Final Fantasy XIII-2 has been released this week, making this only the second time that a main series Final Fantasy game has received a direct sequel. One of the strengths of this venerable Japanese role-playing game series is its diversity, but there are some common threads that have run through many Final Fantasy games. Love it or hate it, the Final Fantasy series has made a mark on the game industry and on gaming culture. Here are our top ten items that Final Fantasy has contributed to gaming, be they innovations, iconic images, or simply things that the series popularized in gaming culture.
10. Color-Coded Magic System
Present from the very first Final Fantasy game, the separation of magic into White (healing) and Black (damage-dealing) sprang from the wizard/priest dichotomy found in Western games, but became its own convenient language as the series grew. Red mages were able to use both Black and White magic at a lower expertise level. Later, green magic was introduced to cover buffing and debuffing spells and Blue magic involved learning spells from monsters. As these magic categories have remained more or less consistent through the series (until Final Fantasy XIII), the color-coding has helped gamers know what they're getting into when creating and using magic characters.
9. In-Game Collectable Card Games
Collectable Card Games like Magic: the Gathering and Pokémon were at the height of their popularity in the 1990s, when Square Enix decided to reflect the trend as an extended minigame in Final Fantasy XIII. Both in Final Fantasy VIII's Triple Triad and Final Fantasy IX's Tetra Master, players had opportunities to collect cards and compete in card tournaments throughout the main game's plot. These games were among the most beloved mini-games in Final Fantasy's history, providing a break from the game's main plot that persisted throughout the game and had its own goals.
Although the Final Fantasy series didn't invent the concept of airships, it popularized their use in fantasy gaming. There's something nostalgic and wonderful about the sight of an old-fashioned sailing ship flying through the sky, and Final Fantasy has capitalized on that feeling throughout its history. Whether shaped like classic sailing vessels, dirigibles, or steampunk-style contraptions, airships have played important roles in most Final Fantasy games and have been the setting for some of the series' most memorable scenes. It's likely that Final Fantasy's airships inspired other role-playing games such as Skies of Arcadia to feature such vessels.
7. Iconic Monsters
Final Fantasy's stable of unique monsters includes a number of instantly-recognizable and beloved foes. Creatures such as the magical flan, elusive cactuar, explosive bomb, filth-breathing malboro, and slow-but-deadly tonberry have taught battle tactics to RPG newcomers and brought a familiar smile or grimace to the faces of RPG fans for years. Veteran Final Fantasy players are always interested to see how these familiar species are adapted to new settings, and the standard bestiary helps to link together the series' diverse games.
If the Final Fantasy series has a mascot, it has to be these adorable giant yellow birds who are used instead of horses for ground transportation throughout the series. Feisty when wild yet friendly when tame, chocobos are frequently stars of minigames such as racing or breeding, and some like Sazh's baby chocobo in Final Fantasy XIII have become characters in their own right. Sure, some people might argue that moogles are a good mascot for the series as well, but the chocobo is loveable enough to have starred in several of its own spinoff games, while moogles are relegated to delivering mail and being tossed at treasure. I rest my case.