The pride and joy of Square Enix (formerly Squaresoft), Final Fantasy is a hand-abradingly popularRole-Playing Game series, currently on its fourteenth iteration alongside multiple sequels, spinoffs, remakes and films.The series is highly regarded for its outstanding production values and gameplay, and for being a pioneer in the Eastern RPG genre. Many of the conventions of Eastern RPGs that didn't originate in the Dragon Quest line originated with the Final Fantasy series, which in turn was influenced by Ultima and other Western computer role playing games. Even to this day, each new Final Fantasy game attempts to evolve the genre with new gameplay innovations or approaches, and although this can be divisive to the fanbase, credit is generally given to their attempts to at least try something different in the heavily-stagnant and conservative Eastern RPG genre.The series was fairly obscure on Western shores for a long time until its popularity exploded with the release of Final Fantasy VII, which exposed most people to the Eastern RPG genre for the first time and is widely regarded as one of the best Role Playing Games of all time. Since then, Final Fantasy is widely considered as the pioneer of the Eastern RPG franchise in the west, held to such a regard that the English localizations are now developed concurrently with the original production.Tracking the early parts of the Final Fantasy series can be confusing, as only three of the first six games made it to North America, where the numbers were changed so that the US releases were consecutive numbers. Final Fantasy IV was released in America as Final Fantasy II, while Final Fantasy VI was released as Final Fantasy III. The confusion doesn't end there, as four games were given the name "Final Fantasy" to increase sales in North America: the first three games of the Makai Toshi SaGa series (released as Final Fantasy Legend (1-3)) and the first installment in the World of Mana series (released as Final Fantasy Adventure). Final Fantasy VII broke this trend and was released as "VII" everywhere, and from that point on, every release, including remakes, would bear the original numbering.This series was also one of the first Japanese games to reach US shores and see a successful market. Later Japanese games would see this potential and come onto the scene. One equally popular series that saw this potential would eventually be Dragon Quest, Enix's flagship franchise. The other is Shin Megami Tensei, Atlus' flagship franchise. Before the Square Enix merger, these franchises have been competing against each other since the NES days; currently, SMT and Final Fantasy are direct competitors in both markets, while Dragon Quest has taken a much quieter role.While the series stuck firmly to a policy of one-game-per-number for a long time, in more recent times the franchise has opened up to the idea of sequels and compilations. Final Fantasy X was the first to get a direct sequel, Final Fantasy XIII was the first to get a whole trilogy, and Final Fantasy Tactics was the first to have a compilation of games set in the same universe, known as the Ivalice Alliance.
The Final Fantasy series consists of:
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Final Fantasy: A miasma is sweeping the world. The wind stops, the sea is wild, the earth begins to rot - ...And fire's been acting pretty sketchy, too. It's up to four warriors to rekindle the Crystals that control the elements. Today, the game is also remembered for launching 8-Bit Theater, but the story contains more surprises than the opening crawl would have one think.
Final Fantasy IInote not to be confused with Final Fantasy IV, which was originally released in North America as Final Fantasy II: A spoilt Emperor has made a pact with Hell, swarming the world with demonic troops. It's up to a ragtag resistance movement to slow the Empire's progress - stopping the Emperor may prove impossible. Rather than pick warrior classes at the outset, players gradually mold their characters' skills through use of spells and weapons, which is novel. Clubbing yourself with a sword increases HP, which is also novel (or comical). Introduced the concept of guest characters joining the party, including the series' very first Dragoon.
Final Fantasy IIInote not to be confused with Final Fantasy VI, which was originally released in North America as Final Fantasy III: Four youths are tapped by a mysterious crystal to restore balance to the elements. Took a page from Dragon Quest III by implementing the job system - allowing characters to switch jobs at will - and threw players a curveball with its expanding overworld. (Though an airship is found early on, upgrades are required to float over mountains and other nuisances.) Easily the most sadistic game in the series.
Final Fantasy IV: Star Wars: A New Hope, except from Darth Vader's perspective. When Cecil, the man in charge of The Empire's flying battalion of doom, grows weary of harassing innocent people, his paranoid King fires him. Big mistake. FFIV had the most gripping storyline in the series thus far, with a massive rotating cast, multiple overworlds (à la III), and an overarching theme of redemption.
Final Fantasy V: The elements are wreaking havoc (again), the King of Tycoon has gone missing, and it somehow all ties into an asteroid which crashed just outside the castle, narrowly missing a young wanderer named Bartz. Zounds! The job system makes another comeback, with a whopping 22 jobs (plus an additional four in the GBA version), making this the most customizable FF title outside of Tactics.
Final Fantasy VI: FF continues its steady march toward cyberpunk with this steampunk adventure, set in the aftermath of a world-destroying magical war. A quasi-fascist Emperor has discovered a way to replicate magic through artificial means, which can only mean trouble. The job system is shelved, yet again, though the character classes themselves have been rolled into 14 unique player characters. The most aesthetically and musically stunning FF of its time, pushing the SNES to its limits. This marks the point where Square became a god-tier developer.
Final Fantasy VII: Is this blurb necessary? It's FFVII. It sold 10 million copies. Odds are you might've heard of it. Set in a gritty Diesel Punk world, an eco-terrorist group stage bombings on the facilities of an energy conglomerate that mines the planet's life force as fuel. Meanwhile, a Japanese version of Norman Bates (with a much longer knife and hair) plots the world's downfall on orders of his Lovecraftian mother. FFVII marked the peak of the JRPG craze, and while not a PSX launch title, it was the biggest incentive for gamers to buy the console. It also boasts the largest Expanded Universe of any entry.
Final Fantasy VIII: VII was a hard act to follow, but VIII proved a solid (if esoteric) successor: Teenagers attend a military academy in preparation for war against the Sorceresses, who have this unfortunate habit of rising to power and imposing their iron fist on the world. The "school days" plotlines take a few notes from MegaTen, and are regarded as the game's high points.
Final Fantasy X: Star athlete is pulled through time, washing up in a ruined future ruled by the bastard child of Lavos and Moby-Dick. His only path home, or so it seems, is to accompany a group of pilgrims on their journey to make the land peaceful again. The first fully-voiced FF title, with a competent (though far from stellar) English dub.
Final Fantasy XI: A MMORPG set in the fantasy world of Vana'diel. Known for being particularly brutal. The most profitable title in the series, by virtue of running a paid subscription service for over ten years.
Final Fantasy XII: The first game to be published following the merger with Enix. Things are looking grim for Ivalice when Dalmasca, the biggest obstacle to the Archadian Empire, falls overnight after their king is murdered by one of his own knights. However, something about the whole mess doesn't add up, and a team of adventurers - including a destitute princess, a pair of sky pirates, and an orphan from the streets - are compelled to break the supposed traitor out of jail and discover the truth. The gameplay of XII is modeled on an MMORPG, but with linear quests and various characters/races/summons from Tactics..
Final Fantasy XIII: The story takes place in the floating, isolationist mini-Dyson sphere of Cocoon. Several hundred years ago, a "War of Transgression" took place between Cocoon and the vast, lush, primeval surface world, Pulse. Since then, Cocoon's governmental body ruthlessly "purges" anyone who comes into contact with Pulse. A former solider, Lightning (explicitly a Gender Flip of Cloud Strife), is forced to go on the lam after her sister is branded a Pulse l'Cie, servants of the godlike beings called fal'Cie of the planet below, and nabbed by the government.
Final Fantasy XIV: Another MMORPG set in the nation of Eorzea which faces threats from an ongoing Cold War with the ruthless and technologically advanced military state Garlemald and its Tin Tyrant generals, while also dealing with the beast-tribes and their Primals, as well as the enigmatic Ascians.
Before Crisis: Final Fantasy VII: The first prequel in Square's Enix's FFVII Compilation puts us in the shoes of a younger (and much larger) Turks unit. AVALANCHE exists in a larger form, too, and they're more psychotic than the benevolent group still in embryo.
Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children: Midgar has fallen into decay, a virus known as geostigma is scourging the population, and a band of fanatics have styled themselves as Sephiroth's disciples. All in all, things might have been better with Shinra still in charge. Everyone from the game reunites for this CG animated movie, even the dead ones.
Final Fantasy X-2: Another throwback game, and Square Enix's first sequel to a mainline Final Fantasy. With her pilgrimage over, Yuna (with Rikku in tow) becomes a sky pirate and travels the world in search of Tidus, who is still MIA. Features the triumphant return of the job system (based on the classic jobs from I-V) and another romp through Spira, now fully-accessible with a Global Airship.
Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings: In the aftermath of XII, Vaan has joined Baltheir and Fran as a sky pirate, while Ashe and Larsa work to hold their respective realms together. Easier said than done, as a winged Judge is pummeling Ivalice with a floating continent, hoping to stir up a war between Humes and their winged counterparts, the Aegyls.
Final Fantasy Tactics: Two warriors, one a noble, and the other a plebe, follow divergent paths in their quest to free Ivalice from tyranny and corruption. One man will stay true to his ideals, and wind up losing everything; the other will bribe, extort, stab, and screw his way to the top of Ivalice's power structure. Can you guess which? An Updated Re-release entitled War of the Lions was released for the PSP.
Final Fantasy Tactics Advance: In this, the most metafictional FF game yet, an Earth boy named Marche is sucked into a fantasy world based on his classmate's memories of a Final Fantasy game. Marche must dismantle the world's crystals ("threads") in order to get home, but it will mean destroying the idyllic new lives of his friends and family, who are trapped in Ivalice along with him...
Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Keeping in canon with the previous title, another resident of St. Ivalice, Luso, is yanked into a different grimoire and appears in the Ivalice of Final Fantasy XII. Less wordy and political than its predecessors.
Vagrant Story: An elite secret agent pursues a mysterious cult leader to a ruined city permeated by extremely powerful dark magic, uncovering much of his own Dark and Troubled Past in the process. This game was originally presented as a completely separate title with just a few Tactics references, until supplementary materials for FFXII confirmed Vagrant Story as being set in Ivalice.
Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Echoes of Time: A spiritual successor to Ring of Fates, once again featuring a customizable hero. In a time where the only Crystal left in the world is the one in your village, a simple errand to fetch some medicine by doing a favor for the local scholar turns your entire life upside-down when all the townspeople vanish with out a trace... and that's just the start. Happy sixteenth birthday!
Final Fantasy Mystic Quest: Instead of the usual creators, it was made by the same team who made SaGa3, as sort of a "entry level" RPG. Standard yarn about a boy hero embarking on a quest to defeat the Dark King who burned down his home.
Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light: In a world threatened by darkness, the Crystals once again select four youths to bestow job classes on in hopes that they can save the world. Unfortunately, the ones they pick are insecure, haughty, and/or self-centered and split the party as soon as they defeat the first boss. Try not to break anything.
Bravely Default: Not formally so, but it began life as a straight-up sequel to Four Heroes of Light and uses tons of elements from the franchise and is, for all intents and purposes, a Final Fantasy game.
Dolled Up Installments
The first three games of the SaGa series were retitled and released in America under the Final Fantasy Legend moniker:
Final Fantasy: Unlimited: A 26-episode series. Twins whose parents vanished into a dimensional anomaly find themselves traveling through various fantastic worlds, teaming up with a government agent and an aloof summoner-sniper as they are pursued by the villains. Features four Elemental lords, Chaos as the Big Bad, chocobos, and a moogle.
Agnis Philosophynote Actually a technical demo for Square's Luminous Engine development kit. It has its own unique story and setting, however, and is actually labelled as Final Fantasy, perhaps existing as a concept for next-gen FF titles.
Adult Fear: For a series known for its young and unrealistically pretty boys, the franchise has its share of Adult Fear:
Final Fantasy VI: Cyan losing his family when Doma is poisoned. Imagine, you, one of the finest knight in the realm, having no power to save your beloved ones. It gets so bad that later in the World of Ruins, an evil spirit grow powerful by feeding on his agony.
Strago completely lost his mind after the world come to its end and he become separated from his only family, his grand-daughter Relm. Shadow probably is like this too, if the WMG that he's Relm's father is proven true.
Final Fantasy VIII: Edea is the adoptive mother of all of player characters except Rinoa. Imagine, you're possessed by an all-powerful Sorceress from the future who forces you to kill your children and unravel all that you built. The trauma is so bad that Edea can no longer act like a mother toward Squall and co.
Anthology: Almost every installment is an original story set in a different world with similar elements to it (such as chocobos, airships, etc.)
Altum Videtur: The series has always loved putting in gratuitous Latin in places, but in recent years game titles have been subject to this as well (Dissidia, Dissidia Duodecim and Fabula Nova Crystallis, among others). An increased usage of Latin in later games may or may not have been due to Final Fantasy VII's Final Boss theme being a Crowning Music of Awesome.
Artifact Title/Not-so-Meaningful Name: Final Fantasy I was going to be series' creator Hironobu Sakaguchi's final game for Square if it didn't sell well, who proclaimed that his "final game" for Square would be a "fantasy RPG". The fact that it is now more than twenty years and forty-seven sequels/spin-offs later provides a slight hint as to whether or not the word "final" still applies (although Sakaguchi is no longer involved in the series after Final Fantasy X.)
Yoshitaka Amano has a fondness for traditional japanese watercolors. He also loves willowy males with frizzy white hair, pale skin (But that's a trend in Japanese art anyways), purple eyeliner, and blue-purple lipstick. He also loves to put spiked armour, catsuits, and capes whenever he can get away with it. His monsters also look like Eldritch Abominations that you would expect to see in art depicting the Fair Folk; the monster designs are often the ones that make it into the games unchanged. (Early installments simply scanned his art straight into the game, at least as well as the NES and SNES would allow.)
Akihiko Yoshida has a thing for bondage gear, tight pants on men (the tighter the better), caucasian males to fit the more European feel of the games he works on (Specifically, Ivalice Alliance), tight pants on men, and more brown-blonde hair on humans. Oh yeah, and tight pants.
He also loves drawing characters with small noses or none at all. Additionally, he loves drawing large thighs on all his characters. Coupled with wide hips for females, bordering on Hartman Hips.
All of them have a thing for feathers, too.
Attack Backfire: In Final Fantasy II, attacking enemies with the wrong spell (eg Ice monsters with Ice magic, Undead with Drain and Osmose or Blob Monster with Poison) will actually heal the monster. In case of Drain or the Blood Swords results will be ugly. In fact, all Final Fantasy games after the first one have a system of elemental absorb.
BFS: Swords that in real life would be very difficult if not impossible to wield "properly".
Big Red Devil: The recurring summons Diabolos and Ifrit tend to be this.
Birdback Heroism: Better not laugh at someone who can send your ass to the cleaners on a yellow ostrich. Kweh!
Bartz Krauser was the first character to have a chocobo (named Boco) of his very own. He abandons Boco outside the Noob Cave, but later reunites with him at the end of the game, whereupon he discovers Boco has gotten hitched and had babies.
The crusaders in Final Fantasy X have a division called the Chocobo Knights who mount and raise chocobos as their steeds. They reappear as a job class in Tactics A2, this time while wearing cutesy chocobo outfits.
Changing Gameplay Priorities: Almost every game in the series contains a system of magic or limit breaks that fundamentally alters how the game plays. Often, these systems are not present in the first part of the game and only get introduced later. Even in games where the systems are always present, they almost always undergo a change in importance over time.
The Active Time Battle, used in games four through nine (and X-2 and Dimensions), succeeded the Turn-Based Combat of the first three games. The common feature of all ATB implementations is that each character has an "ATB gauge" that is emptied every time they act and fills up over time, allowing them to act again once it's full. The speed it fills up at depends on the character's stats (and the Battle Speed setting) and some powerful attacks have an additional delay before they are executed and ATB gauge starts filling again. Whether the game pauses to let the player select commands or not depends on the Active/Wait switch (VII introduced an additional Recommended mode).
The Charge Time Battle from Tactics is similar to ATB, except that instead of the ATB gauge, it has the Charge Time meter that has to reach 100 before a character can act again. The CT meter is restored at a rate of the character's Speed stat per turn.
Conditional Turn-Based Battle from FFX is an implementation that leans very heavily towards Turn-Based Combat. The order in which the characters and enemies act is determined by the Act List, and a combatant's position on it is determined both by their speed and by the cooldown duration of the ability they used last. The game pauses every time when it's a Player Character's turn, like in the ATB Wait mode.
Command Synergy Battle from XIII and XIII-2 is ATB with a twist that the player can sequence multiple moves, which only consume parts of the ATB gauge (how much is consumed depends on how powerful the ability is), and does not have to wait until the ATB is filled completely—only until it has filled enough to pull off the desired action sequence. The game does not pause to let you choose commands and you can only control the party leader. Style-Change Active Time Battle from Lightning Returns is an evolution of CSB built around the single player character idea: the player only ever controls Lightning but each one of her three available Schemas has its own ATB gauge.
Final Fantasy X has the attacks Delay Attack and Delay Buster, which increase the amount of time until the targeted enemy can take its next action, and Quick Hit, which has a much faster cooldown than a standard attack.
Costume Porn: Fancy outfits have been common in the series, even if it was just the artwork in earlier games.
Darker and Edgier: It's no accident that the most popular entries are set in a dystopian future. IX and X were throwbacks to the swashbuckling adventure of earlier titles. IX remains obscure, while X's bubbly lead hero is a walking punchline in the west. Even the later games are getting progressively more dystopian than the last.
A Day in the Limelight: Many characters, although Alexander seems to get the most throughout the series. To date:
Being the Big Bad and final boss of Bahamut Lagoon, although he's entirely different from his other incarnations and takes the form of a serpentine 4-headed dragon.
And all this time, he hasn't said a single word.
Interestingly enough, the Giant of Bab-il◊ from Final Fantasy IV looks very similar to him as well. Not only does this give a possible origin on Alexander but this Giant also has a limelight moment by starting the destruction of the Blue Planet, among other things.
Deconstructor Fleet: Started (sparingly) with general fantasy tropes as early as Final Fantasy I, and later moved on to more specific RPG tropes that had sprung up in the years following.
Deceased Parents Are the Best: Look back at all the Final Fantasy protagonists. There's a pretty good chance that one or both their parents are either dead, have disappeared or die by the end of the story.
Elemental Tiers: Common on the series with the Summon Magic, since you go finding them in your way, each one tends to be stronger that the previous one regardless of elemental atributes, at the end of the game you'll probably end using only the last summons you got, and maybe some of the weaker ones that are used for a support role. Some of the games avert this by either allowing you to level up the summons or making their power directly proportional to yours on a more balanced way.
Escape Battle Technique: A staple of the series, usually in the form of the "Escape" spell or the occasional consumable item.
Exploited Immunity: Most games usually have spells which target everyone and require this trope to use properly;
In Final Fantasy VI, there are many different enemies that will attack the entire battlefield, including themselves, with powerful attacks. However, as they are either immune to the elements of those attacks or actually gain health from them, the disadvantages of these attacks are lost. This can also be done with playable characters, by equipping them with elemental immune items.
In Final Fantasy IX: Vivi's most powerful spell is Doomsday, which inflicts shadow damage on all allies and enemies on the field. Equipping your characters with gear that absorbs shadow will cause them to be healed by the spell instead. The Bonus Boss Ozma also tries this, but it's possible to invert it: it has Doomsday in its arsenal and normally absorbs shadow damage, but one sidequest rewards you by making it weak to shadow instead, so if it does use the spell, it'll harm itself.
Face-Heel Turn: A meta example with the Cids. For the first eleven games and the spin-offs that came out at the same time the Cids were aligned with your party, or at least weren't evil. Beginning with Final Fantasy XII and continued in XIII and Type-0, the Cids have begun to act as antagonists although the former was against his will and the Cid of Type-0 is actually the Big Bad.
Fantastic Nuke: In a weirdly literal example, the Flare spell. It is, in most cases, non-elemental, but in some games Flavor Text for the spell refers to its power as coming from either fusion or fission. As well, the spell's name is reminiscent of solar flare, and we all know what powers the sun. Ironically, the translation of the spell as NUKE in the very first game probably has nothing to do with this.
That the Flare spell was called NUKE in the English version has to do with the game only providing four characters/signs per spell or item name. That's more than enough when you're using kanji (Japanese lettering) but causes some troubles when you're going to translate those names and are still limited to only four letter.
Five-Man Band: The classes in I and III, and the characters in IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, X, XII, XIII, Tactics, Tactics Advance, and Tactics A2.
Fire, Ice, Lightning: There are many recurring types of elemental attacks, but these three are by far the most prominent in the overwhelming majority of Final Fantasy games. FFX puts Water on an equal footing with these three.
Gameplay and Story Segregation: No, you can't use Phoenix Down to revive those killed in cutscenes. They actually try this in Final Fantasy V, though it still doesn't work. In most games, though, characters with 0 HP are actually unconscious rather than dead, so Phoenix Down isn't really a resurrection spell.
Genki Girl: Starting from FFV (Porom in FFIV was extremely collected so she avoided this completely), the series started employing this trope. We have Krile in FFV, Relm in FFVI, Yuffie in FFVII, Selphie in FFVIII, Eiko in FFIX, Rikku in FFX and FFX-2, Penelo in FFXII, and Vanille in FFXIII.
God Is Evil: If there is a being in a Final Fantasy game explicitly referred to as a god, you'll be fighting it before the credits roll. The sole exception to this is Etro in the XIII trilogy, who isn't evil, but does seem to be amazing incompetent and shortsighted, so she still manages to cause problems the party has to deal with.
Hello, Insert Name Here: Freely name-able party members (and sometimes summon monsters), resulting in this in every game until it was mostly dropped in the tenth; you could name the protagonist of ten, but none of the other characters (you could still name your summons, and at least one NPC had done so). It was fully discarded in the twelfth installment.
This concept is played with in the DS remake of IV. In the remakes up to then you could rename the characters, but come the DS release the cutscenes, which had voice acting, would make this confusing. Thus you can't change the names of your party members, causing Namingway, the character who performed this function in past versions of the game, freak out when he tries to rename you and can't, inspiring him to embark on a journey to find a new purpose in life since his old one is now gone.
Homage: This series is famous for making allusions to Star Wars, even in the next-gen titles. (One half-expects Gabranth to jab his finger in Ba'Gamnan's chest and bark, "NO DISINTEGRATIONS"). The games contain a few nods to The Thing (VII's Jenova) and Blade Runner (IX's Genomes and Black Mages) as well.
Iconic Logo: One that usually reveals some aspect of the overarching plot in a subtle way, usually through illustrating plot events or even by the color of the logo itself.
Iconic Outfit: Many of them, but the most famous and iconic are the outfits of the three core mages — the striped blue robes and yellow pointed hat for the Black Mage, the white robe with red triangle trim and Cat-Ear Hood for the White Mage, and the red and white robe with a red hat and white feather in it for the Red Mage. Various other jobs have recurring costume motifs, for example Summoners usually have horns or horned headbands, etc.
Low Level Run: It is quite common to see players on YouTube perform these runs. Several games have the option of doing so to the end.
Final Fantasy VIII, since the monsters level up with you, can be played to completion at single-digit levels. It's actually regarded as being much easier than a high-level run.
Final Fantasy X and Final Fantasy XIII have the NSG (No Sphere Grid) and NCU (No Crystarium Usage), respectively. The idea behind both cases is to use equipment and abilities as effectively as possible.
A low-level run of Final Fantasy XII is commonly called a "122333" run, after the lowest possible levels the party can be note specifically: Vaan at level 1, Fran and Balthier at level 2, and the others at level 3. There are also No Augment runs (i.e. everyone's stats say the same with no situational bonuses etc.) and No License Board (i.e. everyone is more or less stuck to their starting equipment, also there are no Quickenings or Esper summons).
One of the two New Game+ modes in the International version of XII locks everyone's level at 1.
Final Fantasy IX never gives the characters any EXP during boss fights, so it's entirely possible to reach the end of the game with every character, bar Zidane, at level one. This is done by avoiding random encounters, and by only using Zidane during the forced, story based encounters that end up giving you EXP.
The Bard, Dancer, Songstress and all their variants in the series. The specifics vary per game and can get complex, but these classes usually focus on entering a state where the player loses direct control of them, and they begin inflicting random effects on the party or enemies. Each song/dance has a specific list of effects they can cause.
The Mimes, present in various games, whose specialty is the "mimic" abilities where they copy the attacks used by others. They are nearly always an end game unit as they can mimic spell and item use at not cost in terms of mana or items, or even charge time in some cases.
Misbegotten Multiplayer Mode: V, VI and IX allow you to allocate different party members to different controllers. Naturally, this is only for battles; Player 1 does all the exploring, conversing and menu navigation.
Monster Closet: Several games have the "Monster-in-a-box!", special encounters (often with a special opponent and rare loot) whom you face when you open a seemingly innocent treasure box. Why, exactly, are the monsters hiding out in the boxes?
Monster Modesty: The Seeq often wear just loincloths instead of pants and when they wear shirts they cover very little. Somewhat odd when compared to other races such as the Moogle, Bangaa, Garif, and Nu Mou who are fully or mostly clothed.
Morale Mechanic: Enemies in some games opt to run away when faced with overwhelming odds.
Mythology Gags; roundabout references to previous games in the series, some being as subtle as special move names applied in different contexts, some as elaborate as characters being composites of those from other installments (such as Snow being modeled off of Seifer and Zell.)
One Time Dungeon: Nearly every single game in the series (I being the only exception) has several dungeons that the player only gets one shot at visiting. Naturally, there are items that can only be found in these dungeons, so they're Lost Forever if the player leaves without picking them up.
Our Dragons Are Different: Plenty of dragons, including Bahamut as a summon monster, usually the most powerful or second-most powerful summon of the game, especially since he deals non-elemental damage.
The Overworld: The series had the overworld until X, where they started to replace it with tube-like "road" locations.
Path of Greatest Resistance: If you get stuck, pick a direction and if the enemies are challenging again, you're going in the right direction again.
Averted horribly in II: in most other Final Fantasies, the sequence in which you visit towns is mainly enforced by geographical features the player cannot overcome until the right transportation is found. In II, you know you strayed from the sequence because the next random encounter killed your party in seconds.
Pause Abuse: Many games with the "Active Time Battle" system (4 thru 9, and X-2) have an option to pause the ATB clock when a player accesses an in-battle submenu (magic, items, etc.), but any in-progress attack animations will continue to execute. As a result, the player can gain a slight speed advantage by opening the menu whenever a party member executes an action, to prevent enemy turns from coming up while the attack animation takes place.
Randomized Damage Attack: In several games there's a high-level spell called "Comet" or "Meteor" with a huge variability in its damage output — it could do 100 points damage one turn and 9999 the next, when other spells are more consistent from one use to the next.
Recurring Element: Cid, people named Highwind, moogles, chocobos, summons such as Ifrit and Bahamut, monsters such as Bomb and Cactuar, Ultima and Omega Weapons, Gilgamesh, and crystals.
Recurring Riff: The Final Fantasy theme.note Informally known the "crystal theme" The song is unusual in that it usually plays over the opening and/or closing credits, and sometimes not at all. Employed as a connecting thread between games, it's considered to be the theme song of the Final Fantasy as a whole; these days, however, it takes a backseat to original pieces of music, and only pops up during the credits because fans expect it to.
Every random battle theme for the first six games starts out with the exact same bassline. It was dropped in VII, but it shows up in VIII's final boss theme and made a return in IX before vanishing again.
The Bangaa in Final Fantasy Tactics Advance are pretty cool guys, and have some incredibly Bad Ass job abilities. However, the NPC Bangaa in the game are almost all soldiers and jailers in the employ of the evil government.
In Final Fantasy XII Vaan's adoptive father figure Migelo is a Bangaa. But, then you have Ba'gam'nan's all-Bangaa hit-squad after you. Tellingly they are common enemies while the cuter tribes of Viera, Moogle and Nu Mou are not.
Bangaas are the race best integrated within the humes, hence why they're so common in the game. Contrast with the Seeqs who also appear as enemies and are treated like second-rate citizens.
The Lamiae are snake-woman hybrids that routinely slay people and then raise the corpses to make an undead army.
The Mamool Ja are lizardmen who had once paid tribute to The Empire of Aht Urhgan, but have since tried to destroy it.
Poroggos are frogs that were able to walk due to magic, and actually were nice to the Tarutaru, thinking they were on good terms with the main races... too bad Windurst got scared of talking, magic-casting frogs and tried to kill them all. Now the Poroggos go around and hit adventurers with party-wiping magic.
Quadav are turtle beastmen who actually had a nice life and weren't very nasty. This, of course, all went to hell when Bastok started taking and destroying the Quadav's homes so that the Republic could get more resources. Now the Quadav attack pretty much anyone they see, defending their homes with extreme prejudice.
Revisiting The Roots: VI was a steampunk world that coined the term Magitek, VII and VIII shifted to a modern-esque setting with electricity spaceships and cities. IX then brought things back to a medieval setting of castles, airships and villages. As well, while VII and VIII had a three-character party system where they were as unique in battle (or not) as the character customized them, IX went back to the style of four party members with pre-set skills as earlier games had done.
Sequel Escalation: Throughout the series, some sort of hit point inflation seems to be taking place. In Final Fantasy I, the final boss has 2000 HP in the original version. By Final Fantasy IV there are a few spells that will generally do 9999 points of damage. In some of the later games, a single attack will do that much. By Final Fantasy XIII early enemies have hundreds of thousands, and each form of the final boss has over 5 million. Final Fantasy XII's optional super boss (well, the most powerful of several) has FIFTY MILLION and is so far still unmatched in the HP department. Make sure you've used the bathroom and gotten a snack before you start one of these battles.
XIII continues this in a different way, though no boss approaches even half of 50 million, storyline bosses can reach several million, and Barthandelus, fought roughly halfway through the game, has more HP than the final boss of XII. And the party members have the damage cap raised a digit, allowing normal attacks to hit for 99,999 HP, and with the Genji Glove equipped to raise that, 999,999 is possible, and can be reached fairly easily with maxed-out characters and the right set-up.
Situational Damage Attack: The Grudge (sometimes called Karma) attack deals damage to a character based on how many kills the character has made. So it'll likely kill the fighters and mages, while the healer will take very little damage (if any).
Sliding Scale of Continuity: The series are Level 0 (Non-Linear Installments). A couple of games had sequels or spin-offs; the others are each their own reality with their own characters, their own plot, their own setting... However, they share various nods to one another such as similar monsters, summons, chocobos, and characters named Cid.
Curiously, the games are sometimes hinted to take place in a Multiverse, most notably with the character Gilgamesh, who is all but explicitly stated to be the same character across all his appearances, and the character Shinra from X-2. And then there's Dissidia: Final Fantasy...
Spell Levels: Some games have tiers of spells that even have their own set of spell uses. It's a staple to have some more advanced spells under the naming format "[spell]", "[spell](a)ra", "[spell](a)ga", and "[spell](a)ja", though the English translations only began to use it since Final Fantasy VIII (before, spells were simply named "[spell] 1", "[spell] 2", etc. due to limited characters). This naming system is carried over to the Kingdom Hearts series.
Spiritual Successor: Dissidia spawned a subseries of similar Crisis Crossover games that focus on iconic cast of past games. Aside from direct prequel Dissidia 012, there's Theatrhythm, Airborne Brigade, All the Bravest, and to a certain degree the Trading Card Game, all of which borrow gameplay terminology and character designs from Dissidia.
Summon Magic: Creatures that a particular class of character can invoke, and which represent most of the combat power for that character.
Tech Points: Called "AP", and often relates to a quirky new experience and character advancement system in each game.
Thematic Series: One of the most notable game examples. None of the numbered titles in the series are related to any of the others except by series-wide hallmarks, like the ATB battle system, Chocobos, Moogles, and the names of spells. Only fournote five, if you count Legend of the Crystal, an OVA set after Final Fantasy V of them have sequels taking place in the same continuity as the original game. There are occasionally hints that one world is related to another, like Final Fantasy X-2 hinting that it's related to Final Fantasy VII and theXIIItrilogy having the same mythology as Final Fantasy Type-0 and Final Fantasy XV .
Theme Naming: A recent trend in Final Fantasy games, mainly ones written by Nojima, is having the protagonists' names related to weather or the sky, Like Lightning or Cloud.
Chances are that, if you have a Dragoon in a Final Fantasy game, a weapon or the character will have the name Highwind. The most famous examples are Kain Highwind and Cid Highwind.
Those Two Guys: Biggs and Wedge, who appear in various guises in almost all of the games from VI onward (and who were retconned into IV by The After Years), and die horribly about half the time.
Tiered by Name: The series in general does this for the spells: Fire -> Fira -> Firaga -> Firaja.
Updated Re-release: Especially since the new millennium, the first six games of the series have gradually been re-released over time, each time with new features, usually new dungeons and some enhancements to gameplay, occasionally updated graphics, and bonus content like art galleries and bestiaries. All six came to the Playstation (these versions later came to Playstation Network), and then got remade for the Gameboy Advance. With more specific improvements, I, II and IV were released for PSP with enhanced 2D graphics, III has been released in 3D for the DS, PSP and smartphones, IV in 3D for the DS and smartphones, and V and VI have been released for smartphones with enhanced 2D graphics.
The Verse: Each numbered sequel produces a new one (see Non-Linear Sequel, above); the only established universe to get a large number of games set in it is Ivalice (FFXII and various Tactics games), and even then the links between various games is a little confusing.
Games getting sequels has increased in recent years including Final Fantasy X-2, Final Fantasy IV: The After Years, Final Fantasy XIII-2, and The Compilation of Final Fantasy VII.
Warp Whistle: Chocobos, and occasionally airships (on those occasions when the party doesn't own one, but rather pays air fare).
XII cuts down on travel by allowing you to warp to previously-visited save crystals.
You Gotta Have Blue Hair: You see that list of games up there? Every single one of them has at least one character with hair of an unnatural shade, be it blue, green, purple, pink, inhuman shades of red, or—the series' favorite— silvery-white.
Your Mime Makes It Real: The Mime class has this as its power. Apparently, they mime any action last performed by an ally or enemy, and it becomes a real repeating of this action.