Square-Enix’s Final Fantasy is a franchise with much to love. From its characters to locales, it’s the various locales – you can’t accuse the series of lacking ambition. Yet among all these are some truly standout moments that have come to define the series for fans. I decided to take a look back at some of the moments that made the series truly great for me – across all the Final Fantasy games I’ve played.
10. Cross-Dressing Cloud (Final Fantasy VII)
When it comes to moments that stick in the mind, you can’t help but think about this particular quest in Final Fantasy VII. Tifa is inside a brothel, run by the exceptionally seedy Don Corneo. In an attempt to get closer to him and find out his secrets, all three of you need to gain access – but they won’t let men in. Cue one frankly bizarre quest – not just because of what it entails but because of the sheer amount of thought that’s been put into completing it. Because yes, you can just put Cloud in a dress and get on with it – but where’s the fun in that? Traverse the whole of Wall Market, and find everything a girl needs before a hot date – fragrance, a tiara, and a wig (which you have to win by partaking in a squat contest…)
9. Red XIII’s past (Final Fantasy VII)
Final Fantasy is thwart with heart wrenching moments, but very few made me as emotional as the story of Red and his father, Seto. Red has spent all his life under the impression his father was a coward, who ran away at the first sign of trouble and was never seen again. Upon reaching his hometown, Red’s grandfather Bugenhagen decides it is time Red knew the truth, and you venture through the caves running under Cosmo Canyon, eventually reaching Seto’s final resting place. And so begins one of the most emotionally traumatic scenes in a video game, ever, in which Red learns his father was turned to stone by poisoned arrows whilst protecting the Canyon from attack. Red howls towards the moon, and a tear drops from the stone body of Seto… and then I cry. I cry a lot.
8. Alexander VS Bahamut (Final Fantasy IX)
Espers, GF, summons, Aeons – whatever guise they appear in, all Final Fantasy games have them, and in each iteration of the series they become grander, more impressive and frankly, stunning to look at. This scene, though, coming from what is possibly one of the most underrated Final Fantasy games ever, is absolutely astonishing.
Bahamut is attacking the city, summoned by Kuja, and obliterating everyone and everything in its path. In an act of defiance and comradery rarely seen between the two (Eiko being ever so slightly jealous of Garnet’s blossoming romance with Zidane…) the two summoners conjure up Alexander, who encapsulates the entire castle within its formidable wings, and promptly destroys Bahamut in an epic beam of holy light.
7. Galuf’s story (Final Fantasy V)
Self-sacrifice is by no means a rarity in Final Fantasy – most of the games feature, in one form or another, a super brave hero or heroine who is willing to give their life for the greater good. It’s Galuf’s story, though, that remains one of the most tragic, in my eyes.
What makes it so sad, I think, is that it’s so easy for all the other characters (and indeed, the player) to write him off as a bumbling idiot with no idea what he’s doing for a lot of the game. Suffering from amnesia, even he has no idea who he is. However as the game moves forward, it transpires he is not only a king from another world, but also one of the original Warriors of Dawn – who sealed away Exdeath years before the game is set.
When Exdeath inevitably reappears, it is Galuf who faces him in an epic and heart breaking last stand, eventually losing his life in an emotionally charged scene where the other party members try all manner of potions and spells to try and cure him… Sorry, I’ve got something in my eye again.
6. Aeris’ Death (Final Fantasy VII)
You knew it’d be in here somewhere, right? It had to be – Aeris dying is probably one of the best known, and most mourned, RPG deaths in any game, ever. So much so, rumors were rife for years after the game’s release that there was a way to bring her back again (there isn’t, so stop looking).
The ill-fated heroine eventually goes on to complete her destiny and save the world from destruction by Meteor, but the game is forever tainted with the memory of her loss – and not just because she was the one we all leveled up as a main healer, only to have her taken away and be left without one.
“Aeris will no longer talk, no longer laugh, cry or get angry…’
5. Tidus and Yuna in the lake (Final Fantasy X)
There’s a love story in all of them, usually an overly complex triangle of sorts where two women are in love with the same man; but this was the first time we saw an actual cinematic scene in which two characters actually kiss. I’m not one for romance, really – but this scene and the corresponding song are permanently etched into my heart purely because of the amount of emotion encapsulated in such a short period of time. ‘Suteki Da Ne’ is the song playing as the two protagonists float effortlessly through the crystal waters of Lake Macalania; which translates as ‘Isn’t it wonderful?’ Yes, yes it is.
4. Balamb Garden takes off (Final Fantasy VIII)
In a game where the protagonist is quite possibly the most boring person on the entire planet, ever, it doesn’t take much to produce a moment that stands out in Final Fantasy VIII, but if there’s one that made everyone go ‘oooooh!’ – it’s this one.
Your Garden (or military school, for those who are unfamiliar with the game) is under attack, and the only way you can think of to save it is a rumour that there’s possibly some sort of defensive mechanism buried deep within the basement. Why are bad things always in the basement?
Anyway, what you eventually end up doing, is turning the entire school into a flying…thing. It’s really impressive to watch, not least because the video sequences in this game were really pushing the boundaries of graphical brilliance for a game of its time
3. Fang and Vanille (Final Fantasy XIII)
I really disliked this game, I’m not gonna lie. It was linear, and dull, and Lightning could almost rival Squall as ‘most uncharismatic Final Fantasy protagonist’. If I think back on it, now, there’s very little that stands out about the game – the story wasn’t great, and the characters were fairly lacklustre – all except for the relationship between Fang and Vanille, and ultimately their fate at the end of the game.
True enough, it’s yet another act of selfless heroism – Fang and Vanille summon Ragnarok and become a giant crystal, all in the name of saving Gran Pulse from impending doom. That in itself is a beautiful thing; but what really caught me about the story behind these two is that, although never confirmed at any point, there’s always an implication that the two of them are more than friends and comrades. And, confirmed or not – a same-sex relationship in a video game is a pretty big (and welcome) thing.
2. The Gold Saucer (Final Fantasy VII)
Before anyone points it out, I know this is a location, not a moment. However, it deserves recognition, in my eyes, because it’s absolutely fantastic. In a world where Meteor is looming above your heads and everything below it is descending into chaos, who wouldn’t love a trip to theme park in the middle of the desert?
I’ve often said – and I’m saying it again now – that this place, and all of its mini games, could and should be made into a release all of their own. I can’t be alone in thinking a small downloadable game in which you can chocobo race, play the Moogle feeding game, ride a submarine, and play Crazy Motorcycle over and over again would sell like hot cakes.
Oh! And the snowboarding, the haunted house, battle arena, and the roller coaster…
1. Zidane – You are not alone (Final Fantasy IX)
This scene divides people quite massively; however, I think it’s bloody brilliant. Our usually happy-go-lucky protagonist, Zidane, has just found out where he really comes from, and is understandably quite miffed about the whole situation.
What makes it stand out for me, really, is that it shows a kind of altruistic display of friendship and loyalty among your eclectic group of unlikely heroes – no matter how much Zidane pushes them away during this scene, they all stand up to him and continue to fight, regardless. It also contains one of the best pieces of music in the entire game.