Summons are unquestionably one of the most iconic elements of the Final Fantasy series and the first sight of a legendary being called forth to wreak havoc upon a party of enemies never ceases to be awe-inspiring.
In time, the prolonged animations become frustrating to endure, and it becomes readily apparent that there are far more effective battle strategies to pursue. However, collecting summons (in their various guises as aeons, astrals, eidolons, eikons, espers, guardian forces and several other exotic names) is always made to feel like a hugely important part of the game - particularly in iterations where they are of paramount importance to the plot.
Drawn from a variety of sources, predominantly mythology and folklore from across the world but also original creations and those inspired by both real-world and series history, a significant number of summons have become familiar faces, recurring from game to game.
Others have made just one or a small handful of appearances, with varying degrees of memorability.
Following in the footsteps of the 25 greatest series villains and playable heroes (and jumping the queue ahead of the 25 greatest supporting characters mooted as the third entry in this series), what follows is the best of the myriad of beasts and beings that have been ever-present companions to the parties of players since Final Fantasy III.
Spoilers are widespread. Consider yourself warned.
Carbuncle is certainly one of the most-awkwardly christened summons, given that its name is a medical term for a cluster of pus-filled boils (don’t Google it). More archaically it can also be used to define a red gemstone, however, and given the presence of a ruby in the middle of the forehead of the Final Fantasy version its name becomes just about excusable.
Although cute, Carbuncle is fairly useless given that the Reflect status it usually bestows upon the player’s party is as much of a hinderance as it is a help, preventing the casting of healing spells and buffs whilst still being breakable by the more powerful attacks of most bosses.
IX included an interesting idea, where the status conferred by Carbuncle would differ if Eiko had a specific accessory equipped. The likes of Haste, Protect and Shell are far more useful than Reflect, but most players likely neglected to use the mechanic given the wealth of better accessories available. Frustratingly, it’s never been re-explored.
Present in some form in all but three games (VII, X and XII) since debuting in V, Carbuncle, who seems to have shifted from a rabbit-like creature into a dog-like one in its two most recent appearances, is clearly a developer favourite even if its legacy is chequered at best.