For the past quarter of a century, the main Final Fantasy games have been known for memorable stories, grandiose soundtracks, and consistently offering a difficult challenge to players. Starting 25 years ago with the original Final Fantasy, the challenge was there even in an age of games that required a lot of time and effort to complete. While some may be turned off by the difficult nature of the games, others thrive off it and praise each iteration for this specific reason.
We all have had that day when a brand new Final Fantasy releases and you just start playing it as soon as you can. Then that fateful boss or sudden random encounter halts you right in your tracks and gives you a beating so quick, that you do a double take. This is a moment I like to refer to as “the wall” and you will either give up after a few tries or do whatever it takes to power through that challenge halting your progression.
You now need to do whatever it takes to become powerful enough and that requires grinding. Now to some grinding may be fun, but to others it can be viewed as a waste of time to prolong the game’s length. Grinding in Final Fantasy games is much more than just running in a circle over and over to level up your party though. Exploring the world around you never made leveling up feel like a drag and discovering hidden secrets was just icing on the cake.
Finishing your quest was not always just about battling foe after foe and some games will take a bit of careful reading along with a good memory for each overworld. As far as Final Fantasy 1-9 are concerned, each game had a massive overworld and the story would take you all over the place. This would require remembering key places on the map and knowing who to talk to talk. This would become less of an issue with each game, but you can really tell that without any help some of the earlier games expected a lot out of players on their first playthrough.
Sadly this certain challenge is no longer as prevalent with later iterations of Final Fantasy as the main series games got more streamlined. With the latest releases over the last decade or so, more of a focus has gone on perfecting the battle system. Take Final Fantasy 13 as an example, the most difficult part of the game is mastering the paradigm shift mechanic. Even after the 30 hour long tutorial, you will still need to be on your toes during a major boss battle and if you don’t come in prepared you are done for. With or without auto attack, the latest Final Fantasy entries never go easy on you for too long.
Playing Final Fantasy 11 and 14 also offer a different sort of challenge not only when compared to other Final Fantasy game, but to MMORPGs in general. If you picked up a copy of each game and wanted to run through every quest by yourself, you would have better luck getting fans to stop asking for Type-0. Both games were designed for parties to complete the quest and some are downright masochistic without them. The fact that this made these two game difficult would help push you into playing with others and making new friends online to share in adventures with.
The spin offs are also a mixed bag when it comes to using difficulty correctly. Things get a bit shaky and can range from the monotonous to the frustrating. The direct sequels and tactics series hold up the same standards most expect while offering something new. Crystal Chronicles on the other hand never seemed to know whether to be challenging or accessible and ends up ultimately failing at providing any challenge in all of its spin offs. There are many spin offs and while they may not always be difficult this doesn’t mean that can’t be fun to play.
Having difficulty in the Final Fantasy games has been one of the big driving factors as to why I play them. It gave players a reason to maybe buy a strategy guide, talk to friends about it, or even just discover a work around it all on your own and make the player feel accomplished. If every entry had an amazing story and the gameplay offered nothing difficult for players, it just wouldn’t feel like a real Final Fantasy. As each new entry changes the formula of how to play a Final Fantasy game slightly, players will find new challenges to overcome or die trying.
Source: Final Fantasy Union