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The Best and Worst Final Fantasy Spinoffs
Square Enix has been busy lately convoluting the market (or at the least the press) with announcements of new Final Fantasy spinoff titles. The latest, Final Fantasy: World Wide Words, has been described as a “text-input battle RPG,” and will release for Android devices in Japan on September 16. With this rather bizarre spinoff announced, I can’t help but reminisce on some the biggest hits—and misses—in the Final Fantasy spinoff catalog. Note: this is strictly limited to spinoffs and does not include sequels or prequels to the main installments, such as the Compilation of Final Fantasy VII or the sequels to XIII. Also excluded are games that were branded Final Fantasy in the West but were not in Japan, such as Final Fantasy Legend (which was part of the SaGa series in Japan). The Best Final Fantasy Tactics (PlayStation) Though this isn’t a ranked list, is there really any denying Final Fantasy Tactics is the ultimate spinoff in the entire franchise? Heck, it contends with the best offered in the series, main installments included. With a great plot, an enriched and deep battle system that includes the illustrious job class system, and a gorgeous isometric overview, there’s really nothing to dislike about Tactics…except maybe the translation, but that was corrected with the PlayStation Portable port, The War of the Lions. Speaking of which, it made an excellent game even better (who thought that was possible?) with some welcome additions to the character roster and some new scenes.
Dissidia Final Fantasy (PlayStation Portable)
I will admit to having something of a love-hate relationship with Dissidia, but I cannot deny it’s crazy fun and gripping. Problems stem from a convoluted backstory told entirely through text-based reports, which are written with enigmatic, suggestive prose that offers little actual exposition. However, it is an excellent story that serves as actual canon to each of the main series games, and the fighting mechanics coalesce fast-paced action with some hefty role-playing elements that should leave fans of both genres satisfied. Dissidia 012 Final Fantasy (PlayStation Portable) It may seem a bit like cheating, but Dissidia 012 deserves to be on this list as much as its predecessor. Acting as a prequel to the original and telling the story of the previous cycle of the war between the gods Cosmos and Chaos, Dissidia 012 offered several new playable characters and expounded upon the lore (albeit with the same cumbersome text-based means as the original). It also tweaked gameplay, adding elements like character assists, which could turn the tide of battle if used effectively. Plus, seeing as how the Final Fantasy series has come to be as much about story as gameplay, it would be unfair to discount Dissidia 012 from this list, as it’s clearly one of the strongest spinoffs Square Enix has to offer from its flagship franchise. The Worst
Final Fantasy Mystic Quest (Super Nintendo Entertainment System)
You may or may not remember this one. It was developed specifically for Western audiences and geared to be easier (it even included USA in the Japanese release). It had a throwaway story, oversimplified gameplay, and a limited world map. It was essentially Squaresoft (as Square Enix was called in those days) saying to Americans, “You don’t know how to play with these big-kid toys. Here’s a rattle.” I specifically remember growing incredibly irate at this game for having such a low accuracy rate for the characters’ attacks just to make the game remotely challenging. It was released on the Nintendo Wii Virtual Console, but seriously, it’s probably better to pass up. Final Fantasy All the Bravest (iOS, Android) Perhaps this was an attempt by Square Enix to offer a more throwback experience, but unlike Final Fantasy Dimensions, an old-school mobile JRPG that critics and fans actually appreciated, All the Bravest was bogged down by shallow, repetitive gameplay and its generous utilization of in-app purchases. Many critics accused the game of being a cheap cash-in, as well as considering it a veritable stain on the Final Fantasy brand.
Final Fantasy Airborne Brigade (iOS, Android)
Square Enix’s attempt at a social mobile Final Fantasy game, Airborne Brigade may not be a train wreck, but it’s nothing to brag about. There’s a reason you probably haven’t heard of this game if you’re not a diehard Final Fantasy fan, and it seems Square Enix later on began artificially placing iconic characters from other games (like Sephiroth and Sin/Jecht), presumably to lure more players. All in all, a mediocre effort in a franchise that did not build its fanbase on mediocrity.