Final Fantasy Numerology  
A guide through the strange numbering adventure of Final Fantasy games, with a look at the history of the most epic of all series.

kupoartist If any game reaches 11 (going on 12) numbered incarnations, it is fair to assume that it has some kind of Heritage behind it, and with the release of new games in this most epic of series, it is rather appropriate for Ps2Fantasy to look back at where the series came from... Indeed, "Final Fantasy 11" is a complete and total lie; there are many more Final Fantasies than this (Or not, as the case may be - stay tuned for more of that in the later part of this feature).

Regardless, the numbering system used was once as confused as... well, as confused as you may well be at the end of this article. Read on to find out such things as why Final Fantasy III is FF3, FF6 and not FF3 all at the same time. Among over things. You can also use this feature to help you remember which FF is which!

Note #1: The Japanese "NES" and "SNES" are the "Famicom" and "Super Famicom" Respectively. Throughout this article, the two consoles are referred to universally by the American Names.

Note #2: A reasonable grasp of Roman Numerals will help!

Note #3: "WSC" denotes "Wonderswan Colour", Bandai's Japan only Handheld.

Final Fantasy (1) [NES, WSC, PS1]
"The world is veiled in darkness. The wind stops, the sea is wild, and the earth begins to rot.. The people wait, their only hope, a prophecy...
when the world is in darkness, four warriors will come...
After a long journey, four young warriors arrive, each holding an ORB"

- The Prologue, Final Fantasy I - Original English NES release.

This is the game that began it all (well duh). It was released in Japan and the outside world as "Final Fantasy" and is consequently of little interest to the article (because they got it right for once!). Many will know it: 4 warriors (with names limited to 4 letters...) set off to save the world. A bit. However, It is worth mentioning the many versions of this game: The original version was for the NES. This was remade for the Wonderswan Colour, Bandai's Japan only Handheld console, and acquired some new 16-Bit esque Graphics. Finally, Square ported the WSC version to the Playstation 1, rescaling the art so that it would look its best on your TV screens (and giving it some rather nice FMVs at the beginning and end). You can purchase the later as part of the "Final Fantasy Origins" package (with FF2).

The NES Original The Wonderswan Remake
The NES Original
The Wonderswan Remake...
The PsOne Remake
... and the PsOne Remake

Final Fantasy II (2) [NES, WSC, PS1]
"In a far off land... A long peace has ended. The Paramekian Empire has summoned hellspawn in hopes to rule the world...
the people of Phin fought bravely for their kingdom... and Lost.
Now four of Phin's youth must flea to Altea, with the enemy just behind..."

- The Prologue, Final Fantasy II - Unofficial and Unidentified Translation of Japanese NES Release.

Now this is where it gets difficult. Final Fantasy II was a NES game. In the US, Final Fantasy II was a SNES game with a completely different story. The reason: the US release of Final Fantasy II was actually Final Fantasy IV! In the time it took for the US presence of Square to release a FF2 (for various reasons, related to the company's relative weakness abroad - Square was a young company, and the industry was arguably harsher on newcomers in those days. It would be easy for a young foreign company to get pushed around.) 3 FF games had been released in Japan.

Imagine yourself in Square's Position. In a harsh foreign market, you could release two ageing NES games, or the latest SNES game with go faster stripes. Quite rightly, Square chose to release Final Fantasy IV as Final Fantasy II (they had no intention of revealing that US gamers were missing out on two games in the series).

So what is Final Fantasy II really? And was it ever released outside of Japan?

The real Final Fantasy II charts the story of three friends, fleeing from their Kingdom which is under invasion by an Evil Empire (and is not "Cecil and Kain deliver a package to the Village of Summoners") and trying to locate their lost friend. For a NES game, the story is quite intricate (and the characters weren't simply generic heroes for once). It also has a unique battle system, wherein levels are scrapped and your abilities based on how much you use them (indicating that Square were a company that were to be keen to experiment with their role playing systems).

The game was however, only officially released to English speaking Markets this year (in FF Origins). For years, many wondered about the real FF2 (except those who had translated and emulated the NES version). When screens of FF2 for the Wonderswan Colour version of the game emerged, a faint glimmer of hope for an official version was shortly snuffed out when Bandai's console never made it outside Japan. The decision to release the FF Origins package changed all of this...

The NES Original The Wonderswan Remake
The NES Original
The Wonderswan Remake...
The PsOne Remake
...and the PsOne Remake

Final Fantasy III (3) [NES]
"In a far off land... A long peace has ended. The Paramekian Empire has summoned hellspawn in hopes to rule the world..."

- The Prologue, Final Fantasy III - Unofficial and Unidentified Translation of Japanese NES Release.

To date, Final Fantasy III is the only "Old" Final Fantasy not to have been released outside of Japan. It is also the only one to have never been successfully remade. Alike to Final Fantasy II, the US version of Final Fantasy III isn't the real Final Fantasy III. It is actually Final Fantasy VI (it was numbered as "III" because square failed to release FF5, as well as FF2 and FF3 - more later). Because of the lack of release or remake of the real Final Fantasy III, very few people have played it, and anyone who has actually met and defeated the last boss gets knighted by the Queen of England. Or so I hear.

The real FF3 then, is the game that Squaresoft were gearing up to make. For a NES game, it once again has a decent story, and is also the first time that we see Square use a Job Class System - alike to Final Fantasy V, Tactics and X-2. Anyone who knows Final Fantasy 5 will be familiar with the goings on of FF3 - the crystals of the world are shattering and the player characters are there to pick up the pieces, or rather, the wisdom and skills of the crystals.

Final Fantasy III's release history is short. It was released once in Japan on the NES... however, as FFs 1, 2 and 4 were released on the Wonderswan Colour, there is a gap that was never filled: indeed, Final Fantasy III was scheduled for a WSC release, but the improved relations with Square and Nintendo meant that Square would no longer develop the remake for a competitors system. FF3 for WSC now lives somewhere in Limbo, perhaps negotiating a Gameboy Advance or Playstation 1 Release: We may one day yet experience the "missing fantasy".

The NES Original The Wonderswan Remake never released
The NES Original...
... and the Wonderswan Remake that never was

Final Fantasy IV (4) [SNES, PS1, WSC]
"One born of a dragon, bearing darkness and light, shall rise to the heavens over the still land.
Bathing the moon in eternal light, he brings a promise to Mother Earth with bounty and grace"

- The Prologue (aka. "The Legend of Mysidia"), Final Fantasy IV Common to all official English Translations.

Final Fantasy IV has probably had the most re-releases to its name. The story is well known around any group of true FF players - Cecil the Dark Knight, begins to question the orders he is given, which lead to deaths of innocents all because the king wishes to control the world's crystals. For this he is banished, and he must defeat his inner-demons if he is ever to save the world from the dire fate it seems to be heading for. However, as mentioned before, many in the US know this game as FF2 (see Final Fantasy II, above).

Another detail about the US "Final Fantasy II" that you may or may not know is that it was actually a dumbed down version, released as "Final Fantasy IV Easy Type" in Japan. It was allegedly found that the original FF was "too hard" for American gamers, so this game had various abilities and enemies simplified or removed.

The Release history goes like this: FF4 was released in Japan on SNES, and then in the US as "FF2". Many years down the line, the Proper "Hard" Version was ported to Playstation 1 (with zero enhancements, save for 2 FMVs) and later released in the US as "Final Fantasy Chronicles" (with Chrono Trigger) and Europe as Final Fantasy Anthology: European Edition (with Final Fantasy V). Finally, a Wonderswan Colour version was released in Japan. This version was a slight improvement over the PS1 version, as it featured far more detailed "town" sprites. (i.e. Sprites used for characters walking around towns or dungeons), and improved art for the locations themselves.

The NES Original The Wonderswan Remake never released
The SNES Original and the PsOne Version
... and the Wonderswan Remake

Final Fantasy V (5) [SNES, PS1]
"Hope blesses the Earth, Courage sets the fire alight, kindness flows from the water, the wind carries wisdom for the quest: if people possess the four essences, light will be born"

- The Prologue, Final Fantasy V Manual.

The release of the last (at least, for a while) of the Crystal Stories became a legend in itself: Final Fantasy 5 was covered by various publications in the US as the next Final Fantasy game people would see - "Final Fantasy III" - but delay after delay pushed the release back so much that the inexperienced US presence found themselves with Final Fantasy VI knocking at their door and demanding guest treatment. An English FF5 was forgotten about whilst FF6 became the US FF3. By the time Square finally remembered about it, they had moved onto newer and better things... Things like Chrono Trigger. Then Square decided to develop all games for Sony, and a SNES release of an English FF5 was impossible.

The plan was to, in conjunction with Eidos, release Final Fantasy V as "Final Fantasy X-Treme" on the PC (the name reportedly related to the game's difficulty). Doing the maths here puts this idea in about 1996-97. Any PC fan will point out that with games like Quake doing the rounds, a simplistic, Sprite Based and (most importantly) console RPG (though any RPG was rare at that time) was likely to be torn to pieces and forgotten completely. The Project was sensibly terminated, but relations with Eidos carried through to the PC versions of Final Fantasy VII and VIII, which were a little bit more suited to the typically graphics centric PC market... though clearly not enough so, otherwise we'd still have FF on PC...

Final Fantasy V was very much a last stab at the traditional FF - perhaps an older, bolder FF9. The humour is lighter, the crystals are there and the whole atmosphere is rather jolly. People often talk about how recent FF games are very cinematic: Final Fantasy V is without any doubt a Pantomime.

I dare you not to Boo and Hiss the main villain when he makes his appearances and cackles manically. There is even a Pantomime Dame in there... of Sorts. Regardless, FF5 was a lot of Fun, and is made even more so by a brilliant Job System. So how did people experience FF5? Well, of any of the games here, it is probably the most notoriously emulated: so much so, that the literal translations of the Character Names (which differ greatly from the later official release) are often listed alongside the officials on many FF websites. It was quite simply the only way anybody was going to experience the game without buying the Japanese Cart, and sitting with a dictionary in your lap. Until PS1 releases of Final Fantasy Anthology came to the US (and eventually, Europe.), although sporting a complete lack of enhancements (... except two FMVs and... a sprite of FF7's Cloud that appears occasionally on the save screen).

The SNES Original... and the PsOne Remake
The SNES Original... and the PsOne Remake

Final Fantasy VI (6) [SNES, PS1]
Many centuries have passed since the war. Civilisations have been rebuilt with iron, machines and technology. For years the Espers have existed only in ancient legends. Now an Esper has been discovered and the forces of magic are beginning to return. The risk of another, more devastating war is about to surface."

- The Prologue, Final Fantasy 6 Manual.

The last of the SNES Final Fantasy Series was VI, but was renamed "Final Fantasy III" outside of Japan, because by now 2, 3 and 5 had failed to be released. It was at least, much the same as the Japanese Version (though a few dedicated Emulation teams have spotted slight tweaks in difficulty, far less revealing "partially naked" female sprites, and discrepancies in literal translations: People swear a lot more in the Japanese Version).

The story is familiar to many - Terra, a girl with the curious power of Magic, is controlled by the Empire and sent to the mining town of Narshe. With an ever growing band of rebels (which shrinks, splits and twists around every plot development), the player fights against the evil Gesthal's empire, and a Corrupt and possibly more evil General... The Release History of FF6 is fairly Short. It was released in Japan and the US (except as "FF3" in the US), and then remade and re-released in Japan, in the US (in FF Anthology alongside FF5) and in Europe (with a demo of FF10, and a low price-tag). The PS1 release was ever so slightly better for 2 FMVs, some gallerys and enemy lists, though the loading times were noticeably slow (and there are sprites of FF8's Squall, and - in a tribute to the real FF3 - an "Onionknight", on the Save Game Screen).

The SNES Original... and the PsOne Remake
The SNES Original... and the PsOne Remake

Final Fantasy VII (7) and beyond - the Sony Generation.

With the 16-Bit (SNES / Genesis) era drawing to a close, and Square's final SNES games released (Chrono Trigger and Mario RPG), Both Nintendo and Square began to make plans for the future. Nintendo was slowly unveiling the Console we know as the N64, and with this Square released a preview of an N64 3D engine - featuring Terra, Shadow and Locke from FF6 in a battle sequence.

Then Square changed their mind.

Based on the logic that the N64 used Cartridges - Great for loading times, yet horribly expensive and with a pitiful data capacity - Square went over to Sony, and their CD Based Playstation, which would allow truly epic RPGs, with a lengthy dosage of Full Motion Video. For Square, the move obviously had its benefits - indeed, one would argue that there was the potential for far more amazing games on Sony's Machine rather than the much delayed N64, and Square was finally allowed to actually start considering the European Market (well... only a little bit at least), which had never had FF game from the main series release - but relations with Nintendo were harmed quite severely (Firstly through the insult of saying - "we're not supporting your Hardware" and Secondly because of bad Nintendo / Sony Relations over hardware that Sony was once asked to help develop).

Square particularly regretted this with the release of the Gameboy Advance - Nintendo simply wouldn't grant them a developers licence, and Square had to make do with the Wonderswan, and the occasional dropped hint (usually along the lines of "we'd love to remake the SNES generation FFs, but the Wonderswan simply doesn't have the power to do so".) However, the Rift was finally healed last year, leading to an entirely new game on the Gamecube, and a Sequel to a FF Cult Classic on the Handheld.

Anyway, the final implications were that Sony opted to scrap the erratic Numbering System in the US (perhaps to coordinate all markets - Japan, America, and Europe, perhaps as a way of mocking Nintendo's decisions), and to give the games the numbers that were rightfully theirs - filling in the gaps as they went along.

The Extended Series, and the "FF will sell anything" philosophy.

There are many, many Final Fantasy Games in the main series alone. But the numbers are boosted by spin-off series: The Chocobo Games, The Gameboy "Legends", Ehergiz, Tactics, "FF Adventure" Crystal Chronicles, Kingdom Hearts and Mystic Quest (which may be worth forgetting all together).

In fact, in the majority, if not all "Final Fantasy" elements are seemingly inserted to give the game more credibility, so that it will sell. To prove this, write "Final Fantasy" on a used Nappy, and sell it over Ebay. Hardcore FF Fans are suckers for anything even partially related to their favorite series.

However, some "FF" Games aren't at all. They're a wider part of the whole Final Fantasy Numbering Debacle, and in many cases - they're from series' now well established in the US.

Final Fantasy Legends = SaGa [GB]

The SaGa series is often recognised as the poor cousin of Square's FF series. Square's decision to avoid the use of the name in the Gameboy only "Final Fantasy Legends" Series reaffirms this. The game's themselves bare no resemblance to an FF title: the box-art was redesigned and a new title slipped in. Consequently, Square didn't wish to take risks involved in giving the world the "Romancing SaGa" series on the SNES (which is possibly the better of all the SaGa series), and has never gone out of its way to promote the Sony games - SaGa Frontier 1 & 2, and Unlimited SaGa.

Final Fantasy Adventure = Seiken Densetsu 1[GB] = Sword of Mana [GBA]

For this, we can't really blame Square. "Seiken Densetsu" isn't a name most westerners can read, so they had to change the name to something. Its just a shame that they had to put "Final Fantasy" in it's name to sell it (being as it is, probably the best Gameboy "FF"), and the games are one again completely at odds to each other (The Mana Series has always had real time combat, rather than ATB or Turned-Based) They later reinstated the name for Seiken Densetsu 2 and 4 - Secret / Legend of Mana (Seiken Densetsu 3 was never released outside of Japan - Sadly), and will release this very game under a more suitable title - "Sword of Mana" - later this year.

The other "Spin-Offs" - despite the amazing quality of some - are all guilty of some amount of clever marketing. Players of Tactics Ogre often say that FF Tactics is just the same game repackaged. And its certainly no coincidence that Cloud is to be found in the Game and put in your team. Mystic Quest was a stab into the dark (based on the idea that US gamers are too dumb for hard FFs) that would have never been made if Square knew that it wouldn't sell a few copies for the name alone. Even the upcoming Crystal Chronicles bares very little resemblance to FF (I personally think the battle system is screaming "Mana Series"), except the odd Crystal and large Yellow Bird.

But that's just the way it is (Nintendo did a similar thing once - Super Mario Bros 2 was never a Mario Game - they changed the sprites and stole the name from the true sequel - "Super Mario Bros - The Lost Levels"), and at the end of the day so long as the games are good, who cares?

- kupoartist (2 Apr, 2004)