(originally posted via Tumblr, 10/26/2012)
1. Introduce yourself.
Jesse. There you go.
2. What makes you love the franchise?
In addition to the unparalleled storytelling, outstanding music, fantastic visuals and cinematic aspects, as well as the fact that the games give you an experience of another world rather than just making you feel like you’re playing a game, they’re fun. I have not found many other games that can rival the Final Fantasy franchise in terms of genuine fun gameplay.
3. Tell us about your first Final Fantasy gaming experience.
I came home from school when I was 7 years old, my cousin was playing a game on his new Playstation (for which he had traded his Nintendo 64, and I naturally was not happy and having lost the ability to play Super Mario 64), and I came in just as the opening cinematic of Final Fantasy VII began. I sat down to watch because the main character looked familiar (I assume I must have tied him to Super Saiyan Goku without having known who that was at the time), and the rest is history. I think it was the music that kept me hooked, and enchanted me like nothing has ever enchanted me since.
4. Tell us about your favorite game.
It’s hard to choose a favorite, because my centimental favorite will always be Final Fantasy VII, both for it’s outstanding score (it’s some of the most moving music I’ve ever heard and it’s in MIDI, for christ sake) and immersive world. However, I would really have to choose Final Fantasy IX as my overall favorite, both for it’s originality and the fact that I find it’s battle system to be one of the best the series has offered. I don’t particularly love VII’s materia system because there’s so much customization that characters are all carbon copies of each other. In Final Fantasy IX each character has their own strengths, and by choosing new party members you can have a unique gameplay experience every time you play.
This too is a hard one, because for a very long time I probably would have said Zell Dincht. I always liked him, I always kept him in my party to see what his reaction to things would be. Rikku is another longtime favorite, she stole the show in Final Fantasy X, I like peppy upbeat characters (with the notable exception of Selphie Tilmitt, who I have grown to feel neutral toward as oppose to outright hating). But the thing is, Final Fantasy is so beloved because of it’s incredible characters. Tifa Lockheart, Fran, Balthier, Lightning Farron, these characters are all emotionally involving and as a player and a person immersed in the Final Fantasy experience I really want the best for them. I want these characters to succeed, and to be happy, and that, I think, is what makes Final Fantasy so special.
6. What character do you want to cast Ultima on repeatedly?
Snow Villiers. I cannot stand him. Every word that comes out of his mouth makes me cringe. Every time Lightning punches him I feel a little flutter in my chest. Not only is his relationship with Serah vomit-worthy and unrealistic (seriously, there’s no development for them whatsoever, we’re just led to believe they’re in love and take it at that. They act like SUCH a couple in XIII-2, let me tell you. That, incidentally, was sarcasm), but his character design is pretty lazy. He looks EXACTLY like Seifer Almasy. He’s a combination of Seifer’s original design from Final Fantasy VIII and Seifer’s Kingdom Hearts incarnation, from the tan trench coat and beanie to the blonde hair and combat boots. I think it’s possible that Snow’s entire purpose is to provide a disparity between an idealistic hero whose all talk and emotions but no action (himself), and a genuine hero who fights all odds to save themselves and the people they love (Lightning).
7. Favorite class.
Most people say Dragoon. I can see where they’re coming from, Dragoons have some of the highest strength, HP, and all-around stats in the series. Honestly though, I really like White Magic, and as such, I’m going to say Holy Knight, a la Beatrix. There’s something very comforting about the ability to whoop ass with a sword but still heal yourself, and besides the white knight concept just has a lot going for it aesthetically and practically.
8. Favorite summon?
I had to think about this one. It’s kind of a tie between a few of them, I always love when Leviathan shows up, because water is an element that just doesn’t get enough attention. Phoenix is another favorite, both because of it’s usefulness in battle and how visually appealing it is. Alexander is always great because Holy is a rare and fun element to play with. If I have to pick one though, I think I’m going to go with Carbuncle. He’s adorable, he’s helpful, and I always smile when I see him. He’s like a little Summon buddy.
9. What game has the best battle system?
As I mentioned before, I think Final Fantasy IX has a fantastic setup. Granted, if the series had kept one battle system and never changed, I wouldn’t have enjoyed it, and I’m glad that they always innovate. Still, I love classes, and Final Fantasy IX does a great job of keeping characters within their classes. If you want to have White Magic, you need to use one of the White Mages (incidentally, I prefer to use Eiko), and if you want Black Magic you’ll need to use Vivi in your team. This does unfortunately mean that characters like Freya, Steiner, and Amarant have to be picked from because three of the party slots will be filled with Zidane, as well as a black and white mage. Still, the system of learning abilities from your weapons and armor, both battle abilities and passive abilities, is a lot of fun and gives you a reason to experiment with different equipment. Also, the ability to learn Beatrix’s abilities with Steiner is pretty exciting.
Final Fantasy IX is not the only game to have a superior battle system, though. Final Fantasy X does a great job of keeping characters within a certain class but still allowing you the freedom to customizes the characters in any way you like. The Sphere Grid was a fantastic battle system that effectively got rid of a level cap, since filling the entire grid would probably be impossible. But, if we’re going to talk about which game has the BEST system, I’m probably going to have to side with Final Fantasy Tactics. Every single aspect of battling is important, from the direction you’re facing to which spells and abilities you use, to how your zodiac sign aligns with other characters, and since you can use the abilities of an additional class, you can cross any two classes together.
By the way, it should be noted that my LEAST favorite battle system is Final Fantasy XIII’s, which was ambitious but ultimately fell flat. Top to bottom, from the unsatisfyingly narrow battle roles to the inability to do any damage without Staggering, to the constant need to put up buffs and debuff enemies, not to mention the useless potions, ridiculous status ailments that all basically do the same thing, and the linear Crystarium that was basically a base imitation of the sphere grid and offered no customization for characters, the setup was promising but ultimately didn’t accomplish anything it set out to do.
10. What game has the best plot, and what game has the best cast of characters?
I am somewhat partial to the Ivalice games for their depth, with political intrigue, betrayal, magical warfare, racial diversity, and mythology. Final Fantasy IX, however, had a great storyline as well as some extremely likable, quirky characters. Steiner was hilarious, Eiko and Vivi were lovable, Garnet was compelling, and Zidane was probably the best Final Fantasy hero. Final Fantasy X takes the cake for emotional intensity, the lake scene between Tidus and Yuna is downright romantic, the Al Bhed singing the hymn of the Fayth as they blow up their home is moving, and the excitement of crashing Seymour’s wedding to save Yuna, and her daring fall from the building tops to be saved by her Aeon are incredible. I think that the Fabula Nova Chrysallis series has the potential to become a pretty incredible storyline, and I have this idea that the events of Fabula Nova Chrysalis may become the origins of the Final Fantasy universe as we’ve known it up until now, what with the theme being “cocoons” and “transformation,” and the seen and unseen realms converging on one another to (theoretically), create the spirituality we’ve seen in Final Fantasy games before in which all life cycles through the planets of the universe, but we’ll see what they do with Lightning Returns.
11. If you could go into any FF world, which one would you choose?
The choice is clear: Gaia from Final Fantasy VII. I’ve dreamed of seeing that world in person my entire life. Although Final Fantasy IX would be a very fun, adventurous world to live in.
12. Which game do you like least?
Of the games I’ve played, I’m going to say Final Fantasy XIII-2. While not a terrible game, it started promisingly and ultimately felt very shallow to me, with the exception of the moments involving Lightning, which were few.
13. What’s your Final Fantasy OTP (One True Pairing)?
Zell and Seifer. I know it sounds crazy, but I totally see it, and I think it makes perfect sense. There’s so much sexual tension between the two of them, I think there are a lot of feelings lurking beneath that rivalry, and both of them could easily be gay. I don’t think this is an unlikely pairing, I think that given both of their characters, it could be entirely possible.
14. Tell us an unpopular opinion.
Well, I’ve already praised both Zell and Rikku, both of whom get a lot of hate from fans as being too loud and annoying, but both of whom I greatly enjoy and always have a spot for in my party. I can think of a lot of things that might be controversial: Ultimecia is a horrible villain, Snow and Serah’s relationship is shallow, teenage, and stupid, Serah is ditzy and vapid, and Noel is underdeveloped and uninteresting. However, I think that a lot of people already feel similarly about these things, so I don’t know that they’re unpopular.
As such, I will just go with this one: Cloud is NOT an emo kid. The Compilation may have made him appear to be one, but rest assured, if you play Final Fantasy VII, you will find Cloud is a cocky (but lovable!) jackass. Even though he adopts Zack’s personality for the majority of the game, he’s still his normal “Let’s mosey!” self after he remembers who he is in the Lifestream. Similarly, Vincent was verbose, poetic, and somewhat dark in Final Fantasy VII, but also not as self-loathing and emo as he was made to be in Dirge of Cerberus.
15. Favorite soundtrack? Favorite vocal song? (Feel free to grace us with a demonstration if you so choose?)
Final Fantasy VII without a doubt. I hope that one day (perhaps if Final Fantasy VII ever does get that hotly requested remake fans have been begging for since the arrival of the Playstation 2) there will be a fully orchestral version of the entire soundtrack, and that the songs will continue to see new arrangements and remixes from Square Enix. As for vocal songs, Kiss Me Goodbye by Angela Aki was beautiful.
16. Which creature (e.g. chocobo) and/or monster (e.g. malboro) do you most want to be real?
Kupo? I believe I’m going to go with Moogles, for sure. Both the cute fluffy kind (i.e. Mog), and the more sophisticated, wordly kind (i.e. Montblanc). I don’t think Viera count as creatures because they’re people, but if another race can be used as criteria, I am fascinated by the Viera and would love for them to be real.
17. Overall favorite scene from any game?
I think that Final Fantasy’s most involving moments are during gameplay, for instance, the entire experience of busting Steiner and Marucs out of their cage, flying to Alexandria to prevent Garnet’s execution, rescuing her and battling Beatrix, fleeing down the spiral staircase with Garnet in your arms, playing as Beatrix betraying her queen for the good of the Princess and her country, and fleeing on the gargant is an extremely thrilling gaming experience. Those are Final Fantasy’s best moments, not the pre-rendered cutscenes. Following Noel across the mountains of A Dying World under the red sky, fighting the Galbadian soldier and stealing his jetpack to save Rinoa, and subsequently running through the crowds of battling Garden students to get her to safety, or climbing the tower in Sector 7 to help Barret fight to keep Shinra from dropping the plate on the citizens of Midgar, are all great example of this kind of gameplay. The best moments happen in the middle of the action, not always in battle.
Still, there have been some great scenes, like Yuna clenching her fist during her wedding kiss with Seymour, Tidus realizing that Yuna has been intent on sacrificing herself the whole time and Valefor cradling him in her wings, and Fran asking her sister to speak to the Wood on her behalf. There have been too many wonderful moments to count, and I hope that Final Fantasy will continue to deliver more in the future.