Final Fantasy is a popular series of RPGs produced by Square (aka Squaresoft). Most Final Fantasy games have a surprising level of detail given to the plot and character development. All the games in the series occur in different universes, and are unrelated, except for the occasional cameo (such as Cloud's apperance in FF Tactics). However, there is a tradition where many of the games have characters named Biggs, Wedge, and Cid, as well as recurring creatures, such as the Moogles and Chocobos. The battles in these games are usually semi-turn based, using a system known as the Active Time Battle - introduced in Final Fantasy 4. The battle system differs somewhat among all the games, particularly in the use of magic. As of this writing, there are a very large number of games in the series, including the following (note that the information about the plot is only the introduction, and is by no means the entire depth of the story line -- in fact, in many cases the introduction belies the fact that the main story is almost completely unrelated to the introduction, which is often used simply to introduce the characters.)
The name comes from head designer Hironobu Sakaguchi, who had done several different kinds of video games for Square, and was sick of the business. But he'd just found out about the RPG style of games, and decided to do his "final" game for the company as a "fantasy" RPG.
The chief producer and designer role will be taken over by Yasumi Matsuno.
Final Fantasy 4 (for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System). FF4's plot focuses on a main character named Cecil. The game begins when Cecil and the air force he captains (called the Red Wings) are forced to steal a Crystal. Cecil objects about this to his king, who promptly demotes him and sends him off (along with his friend Kain) on an errand to carry a package to a place called Valley Mist. This game was released as Final Fantasy 2 by Square of America. There is also an unoffical version of this game called FF4 Hard, which was translated into English from Japanese by players, as opposed to the standard version, which was translated into English by Square.
Final Fantasy 5 (for the Nintendo Super Famicom). This game was not available in America. It used the idea of a 'Job' system in which a character could become any type of warrior he/she wanted. It involved the adventures of Bartz, Lenna (Reina in the re-released PS1 version), her sister Faris, Gulaf and his daughter Krile. They had to stop this wizard named X-Death that the Warriors of Light from another planet, in which Gulaf was a member, from taking all on the crystals of Fire, Earth, Water and Wind and using them to his own evil devices.
Final Fantasy 6 (for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System and Nintendo Super Famicom). FF6's plot focuses on a character named Terra. The game begins with two of the Empire's henchman, named Biggs and Wedge, and Terra, who's mind is being controlled by a device called the Slave Crown. They attempt to take a frozen creature called an Esper from a northern town, and in the attempt, Terra is knocked unconscious, and later saved by a member of the underground rebellion against the Empire. No relation to the Empire in Star Wars even though the names Biggs and Wedge were taken from the names of the two pilots that accumpanied Luke Skywalker in Star Wars in the final assault on the Death Star. This game was released as Final Fantasy 3 by Square of America.
Final Fantasy 7 (for the Sony PlayStation and PC). It is the first game where the character's names aren't arbitrarily capitalized. FF7 is also the first 3D-graphics Final Fantasy. FF7's plot focuses on a character named Cloud Strife. Cloud is beginning his employment for a group called AVALANCHE, headed by Barret Wallace, after for quitting from the Shrinra organization's super-soldier unit named SOLDIER for reasons that he cannot recall to become a mercenary. They are attempting to sabotage a Mako reactor, a device which drains energy from the Planet to generate electricity, to create monsters, and to create Materia, magical orbs. These reactors are created and maintained by the Shinra corporation.
Final Fantasy 8 (for the Sony PlayStation and PC). This game featured a huge leap in graphics and cutscene quality. A highly artistic addition to the series, it involved a bunch of orphans around 17 years of age who were adopted by a school for mercenaries called 'The Garden'. There are many such schools throughout the FF8 world and their main but secretive duty is to protect the world from the threat of powerful Sorceresses after the last one caused a great war. This addition to the series was surprising in its incredible level of detail, including ancient stories of a beat that gave humans magical powers, an atmosphere that makes radio transmissions impossible due to some secret, the mysterious lineage of the game's main character Squall Leonheart and a burgeoning love between Squall and a young girl named Rinoa Heartilly. While many hold that FF8 created a new zenith in RPGs for artistry and character/plot development, it came in for criticism for the opaqueness of Squall's motives and his unpleasant, unlikeable and distant behavior.
Final Fantasy 9 (for the Sony PlayStation). A return to Final Fantasy's roots - likable characters, a main character with an unknown past, and stereotypical examples of the original series' various character classes (unlike the "Job" system of FF5 and FFT, the characters can't change their type of fighting). Very enjoyable and fun and with a fairly in-depth plot. The plot revolved around a mysterious villan who needs the people of a devastated culture to gain power as he extracts magical beings from these 'Callers' bodies. There are several main characters Zidane, Princess Garnet a.k.a. Dagger, Eiko, Aramant, Vivi, Adelbert, Freya and Quina.
Final Fantasy 10 (for the Sony Playstation 2). Visually, much like FF8, in that the characters have normal proportions.
Final Fantasy Anthology (for the Sony PlayStation). This game is a compilation of FF5 and FF6, including some CG movies not available in the original games.
Final Fantasy Chronicles (for the Sony PlayStation). This was the second multi-release of old games for the PSX, including FF4 (which was included in the Japanese release of FF Anthology, but not in the US release, but was previously released in the US as Final Fantasy 2 for the Super Nintendo) and Chrono Trigger (also previously released for the Super Nintendo). FF4 featured new CG animation, while Chrono Trigger featured new anime style cutscenes.
Final Fantasy Tactics (for the Sony PlayStation). This game uses a completely different battle system then the other games, comparable to a game of chess in many ways. This game was Square's answer to Atlus' successful Ogre Battle series, which is similar both in concept as well as plot to FF Tactics. This was due, evidently, to several of the Ogre Battle developers coming to Square to work. In stark contrast to the other PSX Final Fantasy titles, Final Fantasy Tactics used a 3d, isometric, rotatable playing field, with bitmap sprite characters (the exact opposite approach taken with Final Fantasy 7). The plot revolves around Ramza Beoulve, the youngest son of an aristocratic nobleman, and his best friend Delita, who was taken in at a very young age by Ramza's family. Ramza and Delita are caught in the turmoil of the Lion War, a power struggle between two rival princes for control of the kingdom. Ramza must choose between his concience and his duty, while Delita must come to grips with his family's lack of nobility, despite his upbringing by the Beoulves.
Final Fantasy Legend and Final Fantasy Adventure games are for the Nintendo Game Boy), but properly speaking these were part of different series.
Final Fantasy Mystic Quest ran on the SNES, but was rather different than the other games. The combat system was different as was the game's format. An odd little gem and more oriented to the much younger player.
The Chocobos got their own game in "Chocobo's Mysterious Dungeon" 1 and 2 for Sony Playstation. Only the first version was released in the USA, and they were simple dungeon-crawls.