Final Fantasy shows up on every platform under the sun these days, making it hard to remember the RPG juggernaut used to be one of gaming’s biggest exclusives. But over the course of Final Fantasy’s more than 30 years of video games, it’s twice shifted alliances in ways that had huge rippling effects.
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The first Final Fantasy hit Japan in December 1987 for the NES, and didn’t show up anywhere else until nearly three years later—the summer of 1990. Famously, it was called Final Fantasy because there was no intention to make a sequel; Square was facing bankruptcy, and Final Fantasy was, really, a last-ditch effort.
Of course, Final Fantasy went onto be a hit, and the company has been making sequels, remakes, and spin-offs ever since. The series entered ridiculous naming territory a while ago, with Final Fantasy XV (15) on the way…someday.
Final Fantasy XV will arrive on Xbox One and PlayStation 4 simultaneously—there have even been rumors of a PC release—and that’s now what we expect.
It wasn’t always that way. Final Fantasy used to be a loyal Nintendo franchise, and it was nonsense to expect Square would ever ditch the company. They did.
Yes, that actually happened.
The first six Final Fantasy games were released across the NES and SNES, back when JRPGs dominated the sales charts. The release of a new Final Fantasy was a tremendous event, and was considered a reason to buy Nintendo’s consoles over the competition. The NES and SNES raked in millions and millions, making both Nintendo and Square pretty happy. As Nintendo planned its next platform, the Nintendo 64, Square was plotting to have Final Fantasy VII show up there.
Back in 1995, Square released this demonstration of what it might look like, using Final Fantasy VI as a base:
That looks a little bit different than the Final Fantasy VII that shipped in 1997:
As the Final Fantasy series progressed and became more ambitious, its cinematic aspirations grew, too. (Remember the famous opera scene in Final Fantasy VI?) when it became clear Nintendo would stick with cartridges for the N64, this gave Square pause. It made sense for Nintendo to double down; cartridges had been enormously profitable for Nintendo because they controlled all production.
While the exact conversations between Nintendo and Square are unknown, the result was Square cancelling whatever was in development for the N64 and reshaping Final Fantasy VII to take advantage of the PlayStation’s CD-ROMs.
If this all went down in 2015, there’d be a fancy press conference where Sony took a bunch of public digs at Nintendo, but things were different back then.
Still, this was the beginning of a close relationship between Square and Sony, which spilled over to the marketing for Final Fantasy VII. The ads regularly touted the gorgeous cutscenes and pre-rendered backgrounds that populated the game.
Oh, and they took digs at Nintendo.
For nearly 10 years—1997 through 2006—what had once been synonymous with Nintendo was now synonymous with Sony. I spent my teenage years as much more of a PlayStation person because I was obsessed with Square’s RPGs.
In the last 10 years, the idea of exclusivity has started to disappear. It makes more sense for third-party companies like Square to make games for every possible platform, in order to maximize profits. This was never clearer than when both of PlayStation’s biggest exclusives—Metal Gear, Final Fantasy—decided to embrace the idea of being available on both PlayStation on Xbox.
The news of Final Fantasy XIII coming to Xbox 360 happened during an especially awkward conversation between Microsoft and Square executives at E3 2008.
Hey, I recognize that logo!
Final Fantasy coming to Xbox 360 was not quite a betrayal on the level of leaving Nintendo. Rather, it simply goes to show how the JRPG series has regularly been at the center of change. It was only supposed to be one game, but Final Fantasy lives on, doing its best to adapt to the times, regardless of the roman numeral.