_s 2006 "Top 100 Favorite Games of All Time", four of which were in the top ten, with _Final Fantasy X_ and _Final Fantasy VII_ coming first and second, respectively. The series holds seven Guinness World Records in the _ Guinness World Records Gamer\'s Edition 2008_, which include the "Most Games in an RPG Series" (13 main titles, seven enhanced titles, and 32 spin-off titles), the "Longest Development Period" (the production of _Final Fantasy XII_ took five years), and the "Fastest-Selling Console RPG in a Single Day" (_Final Fantasy X_). The 2009 edition listed two titles from the series among the top 50 consoles games: _Final Fantasy XII_ at number 8 and _Final Fantasy VII_ at number 20.

However, the series has garnered some criticism. IGN has commented that the menu system used by the games is a major detractor for many and is a "significant reason why they haven't touched the series." The site has also heavily criticized the use of random encounters in the series' battle systems. IGN further stated the various attempts to bring the series into film and animation have either been unsuccessful, unremarkable, or did not live up to the standards of the games. In 2007, _Edge _ criticized the series for a number of related titles that include the phrase "_Final Fantasy_" in their titles, which are considered inferior to previous titles. It also commented that with the departure of Hironobu Sakaguchi , the series might be in danger of growing stale.

Several individual _Final Fantasy_ titles have garnered extra attention; some for their positive reception and others for their negative reception. _Final Fantasy VII_ topped _ GamePro 's_ "26 Best RPGs of All Time" list, as well as GameFAQs "Best Game Ever" audience polls in 2004 and 2005. Despite the success of _Final Fantasy VII_, it is sometimes criticized as being overrated. In 2003, GameSpy listed it as the seventh most overrated game of all time, while IGN presented views from both sides. _Dirge of Cerberus: Final Fantasy VII _ shipped 392,000 units in its first week of release, but received review scores that were much lower than that of other _Final Fantasy_ games. A delayed, negative review after the Japanese release of _Dirge of Cerberus_ from Japanese gaming magazine _Famitsu_ hinted at a controversy between the magazine and Square Enix. Though _Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within_ was praised for its visuals, the plot was criticized and the film was considered a box office bomb. _Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles_ for the GameCube received overall positive review scores, but reviews stated that the use of Game Boy Advances as controllers was a big detractor. The predominantly negative reception of the original version of _Final Fantasy XIV_ caused then-president Yoichi Wada to issue an official apology during a Tokyo press conference, stating that the brand had been "greatly damaged" by the game's reception.

IMPACT AND LEGACY

The _Final Fantasy_ series and several specific games within it have been credited for introducing and popularizing many concepts that are today widely used in console RPGs. The original title is often cited as one of the most influential early console RPGs, and played a major role in legitimizing and popularizing the genre. Many console RPGs featured one-on-one battles against monsters from a first-person perspective . _Final Fantasy_ introduced a side view perspective with groups of monsters against a group of characters that has been frequently used. It also introduced an early evolving class change system, as well as different methods of transportation, including a ship, canoe, and flying airship. _Final Fantasy II_ was the first sequel in the industry to omit characters and locations from the previous title. It also introduced an activity-based progression system, which has been used in later RPG series such as _SaGa_, _Grandia _, and _ The Elder Scrolls _. _Final Fantasy III_ introduced the job system, a character progression engine allowing the player to change character classes, as well as acquire new and advanced classes and combine class abilities, at any time during the game. _Final Fantasy IV_ is considered a milestone for the genre, introducing a dramatic storyline with a strong emphasis on character development and personal relationships. _Final Fantasy VII_ is credited as having the largest industry impact of the series, and with allowing console role-playing games to gain mass-market appeal.

The series affected Square's business on several levels. The commercial failure of _Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within_ resulted in hesitation and delays from Enix during merger discussions with Square. Square's decision to produce games exclusively for the Sony PlayStation—a move followed by Enix's decision with the _Dragon Quest_ series—severed their relationship with Nintendo. _Final Fantasy_ games were absent from Nintendo consoles, specifically the Nintendo 64, for seven years. Critics attribute the switch of strong third-party titles like the _Final Fantasy_ and _Dragon Quest_ games to Sony's PlayStation, and away from the Nintendo 64, as one of the reasons behind PlayStation being the more successful of the two consoles. The release of the Nintendo GameCube, which used optical disc media, in 2001 caught the attention of Square. To produce games for the system, Square created the shell company The Game Designers Studio and released _Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles _, which spawned its own metaseries within the main franchise. _Final Fantasy XI_'s lack of an online method of subscription cancellation prompted the creation of legislation in Illinois that requires internet gaming services to provide such a method to the state's residents.

The series' popularity has resulted in its appearance and reference in numerous facets of popular culture like anime, TV series, and webcomics . Music from the series has permeated into different areas of culture. _Final Fantasy IV_'s "Theme of Love" was integrated into the curriculum of Japanese school children and has been performed live by orchestras and metal bands. In 2003, Uematsu became involved with The Black Mages , a rock group independent of Square that has released albums of arranged _Final Fantasy_ tunes. Bronze medalists Alison Bartosik and Anna Kozlova performed their synchronized swimming routine at the 2004 Summer Olympics to music from _Final Fantasy VIII_. Many of the titles' official soundtracks have been released for sale as well. Numerous companion books, which normally provide in-depth game information, have been published. In Japan, they are published by Square and are called _Ultimania _ books.

SEE ALSO

* _Japan portal * Final Fantasy portal

* Dragon Quest _—Initially a competing series from Enix , continues to be produced alongside _Final Fantasy_ after their merger with Square * _ Kingdom Hearts _—An RPG series developed by Square Enix in collaboration with the American company Disney which includes both Disney-related and _Final Fantasy_ characters * _Granblue Fantasy _—a 2013 video game featuring key staff from _Final Fantasy_ * _ The Last Story _—a 2012 video game featuring key staff from _Final Fantasy_ * List of Square Enix franchises * List of Japanese role-playing game franchises * _ Final Fantasy_ series – Wikipedia book

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