Ever since the announcement was made that Final Fantasy XIII was going multi-platform and arriving on Xbox 360 as well as PS3, the series has achieved success in reaching new audiences. But what of those classics in the 30+ year series that had never been released on the Xbox?
All that changed when Square Enix announced they would be bringing classic Final Fantasy titles to the Xbox One in 2019, along with Final Fantasy XV Pocket Edition HD and World of Final Fantasy MAXIMA which both released at the back end of 2018. And let’s not forget the entire Final Fantasy XIII trilogy is now backwards compatible and received a hefty Xbox One X enhancement.
But have you been left wondering where best to start with the games that have been promised for 2019? Fear not, as here are 5 of the most unforgettable Final Fantasy games heading towards Xbox One in 2019.
5) Kingdom Hearts III
In before the naysayers say, “Kingdom Hearts III isn’t a Final Fantasy title”, it kind of is. And besides, my list, my rules.
Kingdom Hearts first arrived on PlayStation 2 almost 17 years ago and instantly appealed to fans of Square Enix’s RPG series, and fans of Disney films. Combining characters from both franchises into a new and original story of light versus dark, and good versus evil, fans have eagerly been awaiting the release of Kingdom Hearts III as a conclusion to the overall story.
At its’ ‘Kingdom’ heart, KH is an action RPG where you control a party of three for the most part, travelling to a variety of different worlds based on Disney IPs including Beauty and the Beast, Nightmare Before Christmas, Alice in Wonderland, Pirates of the Caribbean and many, many more.
Now, there is a lot going on in the world of Kingdom Hearts, the third mainline entry in the series is actually the 12th chronologically and the world has evolved more than anyone could have anticipated when taking control of Sora in his humble beginnings on Destiny Island. Ultimately though, Kingdom Hearts tells the story of keyblade wielder, Sora, who joins forces with Donald Duck and Goofy, tasked with travelling to different worlds based on Disney IPs to ensure the Heartless do not return to those worlds. On their journey they learn about Organization XIII, led by Master Xehanort, the main antagonist of Kingdom Hearts III.
This is a very crude recap for the story, but there will be one available when the game launches on disc, as well as plenty available online, to get you up to speed when Kingdom Hearts III releases on 29th January 2019.
4) Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age
Final Fantasy XII originally released back in 2006 but the version the Xbox One will be getting is The Zodiac Age; a high-definition remaster, updated soundtrack, fast-forward options and the Zodiac Job System – something only available in Japan until then. The Zodiac Age remaster released on PlayStation 4 in July 2017.
Despite this being 4th on the list, this is still an exceptional Final Fantasy title, and perhaps one that has aged better than others on this list. It was ahead of its’ time for a ‘traditional’ RPG; enemies appeared on screens much like an MMORPG, it was one of the first games to have ‘Hunts’ – quests to kill specific enemies that are now commonplace in RPGs – and with the Zodiac Job System it went back to the roots of Final Fantasy allowing you to customise your characters rather than them having pre-assigned abilities.
XII centres around Vaan, a street urchin who one day dreams of being a sky pirate. He becomes embroiled in something far bigger involving warring nations vying for control of the last remaining areas, but also for control of the magic in the world. Vaan encounters princesses, knights and even fellow sky pirates on his journey that will take him far and wide in Ivalice, the world in which Final Fantasy XII is set.
There are many comparisons between Final Fantasy XII and Star Wars and indeed, certain characters such as Vaan, Balthier and Fran act a lot like Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and Chewbacca respectively. So, if you are a fan of the space opera, this is well worth a look.
No dates have yet been given for the releases of the Final Fantasy games but if they are released in order of their numbered iterations then XII is likely to be the last one. Our next one on the list may well be the first one for 2019 though… and definitely the most famous.
Edit: Further to this, the release date of Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age has been confirmed as 30th April 2019.
3) Final Fantasy VII
Arguably the most iconic of Final Fantasy titles – maybe even RPG of all time – Final Fantasy VII is a game that most will have heard of in many ‘best of’ lists. So, it is no surprise to see it coming over to Xbox One finally, but you may be shocked to only see it in 3rd place. It’s purely a personal thing, whilst Final Fantasy VII is faultless, I just preferred others to it.
Celebrating its’ 22nd birthday this year, VII centres around Cloud Strife, an ex Shinra SOLDIER who joins eco-terrorist group AVALANCHE to help them blow out Mako Reactors that are siphoning off the Lifestream of the world.
After a successful first attack, a second Mako Reactor is targeted but the mission fails, and Cloud ends up falling into the city slums. Before regaining his bearings he ends up helping a flower girl called Aeris/Aerith (depending on who you ask) from Shinra. Shinra know this girl is special and will stop at nothing to gain access to what she knows and what she has.
Even if you haven’t played Final Fantasy VII yet, there is one moment that everyone associates with it. Yes, that moment involving Aeris/Aerith and Sephiroth. It is as iconic a moment as you can get in gaming – just make sure that you don’t have all your good gear and Materia equipped on her when it gets close.
This is, however, different to the announced Final Fantasy VII Remaster that is happening currently. This version will feature updated character models but those pre-rendered backgrounds will remain. For many, these aren’t a problem, but they can show a games age nowadays compared with modern graphics.
Again, there is no confirmed date for when Final Fantasy VII is due to arrive on the Xbox Store but it may be timed with Distant Worlds – the Final Fantasy orchestral concert – that is taking place again at The Royal Albert Hall in May, as there will be a celebration of the music of Final Fantasy VII during the performances there. Yes, I’ve already got my ticket.
2) Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster
If this is anything like the PS3/PS4 remasters, then this Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster comes as a two-for-one deal and should be treated as such.
The Final Fantasy X duology has its’ doubters, and even as a devout fan I can see why. Ultimately, this is a love story between playable characters Tidus and Yuna. Yuna is a summoner who has the monumental task of defeating Sin and bringing about the Calm. Along the way there are marriages, tears, laughter, death and deceit, racial undertones and the single funniest moment in any Final Fantasy game involving a call back to a 90’s dance craze. And that’s just the first game of the two.
Final Fantasy X-2 took on board the criticisms of the first and attempted to put them right: More open-ended gameplay, distinct character classes in the form of dresspheres and a much lighter tone in general. What followed the first game was a night and day contrast in terms of tone and, if you play these two back-to-back, will find a great follow up after the bleak first game.
The HD Remaster that Xbox owners are getting will feature updated graphics and the ability to switch between the old and new soundtracks in the menu. The voice acting from the original release will remain, however as this was the first FF title to be voiced, it can all sound a little ropey at times. Don’t forget that even this game is nearing adulthood, the original Japanese release will turn 18 in July 2019.
These two are second on my list because I enjoyed them first time around when I was a couple of years younger than Tidus and Yuna but the relationship between them resonated with me even then. The only reason it isn’t top of my list is because the next game was a much more grounded and traditional affair, at least in terms of RPGs.
1) Final Fantasy IX
Final Fantasy IX was a send-off to the original PlayStation whilst also going back to the series’ roots. After the more futuristic settings of VII and VIII, IX went back to a time with castles, rural villages and where mages still used capes.
IX begins with Zidane and his theatre troupe Tantalus heading to Alexandria to perform for Queen Brahne. Secretly, they are on a mission to kidnap her daughter, Princess Garnet. The kicker here is that Princess Garnet was already planning to escape from Queen Brahne, due to her more recent extreme behaviour.
Despite going back to the series roots, IX features much more character development than previous entries by introducing Active Time Events. These are on-screen prompts that show what other main characters are doing at that moment in time, away from the main party. As a result, IX features my favourite Final Fantasy character of all-time, poor little Vivi. Vivi also hops onboard with Tantalus whilst they are kidnapping Garnet but most of the first eight hours are really centred around him and his existential crisis he suffers. He’s also one of the best mages in the entire series and is a constant member in my active party.
The battle system in Final Fantasy IX also received a small tweak that made a massive difference: VII and VIII had only three slots for active members but IX bumped this up to four slots. This meant whilst you had more attack power, you needed to really tailor the party to exploit weaknesses. Vivi may have made an excellent mage, but when brute force was needed, Steiner or main protagonist Zidane may be a better option.
Any of the top three in this list make a valid point for the top spot – and indeed on different days it may be another Final Fantasy game sitting pretty at the top – but Final Fantasy IX will always hold a special place in my heart. It is everything I want from a console RPG: medieval setting, fantastic characters and a soundtrack that invokes so many emotions even a couple of hours in. Zidane oozed confidence, Garnet was the girl next door, and Vivi was just someone you wanted to wrap up in cotton wool and take home to look after. Even Steiner – incredibly annoying at first – was someone I warmed to immensely.
And that’s my – extremely self-indulgent – list completed! In case you hadn’t noticed, it’s a series I adore. I am very excited to be able to play them again on my Xbox One, and even more excited that there will be a wave of new fans to experience them for the first time!
But what about you? Are you a fan of the series already, do you agree with my list placings? Or are you looking forward to playing some of the classics for the first time? Which one will you start with? As always, let us know in the comments!