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FFVII figures | © Carter McKendry/Flickr
FFVII figures | © Carter McKendry/Flickr
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Final Fantasy Turns 30: Past, Present and Future of the Franchise

Picture of Alicia Joy
Tokyo Writer
Updated: 14 January 2017
Thirty years ago, Final Fantasy was released for the Nintendo Entertainment System. It turned the tide for its developers and would go on to become one of the best-selling franchises in history, selling well over one hundred million units and counting. Culture Trip takes a look at Final Fantasy’s journey so far.

Final Fantasy‘s Beginnings

Hironobu Sakaguchi is credited as creator of the Final Fantasy franchise. Back in 1987, video game developer Square was in dire financial straits, and Sakaguchi was considering going back to university if the game – his last-ditch attempt – didn’t work out. This would explain the name, but the creator himself admits to just wanting a game that abbreviated to FF. Thankfully, Final Fantasy did turn things around for Square and Sakaguchi, spawned several sequels and in 1994 its first original video animation, Final Fantasy: Legend of the Crystals.

Final Fantasy XV press release | © Marco Verch/Flickr
Final Fantasy event | © Marco Verch/Flickr

Square and Enix Merger

Square’s first Final Fantasy movie, The Spirits Within, was released in 2001. It did not garner the praise the company was hoping for, and almost halted merger talks with Enix. Their saving grace may have been Final Fantasy X which was released that same year for the PlayStation II. It was second only to FFVII in terms in popularity. Since then, the company’s releases have been mainly favorable, and the game’s legacy is undeniable. Final Fantasy not only brought role player games into the realm of mainstream gaming, but introduced ideas to the genre like class systems and battle perspectives, which are still in use today.

FFVII Tifa Cosplay | © Stefan Schubert/Flickr
FFVII Tifa Cosplay | © Stefan Schubert/Flickr

Final Fantasy XV

The latest installment, Final Fantasy XV, was the biggest release so far in terms of units sold. When FFXV began development in 2006, Final Fantasy veteran Tetsuya Nomura was hired for the job and it was initially introduced as FFXIII Versus. In 2012 it was decided to increase the game’s spec and move it to a next generation console. Normura was joined, and later replaced, by Hajime Tabata, the director of Final Fantasy XII Crisis Core. To date, over six million units have been sold worldwide – but not without criticism. Nomura’s replacement has often been cited as a partial explanation for the game’s shortcomings, as most of the issues have been directed towards the second half. In part 2, characters were forced to leave the open world. A five-episode anime series and a full-length CGI film were created to help round out the FFXV universe.

The Empire Final Fantasy Built

Square, now Square-Enix, has had success with Final Fantasy beyond the world of consoles, with numerous apps, merchandise and films on the market. They opened ARTNIA, a cafe in Shinjuku selling themed goods and edibles, in 2012. This was followed by the Square-Enix Cafe in 2016. Meanwhile, the latest movie release of Final Fantasy: Kingsglaive featured stars like Aaron Paul and Sean Bean (for the English version). The success of Square-Enix as a company has become the envy of the industry.

Final Fantasy VII Remake

Final Fantasy VII still holds the title for the best-selling Final Fantasy of all time. It was released in 1997 for the original PlayStation. Technology limitations at the time means characters appear “boxy” by today’s standards, and pre-rendered environments had to be used. The game was still ambitiously large for its day, both in story scope and visual data, and had to be loaded onto two separate discs. Fans have clamored for a remake ever since. Luckily for them, technology has come a long way, and Square-Enix plans to revamp the game with the highly anticipated Final Fantasy VII Remake. Developers had hoped for a twentieth anniversary of FFVII release, but more realistic estimates set the date at 2018 or beyond.