Final Fantasy Compendium

ev·o·lu·tion / n. 1. Gradual development. 2. Development of species from earlier forms, as an explanation of origins. 3. Unfolding of events, etc. [L. evolvere roll out; unfold]


It's extremely interesting to watch the engine of the game progress from 1 to the present day. Here's a comprehensive list of the things which were added and taken away to make the gaming experience ever more enjoyable! Items marked with a * contain ideas which are used in subsequent games fairly regularly and still exist in the later games. MQ and Tactics are dealt with after all the numbered ones.


FF1 Innovations: Starting Engine

Basic Engine

Battle Engine

Effect On Society

FF was a groundbreaking game. The only real RPG experience hitherto taken was Dragon Warrior, and FF improved in almost every way: far more interaction with characters around you; the ability to control four different characters; the Job system; the graphical capability to see the characters in battle; and a far more in-depth menu system. It allowed a level of role-playing never seen before.

View FF1 Pictures


FF2 Innovations


Basic Innovations

Battle Innovations

Effect On Society

FF2 was the first game which featured real characters; you played through a twisting story as specific characters within that storyline, as opposed to a generic "hero". The twists and depth of the story made FF2 stand out, although it never had as much fame as its big brothers. Most of FF2's innovative game designs were deemed unpopular and scrapped for the rest of the series, although many of them, like the individual stat growth, Inn cost, etc. were adopted for Squaresoft's new SaGa series.

View FF2 Pictures


FF3 Innovations


Basic Innovations

Battle Innovations

Effects On Society

FF3 expanded the Job system, making it amazingly customizable. Although no one piece of the game stood out, it consolidated the system and set in place many of the solid game-play elements which would continue to entertain for years afterwards.

View FF3 Pictures


FF4 Innovations


Basic Innovations

Battle Innovations

Effects On Society

FF4 was the first major graphical RPG; as opposed to being mostly text-oriented, with the graphics just so you wouldn't get bored, the visuals in this game add to the story; characters' positions and movements tell the tale as well (and, in the case of the American translation, better) than their words. It's also the first game which introduces the idea that different characters have their own strengths and weaknesses, which affect gameplay. The idea of characters entering and leaving the party as the story dictates is also introduced in this groundbreaking game.

View FF4 Pictures


FF5 Innovations


Basic Innovations

Battle Innovations

Effects On Society

The best part of FF5, as anyone will tell you, is the gameplay. The Job system has been honed to perfection, allowing fully customizable characters. Strategy plays a much greater part in this game than any of the numbered games after this. This game also starts the introduction of Nobuo Uematsu's best musical work, with far more realistic instruments and much more catchy tunes.

View FF5 Pictures


FF6 Innovations


Basic Innovations

Battle Innovations

FF6 was the game which made North America prick up its ears and pay attention. The depth of story is unlike any other game, and rivals most contemporary games as well. The graphics were astounding for its time, featuring artistic, detailed monsters and a huge amount of character poses and expressions. The special story sections like the Magitek Factory and Opera House split up the action into attention-grabbing story plots. And many people consider this game to have the best soundtrack of any video game, ever. The ending is over half an hour long and incorporates a separate theme for each of the 14 characters. This is truly a great epic of a game.

View FF6 Pictures


FF7 Innovations


Basic Innovations

Battle Innovations

FF7 marked a departure for the series, veering away from epic stories and into slightly more sci-fi settings. Yoshitaka Amano has been replaced with a more mainstream artist, Tetsuya Nomura. Square introduced this game to the American market with an unprecedented marketing scheme, and the detailed FMVs shown in the trailers led people who'd never heard the term RPG flocking to buy PlayStations. The game just radiated coolness; the characters were cool, the bosses were cool, the music was cool (if slightly forgettable) and the gameplay was cool, split up into numerous mini-games which looked good enough packaged alone. A torrent of RPGs hit the video game market after the phenomenal success of FF7.

View FF7 Pictures


FF8 Innovations


Basic Innovations

Battle Innovations

FF8 was an even greater departure from the epic than FF7. The characters here not only look realistic, they act realistic. They react to things the way you expect real people to do so, and their feelings and emotions are not part of a grand love story or heroic poem, but those of everyday humans. The quality of the FMV in this game is nothing less of unbelievable. The Triple Triad card game keeps a fresh, challengin side quest aspect. However, despite all this, the game made less of a ripple than its predecessor, partly because the characters and story just weren't as appealing as the more gaudy, anime-themed predecessors.

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FF9 Innovations


Basic Innovations

Battle Innovations

Effects On Society

FF9 is a regression in the trend towards more realism and darker themes, but that's in no way a step backwards. It takes much of the new and a lot of the old and mixes them together almost flawlessly, with exceptional humor and light-heartedness. References to earlier FFs, particularly FF1 and 4 (both of which were similarly trailblazers of their times) abound in the game, and the final sequence sounds very much like Squaresoft is saying goodbye to its longtime fans. Does this mean we'll never see another deformed hero or four-character battle? Time will tell...

View FF9 Pictures


The remaining games are far more revolutionary than evolutionary, with each game in the series espousing its own unique systems. For all intents and purposes, then, FF9 was the pinnacle of the old-school FF game system, and everything else is a new frontier.


Final Fantasy, all games and animation bearing the Final Fantasy name, and all characters in said games or animation are copyright their respective creators, including but not limited to Squaresoft, Square Enix, Square EA, Tokyo TV, and ADV Films.