Final Fantasy IX is the series creator’s favorite

Final Fantasy creator Hironobu Sakaguchi has been open about his favorite game in the series, saying Final Fantasy IX is “closest to [his] ideal view of what Final Fantasy should be.” Whereas prior entries had begun to shift into realism, Final Fantasy IX was a return to the fantastical roots and Medieval theme of the series, and remains a beloved fan favorite today.

NSYNC’s Lance Bass lent his voice to an iconic villain

Final Fantasy VII’s Sephiroth is considered to be one of the franchise’s most recognizable and favorite villains. After Final Fantasy VII, Sephiroth would go on to appear in various other Final Fantasy-related games, such as 2002’s Kingdom Hearts, where he was voiced by NSYNC superstar Lance Bass. Other celebrity voices in Kingdom Hearts included David Boreanaz, Billy Zane and Mandy Moore.

Chocobos are named after a Japanese candy

Yellow Chocobo birds are an iconic staple of the Final Fantasy series. These loyal friends and trusty steeds have appeared in every mainline Final Fantasy game since Final Fantasy II, and are well-loved by fans. The name ‘chocobo’ comes from a popular Japanese brand of candy called Morinaga Chocoball, which has its own adorable birdy mascot.

Japanese authorities changed the release of Final Fantasy V

Photo: Bryan Ochalla via Flickr

By the time the fifth Final Fantasy game rolled around, the series had become a bonafide hit in Japan. In its first day of release, Final Fantasy V sold 900,000 copies across the country, earning a massive $144 million by today’s standards. Anticipating this, Japanese authorities asked Square not to release the game on a weekday, fearing that school children would skip class in order to purchase a copy. Square agreed, and the game was released on Sunday, December 6, 1992.

One boss took 18 hours to beat and caused people to get physically sick

Final Fantasy XI marked the series’ first MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game), and as a result the gameplay and battle system changed significantly. The game’s second expansion pack, Chains of Promathia, introduced Absolute Virtue, a boss that proved almost impossible to beat. Even after 18 hours of gameplay, players could not defeat this gruelling boss, while others reported vomiting, dizziness and exhaustion after days of trying non-stop to take Absolute Virtue down.

The series contains many Biblical and mythological references

The Final Fantasy series has many recurring characters and enemies, many of whom take their names from different mythologies around the world. These include Ifrit (a demon from Islamic folklore), Leviathan (a sea monster mentioned throughout the Bible), Gilgamesh (a hero from ancient Mesopotamian mythology) and Ramuh, whose design and powers closely resemble Zeus, the Greek god of thunder.

Game composer Nobuo Uematsu is entirely self-taught

Final Fantasy is famed for its music – from iconic battle themes to haunting melodies – and many of the series’ most beloved musical compositions come from talented composer and pianist Nobuo Uematsu. Unbelievably, Uematsu is entirely self-taught, having been inspired to learn piano at the age of 12 due to his love of Elton John’s music. Uematsu has composed music for over 30 video game titles, and was the sole composer for nine Final Fantasy titles.

The first game features a dig at The Legend of Zelda

A year before the first Final Fantasy game was released, Nintendo’s The Legend of Zelda hit the gaming world, changing the face of fantasy forever. Perhaps in response to the competition of having another fantasy game on the scene, Final Fantasy I contains a pretty morbid Easter egg – the grave of someone called Link, coincidentally the same name of The Legend of Zelda’s iconic protagonist.

There is a Final Fantasy themed restaurant in Japan

Japan has no shortage of themed restaurants, but Eorzea Café in Tokyo is a must-see for any Final Fantasy fans. The café is decorated with the game’s famous weapons and character portraits, and the menu is filled with themed items including Chocobo Cream Bun, Moogle Honey Toast and Giga Flare Curry. For after dinner, there’s a stock of exclusive merch and a PlayStation section where diners can play their favorite Final Fantasy.

A series favorite is based on River Phoenix

Squall Leonhart of Final Fantasy VIII is one of the franchise’s most beloved protagonists, partly because of his brooding good looks. Character designer Tetsuya Nomura was inspired by the late actor River Phoenix, who was also famed for his chiseled features and striking blue eyes. Nomura has stated that the team didn’t understand his vision, but he was determined to stick to it, which undoubtedly led to Squall’s enduring popularity.

The Onion Knights were designed to look like children in fancy dress

Game designer Koichi Ishii has explained that the so-called Onion Knights, who feature a white plant-looking plume on their helmets, were meant to look “infantile”: “A child clad in armor made from a cardboard box, wielding a wooden sword; that sort of impression,” he said of the unusual design. “So, they wear a helmet with a fluffy decoration.”

The name Final Fantasy was chosen for its acronym

Various explanations for the Final Fantasy brand name have arisen over the years, with the director Sakaguchi stating that he chose the name because it was his last-ditch attempt to make his name in the video games industry. However, he’s also said that he wanted an alliterative “FF” name for his game, because that acronym sounds particularly good in Japanese.

The creator was long told RPGs wouldn’t sell

Hironobu Sakaguchi had long dreamed of making a role-playing video game. However, his employee, Square, had banned the idea, telling him that such a game would never sell according to their market research. It was only after the success of the RPG Dragon Quest that Square finally granted him permission to create his own RPG, in the form of the first-ever Final Fantasy game.

Illustrator Amano was hired in an amazing coincidence

Credit: Luthwyhn via Wikimedia Commons

While he was working on the first Final Fantasy game, designer Koichi Ishii suggested that they hire the illustrator Yoshitaka Amano to design the characters. Sakaguchi refused because he had never heard of Amano. However, when Sakaguchi presented Ishii with some art inspiration from magazines, the images he picked turned out to be by Amano himself – leading to the illustrator’s recruitment to the team.

Final Fantasy contains the first-ever RPG minigame

The lead coder on the first Final Fantasy project was Iranian-American programmer Nasir Gebelli. It was his idea to include a sliding puzzle, which didn’t appear in the original game design. This puzzle became the first ever minigame to feature in any RPG video game.

Only three staff volunteered to work on the original game

Credit: Georges Seguin via Wikimedia Commons

When Sakaguchi’s RPG game pitch received the green light from Square, only three of his colleagues were willing to work on the risky project. With some work, the staff eventually grew to seven, later known as the A-Team. The crew included game designers Koichi Ishii and Akitoshi Kawazu.

Final Fantasy eventually joined forces with its rival

At first, Dragon Quest was Final Fantasy’s inspiration; it later became the franchise’s biggest rival in the RPG world. Dragon Quest was produced by Enix, whereas Final Fantasy was made by the company Square. However, in 2003, a merger took place between the two companies, meaning that both franchises are now products under the same banner: Square Enix Holdings Co., Ltd.

Theme of Love is taught in schools

Final Fantasy IV’s musical score, composed by Nobuo Uematsu, was particularly popular among reviewers and the public. In fact, one of its tracks – Theme of Love – was considered so impressive, that it was added to the national curriculum taught to Japanese school children. It subsequently became a standard in school bands and orchestras.

The franchise influenced countless other games

Countless video game designers have cited the Final Fantasy series as a source of inspiration. Among the people it has heavily influenced are BioWare founder Greg Zeschuk, Jonas Mattson of The Witcher 3, and Mass Effect art director Derek Watts. Tim Schafer, who created Full Throttle, has said that he counts Final Fantasy VII among his favorite games ever.

Final Fantasy featured in the Olympics

Credit: Voyager via Wikimedia Commons

When competing in the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, one American duo decided to pay tribute to the Final Fantasy franchise in an unusual format: synchronized swimming. Alison Bartosik and Anna Kozlova performed their routine to music from Final Fantasy VIII and won bronze medals for their efforts. Congratulations to them!

Final Fantasy II was advertised as a sequel, but no characters returned

Originally, 200,000 copies were to be made of the first Final Fantasy game. However, Sakaguchi persuaded the company to push that figure up to 400,000, to create enough interest for a sequel. He went on to brand the next Final Fantasy game as a sequel. However, strictly speaking, sequels should provide a continuation of the initial story – whereas Final Fantasy II followed a completely new set of characters and plot points.

Cid first appears in Final Fantasy II

The character of Cid first appears in Final Fantasy II, where he is introduced as a middle-aged engineer who travels in his own airship. This character became a recurring figure in the series, and there is one character of this name in every single subsequent Final Fantasy game.

There’s a plea for earthquake victims in Final Fantasy XIII

As Lightning vanishes in a cutscene of Final Fantasy XIII, she is surrounded by golden ribbon-like bands. Between these bands, there is a hidden message in Etro script which reads: “Pray for Japan”. This is reportedly a tribute to the victims of the Tohoku Earthquake of 2011, which took place in Japan and claimed nearly 20,000 lives.

Yuna’s last lines in Final Fantasy X are different in English and Japanese

In the final animated short film in Final Fantasy X, Yuna says farewell to her guardian, Tidus. In the version dubbed in English, her parting words to him are: “I love you”. However, in the Japanese version, she instead leaves him with the words “Thank you”, due to cultural differences around verbal declarations of love.

The Final Fantasy II team relocated to California because of one expired work visa

Final Fantasy II was produced at top speed, coming out just 364 days after the very first installment. The road to release wasn’t smooth however: programmer Nasir Gebelli was forced out of Japan because of an expired work visa, and the development team decided to relocate entirely to Sacramento, California so that they could continue to work alongside him.

Fans noticed similarities between Star Wars: A New Hope and Final Fantasy II

When Final Fantasy came out in 1988, fans were quick to note its plot similarities to Star Wars: A New Hope, which came out a decade earlier. Both tales feature an orphan joining rebel forces against a tyrannical empire, and both show the villains constructing a massive spaceship in which a princess is being held captive.

Final Fantasy: All the Bravest is widely considered the worst

People hated the 2013 mobile game Final Fantasy: All the Bravest for a whole host of different reasons. In particular, it was derided for its lack of character customization and sparse storytelling. To use a unlock of characters, players had to make expensive in-app purchases, rather than the option being there for free from the beginning.

Final Fantasy IV has been voted the best

Final Fantasy IV has often been named and voted as the greatest game in the franchise’s history. The critic Monty Haul said that it “truly redefines the standards for fantasy adventure games”, and claimed that “one-dimensional characters, needless hack ’em combat, and linear gameplay will be things of the past if other RPGs learn a lesson or two from this cart.” High praise, indeed!

Square’s Active Time Battle system was invented for Final Fantasy IV

Final Fantasy IV saw the earliest introduction of the Active Time Battle system, which lets you play as various characters in a single battle with real-time instructions. This system later became a mainstay of the Final Fantasy franchise and other games developed by Square.

Final Fantasy VIII’s soundtrack features a secret anagram

The soundtrack of Final Fantasy VIII contains the lyrics “Fithos Lusec Wecos Vinosec”, and this phrase is also the title of the soundtrack’s orchestral album. Rearranged, these letters spell out the phrase “Succession of Witches” plus the word “Love”, which describe some of the game’s core themes and topics.

Chocobos were inspired by Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind

Chocobos have featured in every main Final Fantasy game since FFII. These colorful giant birds were reportedly inspired by a different mythical beast: horseclaws. These are the large flightless birds that are used for transport in the classic Hayao Miyazaki film Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, released in 1984.

Final Fantasy: Legend of the Crystals outranked Neon Genesis Evangelion in 1998

The animated TV show Final Fantasy: Legend of the Crystals was first released on VHS in Japan in 1994. Although later reviewers have found various faults with the show, it was immensely popular in the 1990s and garnered plenty of positive reviews. The critic Shidoshi ranked it as the best anime show of the month of May 1998, beating Neon Genesis Evangelion in the process.

Final Fantasy VII had the largest development team of any game in history

With a budget of $40 million, Final Fantasy VII was one of the most expensive games ever created, and it took a team of over 100 staff to make. In an era where development teams rarely had more than 20 staff, this was an extraordinary effort. What’s more, the team worked with technology that had only just been developed, including PowerAnimator and N-World.

Toriyama feared that Final Fantasy XIII was “almost a little too dark”

Final Fantasy XIII contains an unusually dark scene where a supporting character, the pilot Sazh, attempts to take his own life. Director Motomu Toriyama was concerned that moments of this nature were “almost a little too dark”, so he decided to lighten the mood elsewhere in the game with Sazh’s joyful interactions with a Chocobo chick.

Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within explores a real-life environmental theory

In this 2001 Final Fantasy spin-off movie, we see a future Earth infested with aliens who feast on the Gaia spirit, a magical quality of all earthly beings. The director, Hironobu Sakaguchi, was inspired by a real-life theory called the Gaia Hypothesis, which posits that Earth possesses a completely self-regulating system that makes the planet liveable.

The launch of Final Fantasy XIV was a complete disaster

In 2010, the massive multiplayer game Final Fantasy XIV was released on PC. The story centered on the fantasy kingdom of Eorzea facing an invasion from their neighbor, the Garlean Empire. The game was a complete disaster on release. The overwhelmingly negative response led the team to build a whole new version entitled A Realm Reborn, which replaced the original in 2013.

Crystals have become a metaphor for fossil fuels

Marketed under the tagline “The legacy of the crystals has shaped our history for long enough”, Final Fantasy XVI turns the franchise’s age-old trope of crystals into a metaphor for fossil fuels. The game depicts the world of Valisthea, where people are reliant on mined crystals for all of their civilizational needs.

Final Fantasy VIII’s parade dance borrows from Thriller

During Final Fantasy VII’s parade for the sorceress Edea, the backup dancers perform some unusual moves that don’t seem to fit in with the European fantasy setting. In fact, they are borrowing from the music video dance sequence for Thriller, made world-famous by Michael Jackson in the 1980s.

Aerith And Sephiroth were originally meant to be siblings

Final Fantasy VII features the characters Aerith and Sephiroth. Aerith is an eco-terrorist battling against Sephiroth, who is a super-soldier. Their physical similarities are no coincidence – the characters were originally meant to be siblings. Another option was to make the pair into ex-lovers. However, neither of these plot points were chosen, and Aerith ended up as the love interest of Cloud instead.

Masamune is named after Japan’s greatest swordsmith

Swords in the Final Fantasy franchise often have significant names, such as Excalibur, which is named after the sword wielded by King Arthur in Welsh mythology. Another sword in the games is named Masamune. This weapon is named after Japan’s greatest swordsmith, Gorō Nyūdō Masamune, who made swords and daggers in the medieval period.