Choosing which final fantasy game to play!
Just thought I would write up a follow up to the final fantasy game review, and which one a new player should choose.
Final Fantasy I, II, III, IV, V, and VI. All of these have 2D graphics, so they are not that pleasing to the eye. However, alot of them do have nice gameplay, so if you are more into your gameplay than the appearance of the game, you can try one of these. Personally, I played VII, VIII and IX first, got hooked, and then went back to attempt the earlier games.
Final Fantasy VII.
This game is spread over three discs, and as such has massive options for what you can do. If you are the sort of person that just likes to beat a game then it is not that difficult to work through this game linearly, as the indications for where you should go next are quite clear. However, this game also allows non linear game play, if that is what you are after. If you don't fancy going where you are told you can run off and do all sorts of other good stuff, like battling big monsters, finding new summon creatures, getting new characters, breeding chocobos (bird like creatures which the character can ride), race chocobos, or just go gambling! Even if you want to work through the game linearly this game will require some time and effort, as progression through different areas in the game means that the monsters and opponents get progressively harder. Constantly running from battles will not work in this game, it will only come back and bite you in the behind later!
In terms of the magic and weapons, weapons, etc can be brought from different places. The characters best weapons are hidden throughout the map, and have to be discovered rather than brought. Magic and summon creatures, and the ability to use these works on a materia system. This is basically the idea that the abilities, or the summon creatures are held within a small sphere. Each weapon has a different number of 'holes' in it, and you can mount materia spheres to the holes to enable the character holding the weapon to use certain abilities. I found this quite a hard system to master as different materia also affect the status of your character, and you have to work out what is important. However, in terms of the system of abilities and weapons in final fantasy VIII, this system is relatively easy.
I would recommend final fantasy VII to any new beginniners who simply want to beat the game, or ones that want to take them time and explore the full capabilities of what the world of final fantasy has to offer. This game can take as long as you want. I spent over 100 hours on, and still didn't do everything! It also has a fantastic, and somehow plausible story line.
Final Fantasy VIII:
Graphically a nicer game then its predecessors, but more complex to understand. The whole ability and magic system changes however, from the previous materia system. You now have a more complex system which involves using summon creatures (called Guardian Forces, or GFs) who learn abilities through ability points (gained through battle). Each guardian force can be junctioned (attached) to different characters, and when the GF is junctioned to your character, the character gets the abilities the GF has learnt. For example, a GF can learn the ability HP-J. This allows the character attached to that GF to junction magic to their HP and therefore to increase their hit points. This sounds like a pretty simple system, but it isn't, as you have to decide which abilities to use, and which to junction different magic to. You also have to consider the knock on effect that different abilities and GFs have on each other when junctioning more than one GF to a character. In terms of getting the magic needed for junctioning the character no longer learns the magic, but has to draw it from the opponents that they face. For example, if you come across an opponent with the ability to cast cure then you have to draw this from them. If you draw from an opponent then you get a number of the spell (for example you will get 4 cures), and this enables you to use magic, and also allows you to junction cure to any abilities that the GF may have learnt.
Weapons are also a bit more in depth in this game. Basically, you no longer buy all your weapons simply from shops or find them dotted around, you have to create them. You create your weapons by collecting things that opponents leave behind after you defeat them, or that you refine from the card sidegame, triple triad. Some of the things that you need to upgrade weapons are easy to find, and some are not.
However, again you have got a fantastic story line, and one that takes so many twists and turns you don't know where you are half the time. You even end up in space! Again, you can spend as long as you want on this game, or just work through it linearly if you want to beat the game. However, be warned, with this game you won't get through it quite so easily if you just go where you are told as the boss at the end of the game requires skill in the ability of final fantasy turn based fighting, and really good characters! If you do not have this, you are unlikely to be able to beat the game properly, and will probably fall at the last hurdle.
On this game you also have the highly addictive triple triad. This takes some time and patience to learn how to play, and just to make it more difficult different regions of the final fantasy world play with regional rules (some of which require a huge amount of concentration). So if you lose to someone in one area they may take just one card off you, lose to someone else, and they might take them all! Most of the characters, GFs and monsters in the game are represented on cards. However, for each of the characters and the GFs there is only ONE card in whole game. You have to find the person with this card, get them to play it, and then win it from them. Not an easy feat! Some cards are also only available on side quests. You can modify cards for desireable items (often used to upgrade weapons).
Again, a brilliant in depth game that you can spend as much or as little time as you like on. However, I would recommend this game if you have a little more time to put in, as it requires a more in depth understanding and decent level characters.
Final Fantasy IX.
A slightly less compelling story line to this game (it doesn't even stick in my memory), however, this game returns to the final fantasy series roots, using less realistic characters, but appealing none the less.
Again, using a different system of magic and abilities. Abilities are gained from the weapons and armour/ extras that the individual equips. Different characters can draw different abilities from weapons. Characters can permanently aquire abilities by gaining AP points through battles, which will allow them to master the ability, and retain it even after the weapon has been removed. You then activate these abilities using crystals, in a system a lot like final fantasy VII.
This game is a lot of fun to play, but there are a lot of characters, so you never really get to relate to them, and there is also a lot less control over what you can do for the first two discs. If you don't like constant character changes and being told what to do then this game isn't for you.
I think this game is a lot of fun to play and would be good for anyone beginning final fantasy, but personally, the memory of playing this game barely sticks in my mind. If you want something a bit more interesting (although not quite so pretty to look at), go for VII or VIII.
Final Fantasy X
The first of the series to be released on the PS2 it finally features characters who actually speak! (rather than just 'speaking' via a little block of text).
However, despite having a relatively interesting story line, with a will they/ won't they situation going on between the two main characters (although not as good as FFVIII), this game bored me.
The game is completely linear. You get pretty much zero control over where you want to go, which I hated (but some people may enjoy). Your characters gain magic and abilities by gaining points in battle. This allows them to move around a relatively simple 'node' map, to different abilities. Abilities are activated using spheres collected throughout the game and from battles. This gives a massive capacity for growth in the characters. You can also swap characters out during battle, which is good if one of you characters is not doing particualarly well.
This game also features a minigame (blitzball), which I couldn't make head nor tail of. However, fortunately, it doesn't make too much difference as to whether you win or lose, and there is only one compulsory game at the beginning, the rest are optional.
Overall, this is a good linear game, that is easy to understand and work though. A good game for beginners. However, there is no longevity to this game and you can beat it within about 12 hours.