The Evolution of Final Fantasy

The Final Fantasy series is one of the most beloved video game franchises today and is responsible with pioneering several concepts that would soon become standard for the RPG genre, such as the Active Time Battle (ATB) System. What also sets the Final Fantasy series apart from other RPG franchises is that each Final Fantasy title stands alone in terms of characters, story, gameplay and setting. This differentiation between Final Fantasy games means that most fans have their own personal favorites with the title of “Best Final Fantasy Game” a continuing subject of debate between hardcore fans.

Early Final Fantasy games all featured traditional medieval fantasy themes in terms of their artwork and setting. The character designs were relatively simple based on classic medieval  archetypes with knights, mages and mythical beasts. The medieval aesthetic continued until Final Fantasy VI where the art style shifted towards a more technological, science fiction atmosphere. This is primarily the because the artist in charge of design, Yoshitaka Amano stepped down as lead character, image and graphic designer. While FF VI was still set within a magical fantasy universe with Amano’s trademark style that features vibrant colors and wispy lines, there was an new industrial steampunk look to the game’s setting.

Following Amano’s departure, Tetsuya Nomura took over as lead character designer for the Final Fantasy series as well as eventually overseeing many other of Square Enix’s projects. Nomura brought a more Anime aesthetic to the Final Fantasy franchise and expanded on the sci-fi atmosphere that was briefly touched on in FF VI. From Final Fantasy VII onward, with a few exceptions, the majority of Final Fantasy games (Not counting the spin-off titles) feature a fusion of science fiction conventions with traditional fantasy elements. The most recent example of this is Final Fantasy XIII, which is set in the technologically advanced world of Cocoon ruled over by Fal’Cie, supernatural beings whose design is mechanical in appearance.

It seems to me that this trend towards a more “futuristic fantasy” is a reflection of the technological age we find ourselves living in now. After so many forays into the traditional fantasy universe, it seems that game developers like Square Enix are looking for fresh ways to present RPGs. As a genre that places particular emphasis on character development and story this type of thematic experimentation is welcome as it provides gamers with fresh visual experiences while delivering the classic FF gameplay and innovation that they expect from the series.


About Preston Sotelo

I am a videogame journalist with a passion for the artistic expression and unique experience that videogames can offer. I also have a passion for sci-fi, fantasy and Japanese anime.

Posted on September 13, 2011, in Game Art and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. I appreciate Amano’s work and Nomura is a fantastic successor. Cool article!

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