Tell me about the OTHER Final Fantasy Games

After watching my college roommate play through X, X-2, and VII a couple of times I broke down and bought FFX. I enjoyed it and X-2 and I’m playing through VII right now.

But what about the other FF games? I’ve had a hard time finding a coherent opinion about any of them. Which ones did you guys like/dislike? What made them fun or frustrating? Are the mechanics significantly different from X and VII?

One of the things I really liked about the ones I’ve played is the level of involvement in the story. The characters are very likable (mostly) and easy to care about. How well do other FFs succeed in this? Do the other games follow fairly linear plotlines or do they allow a good deal of freedom? Or are the plotlines too linear, too confined?

I’d love to hear some opinions.

My first one was FFIV (called FFII at the time when it was on the SNES). I loved it. A story about a Black Knight named Cecil. It was very D&D like, in that you progress in a specific line, and in that Cecil eventually dual classes. I played through it several times and even took the time to get all five of the final characters up to level 99. For those who haven’t done this, Rydia becomes virtually immune to magic. Badass.

I also played through FFVI (known as FFIII on the SNES). This one didn’t have a main character so to speak, although Terra could be considered it I suppose. With a cast of like 25 characters and a pretty epic storyline, it became another favorite of mine. Magic wasn’t innate like it was in the previous version, but rather came from these creatures called Espers, who you equipped and they taught you spells after a while and also would increase certain stats as you leveled up. I also played through that one several times and made it a point to get everyone up to level 99.

After that I played through FFVII, which I loved, but then tried to go back and play the first one. I hated it. Then I got FFV (bundled with FFVI for the PSOne) and tried to play through it. I was enjoying it up until they named the Big Bad: X-Death. I’d had some problems with the translation up to that point, but that was just the clincher for me for some reason. I just couldn’t play it any more.

Then I got FFVIII. I enjoyed it immensely, but it seems I’m in the minority on that one. I actually liked the Draw System of magic, which worked by your characters literally sucking magic power out of the enemies before you killed them. You could then use these things called Guardian Forces, or GFs, to link this magic to your stats and become insanely powerful very quickly if you were willing to spend the time to do so, I also played through it several times and once or twice got every character up to level 99 (yes, I am a bit OCD with my RPGs).

I was given FFIX for Christmas the year it came out, but I never really played it. I’ve heard it was alright, but I just never got into it. Couldn’t tell you why.

I was obsessed with FFX for a long while, but I really really really hated FFX-2. I got 25% of the way through it and just gave up on it. It might have been the really stupid side games that you had to play, like dressing up like a moogle and handing out balloons. So I never finished that one either, which is just as well, as I hear the story kinda sucked.

So there’s my Final Fantasy history. More than you asked for, but once I start talking FF I can’t really stop.

You can look up reviews on FF1-3 was on the NES. FF4-6
was on the SNES. FF7-9 was on the playstation and the rest on the ps2.
I liked them all except 2,3,5, and 11.

II (The one on the Famicom and in Origins/the GBA cart, not the renumbered IV on the SNES) is the only one of the series I couldn’t get into. The story seemed interesting, but the mechanics were just to annoying.

III is the not available officially in North America or Europe (although, apparently, there’s a planned remake for DS), so we can ignore it here.

I has a pretty cliche story, and almost nothing in the way of character development - it’s pretty much entirely mechanical development, in fact (there may be some character building moments, but I don’t actually remember them). Still fairly fun, even so.

VIII is very polarising. Some people like the story, the characters, and the system, others find the first two clichee and annoying, and the third…just annoying.

IV has a fairly interesting, if linear story, and really strong characters. The system’s fairly basic and restrictive, but I find that can be overlooked.

V, the story is fairly weak - although the characters (of which there are only 5) are interesting enough that it’s not a total loss on that front (even if the characters are on the 2-dimentional side). The system rather makes up for it, though. (Since you’ve played X-2, V’s system will be somewhat familiar.)

VI is pretty good, and some of the characters are really interesting (particularly Kefka), although the story is pretty lacking, taken as a whole (being mostly a whole lot of side-quests), and most of the characters aren’t as strong as the main couple. Nice system, though.

IX gets criticised by some people for being too cartoony, but it has a strong story, characters that make you care about them (every single person I know was saddened by parts of the ending), and a clever system.

FFVIII has probably some of the most mixed reviews. Some people really like it, and others don’t like it at all. The draw system is nice and unique, and it was nice to not have to worry about MP (For the record–I’ve literally played every FF game there is, save XI, for at least five minutes, but IX is the only one I’ve actually finished).

IX is, as I said, the only one I’ve finished. It’s one of the easier ones to play, in that the storyline is easier to follow, and it doesn’t seem to require as much power levelling–I had to sitop to PL maybe twice the entire time I played (not counting the time I got lost early on), and one of those times was right before the last couple battles. FF games I find have a tendency to send me running towards GameFaqs, but this one didn’t. Another thing I liked was the virtual lack of mini-games as a necessity in the game, which is something that has put me off every game from VI on at some point (Well, not X-2, but I can’t stand the battle system in that game).

VI I rather enjoyed–except for those freaking multi-party sections. That’s the one thing which kept me from getting very far in that game. Otherwise I enjoyed it as far as I played, but I’ve never made it to the world of ruin.

V was…meh. Although you do get a lap-dance :stuck_out_tongue: Again, never got far.

The earlier ones I never got far in at all. I have the first two for GBA, remembering them as fairly difficult and looking forward to the challenge for once–only to find them horrifically dumbed down. III I’ve never played much–pretty close to 5 minutes. It’s pretty much only avaliable via emulation in English right now, though I believe it’s going to be re-released sometime soon. Part of my problem with the pre-VII games is probably that I was playing them via emulation, which for some reason just is never as fun. I prefer to have actual copies of the game, or my interest wanes faster.

I’ve never liked VII much–I don’t like the materia system (makes characters essentially the same), the mini-games piss me off (I still have a save file kicking around that’s set right before the sub game), and the plot-line is designed around you getting lost–the story is about as straight as Richard Simmons. VIII also made characters pretty similar, but the GF system at least gives you a reason not to switch junctions around too often. Granted, I’m still on disc 2 of both games.

VII was definitely my favorite of the ones I’ve played, followed not too far by X. If you want to get into all Square RPGs, Chrono Trigger follows (if it were called Final Fantasy and you added some of recurring characters, you wouldn’t know any better ), then VIII. Way, WAY in last is X-2, which I had no desire to play even past the stadium as I could just tell it wasn’t going to grow on me. IX I played and was enjoying, but I had a memory card go caput on me early in the second disc and I never picked it up again. I’m going to start up with VI this weekend and see how it goes.

I’ve got a PS2, so I think the SNES versions are out for me. They sound kinda cool though…

Anyway, it sounds like 9 would be good but 8 and 11 are questionable? Thanks for the link, goofball. I’ll look at some reviews. It’d be nice if I could actually rent some of these games before I plonk down money.

All the games, except for III are available for PS systems - I and II as Origins, IV bundled with Chrono Trigger as Chronicals, and V and VI bundled together as Anthology. VII, VIII, IX, X, XI and X-2 are all native to PS/PS2.

XI is an MMORPG, and I’m not sure if it’s still getting any players - everyone I know who played it has moved back to EQ and WoW.

I don’t think I’ll ever see a license with a more divided fan base than Final Fantasy (old vs new vs 11-), Star Wars (re the prequels), and Star Trek (og vs tng vs ds9-).

8 is the real divisive one. Honestly? even though I didn’t like it, it’s a good game, very well made. Most of the fans seem to be big into anime & mange (Japanese cartoons and comics), etc. I think the reason so many FF fans dislike it, is because both the gameplay, the character design, and the overall story is more different from the rest of the series (as far as 1-10) than any other. Sure 7 goes out of it’s way to incorporate as many anime memes as it can, along with the art-style. But the story is classic FF through and through. 8’s characters are very mundane, and could just as easily be set in a war drama in the real world. Even the setting of the story over-all has less of an epic fantasy (1-7, 9) or surreal-world (10, X-2) feel than it does one of “real world+magic.” The draw system and the complex GF system are also pretty radically different from the others in terms of character development and combat.

Main Series
-Final Fantasy: Interesting plot, but no real story. You pick a team of 4 characters from 6 classes (you can have multiples of a class), and work your way through the quest. Only one sidequest, which upgrades all your characters to prestige classes (your arms-and-armor guys gets white magic, your thief gets better melee and black magic, etc.). Spells are bought at shops, and are divided into levels. As you gain exp-levels, your mages can cast spells of a given level more often. Arbitrary stat growth.

-Final Fantasy II: your characters are assigned, and have predetermined abilities and equipment. Stat growth is directly proportional to use of it (attacking more often raises strength, getting hit more often raises defense, etc). Magic is learned automatically, and spells upgrade to more powerful/more costly forms with use. Good story, but lacking sidequests. 4-man parties.

-Final Fantasy III: not currently available in the US in any form

-Final Fantasy IV: Arbitrary stat growth, spells learned automatically, characters join and leave your party at will. Excellent story, few hidden summon spells and super-powered gear for side quests, but still pretty linear. Introduced early form of the now-standard Active Time Battle system: enemies can take turns while you take yours, and vice-versa; also, characters’ turn frequency is based on speed rather than being arbitrary (this an option that can be turned off, and is featured in every game up to and including X). 5-man parties.

-Final Fantasy V: Decent story (weighed down by goofy villain character design). Sidequests akin to IV. Characters can class change at will, and equip a few class modifiers they learned from previous classes (magic types, enabling equipment, etc.). You aquire new classes to choose from at certain points. Stats are a combination of a base (determined by your level combined with accumulated points distributed according to the class you were when you acquired them), and your current class (determined by your level, and your class level). 4-man parties.

-Final Fantasy VI: Massive, epic story, with lots of great characterization. After a point, you can swap heroes in and out of your current party, and certain dungeons require you to switch back and forth between multiple parties at once! Character growth involves predetermined stat-growth unique to the character, combined with modifiers at each level up based on which summon spell you have equipped. Everyone has a unique ability. Magic is available to everyone, though they’re stats may not be good. Levelling-up with a given esper (summon) will teach you certain spells. Large number of sidequests for character development, summons, equipment, etc. Also has a number of minigames. 4-man parties.

-Final Fantasy VII: you already know about.

-Final Fantasy VIII: see my above comments. Good romance story. Swappable party (after a point), draw system (you steal spells from enemies, and can use them like items, or equip them to modify your stats). GF system (you equip summons, and when you’re casting them the GF takes damage; also, you can boost the effectiveness of a summon by repeatedly pressing x during the animation sequence). no equipment per se. Numerous mini-games and side-quests (a standard from here on in) 3-man parties.

-Final Fantasy IX: Deliberately designed to pay homage to the older entries, IX was originally intended to be the last “traditional” FF, as X-on were all goin to be MMO’s or have partial online content (though this fell through for X in development). Typical epic story, a swappable party (after a point), and all the other fixtures. Used a cartoony style for characters, and has more of a pure medieval fantasy feel, though it’s somewhat light-hearted (even during the tragic parts) and fairy-tale like. Characters have defined classes (equipment/ability sets/base stat growth), but you learn individual spells, abilities, and stat-modifiers by leveling up with a given piece of equipment. This makes stealing really useful because it lets you get good abilities earlier on. Pretty architypal other than that, fans of VII and older entries usually like it. Kind of an unsung hero because Square released a lot of big-name titles the same year, and many were waiting for X. I don’t remember the party-size, 4 or 3.

-Final Fantasy X: You already know about.

-Final Fantasy XI: an MMO with lots of thematic content borrowed from the newer FF’s. Don’t remember the character development or combat systems, but I seem to recall them being surprisingly typical of the older series. Big with anime fans, especially because you share servers with Japanese players (uses a basic, automatic translator program). party-size?

-Final Fantasy XII: Visual style remniscent of X and XI. Set in the world of Tactics Advance. combat is somewhat remniscent of old games, but there’s no clear divide between combat and exploration (something like Zone of the Enders, you have to run away till the enemy gives up pursuit to break out of combat mode). Combat is somewhat of a real-time hybrid, with the player being able to pause the action and give specific orders to the otherwise AI-controlled team mates (you can only control one party member at a time). Don’t know about the Character Development system yet, as the game’s not available in the US, just a very short demo. 3-man parties

-Final Fantasy Mystic Quest: A very dumbed-down game intended for little kids. Simple story, arbitrary character growth, spell learning, and party changes. 2-man parties. Zelda or Lufia style dungeon exploration with puzzles to solve and various weapon/tools that affect the environment in different ways. Simple story.
-Final Fantasy Tactics: Epic fantasy story set against a pre-rennaisance society that borrows heavily from European history (in particular the War of the Roses, the Catholic Church’s history, and the process by which they decided what is and what isn’t cannon Christianity). Turn-based combat (though it maintains speed-based turn frequency, a meter to show when a character’s next turn or action will occur, etc.) on grid-based 3D maps. FFV style Class system. Old-fashioned cartoony visuals. Very dark and dramatic story, with great characterization (and a built in reference system that gives you bios and footnotes, as well as letting you reply and dialogue sequence in between battles). Excises exploration and puzzles completely; you move from one point on a map to the next, watching story sequences, fighting battles, etc. Instead of a town map, you move onto a town, pick a shop from a menu, and then go through the shop’s menus.
-Final Fantasy Tactics Advance: A kiddified version of FFT. Story is much more light-hearted, and somewhat remniscent of CS Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia (specifically Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe). Similar gameplay to FFT, but broken up into missions, and much of the gameplay simplified, to adapt the system to use on hand-held gaming systems. Simple menus, and gameplay structured to short, 10-30 minutes sessions. Weird “Judge system” where the game imposes some sort of rule in each fight, like not using Black Magic, and penalizes the player when they ignore it.
-Final Fantasy X-2: You already know about this.

PS. a note on Final Fantasy Adventure and the Final Fantasy Legends games for the old Gameboy. These were actually the US releases of the Romance Saga games, and the first Seiken Densetsu (the series known in the US as the “_____ of Mana” series). I also left out spin-offs without Final Fantasy in the title because they’re usually things like Mario Kart-style games (Chocobo’s Racing), or a pure dungeon-crawler with a 2D Legend of Zelda game interface (Chocobo’s Dungeon).

The earlier ones I never got far in at all. I have the first two for GBA, remembering them as fairly difficult and looking forward to the challenge for once–only to find them horrifically dumbed down. Part of my problem with the pre-VII games is probably that I was playing them via emulation, which for some reason just is never as fun. I prefer to have actual copies of the game, or my interest wanes faster.

I’ve never liked VII much–I don’t like the materia system (makes characters essentially the same), the mini-games piss me off (I still have a save file kicking around that’s set right before the sub game), and the plot-line is designed around you getting lost–the story is about as straight as Richard Simmons. <snip>QUOTE]

Couple of things.
I don’t know about the GBA re-releases, but on the PS ones, you can switch off all the changes they made to simplify the games in the options menu, I would think you probably can on the GBA as well.
Also, you probably won’t enjoy it then, but I have a story to tell. IV was released twice in Japan;the original version, and a simplified “Easy Type” (as they subtitled it) version to get kids into the franchise. The original US release (“II”) was a hybrid favoring Easy Type features, and every re-release is also a hybrid (though the Easy Type aspects still included are mostly minor tweaks). The only way to play IV’s authentic game in English is to get the emulator, and track down the english translation patch some fans made (it’s a very good trnaslation).
As for VII, the story makes a hell of a lot more sense if you take the time to track complete the sidequests for the 3 hidden scene sequences (Cloud and Zack’s escape from Nibelheim, the entire Icicle Inn video set, and Vincent’s origin). I never understood why they made it so easy to miss these, because it’s like seeing the old Star Wars trilogy without any of Yoda’s scenes. Also, if you use the Materia system well, you’ll find everyone’s stats gear them for certain general roles, and you’re just picking the specifices. Like X, VII actually lands somewhere in the middle of the series age-old tug of war between defined roles and free development.
That’s all.

Thank you, H3Knuckles. That was an excellent impartial overview and I appreciate it. What is your partial opinion of the games in this series?

The Final Fantasy series tends to rise and fall with the system it’s on. The NES games were good, the SNES games were great, the PS games were weak, and so far the PS2 run has been mixed (X was good, X-2 was…well, it was). Do whatever you have to do to play FF4, FF5 and FF6.

Final Fantasy I --PS1 version

I never actually completed this one as I kept getting lost in the Fire Temple and finally got fed up with going through the whole thing each time. Your party is fixed from the beginning and they have no personality except that which you give them, you have no Ethers and no Phoenix Downs, and a limited number of spells. If your experience is with the newer games then this will be something a bit different. It’s really not much like a Final Fantasy game.

Final Fantasy V --PS1 version

I’ve read the original SNES script and while I like Faris’ personality better in this one, the pirate accent is very grating. The character development is somewhat lacking, but the characters themselves are a likeable bunch so it isn’t too much of a problem. There’s no party-switching and the characters are completely but not easily customisable. Everyone can learn any job and they have similar base stats, but it’s going to take the whole game to get that far. The game has a good balance of sidequests, but there are some things missable (a couple of summons and songs).

Final Fantasy VIII

It has the summons and the recurring characters and races (except the moogles, unless you own a Pocketstation), but it doesn’t feel like a Final Fantasy at all. Like X, the characters are differentiated only by their limit breaks, but unlike X, this happens right from the start. If you want custom characters you have to give them the ‘[Stat] Up’ ability and do it yourself. The magic is the weakest aspect of the battle system. The spells here are very much like the spell items in FFVII (Stardust, Earth Drum, etc.), and they are junctioned (ie. equipped) to individual stats. The most powerful spells have the greatest effect, so it’s likely that using the best spell for the task will drop your stats. There are also only three command slots available (Attack can be changed to Mug, but that’s it), and the only non-single-use commands are GF (ie. Summon), Magic and Item. You’ll probably spend five minutes setting up to 19 magics and 7 abilities for each character and then doing nothing but attacking the enemy, because there’s no point in casting a certain spell if you can get the same effect by using the ‘Attack’ command and saving a spell.

I’d forgive all this if I liked the characters, but they’re all annoying, one-dimensional, and / or boring.

Final Fantasy IX

The party-switching is either limited or determined by the game until a certain point, as your characters are at the mercy of the developing plot. I liked this aspect of the game once I figured out when certain characters needed de-equipping, as it really adds to the story. As others have said, this game has a lot of references to previous Final Fantasies, and the characters are kind of like a cross between I’s and V’s. Like V, they (mostly) have a main job and a secondary job. Like I, they are limited in these jobs, but there are enough healing items and support abilities that you won’t often be at a major disadvantage if your white mage gets knocked out. This is my favourite game in the series, and Kuja is my favourite character. He’s a real tragic figure, and I like that.

Actually, now that I think about it, what I hated most about FFVIII wasn’t that I got confused and didn’t care about the storyline, or Triple Triad, or the Junction system, or the draw system, or even that the freaking summons were all like 10 times longer than necessary and you couldn’t skip through them and had to sit there hitting a little button repeatedly to make the attack more powerful. It was that being able to use items had to be explicity chosen and meant that you couldn’t do something else.

I’ve got all the FF games available except for IX and XI (which, in my opinion shouldn’t count), but I’ve only beaten VI and VII. I’ve played a little into I, haven’t touched II, am probably about 10 hrs into IV but need to restart, am near the end of V and have been putting it off for years (literally, I think the save file dates from about 2000), gave up on VIII, and could finish off X if I wanted to but all those stupid mini-games are angering me. X-2 shouldn’t count either because the genius of FF was that there were no sequels.

It really is pretty impressive when you think about it that the entire main series, nineteen years’ worth of gaming, is playable on a PS2 (save III).

Since you seem to still be seeking opinions, I figure another set, limited to the PS2-available games, won’t hurt. Solid impartial information has been given on them all, so I will stick to opinion. I’ll include the games you’re familiar with so you get some idea of what I consider important.

FFI: While I played this on the original NES, my recent experiences with the GBA remake overshadow that. Even with the xp and gold gain sped up, this is still a pretty bad game by modern standards. The plot’s driven by exploration, as in most NES RPGs (and not later FF games), but what always stops me cold is that this game is D&D, made into a videogame. Poorly. If you’re familiar with 1st ed, look into a FF1 translation guide (Version Differences FAQ, bottom half of the document) sometime. Mind flayers, black puddings, bulettes, neo-otyughs, the entire Undead Turning table, fireball and lightning bolt at third level (and teleport at fifth), haste as a wizard spell and more instant kill spells than you could ever want - it’s pretty clear. The main problem is that it uses the old-school D&D paradigm of ‘death is easy, revival is hard’ at high levels, and the power levels scale in a way that no video game was meant to. All that said, I am extremely impressed that Final Fantasy grew into an extremely successful franchise, with a unique mythology all its own, from such humble beginnings. Thumbs down unless you’re into history.

FFII: I hate SaGa-style advancement, where things improve with use, unless it is very well thought-out. This game, as the originator, is not.

FFIII: Currently unavailable.

FFIV: Like many others, I first played this in its neutered version on the SNES; my ten-year-old self was infatuated with it, finishing it over six times. Recently replaying the GBA remake, the gameplay has aged surprisingly well (I wish they hadn’t gotten rid of the multiple-hit mechanism in later games), but the plot is to laugh. Overall a guarded thumbs-up.

FFV: I think this has aged better than IV or VI. The job system endures. The story’s still in the ‘iffy’ stages, but the solid gameplay and excellent advancement curve win me over. A thumbs-up.

FFVI: I haven’t replayed this in quite a few years, despite doing so many times when it was first released. The leveling comes in spurts and fits, which I liked at the time but dislike now. Characters were mostly interchangeable, which is another ‘eh’. The story was reasonable. The second half of the game is almost entirely nonlinear, and a lot of it feels pointless in retrospect. Still a guarded thumbs-up.

FFVII: Unnecessarily plays much slower than its immediate predecessors, which I hate. Story finally goes into somewhat interesting territory, if you can stand the angst. While I typically enjoy minigames, both the mandatory nature and the poor quality of the ones included turn me off. Still a solid game despite all that; thumbs neither up nor down.

FFVIII: Finally, a worthwhile plot, if a bit fantastic… until disc 4. I have to give them points for innovating with the gameplay mechanic, but in practice it’s pretty horrible until disc 3. There’s the tedium of repeatedly drawing 297 instances of every new spell, then you break out pencil and paper to figure out which GFs go to whom, and what spells to which abilities for who. Then it becomes all-out wretched. One of many examples: There are many enemies late in the game that have over 100,000 hp. This includes regular random enemies. The most damage you can ever do with a single attack is 9,999, and you can achieve this feat pretty easily. So your goal is to hit them (for 9,999) the most times you possibly can on your turn. This can be accomplished by leaving one character low on hp and continually changing the active character to him (costing nothing) until the random chance of a limit break, doing tens of times normal damage, comes up. At least the (optional) card minigame, Triple Triad, is surprisingly fun. So, huge thumbs down, but if gameplay doesn’t really matter to you, go ahead.

FFIX: Had lots of little touches I really appreciated, especially in that it preys on RPG cliches at times if you’re expecting them, a main character I actually liked, party members that were actually quite distinct, status ailments that really hurt, and a great spell, ability, and trait system. The limit break system is powerful but not too much so, although difficult to use. Also a fun plot. You can see that we’re advancing game design since the plot doesn’t break until the end of disc 4, not the beginning. Refreshing sense of advancement and lots of fun, optional ways to get yourself slightly ahead of the equipment curve. Enthusiastic thumbs-up; my favorite console RPG until…

FFX: This has been my favorite since. ‘Puzzle’ boss battles, an excellent plot, and the Sphere Board being my favorite character advancement system in any console RPG cancel out my hatred of Tidus. The advancement curve is laid out perfectly, the world feels distinctive, inflicting status ailments on enemies is actually effective, and weapons don’t automatically get better in the next town. The game still wows me on so many levels, to this day.

FFX-2: Let’s reprise a game with extremely linear dungeons using a mission-based setup where you have to go through those same dungeons, initially interesting because you’re getting through them to a destination, over and over again! And let’s replace the enemies that require thought with those you can brute-force, like all the other RPGs. At its core, this wasn’t a bad game - the Dressphere system has lots of potential - just nowhere near what they could have done, especially given the source material. A guarded thumbs-down.

FFXI: No personal experience. Friends that I trust say avoid.

Hope this was of some use. Good luck with your decision!

My thoughts on the FFs I’ve played.

I: No character growth or personality, limited story. Its’ very cool to see where the whole series began and how awesome and revolutionary the game must have been in 1989(?), but kinda dull now.

If you play the original NES version the magic users suck as they are limited to x number of a certain spell level before needing to recharge. The PS and GBA re-releases fixed that by using magic points and assigning costs to the magic.

II: Currently playing though it for GBA. I’m liking it so far, but the characters’ personalities are rather limited. Then again its a step up from no personalities at all.

VI: Great memorable characters and a large explorable world. IMHO, the best FF villian ever. A very enjoyable game all around, though the last half the game felt like a series of side quests, mostly because it was.

VII: I loved it the first time though, but in retrospect I’m not sure about it. Amazing scenary (ranging from rugged canyons to quiet mountain towns to slick cities), but the characters including the villian were pretty flat.

Tactics: I loved the gameplay, but the story was very complex (even for a FF game) and the characters didn’t do it for me. Only a few of the playable characters had actual personalities and most of them shut up once they joined the party.

VIII: I actually like this one a lot. Its’ very different from the rest of the FFs, but the characters are fun (Squall’s a bit of a pain at first, but he grows on you) and I actually like the draw system.

X: See VII. Beautiful scenary and I love the battle system. I like the characters and the voiceovers are a nice addition, but it feels like there is something missing.

Tactics Advanced: They scaled the story way back on this one, maybe too much. Again, only a few characters have personalities. The main character of this one, like the main character of Tactics is very bland. In fact I kept calling the hero of Tactics the name of the Advanced hero (I played Advanced first). They are that interchangable.
Let me also mention the Kindgom Hearts series which combines Final Fantasy characters and magic with Disney. Sounds like a terrible idea, but they somehow managed to make 2 and a half awesome games out of it (Chain of Memories was essentially a re-hash of KH1. Still very cool.).

I’m currently replaying FFVIII. I like almost everything about the game, and I love the card minigame (except for that damned Random rule, which I’m slowly eliminating from everywhere I play). There’s a well thought out plot, and once I figured out that I needed to avoid gaining experience when possible (by turning enemies into cards instead of killing them), I was able to make the game more interesting.

FFVI is a must-play. It has a great story, and great villains. Get Crono Trigger and play it too, it’s wonderful. Crono Cross is good, too, but it has way too many playable characters…over 40! On the other hand, it’s very replayable, and when starting the second or subsequent game, the PCs keep their levels, and the game gives you a “relief charm”, which allows you to have a different main character (which allows you to level up all your characters). Kingdom Hearts…well, I call it Final Fantasy Disney. The main reason I didn’t finish it is because I HATE Donald and Goofy, and they are two of the three main characters.

I rather disliked FFIX and FFX. In both cases, I disliked the characters. I never finished the games. I have to like the characters in order to spend a lot of time on the game. However, YMMV, many people loved both of those games, and hated my favorite, FFVIII.

FF7 is getting a sequel!

Really? I heard about the Vincent first person shooter (Dirge of Cerberus) and the Advent Children, but this is the first I’ve heard of a direct sequel. Not sure I approve.

Random filling-in-the-gaps thoughts:

FFIX: has 4-person parties.

FF8: like H3Knuckles said, there’s no agreement on this game. The gameplay is deeply flawed, and easy to abuse by accident. I’d buy the PC version, and use Griever to max out your stock of each spell you encounter. It cuts down on the draw-related tedium enormously, and lets you retrieve GFs that your dumb ass forgot to draw without having to reload. As for the storyline: it’s an FF game, there’s a bunch of trippy weird shit, and whether or not you enjoy the plot seems to come down to how much you like Rinoa. IME peoples’ feelings on Rinoa tend to correlate to their feelings on Tidus, so if (like me) you spent the entire game hoping he’d die painfully you may want to save this one for last.

FF12: has not yet been released in English, but the battle system has me drooling. The AI system is simple, flexible, and powerful, which I hadn’t believed possible. With luck the characters will be likeable.

Final Fantasy Mystic Quest: is a heap of shit, don’t play it, even if the end boss does have a good trick.

Final Fantasy Tactics: is awesome, but also totally unlike all the others gameplay-wise. Also, the translation sucks ass, which gives an (undeserved, IMO) reputation for having a painfully dense plot.