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The Final Fantasy Challenge: A Vertical Look at the Increasingly Misnamed Final Fantasy Series

Several years ago, I was sitting in a Starbucks with a long-time friend who was working for one of the many wineries in Paso Robles, California.  He was organizing a vertical tasting of the winery’s flagship wine, where guests would enjoy 25 vintages, spanning a total of 29 years.  The problem?  Five of those vintages used American oak barrels, instead of the French Oak they used for every other year, and the barrels came from a different supplier.

I shared my experience with Stone Brewery’s Vertical Epic vertical tasting.  Stone had a brew (Vertical Epic) that they released each year 2.2.02, 3.3.03, 4.4.04…12.12.12.  While it was technically one beer, each year there was something changed to create a brand-new brew, so not a true vertical tasting, but it was in the spirit of a vertical tasting.


What kicked off was a discussion of what else can be vertically explored, outside of alcohol and cheese.


My winery friend suggested how cool it would be to do a video game series.  His suggestions were long running series like Ninja Gaiden, God of War, Prince of Persia, Assassins Creed, etc.


I had a better idea… Final Fantasy.  Just like the Stone Vertical Epic tasting, it would be a non-vertical, vertical, review.


The Rules Guiding the Vertical Review

You got to have rules, right?  Otherwise, it’s total and complete chaos!  I figured I could borrow from vertical wine tasting rules and guidelines.  The web was not short on sites that offer insight into how to run a home vertical tasting, not all which translated (guiding discussion towards “the nose,” the aftertaste, the mouthfeel, etc., isn’t very helpful when discussing video games. 


So, I came up with the following guidelines to ensure that I provided a fair comparison from game to game.

  1. Games should be played in its original form, on the closest representation of the original platform, where possible.

  2. Mainline (numbered) games only.  No remakes, spin-offs, or sequels.  This means that I’ll look at FFVII, but not Crisis Core or the FFVII remake.

  3. Offline games only.  I wouldn’t be able to review FFXI, and FFXIV is so huge, that I wouldn’t be able to provide a fair review.

  4. No mods or enhancements, unless related to translations or regionalization fixes

  5. 100% the game is not necessary, but a full exploration of the game should occur.

  6. Comparison to previous games should be as objective as possible and shouldn’t comprise the entirety of the review.


An explanation of rule 5.  I noticed when reading or watching reviews of Tears of the Kingdom, that many reviewers spent the entirety of their review talking about how TotK wasn’t Breath of the Wild.  Likewise, I’ve seen reviewers who don’t try to cover up the fact that FFVII is their favorite game of all time, reviewing other FF games by stating how it doesn’t measure up to FFVII.  I will do my best to avoid this, although, based on my memory of some of the later games, comparison might be impossible to avoid.

 

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At the time of writing this, I am currently halfway through FFV, so updates should come once a month or so (that way I have time to play, digest, and write my snarky review.

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EDIT: Several people asked what my first FF game was.  The concern was that nostalgia would taint my review, since I frequently will claim that certain popular games are only popular because they were the first game a lot of people played.  So, to answer that:

  1. Final Fantasy IV

  2. Final Fantasy VII

  3. Final Fantasy VI

  4. Final Fantasy VIII

  5. Final Fantasy IX

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