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The Best And The Worst Final Fantasy Spin-Offs

by Kimberley Wallace on Jan 28, 2016 at 12:15 PM

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Big franchises often take advantage of their fame and appeal with a variety of spin-offs. The RPG juggernaut Final Fantasy is no different and throughout the years it has experimented with many different flavors. Some worked out much better than we ever expected; others were complete disasters. One thing is certain: Final Fantasy spin-offs aren’t going away.

Square Enix just launched Final Fantasy Explorers this week in North America and World of Final Fantasy is currently in development. But we didn’t want a list that just discussed ‘respectable’ games like Crisis Core or Revenant Wings or select average titles like Final Fantasy: Chocobo’s Dungeon and Final Fantasy Dimensions. What good does that do? We wanted to zoom in on the best creations, while also looking at the games that went horribly wrong.

The Best

Kingdom Hearts
When people heard of a Disney/Final Fantasy crossover, they were skeptical. These aren’t properties you’d expect to come together for an action/RPG, but it ended up being one of Square Enix’s best decisions. Kingdom Hearts is now one of its most popular franchises. Visiting Disney worlds is a blast, and while the Final Fantasy characters aren’t integral to the experience, it’s fun to see them in this new universe and weaved into the story. Furthermore, the action gameplay is challenging and thrilling, not handing you anything easy just because it’s a Disney collaboration. Kingdom Hearts also established its own identity by creating new characters, such as Sora, Rikku, and Kairi, in a fight against the Heartless. What starts out as a simple concept, soon spans into an ever-complex story with plenty of twists and new reveals for fans to piece together. If you haven’t checked it out yet, we recommend playing the mainline entries and Birth by Sleep.

Why It’s Among The Best: You get to enter awesome Disney worlds and battle their villains, need I say more? Beyond that, the action combat is complex and fun, and you’re also spending time interacting with cool characters whether they’re from Disney, Final Fantasy, or created for the franchise. The story may be convoluted, but it has enough ‘heart’ to keep fans playing every spin-off and entry just to figure it all out. 

Final Fantasy Tactics
Final Fantasy Tactics launched in 1998 in North America and quickly earned acclaim while growing a devoted fanbase. The strategy/RPG helped put the genre on the map, combining tense battles that required careful planning with the iconic Final Fantasy job system. Tactics also stood out for its mature and tense storyline following Ramza and his childhood friend, Delita. Both are from different social classes and their ideals and goals change as they grow up, forcing them to take different paths. It’s touching and relatable at the same time, but the most fun comes from building up your recruits and outsmarting the enemy. Final Fantasy Tactics’ legacy has lived on thanks to re-releases and enhanced ports. It even spawned its own spin-offs, Final Fantasy Tactics Advance (available today on Wii U virtual console) and Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift. We recommend checking out the enhanced port of the original, War of the Lions, which you can download on your Vita, iPhone, or iPad. It still remains the best of the bunch. 

Why It’s Among The Best: Tactics hands down delivers some of the best strategy/RPG gameplay you can find, and it also has an intriguing political story with memorable plot twists. The progression loop makes it hard to put down and building characters using the class system never gets old. You can even recruit monsters into your party. This helped set a solid foundation for strategy/RPGs, making you feel the thrill of thinking your way through every battle.

Theatrhythm Final Fantasy
Final Fantasy has earned a reputation for its fantastic music over the years, bringing waves of fans to auditoriums for concerts (Distant Worlds, Dear Friends) to celebrate it. In 2012, Square Enix decided to create a rhythm game to give fans just another place to revel in the series’ wonderful tunes. The music game celebrated the franchise’s RPG roots by having characters level up and battle, providing tunes from various situations, from field music to dramatic events. Theatrhythm is easy to grasp – notes hit from left to right and tap, swipe, or hold down the stylus depending on the note. If you want to give the franchise a try, you’re best to go with Curtain Call, as it has new tracks and contains all the music from the first entry.

Why It’s Among The Best: The Final Fantasy music is one of the series’ strongest components, and making a game that celebrates that is smart. It gives fans the feeling like they’re conducting their own Final Fantasy. Obviously, this series doesn’t pack as big of a punch as Kingdom Hearts or Tactics, but we reward a good idea when we see one. If you want to live out all the iconic music, the Theatrhythm games give you enough reason and fun to do so, even if you’ve never been all that great at rhythm games.

Click on the next page for our picks for the worst....

The Worst

Dirge of Cerberus: Final Fantasy VII
Square Enix takes on a first-person shooter with an inexperienced team used to making Final Fantasy games...what could possibly go wrong? As you guessed it, a lot. Set three years after Final Fantasy VII, Dirge of Cerberus centers on Vincent Valentine and his journey to stop an evil group using a creature named Omega from destroying all human life. You know how you can tell when someone’s heart just isn’t in something? That’s how you feel while playing Dirge of Cerberus. The game feels uninspired and Square’s inexperience with shooters is clear as soon as you pick up the controller. The developers even made improvements to the North American release, due to their dissatisfaction with the final product, but that still couldn’t save it. It wasn’t a good action game, and it especially wasn’t a good Final Fantasy game.

Why It’s Among The Worst: This is hands down the worst Final Fantasy spin-off on console. Between the nonsensical story and sluggish controls, it’s a disappointing waste of the Final Fantasy VII universe. Let’s put it this way: Dirge of Cerberus is the first time the Final Fantasy team delved into shooter territory and it shows every step of the way. 

Final Fantasy All The Bravest 
Final Fantasy All The Bravest doesn’t offer fans much. It may use ironic characters, locations, and art assets from the series, but you’re better off just replaying your favorite games than trying this mobile title. This doesn’t deliver on the quality we’ve come to know from Final Fantasy games. Don’t expect an interesting story or any gameplay depth; instead, what you can expect is expensive in-game app purchases as you try to progress. All the humorous dialogue and nostalgia in the world can’t make that worthwhile. To add insult to injury, all the progression happens at such a sluggish pace, such as leveling up or unlocking new jobs. The gameplay is also shallow; you could just tap the screen and get by. Come to think of it, this is even worse than Dirge of Cerberus...

Why It’s Among The Worst: Matt Miller said it best in his impressions, “All The Bravest is a travesty.” The game tries to elicit money from you at every turn without giving you much for it. Between the snail pace of leveling and your party’s respawns, it’s designed to make you reach for your wallet. It feels like you’re getting taken advantage of for being a fan, and that’s not cool. 

Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles
Let’s be clear here. Not all the Crystal Chronicles games are awful. The original Gamecube game is fun to play with friends and was innovative for its multiplayer at the time, but recent titles you should avoid at all costs, such as The Crystal Bearers and Echoes of Time (the Wii version). Between horrendous storylines and uninteresting gameplay, the action/RPG series, which allows you to journey with friends, has not captured its earlier success. 

Why It’s Among The Worst: As mentioned above, what started out as a promising series turned sour fast, as games under the Crystal Chronicles moniker became worse as time went on, especially its entries on the Wii. These games capture the very essence of the word generic and suffered even more for their predictable stories and awful mechanics. 

Final Fantasy: Spirits Within
Yes, we’re putting this divisive movie on here because it rubbed many fans the wrong way. However, it also has its supporters like Maxine from Life is Strange. Spirits Within paved the way for CGI films, and for that it was a success, but it had little in common with the Final Fantasy brand. The plot revolves on a deadly alien race that has threatened Earth and two scientists to Aki Ross and Doctor Sid searching for a solution to take back the planet. Though the movie was praised for its animation, it ended up going over budget and being a box office bomb, essentially leading to the folding of Square Pictures. A lot of people thought the animation, though beautiful, broke some immersion and the plot didn’t exactly bring many new ideas to the science fiction genre. 

Why It’s Among The Worst: It doesn’t take advantage of the Final Fantasy brand in any way, except looking on par to its art style and continuing the trend of Square impressing us with graphics. In short, The Spirits Within is a lackluster sci-fi movie simply with ‘Final Fantasy’ slapped on the title and turns out to be more cliche than worthwhile. Let’s not forget its enormous cost doesn’t match what it delivered. 

What spin-offs are your favorite? Which ones do you consider the worst? Let us know in the comments below!