Today marks the 30th anniversary of the Final Fantasy franchise, and some rumours pointed to the announcement of a special PS4 disc containing Final Fantasy I through IX. Unfortunately this wasn’t announced (Though we did get a July 11th release date for FF XII The Zodiac Age and some dates for new XV DLC), but that doesn’t stop me reminiscing about those moments I’d be giddy to replay if we do eventually see a collection like this one day. Here are ten of them:
BAHAMUT VS ALEXANDER (FF IX)
IX was the first Playstation entry where summons took the forefront of the storyline. These enormous creatures we had previously seen in sprite-form/blocky graphics were finally presented in stunning FMV cutscenes, the most iconic of which being an enormous battle in the kingdom of Alexandria. Dragon King Bahamut is shooting fireballs and wreaking havoc while you take control of multiple team members in different parts of the city, eventually managing to use summon magic to turn Alexandria Castle itself into a god-damn winged war-machine called Alexander. (OK, he’s technically behind the castle I suppose). Cue incredible CGI scenes with a dragon fleeing for its life from a gargantuan living fortress that can shoot laser beams out of its wings. It’s all kinds of epic and is my main memory from playing IX for the first time.
THE EDEA ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT (FF VIII)
I absolutely love this mission every time I play through VIII. You have a full cast of characters all working towards one goal that feels incredibly important – you’re going to assassinate one of the world’s most powerful leaders. Everything is planned out military-style, with General Caraway giving you a briefing of how you’ll stop a welcoming parade, trap the Sorceress in a tunnel, and take her out from afar with a sniper. You take control of two separate teams intermittently, one trawling the sewers to find the tunnel gate controls and the other in the city moving your sniper in to position, with the whole thing culminating in some amazing FMV cutscenes. Of course it doesn’t all go to plan, but you do get to finish Disc 1 here with a brilliant boss fight against the Sorceress.
YUNA’S WEDDING (FF X)
I hated X’s antagonist Seymour. His hair defied explanation even for FF standards, he was slimy, his voice was seriously creepy, I could go on. But he did pave the way for an excellent set of cutscenes when he forces Yuna to marry him. Never-mind the fact she wears a stunning wedding dress, what’s better is your team storming in from the skies to halt the ceremony, and a fantastic FMV with Yuna throwing herself off a building and summoning winged ally Valefore mid-fall to carry her to safety. This is our first glimpse of the more bad-ass Yuna we get to see in X-2, and I love it. You go girl.
YOU ARE NOT ALONE (FF IX)
This is a sentimental moment in the series done right, and one of those times where I’m thankful for a lack of voice acting. In newer games, scenes that are supposed to be sincere can often feel cringe-worthy because of cheesy, over-dramatic voice acting – but not here. Protagonist Zidane is dealing with his own inner turmoils and feeling completely deflated after home truths are revealed, and what better way to get through these issues than an incredible sequence which slowly sees all of your team mates come to your aid in battles. You’re slowly helped by all of your other party members, all while the now-famous ‘You Are Not Alone’ music plays (Here is a link to a Distant Worlds version that I adore). The greatest part of this whole sequence being that final fight when, just as you’re about to kick the bucket, a curaga spell hits you from off-screen and Princess Dagger appears to fight by your side. The crowd goes wild.
THE LADY YUNALESCA BOSS FIGHT (FF X)
I just spoke about voice-acting ruining things, but now I’m going to talk about it making things better. Not only is Lady Yunalesca one of the most challenging boss fights of Final Fantasy X (she puts your entire party into Zombie status and tries to ‘Cure’ you all to death! Sneaky!) but the scenes leading up to your encounter with her are amazing. Yes, they’re very long and if you lose the fight you have to watch them again, but they’re great! She’s a seriously scary baddie, and Auron gets to deliver one of his most famous lines excellently: “Now! This is it! Now is the time to choose! Die and be free of pain or live and fight your sorrow!”
THE GOLD SAUCER DATE SCENE (FF VII)
Famous for giving you the opportunity to take Cloud on a date with his burly friend Barrett, the Gold Saucer Theme Park segment of Final Fantasy VII is exciting for me not because of the choice of who you go on a date with. Because to me there’s pretty much no choice. I will always go on the date with Aeris – she deserves it! You make your way around the theme park attractions with your love interest, culminating in a romantic trip on a gondola while ‘Interrupted By Fireworks’ plays in the background. The entire date is handled perfectly to make sure the End of Disc 1 scenes hit as hard as they can – Aeris seems genuinely happy, and the whole thing feels very different when you’re playing it again knowing what’s going to happen next.
CECIL BECOMES A PALADIN (FF IV)
I will admit a lot of Final Fantasy IV is hazy to me as it’s been so long since I’ve played it. But IV is an excellent example of how much fun it is to actually play through dramatic moments with your characters rather than just watching a cutscene play out. You start IV playing as a morally questionable Dark Knight who doubts he is doing the right thing, and eventually protagonist Cecil climbs Mount Ordeals and finds a mirrored room. Here, you battle your dark-half in a symbolic encounter that ends with you resetting to Level 1 (DAMN IT!) only this time as the heroic Paladin class! (YAASSS!)
ULTIMECIA’S CASTLE (FF VIII)
Probably my favourite final dungeon in the series (Though IX’s Memoria comes very close), VIII sees you end the game making your way through a villainous Sorceress’ mansion that’s anchored in the sky. There are puzzles, fantastic boss fights, locked abilities and secret super-bosses, it’s everything you want for a final challenge! The dungeon ends with my favourite set of boss fights, seeing Ultimecia throw everything she has at you and eventually turning in to a majorly creepy faceless final form while ‘The Extreme’ music starts to play ominously. And then you get one of the best endings in the series, too, so it’s all worth it.
THE WORLD OF RUIN IS INTRODUCED (FF VI)
One of the few FF entries where the villain manages to achieve his goal, Final Fantasy VI pulls the rug out from under you when villain Kefka succeeds in essentially destroying the world and taking his place as God of the new world. We open back up one year later playing as Celes on a miserable-looking island with an elderly Cid as her only companion, and desperately try to catch fish to keep him healthy. If things go really badly here, you end up with a scene featuring attempted suicide as Celes throws herself off a cliff, and it’s only the fact that it’s all being done by sprites that makes it a little less harrowing. This also marks the game shifting in tone dramatically, and you go from a pretty streamlined on-rails mission to an open-ended quest where you can re-recruit as many team mates as you wish before tackling the final boss.
THE CRYSTAL TOWER (FF III)
I’m not sure if ‘excited to replay’ is the right phrase here. I’ve never finished Final Fantasy III, because this damn dungeon was so impossibly hard I rage-quitted the game permanently, despite the fact it’s a great fantasy setting. Eep. Featuring no save points, tough-as-nails random encounters AND a difficult set of bosses to boot, the Crystal Tower (depicted here in glorious Amano artwork) is notoriously frustrating to play through and I’m eager to give it another go and make it through the damn thing the next time around.
It also has to be said that I can’t wait to play through stories I’ve never seen before in terms of I, II and particularly V. These games made up a huge part of my childhood and I would love the opportunity to play through them again on the PS4. What would you look forward to playing again if this Collection was announced? What would you not look forward to having to do again? (Gargan Roo in IX or the Train Graveyard in VII springs to mind…) Let me know!