RetroVision – The Confused Numbering of Final Fantasy

First created by Hironobu Sakaguchi, Final Fantasy has a rich history, with numerous entries dating back to the series’ inaugural release in 1987.  The stories within these games primarily stand alone, bar the obvious numbered sequels, and the critically acclaimed Compilation of Final Fantasy VII.  It’s also a gaming franchise that sees no signs of slowing down, with next year seeing the release of the fifteenth numbered instalment in the main series, though not the fifteenth game overall.

However, the numbering convention of the titles back in the 8 & 16-bit days, was not so easy to understand.  In fact, the number of each individual game, may not necessarily relate to the order in which the games were developed.  This is especially true when it comes to looking at the RPG franchise’s western releases.

Final Fantasy 4&2
Final Fantasy IV (Jp) & Final Fantasy II (Western) Boxes

This all occurred thanks to the decision to only release specific games outside of Japan during the third and fourth generations.  Those who grew up in North America will remember the original game on the NES.  However, its sequels on the Famicom (the Japanese original version of the NES), were not originally released outside of Japan.

This all meant that a game originally designed and released in Japan as Final Fantasy IV on the Super Famicom, actually ended up becoming “Final Fantasy II” in the west.  This was’t the last of the confusion either, as Final Fantasy IV’s sequel Final Fantasy V, was also originally skipped in the west, being exclusively released on the Super Famicom.  As such, this in turn caused Final Fantasy VI to become “Final Fantasy III” on its release on the Super Nintendo in America.

Final Fantasy 6&3
Final Fantasy VI (Jp) & Final Fantasy III (Western) Boxes

Confused?  You’re not the only one, so let’s recap.

  • Final Fantasy – Released in both Japan and America on the Famicom / NES.
  • Final Fantasy II – Released only in Japan on the Famicom.
  • Final Fantasy III – Released only in Japan on the Famicom.
  • Final Fantasy IV – Released in both Japan and America on the Super Famicom / Super Nintendo.  Became “Final Fantasy II” outside of Japan.
  • Final Fantasy V – Released only in Japan on the Super Famicom
  • Final Fantasy VI – Released in both Japan and America on the Super Famicom / Super Nintendo. Became “Final Fantasy III” outside of Japan.

So why did this happen?  Well, this situation primarily arose due to the transition from one generation to the next, and the rapid way in which the American consumers moved from one platform to the next.  This was further compounded by the inherent problem of translating a title from Japanese to English.  A process which took considerably more time in the 8 & 16-bit days, due to development teams being decidedly smaller than is commonly found today.  All of this is something that was reiterated by Final Fantasy III designer Hiromichi Tanaka, when he stated the following during an interview with Eurogamer:

Nowadays we know that when you’ve got a platform like PlayStation, you’ll have PlayStation 2 and then PlayStation 3, and where you’ve got Xbox, you move on to Xbox 360 – you can sort of assume what’s going to happen in the future. But back then, that was the first time that we’d seen a new generation of consoles, and it was really difficult to predict what was going to happen. At that time, then, we were working so hard to catch up on the new technology that we didn’t have enough manpower to work on an English version of Final Fantasy III.

Final Fantasy VII Cloud
Cloud Strife, the lead character from the globally popular Final Fantasy VII

This all caused great confusion, but thankfully with the release of globally loved, and critically acclaimed Final Fantasy VII, the numbering order was standardised by Square across all regions.  Not only this, but following the release of Final Fantasy VII, the titles of previous releases were retroactively put right one-by-one throughout the PSOne era.  So now we can now all look forward to the highly anticipated looking Final Fantasy XV, rather than a mistakenly titled “Final Fantasy XII”.

Simon Drake

A lifelong gamer with a fanatical love of all things Nintendo and Japan. So much so that I've written a thesis on one and lived in the other. Currently on a quest to catch every last Pokémon. Follow me on twitter via @DudeXChill or @RingsandCoins.

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