Happy Birthday Final Fantasy! You’re 26 Years Old!

It was on this day, 26 years ago in the year of 1987, when Final Fantasy was first seen on the shelves of retailers in Japan. It was on this day, during an age of game cartridges, 8-bit entertainment consoles, and point-accumulating-twitchy-platformers, that a Japanese developer known as Square would give birth to a classic and the gaming world would catch the wind of change. Final Fantasy ushered in a new era where role-playing games would actually become a real thing – a story you could play was not just some pipe dream but a real game. It was then that people realized that games needn’t be about “pew-pew” action and could be more about story and character development. Themes normally seen in fantasy novels we would begin to see in gaming. Themes such as fate, destiny, courage, darkness and light would permeate throughout the Final Fantasy series. Instead of twitch-skill Donkey Kong, players now had a game about guiding characters through a new and foreign world – on their own terms, with their own tales.

This is what the first Final Fantasy looked like! This is what the first Final Fantasy looked like!

On this day 26 years ago, that is what Final Fantasy brought into this world. A turning point in gaming. A new way for us, the gamers, to explore new worlds and foreign lands. A new way for us to meet new and interesting people. A new way for us to be those interesting people. With the story savvy direction of Sakaguchi and musical genius of Uematsu, what was crafted then in 1987 was more than any other game had at the time and would soon birth a series of games that would become timeless classics – but for the folks at Square at the time, it would become much more than that.

For those of you who didn’t know. Final Fantasy was intended to be Square’s final game. That’s right. The last game ever. The Final Fantasy. Square was experiencing extraordinarily trying times; several of its earlier games proving to be financial flops and I can only imagine the doom and gloom attitude in the office. I can see why they didn’t think they’d make another game. However, as it turns out, not only did Final Fantasy become a bestseller, it literally saved the company from extinction. The new game would turn the company around – a literal 180 – back into financial stability and profitability. It brought us 8-bit sweat marks, Black Mages with silly hats, emotional stories and – best of all – it brought us what we know today as Square Enix, which would give birth to more fantastic games such as Final Fantasy VII, Chrono Trigger, and the Dragon Warrior franchise.

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And Final Fantasy wouldn’t stop there. The year is now 2012. A year where, if we are frank, wasn’t a great year for Square Enix or Final Fantasy. It was a seemingly downward spiral. Square Enix had just released the tragedy that was Final Fantasy XIV and its other games were fairly lackluster with only moderately positive reception at the best of times. Suffice to say, it wasn’t looking bright. It was looking a lot like 1987 again. With the ruination that was what would be soon known as Final Fantasy XIV 1.0, the failing MMORPG had threatened to kill the whole Final Fantasy franchise. It threatened the fans’ trust in the company and in their games. Square Enix had to do something. It was do or die and they had few options. They could kill Final Fantasy XIV 1.0 and try to pretend it never happened. They could have also killed the Final Fantasy franchise all together and try to push a new series of games – since surely no one would buy another Final Fantasy game after Final Fantasy XIV 1.0. Or they could – at great personal financial expense and risk – scrap the game and re-release it with a new producer and new staff, attempting to restore the fans’ faith in the company and the franchise. Guess what option they chose?

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On August 27, 2013, Final Fantasy XIV 2.0: A Realm Reborn was released. Reception was good; in fact, you could even call it great. It was eons better than its previous version. The Japanese developer and essentially replaced the Final Fantasy XIV team and rebuild the game from the ground up in a little over a year. Square Enix had taken the high road and that decision appeared to at the very least saved the Final Fantasy franchise. Quality and reputation was seemingly restored. And on November 5th, Square Enix released a revised financial report showing – and there is no other way to put this – Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn had turned their financial outlook around. In a year where the company expected a 2 billion yen ($20 million USD) operating loss but instead was able to report a 4.7 billion yen ($48 million USD) operating profit. I think it wasn’t so much Square Enix saving Final Fantasy. I think it was Final Fantasy had saved Square Enix. Again.

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Square Enix has certainly made it known that they care about Final Fantasy, but with their financial performance last year, during Final Fantasy’s 25th Anniversary, the celebration they carried out for their prized franchise was a bit underwhelming. Some might even see it as inappropriate since during the celebration their most recent games were Final Fantasy XIII-2 and Final Fantasy XIV both of which weren’t stellar. However, with the recent upswing, I feel like its worth bringing back the posts from Final Fantasy’s 25th Anniversary to celebrate Final Fantasy’s 26th Birthday. Take a look at some of the cool things that were done for Final Fantasy’s 25th, right here on Gamer Escape!

I’d like to end this tribute post with this: we owe a lot to Final Fantasy. Personally, I owe them my childhood, those late nights I spent as a Warrior of Light, the countless hours I spent roaming around Shinra Corporation’s head office or riding a giant yellow bird around Spira. But most importantly, we gamers owe Final Fantasy several generations of fantastic RPGs, we owe it Square Enix – twice – and we owe it heartfelt congratulations for reaching its 26th year. So congratulations Final Fantasy. You deserve 26 years as one of the most iconic franchises ever. And you deserve many more. Happy Birthday, Final Fantasy!