When the primary trailer for Ultimate Fantasy XVI dropped in late 2020 I made the impressed determination to play and rank each mainline entry earlier than it got here out. I had completed most of them already, however why not relive the magic as soon as extra?
Ultimate Fantasy is without doubt one of the most influential online game collection of all time. However earlier than the discharge and eventual success of 1987’s Ultimate Fantasy I, developer Sq. confronted chapter. There is a widespread false impression that the corporate named it “Ultimate” Fantasy as a result of it was their final ditch effort to outlive. Essentially, they wished to name it “Combating” Fantasy, however the identify was already taken.
Nevertheless, the “Ultimate” label turned core to collection creator Hironobu Sakaguchi’s philosophy, who believed that every sport must be developed as if it was the final he’d ever make.
As for the record, I will not embrace Ultimate Fantasy XI as I’ve solely put 20 hours into it, which is not ample to overview a MMO. I will not embrace remakes or spin-offs, irrespective of how a lot I loved them. And whereas I can not endorse the dumpster fireplace that’s Ultimate Fantasy II, I do advocate Ultimate Fantasy XIII, III, and XII, though they did not crack this high 10 record.
This record has been up to date to incorporate Ultimate Fantasy XVI.
Honorable point out: Ultimate Fantasy VIII (1999)
Proper up till Disc 3, I had a remarkably good time taking part in Ultimate Fantasy VIII. It has an unbelievable soundtrack, spectacular pre-rendered CGI and an English translation vastly superior to something that got here earlier than it, because of the work of the legendary Richard Honeywood.
However then Disc 3 occurs and the story goes utterly off the rails. Scene after scene of complicated exposition fails to piece collectively the occasions main as much as its anticlimactic ending. It is an actual bummer as a result of the ultimate dungeon is perhaps my favourite within the collection — Ultimecia’s creepy however endlessly intriguing fortress is like Ultimate Fantasy‘s model of the Spencer Mansion from Resident Evil.
10. Ultimate Fantasy V (1992)
Ultimate Fantasy V improved upon the job system from prior entries to make one of many strongest turn-based fight methods of any sport I’ve ever performed.
For the primary time, you may truly carry over talents from totally different jobs, supplying you with the liberty to craft tons of highly effective character mixtures. By the top of the sport I stacked my social gathering with a spellblade knight, a ninja thief, a time mage, a white mage, and a dualcasting summoner.
Not like its extra severe predecessor and successors, Ultimate Fantasy V is uniquely whimsical and light-hearted — as hilarious as it’s facepalm-inducing. I imply, there is a twist the place the antagonist Exdeath disguises himself as a splinter caught in one of many primary character’s fingers. Sure, you learn that accurately.
9. Ultimate Fantasy I (1987)
Though it did not precisely set up the Japanese RPG formulation (extra credit score ought to go to 1986’s Dragon Quest) Ultimate Fantasy I supplied a near-perfect template. It is an all-killer, no-filler expertise. You will go to a city, speak to the locals to get some hints, delve by means of a dungeon, then rinse and repeat. But the sport’s simplicity would not sacrifice its sense of surprise and momentum.
The fight is versatile sufficient to supply alternatives for experimentation and the dungeons are simply tough sufficient to problem you with out making you need to rage-quit. Along with inventing the entire idea of utilizing airships for journey in an RPG, Sq. made the intelligent determination to provide you one early on, which supplies an thrilling glimpse of the adventures that await.
I am chopping Ultimate Fantasy I some slack on the story as a result of it was strong for its time, however the plot swings from spare to nigh-incomprehensible. It actually simply boils all the way down to “I am right here to kill Chaos”.
8. Ultimate Fantasy XV (2016)
Oof, get out your pitchforks. I attempt to decide video games based mostly on their strengths so long as their flaws do not fully overshadow them. I completely cherished Ultimate Fantasy XV‘s participating story, well-executed character improvement, and memorable soundtrack, however oh boy does this sport have flaws.
At first the open world appears to be like thrilling, however as you discover it you will discover that it is surprisingly empty. You’ll be able to win most battles — even boss fights — simply by holding the assault button. That carelessness trickles all the way down to the world-building, too. At one level I discovered the identical character fashions in the identical room sitting on the identical desk speaking to one another.
Most controversially although, Ultimate Fantasy XV‘s multi-media strategy to storytelling pressured gamers to take a position money and time outdoors of the bottom sport to know it, with a dear assortment of 5 DLC episodes and a full size film filling within the overarching plot.
So, why did I rank this sport so excessive?
Ultimate Fantasy XV has essentially the most tragic and heart-wrenching story of any sport within the collection, balanced with a lightness and attraction that may make you smile. You will come to like the deep friendships constructed between the 4 primary characters, and the sport’s conclusion could make even essentially the most hardened gamer tear up.
7. Ultimate Fantasy XVI (2023)
I do know what you are pondering, “Is not it a bit of too early to match Ultimate Fantasy XVI to the opposite classics on this record? It actually simply got here out.”
Nicely, to this I say, “I am an grownup and I can do what I would like. Additionally, you are not my dad.”
Ultimate Fantasy XVI‘s improvement crew executed its imaginative and prescient with a confidence and swagger I have never seen from Sq. Enix in many years. It is received every thing you’d need from the franchise — a compelling storyline, virtuosic soundtrack, and an endlessly entertaining fight system. The manufacturing is usually unparalleled, notably with scripted Eikon battles that flex spectacular, cinematic animation at its most interesting.
The characters are nicely written and their relationships are superbly developed — I notably cherished the romance between primary protagonist Clive Rosfield and his childhood good friend Jill, which is so touching that it made me weep a complete of 5 occasions.
Sure, it was tough for me to resolve the place to place Ultimate Fantasy XVI on this record (reality be informed, it gave me a mini existential disaster). It was not, nevertheless, tough to resolve it deserved inclusion within the high 10. Solely time will inform the way it actually stacks up towards different entries within the collection, however it’s undoubtedly a top-tier Ultimate Fantasy sport.
6. Ultimate Fantasy XIV (2010)
In response to some dude I met at a celebration a few years in the past, and corroborated by this REI climbing weblog, there are a number of “sorts” of enjoyable. Sort II enjoyable is “depressing whereas it is occurring, however enjoyable on reflection.” If Ultimate Fantasy XIV encompassed solely the Shadowbringers enlargement it’d rank larger, however far too lots of the quests on this sport are Sort II enjoyable.
Patches 2.1 by means of 2.55 of A Realm Reborn primarily add as much as 40-60 hours of fetch quests. In every other sport I’d have stopped lengthy earlier than ending, however I put my head down and plowed by means of it as a result of I had heard that “the story will get approach higher” from scores of gamers. Fortuitously, it does.
MMO storytelling uniquely permits you to observe characters over lengthy durations of time. If you find yourself taking part in by means of the final enlargement, Endwalker, you will have invested a whole bunch of hours within the story of the Warrior of Gentle and their companions, which pays off with some twists and turns which might be actually incomparable.
5. Ultimate Fantasy IX (2000)
Ultimate Fantasy IX marked the top of an period. It was the final sport that closely concerned collection creator Hironobu Sakaguchi earlier than he left to begin his personal firm. It was the final sport that composer Nobuo Uematsu wrote all the soundtrack for (excluding Ultimate Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn). It was even the final Ultimate Fantasy with an overworld map, a defining characteristic of the collection.
To cap off this sensible period, Sakaguchi and his crew crafted a loving homage to every thing that made the collection particular. In consequence, Ultimate Fantasy IX is essentially the most “Ultimate Fantasy” of any sport within the collection.
After a pivot to extra trendy settings in VII and VIII, Ultimate Fantasy IX returned to its medieval roots. As soon as once more, the world sprawls with knights, castles, fantastical airships, and ye olde picket pulley methods. The sport oozes with the attraction and humor of traditional Ultimate Fantasy entries and the soundtrack is peak Uematsu — he is referred to as it his favourite work.
Sadly, Ultimate Fantasy IX did not promote notably nicely — it got here out after the PlayStation 2 hit the cabinets and Ultimate Fantasy X had already been introduced. However it should at all times be a fan favourite, and an unforgettable celebration of the collection.
4. Ultimate Fantasy X (2001)
Of all of the video games I replayed throughout this challenge, the nostalgia hit hardest with Ultimate Fantasy X.
The world of Spira is my favourite setting within the collection. Not like the European trappings of its predecessors, Spira attracts from Asian cultures like Thailand and Bali, the place members of the event crew traveled for inspiration. Not solely is it a completely distinctive Ultimate Fantasy world, however fairly probably essentially the most participating setting of any JRPG I’ve ever performed.
Ultimate Fantasy X‘s soundtrack, the primary within the collection not composed fully by Nobuo Uematsu, additionally stands out. The work of Masashi Hamauzu, who would go on to do the soundtracks for later entries within the collection like Ultimate Fantasy XIII, contributed a brand new type of ambient vibe to go with Uematsu’s iconic melodies.
Ultimate Fantasy X can also be extensively thought of to have the very best flip based mostly battle system within the collection. It is easy, fast, and (finally) advanced sufficient to remain participating all through all the sport.
3. Ultimate Fantasy VII (1997)
Ultimate Fantasy VII virtually single handedly popularized JRPGs within the Western market. It was the most costly online game ever produced in its time, with a employees of over 150 in comparison with the standard improvement crew of 20 folks.
That funding paid off. Ultimate Fantasy VII begins with some of the iconic opening sequences in video video games, with a swooping aerial shot introducing town of Midgar and the sport’s celebrated primary character, Cloud. This constant, cinematic expertise, together with a masterful plot with memorable characters like antagonist Sephiroth, utterly blew followers and newcomers away.
I’d be remiss if I did not point out the unforgettable soundtrack — tracks like “One-Winged Angel”, “Aerith’s Theme”, and my private favourite “On Our Means” are beloved by followers and stay collection favorites.
2. Ultimate Fantasy IV (1991)
Ultimate Fantasy IV was a large leap ahead in storytelling high quality for the collection. It is jarring how way more advanced the characters are in comparison with the casts of Ultimate Fantasy I, II, and III. It is stuffed with emotional scenes: Cecil remodeling from a darkish knight right into a paladin, Rydia returning to the social gathering as a completely grown summoner, Edward saving everybody from sure demise by taking part in his harp to render the Darkish Elf weak. These moments nonetheless hit exhausting.
The fight mechanics and open world exploration have not aged so nicely, and may even be a step down from Ultimate Fantasy III. However I can not deny my nostalgic connection to IV — it was the primary Ultimate Fantasy sport I performed.
There’s a motive why so many contemplate Ultimate Fantasy IV to be probably the greatest, if not the very best, sport within the collection. It has an intangible attraction that is exhausting for me to explain and analyze, however I can simply let you know the way it makes me really feel: a real happiness that few video games can match.
1. Ultimate Fantasy VI (1994)
Ultimate Fantasy VI is about resilience within the face of grief. It is not solely the very best story within the collection, it is the primary actually profound story informed in online game historical past. Daring assertion, I do know. Come at me, Hideo Kojima’s Snatcher.
Ultimate Fantasy VI‘s power lies in its sensible ensemble forged. Not like different entries within the collection, each member of its improvement dream-team contributed to character eventualities, leading to participating backstories and masterful character improvement. It is exhausting to select a favourite as everybody has lovable personalities and quirks (aside from Umaro and Gogo… and perhaps Strago… sorry guys).
Along with its memorable protagonists, Ultimate Fantasy VI additionally consists of the collection’ most compelling villain — the brutal, psychopathic Kefka. His insatiable need for violence leads to some of the surprising twists in online game historical past — he truly accomplishes his objective of destroying the world. The ensuing World of Smash sequence is highly effective, stunning, and haunting as you wander the panorama of destruction and rebuild your crew to finish his reign of terror.
If you have not performed Ultimate Fantasy VI and are a fan of the collection, you could play it. It is unquestionably my favourite online game of all time