Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Top Five Final Fantasy Spinoffs

Let us continue our celebration of all things Final Fantasy with a pit stop from the mainline titles. Spinoffs are common in television, and they are a tool to extend the brand or universe they are comprised of. Video games are really no different, and the Final Fantasy series is no different either. The short list that follows are favorite spinoffs of the Final Fantasy franchise.

5) Final Fantasy Fables


In the west, games like Chocobo's Dungeon and Chocobo and the Magical Picture Book were re-branded under the Final Fantasy Fables label. Both of these - as you can most certainly guess by their titles - star the indomitable Chocobo character, a smaller, cuter form than seen in the mainline games. In fact, everything is cuter in the world of Final Fantasy Fables. Chocobo Tales on DS was an adventure that had exploration, mini-games, and card battles to advance the story whereas Chocobo's Dungeon on Wii (and in Japan also on the DS) was a roguelike that was well suited for beginners. Both games features elements of the Final Fantasy universe, from characters to familiar music. I can't help but hold hope for a sequel to Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo's Dungeon as it is without a doubt one of my favorite under-appreciated Wii games.

4) Theatrhythm Final Fantasy


The most recent Final Fantasy spinoff to enter the gaming landscape, Theatrhythm Final Fantasy takes the franchise to a new place - the rhythm game. Through tapping, touching, sliding, and dragging the stylus on the bottom screen when the upper screen's Triggers cross the mark, you score points and hopefully chain together tons of Critical hits. The music selection begins with a sizable seventy or so tracks from every mainline Final Fantasy game, but always coming downloadable songs for $0.99 per song makes the library of unforgettable music even larger. Leveling up your party of Final Fantasy all-stars like Cloud (FFVII), Terra (FFVI), Cecil (FFIV), and Lightning (FFXIII), battling formidable foes like Kefka (FFVI), Rubicante (FFIV), Gilgamesh (FFV), and Safer Sephiroth (FFVII), and successfully earning Rhythmia are all activities one can partake in with Theatrhythm. For my full review, check out this link.

3) Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles


While I doubt Nintendo holds exclusivity rights for the Crystal Chronicles spinoff of the Final Fantasy franchise, all games under the Crystal Chronicles moniker have been solely on Nintendo platforms. Starting with the GameCube original, Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles, which was an action RPG that allowed four friends to play together, even being able to opt to use the ill-advised Game Boy Advance connectivity option for greater rewards and assistance. The pair of DS games known as Ring of Fates and Echoes of Time - the latter would be ported to the Wii with cross-play capabilities - were loot RPGs. Echoes of Time would even allow players to hop online and participate in quests. The Nintendo Wii would see its fair share of Crystal Chronicles love, too, in the form of the WiiWare service's My Life as a King and the drastic departure from prior Chronicles games, The Crystal Bearers. What makes the Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles spinoff series number three on this list is that even with all these releases, the quality of the spinoff series is still impeccable.

2) Kingdom Hearts


What happens when you team up an unlikely pairing, the Disney universe and the Final Fantasy universe? You get something spectacular, at least for a majority of the titles. The series is an action RPG set mostly within the worlds of Disney. There's Aladdin's Agrabah, Beauty and the Beast's Beast's Castle, Hercules' Olympic Coliseum, and many more locales and brands to explore. The main character of the series is a young boy named Sora, and he is usually assisted by Donald Duck and Goofy. The developers spared no expense, even getting the official Disney voice actors to lend their voice talents to the game. But as for the story, well there's really nothing more convoluted and confusing this side of Metal Gear Solid fan-fiction. Seriously, it's a mess that makes you scratch your head, look at the script, scratch your head again, and notice the scars on your scalp from scratching your head so much in disbelief and confusion. Aside from that, even the more frowned upon installments of Kingdom Hearts, 358/2 Days (even the title is a puzzle!) and Re:Coded, are fun in short bursts.

1) Final Fantasy Tactics


One of the original Final Fantasy spinoffs, Final Fantasy Tactics made its mark on the gaming world shortly after the release of the incomparable (except to the superior Final Fantasy VI) Final Fantasy VII. The game was quite unlike anything the series had seen before. It was a turn-based strategy game with an assortment of elements from the mainline Final Fantasy games including familiar summons like Ifrit, Shiva, and Carbuncle, items like Potions, Elixirs, and Phoenix Downs, a job system that hadn't been seen since Final Fantasy V, and even a secret character in the form of VII's Cloud Strife. Two more Final Fantasy Tactics games would be released, but they would be far after the original PS1 classic and much different in tone, Final Fantasy Tactics Advance (GBA) and Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift (DS). An enhanced PSP port of Final Fantasy Tactics would be made and released subtitled The War of the Lions. The amount of hours one could sink into each game, completely quests, leveling up characters, learning new spells, and mastering job classes could easily go into the hundreds of hours. This is what makes Final Fantasy Tactics my favorite Final Fantasy spinoff.

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There are other Final Fantasy spinoffs not listed here that include Chocobo Racing, Dissidia, Adventure, Legend, and Dimensions. However, they obviously did not make my top five picks. Do you agree with the order I have chosen, or do you have some arguments you'd like to make? Feel free to debate with me in the comments section below.

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