It’s a rare occasion in most plot-heavy game series that the characters change, yet the lore of a game stays with each installment. It’d be a bit jarring playing a Super Mario game and having an all-new cast of characters jumping over turtles and eating mushrooms. Imagine playing a Gears of War sequel that just lifts us off the planet Sera and has a whole new set of characters and baddies with chainsaw guns. You wouldn’t even believe it. In fact, most fans would riot in the streets. However, take something like Final Fantasy, as a whole, the series has taken this idea and perfected it, keeping the lore of magic and crystals and chocobos and given us a different story with each game. As a favorite game series of mine and a series still going strong to this day, I’d be at fault not taking the time to delve into Final Fantasy as a whole and pick apart its appeal. Let’s Talk History Originally created by Hironobu Sakaguchi, the Final Fantasy series was actually his final effort at success. After several failed NES titles, Sakaguchi questioned whether or not he made the right choice in the games industry. Luckily, after the success of Final Fantasy 1, the series spiraled into what we now see as it’s many sequels, anime, novels, manga, and even CGI movies. I’ll spare us the details of what we already know in Final Fantasy, how it has quite literally touched millions with its inspiring stories of magic and might, and how it redefined and practically perfected the combination of sci-fi and fantasy fiction. Many games were like it, yet none had evolved into what the series is today. What’s very well known about Final Fantasy as a whole is the consistency in its play style. For the most part, most games in the series had kept to turn-based gameplay. In the age of better graphics and functionality, it had evolved itself into action and tactical role-play, fighting, third-person shooter, MMORPG, and even rhythm games. Final Fantasy had reached a point in popularity where it was socially acceptable to become something more. I find more and more in gaming that at a certain level, you’re allowed to reinvent the wheel a bit. Sometimes it works out well like Final Fantasy becoming a tactical game, and other times it falls flat (see where the Metal Gear franchise is currently residing.) The question I pose now is DOES Final Fantasy still hold? Is the series still viable to continue past Final Fantasy XV (an extremely disappointing entry in the series IMO and the opinions of many fans)? I believe the answer to be yes. Here’s Why The richness of the lore and the versatility of its game mechanics are for one, it’s core appeal. Every Final Fantasy game has a certain level of expectation from its magic, summons, and other RPG elements to it’s implementing certain characters and entities such as the Moogles or the Chocobos. What I’m saying is, the series holds it’s own by telling a different story within the same universe every time. The fanbase for Final Fantasy is also very well aware of this and is accepting of each new cast of characters within each entry. Square Enix knows with each title, the one thing that is to be considered pivotal is the ability to immerse yourself in each storyline. Whether that’d be saving a princess, stopping an evil corporation, slaying a dragon, or making it to your honeymoon on time (I have to guess that was the point behind FFXV, that plot was literally scattered to the wind) each title had a focus on a common goal while still not having to compromise emotional and relatable characters along the way. Another Thing to Think About The characters of Final Fantasy have also been crucial in its ability to work well. As stated above, relatability in a cast is sometimes crucial, and at other times simply refreshing. Notable characters like Cloud Strife (FF7) and Squall Leonhart (FF8) are popular characters that deal with burdens that stem from their difficult past, while Tidus(FF10) has a cheery and upbeat attitude toward life in spite of his resentment toward a parental figure. Terra Branford (FF6) is a character who deals with the psychological effects of being manipulated and used by multiple parties, while Noctis Lucis Caelum (FF15) deals with completing a journey of redemption and rising to the occasion of maturity all while grieving his father, his loved one and his home. These aren’t necessarily all the most positive traits but are still within the realm of being relatable to the player. And through classic character development, each protagonist of each game has a certain level of growth that allows them to let go and work hard toward achieving what they want most in life. Most of the time the character’s internal struggles come second to the plot of the game itself, but character development is always a refreshing take if even just a sub-plot. The mere fact that Square Enix could make a full-fledged fighting game starring just the Final Fantasy characters is a clear fact of their inherent marketability. Dissidia might not be the simplest of fighters but neither are many fights in Final Fantasy. However, even if you don’t know anyone but Cloud and Sephiroth the characters mean something to you. My Point Is… I think one of the biggest takeaways from Final Fantasy as a whole is its ability to stay with a player. Fans of the series can tell you exactly which titles are their favorites and why, and more often than not they have an emotional reasoning behind their choice of game. There are many moments of extreme emotion or plot-turning events that have left players in shock and have made it into significant spots in the hall of gaming’s greatest memories. Final Fantasy is not without its faults, with cheesy dialogue and sometimes overcomplicated storylines. Regardless, if all gaming were to cease to exist tomorrow, the Final Fantasy series will be remembered as iconic, even with several different plots and characters in each, and that to me is an impressive feat.