The big-budget remake treatment combined with an almost insufferable quantity of hype both prior and post its release has doubtless convinced - deluded, perhaps - many Final Fantasy neophytes into thinking that number VII must be the series' finest iteration. Why else would the fandom demand a lavish glow-up of a game nearly quarter of a century old, and then buy it in their millions? Surely it must be something a bit special?
Well, it is and it isn't. Anyone visiting Final Fantasy VII for the first time after trudging through the Remake's distended interpretation of its first five hours might be left a little perplexed. It's clearly still a very good game, but it's aged about as well as corduroy jeans. Green corduroy jeans. Nostalgia has created a reputation it can no longer match.
So the newcomer's next question: If this is Final Fantasy's apex, is the rest of the beloved series, well, a bit naff?
Not at all. Minus a handful of notable exceptions which stink worse than a chocobo stable, every game in Square-Enix's venerated series ranges from good to great. At Final Fantasy's peak, it was untouchable.
And no: that didn't come in 1997.
15. Final Fantasy II
Innovate, rather than iterate, seemed to be the watchword when it came to follow-ups for many of the Famicom's most defining titles. With Mega Man as the notable exception, high profile hits such as The Legend of Zelda, Super Mario Bros. and Castlevania all wanged off in bold new directions for their sequels, rather than delivering 'more of the same' (if we ignore the Japanese SMB2, anyway).
That was also the prevailing philosophy behind Final Fantasy II, which, though broadly similar to its predecessor, radically altered its levelling system and NPC interactions. Experience was dispensed with. Now, characters advanced through repeated actions; losing health increased HP, for example, whilst repeatedly casting spells powered them up. Outside of battle, the player could now 'learn' certain keywords, and present them to NPCs to advance the plot. It was a novel feature which made the narrative more interactive, and enhanced the 'RP' options otherwise limited in JRPGs of the day.
These latter changes were welcome. The former were not. In fact, they could fundamentally break the game if exploited. Neither became series staples, leaving Final Fantasy II alone as a brave though ultimately failed experiment.