Final Fantasy 30th Anniversary: The Worst of Final Fantasy - Part 3: FFVII, VIII, IX

By Gabriel Jones 21.12.2017

It goes without saying, but the mid to late 90s were phenomenal for RPG fans. Many of the titles released in that time period still dominate "top ten best ever" lists. None of these games were perfect, but that's not the point. They were presenting experiences the genre had never seen before, while still providing enough depth to appease veteran players. Besides, perfection is a meaningless pursuit. What Square accomplished on the Sony PlayStation is nothing short of legendary. Anyway, that's enough praise for today. Let's get on with the criticisms.

Final Fantasy VII

Even after twenty years, Final Fantasy VII is still great. Aside from a messy translation, there isn't all that much to complain about. Even the dated graphics have their own charm to them. The characters, blocky as they are, manage to be very expressive, which lends life to every scene. Oddly enough, this RPG's worst quality isn't found within the game itself, but rather all of the media that was released afterwards.

For whatever reason, it feels like Square Enix has lost sight of what made the cast so interesting. Many of the characters in FFVII wear a sort of mask - something to hide their true thoughts and feelings behind. On the surface, Cloud is an awesome highly-ranked soldier who takes charge of every situation. Peel those layers back, however, and you're left with just another schmuck. His courage is more a by-product of his insecurity. He can't be scared, because then those around him would realize what he truly is. In the effort to hide his vulnerabilities, he nearly destroyed himself. Then there's the rest of the cast. They all have their quirks, and put on their best face in order to keep them buried. It's these intriguing characteristics that give dimension to everyone.

However, it seems that whenever Cloud makes an appearance in spin-offs or FFVII-related media, he's aloof, mopey, and depressing to be around. Granted, he's been through some seriously traumatic experiences, but the same could be said for most of the franchise's protagonists, and they're still able to crack the occasional joke. Speaking of, remember when Aerith had a sense of humour? She was also flirtatious and relatable. Nowadays, she's distant, lifeless, and altogether bland. The rest of the cast suffers from this same problem; everyone has either become boring, or one of their traits has grown large enough to be all-encompassing.

Then there are games like Dirge of Cerberus and Crisis Core. First off, there really didn't need to be an expanded universe, simply because the original does more than enough to stand on its own. Secondly, these games are memorable for all of the wrong reasons. Their storylines are nonsense, the characters they introduce (and then immediately discard) are wastes of space, and the gameplay is just awful. The PSP game gets points for competency, but it's still far too repetitive to get any enjoyment out of.

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Final Fantasy VIII

When it comes to this entry in the vaunted series, there's no shortage of controversy. The storyline makes frequent leaps in logic, and the plot twist at the orphanage is flat-out absurd. There's a very real sense that at any moment, everything could fall apart, and the adventure would devolve into farce. However, there is an earnest feel to this game that keeps it afloat. The characters are among the best in the series, and that's because no matter how ridiculous the situation gets, everyone is still human. They have their goals, their dreams, their fears, and they respond to every challenge in a convincing manner.

Instead, my pick for the worst of Final Fantasy VIII is its battle system. It's as broken as it is boring. Since anyone at critical health has access to limit breaks, there really isn't a need for strategy. Enemies are typically undone by junctioning a death or sleep spell to the party's weapons. The bosses are a bit more interesting, but most of them fall to basic "fight/heal" tactics. Then there's the AP farming, which is an absolute snore. On the bright side, the ability that stops random encounters can be acquired near the beginning of the game. Once equipped, a lot of the tedium disappears, and the player is free to decide when and where to farm for whatever they need.

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Final Fantasy IX

Originally, Final Fantasy IX's worst quality was the dreadfully slow battles. Just waiting for the party members and monsters to appear on-screen took an eternity. I recall it got to a point where I'd tap the analogue sticks to the beat of the battle theme. The more recent ports have done away with this glaring problem, and I couldn't be happier. Of course, now we have to move on to this game's second worst quality: its complete and utter disregard for fashion.

Questionable attire tends to be the MO of this series. You might recall Maria from Final Fantasy II, who wears what looks like half a shirt and a banana. Then there are guys like Tidus and Wakka, but at least their attire is thematically interesting and unique. I have no idea what Square was going for with this entry. Maybe they wanted to go in a more whimsical direction, but almost all of the characters ended up looking absurd.

When you see these fashion disasters, the first things you'll notice are the oversized cuffs and sleeves. Going further, it looks like neither Zidane nor Eiko could find boots that fit. All of the space between the boot and the leg creates a funnel, which is perfect if they're trying to collect rainwater in their feet. It should also be noted that Eiko's puffy yellow chaps are an abomination. Also, her colour scheme matches her personality: irritating. Steiner wears metal "jorts," apparently to remind everyone that Final Fantasy IX was released in the year 2000. Amarant wears far too much green. It's also worth mentioning that Zidane has a friend named Blank. He wears multiple belts - one of them on his face (!?).

Then, of course, there's Kuja. To be honest, I don't hate his outfit all that much, even though it looks like one of the end-game armours found in TERA. However, the feathers in his hair don't work at all. Quina also looks… uh… like one would expect a "Qu" to look. Is that good? I'm not sure, but it's something. Beatrix's design isn't terrible, either, aside from the tights, oversized gauntlets, and perfect hair. When she's not singlehandedly slaying hundreds of knights, she's appearing in shampoo commercials.

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