Final Fantasy (universe)
The Final Fantasy universe (ファイナルファンタジー, Final Fantasy) refers to the Super Smash Bros. series' collection of characters, stages, and properties hailing from the long-running role-playing game (RPG) franchise created and owned by Square Enix (formerly Squaresoft). Since the release of its first installment in 1987, the franchise is one of the best-selling Japanese RPG series in the world and is considered one of the most innovative, with numerous breakthroughs in its usage of in-game graphics, full-motion videos, and various visual and sound content throughout the series' lifespan. The single best-selling and most popular entry in the franchise is Final Fantasy VII, originally released in 1997. Likewise, its protagonist Cloud Strife and antagonist Sephiroth are among the most recognizable characters in the entire Final Fantasy franchise. This series, in addition to Dragon Quest and Kingdom Hearts, is considered to be a flagship franchise for the publisher and a pioneer of the RPG genre.
Electrical engineering student Hironobu Sakaguchi became a part-time employee at Square shortly after it was founded as a computer game-centric division of a power line construction company named Den-Yu-Sha. He became a full-time employee as the Director of Planning and Development when Square later separated from its parent company, and had intended to create a role-playing video game modeled after the foundations of then-separate company Enix's Dragon Quest. Thematically inspired by role-playing forerunners such as Ultima, Wizardry, and Dungeons & Dragons, the game was originally intended to be titled "Fighting Fantasy", but due to trademark issues, Sakaguchi had to change it, later christening the name "Final Fantasy". The outcome of the release starkly contrasted with expectations, however, as the game's December 1987 release on Nintendo's Famicom sold more than half a million copies. When Dragon Quest later met success with its North American localization as Dragon Warrior, Nintendo of America released a similarly localized version of Final Fantasy in July 1990, to modest success.
Though Dragon Quest was among the first to effect a divergence of styles in the role-playing genre that resulted in the formation of what is commonly known as the Japanese role-playing genre, Final Fantasy played a critical role in granting it its initial surge of popularity. However, the Japanese role-playing game (JRPG) style would remain relatively obscure in the public spotlight throughout many years to come, even as many new JRPG properties were introduced both within Square's efforts and outside it. Final Fantasy, under producer Sakaguchi's watchful eye, began to release a continuous succession of numbered sequels - which, in stark contrast to most other video game series, were never traditional sequels or continuations and rarely carried over characters. Much like in Fire Emblem, each of the mainstream Final Fantasy games that were developed and released are self-contained works tied tangentially by shared thematic and design similarities, such as Final Fantasy II and III for the Famicom, and for a while, only some of the games received worldwide localization; Final Fantasy IV for the Super Famicom - which introduced the "Active Time Battle" concept to the series - was released worldwide in 1991 as "Final Fantasy II", and after Final Fantasy V remained a Japan-only Super Famicom release, Final Fantasy VI was released worldwide for Super Nintendo in 1994 as "Final Fantasy III".
Besides the Final Fantasy series, Square developed and released a multitude of other RPGs for the Super NES that have cemented their success as a game developer, each with their own innovations to the genre. Three of the most prominent examples are Secret of Mana, which introduced an action-based battle system to the gameplay formula and local co-op for up to three players, Chrono Trigger which introduced time travel elements and new character designs courtesy of Akira Toriyama, and Super Mario RPG which introduced the titlular Nintendo mascot to the role-playing scene and streamlined many conventions of the genre for much greater accessibility while also introducing "action commands" for extra benefits. All of these titles and more cemented a partnership that demonstrated a commitment to quality games while being able to expand beyond the core formula that had been tried and true with Final Fantasy.
Though Final Fantasy VI would become critically regarded in its own right as one of the greatest and most landmark JRPGs ever developed, the JRPG genre remained relatively niche in Western markets. As polygonal graphics began to take root in the industry's landscape with the release of systems like the Sony PlayStation, Sakaguchi felt that the franchise might be left behind if it did not catch up to the 3D graphics employed by their contemporaries. To test this, a 3D SGI demo using characters from Final Fantasy VI only cemented their beliefs on moving the franchise forward. But because Nintendo's then-upcoming 3D-based console, the Nintendo 64, was based on cartridges and therefore lacked the memory storage needed for the project's scope, Square felt they had no choice but to end its long-running relationship with Nintendo and develop Final Fantasy VII exclusively for the PlayStation. What resulted was the most expensive video game production of its time, with a development budget of around $45 million - equivalent to $67 million in 2015. The game's international release - which was consistently titled Final Fantasy VII despite several prior installments not having been released outside Japan at the time - was preceded by a heavy marketing campaign by Sony themselves.
Final Fantasy VII received widespread critical acclaim that was nonetheless eclipsed by the game’s commercial success and impact on the games industry. Famously referred to by one publication as "quite possibly the greatest game ever made", the game - spread out across three PlayStation discs packaged together - was seen for its time as an unprecedented blend of gameplay, interactive movie elements, and character-driven narrative, the last of which included what was argued to be one of the most infamous character deaths in the medium. On the back of character designer Tetsuya Nomura's now-iconic cast, the game is viewed to have single-handedly vastly expanded the conventional global audience for the JRPG genre, and Final Fantasy itself became one of the most popular video game franchises. The extent to which the game had become a killer app for the PlayStation led the game's protagonist to become an unofficial mascot for both his series and the console as a whole. Every main-numbered Final Fantasy to follow would receive enormous amounts of attention and sales success as a direct outcome of Final Fantasy VII's own.
In terms of the scenario of the game itself, Final Fantasy VII initially focuses on the efforts of an underground group named Avalanche - among whom Cloud Strife is a member - as they struggle to destroy power plants operated by an electric-power mega-corporation that has become much of the planet's de facto government, Shinra, headquartered at the industrialized metropolis of Midgar. With the company having since shifted its focus to a spiritual substance called Mako so as to harvest said substance as modern society's primary source of power and fuel, Cloud and his allies operate under the belief that Shinra is siphoning the life force of the planet itself. But between his encounters with the mysterious flower girl Aerith Gainsborough and the re-emergence of an incredibly dangerous and disturbed figure from Cloud's past - the former elite soldier Sephiroth - Cloud and his allies gradually find themselves taking on a more direct and urgent role as protectors of the planet than they could have anticipated, though he must also surmount formidable psychological obstacles ingrained within his own memories.
Final Fantasy VII's setting introduced a post-industrial science-fiction element to the formerly medieval fantasy-grounded intellectual property, and the involvement of science fiction in a Final Fantasy mythos was expanded with 1999's Final Fantasy VIII. After 2000's Final Fantasy IX deliberately returned to the more traditional fantasy trappings employed in the oldest games, the series' first main-numbered appearance on the PlayStation 2 as Final Fantasy X aesthetically entrenched the series in a distinctive blend of fantasy and technology. The series had also begun to deviate from its turn-based and Active Time Battle-based roots and gradually adapt action-RPG elements in games such as 2006's Final Fantasy XII, 2010's Final Fantasy XIII, and 2016's Final Fantasy XV, as well as release two of its main-numbered games - 2002's Final Fantasy XI and another title released in 2010, Final Fantasy XIV - as MMORPGs. But while every numbered game remains a separate story and setting from the rest, several of them receive their own sequels, spin-offs, and sub-series that utilize their respective settings and casts, namely XIII, XII, X, IV, and most prominently VII. None of this is to mention a veritable deluge of remakes, reissues, offshoots, spiritually-related works, and involvement in crossovers that began after the turn of the millennium, as if spurred in response to the 2003 merger of Square and Enix into a single entity named Square Enix (which Sakaguchi had resigned from shortly prior).
Several games appeared as third-party works on Nintendo hardware as a result of renewed relations between the two publishers, such as the action RPG The World Ends With You - which introduced an unorthodox touch-screen control system and a stylized art direction not previously noted in any other Square Enix release, the Bravely Default series for the Nintendo 3DS and Nintendo Switch - which constitute a modernized execution of the original turn-based battle system of the earliest Final Fantasy titles, and Octopath Traveler - a Nintendo Switch game which continued the traditional turn-based combat and job system of the Bravely Default games and introduced a diorama-like "HD-2D" aesthetic. However, while these titles preserved the spirit of the Final Fantasy franchise, no new mainline entry was featured on a Nintendo system for over 20 years after Final Fantasy VI (not counting ports and remakes). This all changed in late 2018 and early 2019 when Square Enix and Nintendo announced that several core entries were being released for the Nintendo Switch, being Final Fantasy VII, VIII, IX, X/X-2 HD Remaster, and XII: The Zodiac Age.
Despite the many turns that the Final Fantasy franchise has taken and the many platforms the franchise has appeared on, Final Fantasy VII stands as the franchise's most well-known and popular extension. Years after its introduction, it became the subject of a metaseries of prequels, non-traditional sequels, and other various media collectively titled the Compilation of Final Fantasy VII, including the PlayStation Portable prequel game Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII and the computer-graphic (CG) film Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children. In the years following the original game's release, demand for a high-definition remake of the original game was fervent and growing, even more so after a tech demo at E3 2005 recreating the opening train segment in the Crystal Tools engine. The idea of turning the remake into a commercial project came when Square Enix producer Shinji Hashimoto broached the subject to Kitase, Nomura, and Nojima. They collectively agreed that they were hitting "that age"; that they if they waited much longer, they would be too old to release a remake and that passing the project onto a new generation did not feel right. Roughly 18 years after the original PS1 release, a high-definition remake was officially announced at E3 2015 to be in development for the PlayStation 4. To ensure that no content is removed, the remake is planned to be released in an episodic release format, with the first part seeing a worldwide release on April 10, 2020. As part of the Remake project's goals, many elements of the game were altered or completely changed to account for modern gaming sensibilities. A real-time action combat system was implemented in lieu of the original's turn-based system (as that was the direction where the developers believed RPGs were heading and so to rebuild the battle system's foundations) but with the addition of a command list for additional strategy and tactics. These commands are governed by how much ATB charge that party members have. The Materia system from the original returns, functioning much in the same fashion with any party member able to equip elemental, technique, and summoning Materia. Finally, side quests can be initiated with NPCs for rewards in addition to building one's reputation in the surrounding area. In the meantime, enhanced ports of the original version have been released on all current major platforms, including the Nintendo Switch in 2019 for the first time on a Nintendo system.
Several Final Fantasy spin-offs have appeared on Nintendo hardware as a result of these renewed relations such as the 3DS action-RPG spinoff title Final Fantasy Explorers and the ATB spinoff World of Final Fantasy, both of which feature various main-numbered Final Fantasy heroes as playable characters. Meanwhile, each of the formerly-Japan-exclusive main-numbered titles have been released to the rest of the world in some enhanced form or another. Among the more noteworthy Final Fantasy derivatives:
In addition to his recurrent appearances in all of these works, Cloud Strife has made guest appearances in titles outside of Final Fantasy, including a PlayStation arena fighter titled Ehrgeiz: God Bless The Ring, Final Fantasy Tactics, the Kingdom Hearts series, and a small sub-series of digital board games titled Itadaki Street. To the surprise of many, Cloud was announced as a post-launch downloadable content fighter for the Nintendo crossover fighting game Super Smash Bros. 4 (despite his minimal presence on Nintendo hardware up until that point), becoming a mainstay in the series ever since.
Final Fantasy Tactics Advance is mentioned among the titles listed in the Chronicle in Western versions of Brawl.
The Final Fantasy franchise makes its proper debut in the Super Smash Bros. series as a DLC franchise, marking the first time a third-party company was introduced to the series via DLC. The franchise is primarily represented with Final Fantasy VII with one fighter, a stage, two music tracks, the fighter's trophies, and a Mii Fighter hat. Geno from Super Mario RPG was also simultaneously released as a Mii Fighter costume to further commemorate Nintendo's relationship with Square Enix.
Main article: Alternate costume (SSB4)/Mii Fighter
The Mii Costume was released in the fifth wave of DLC Mii Costumes, along with the Geno Mii Costume and Cloud, on December 16, 2015.
Main article: List of SSB4 Music (Final Fantasy series)
Tracks sourced directly from Final Fantasy VII.
Main article: List of SSB4 trophies (Final Fantasy series)
After being DLC in the previous installment, Final Fantasy returns as part of the base game. While most of the content was unchanged at launch, far more was added in December 2020 as part of Challenger Pack 8. This includes a new stage, several new music tracks, over a dozen spirits, several Mii Fighter costumes, and a new fighter in the form of the antagonist Sephiroth. Once again, the vast majority of this content is pulled from the Compilation of Final Fantasy VII.
Main article: Alternate costume (SSBU)/Mii Fighter
The Mii Costumes were released in the eighth wave of DLC Mii Costumes, after Sephiroth, on December 22nd, 2020.
Main article: List of SSBU Music (Final Fantasy series)
There were two Final Fantasy songs in the base game. Nine more were added in December 2020 as part of Challenger Pack 8. Interestingly, this is the first time that a movie is represented in the Super Smash Bros. series with music, with 3 songs originating from Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children.
Unlike most remixes in Smash, the Final Fantasy remixes are owned by Square Enix instead of Nintendo.
Tracks sourced directly from Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children.
Main article: List of spirits (Final Fantasy series)
Media with elements appearing in the Super Smash Bros. series