Final Fantasy is a Lot Like Metallica

Metallica and Final Fantasy. At first glance, the RPG franchise and heavy metal band may not seem to have much in common other than often being labeled as “The World’s Most Popular” in their respective realms. However, their histories are strikingly similar, with both starting out fairly obscure but with loyal fan bases, then enjoying increasing popularity until each became one of the biggest names in their business. After that peak, each underwent stylistic changes that kept their sales numbers high for a while, but alienated a lot of longtime fans and drew the occasional poor review from critics. Today, both are still well-known, but not quite as popular or relevant as they used to be.

Don’t believe me? Here’s a brief history of the Final Fantasy series, with a Metallica Album Equivalent (MAE) listed for comparison. Take note of how much of what is written about each game could just as easily be said about the MAE as well. Then consider that, in all but a few instances, the Final Fantasy games and the Metallica albums that they are most similar to were released in the same order. It’s uncanny.

One quick note: Because some of the games weren’t released in the US, Final Fantasy V was actually called Final Fantasy II when it first came out in the States, and VI came out as III. I have used the original Japanese numbering to try to avoid much of the confusion that Square has wrought upon us with their insane concept of how numbers work.

Final Fantasy

One of the earliest RPGs released on consoles, the first Final Fantasy game was kind of unique for its time, but when compared to any of the later entries in the series, it’s easy to see that this title still had a long way to go. The game had some high points, but for the most part was simplistic, unpolished, and repetitive. It also didn’t sell particularly well at first; however, as later games caused the series to become more popular, demand for this title increased accordingly. Considering that fact, it’s probably safe to say that most people are interested in the original Final Fantasy more for its place in the history of the franchise than for its gameplay.

Metallica Album Equivalent: Kill ‘Em All

Final Fantasy II & III

These two games were never released in the U.S. (except for the recent reissues on Gameboy), but feature similar gameplay to the original, with minor improvements. Of course, the few people who managed to obtain a Japanese copy here probably didn’t care much about that anyway. Let’s face it, if you’re playing through a story-driven, text-heavy game in a language you can’t even read, you’re not really in it for the gameplay. You’re just doing it to prove to all the other nerds that you’re King Dork of the Final Fantasy Fanclub.

Metallica Album Equivalent: Foreign Versions of Kill ‘Em All with Bonus Tracks

Final Fantasy IV

Drastic improvements were made for this game, resulting in a title that was praised by critics and beloved by the handful of gamers that actually bought it. A lot of the hardcore Final Fantasy fans say this is their favorite, though it’s hard to know for sure how many genuinely feel that way, and how many are just snobs who say that to be different from all the mainstream fans that prefer the better-known Final Fantasy VI or VII. Just like with the original, interest in this title increased drastically once later games in the series made the franchise famous.

Metallica Album Equivalents: Ride the Lightning; Master of Puppets

Final Fantasy V

Though the few who have played it consider it one of the best of the series, this game was not originally released in the US. Its rarity later turned the game into a thing of legend as the series grew in popularity, and sometimes gamers even questioned whether it truly existed or was just a myth. Those few who had played the game were considered the most elite of all hardcore Final Fantasy fans…at least until it was reissued in 1999, as part of the Final Fantasy Anthology.

Metallica Album Equivalent: The $5.98 E.P., Garage Days Re-Revisited

Final Fantasy VI

Hailed by critics as a masterpiece, and considered by many (though certainly not all) fans to be the best game in the franchise, Final Fantasy VI was an important step in the history of the series. Besides being a deeper, better designed, and just all around better game than the previous entries, it was also the start of Final Fantasy’s rise to fame. After years of putting out good games that were enjoyed a small, but loyal fanbase, the series finally started to get some mainstream recognition with FF6. Strategy guides were written for the game, magazines dedicated editorials and features on it, and a growing number of gamers took notice. Superstardom was still a game away, but this was the title that moved the series of out the realm of the obscure.

Metallica Album Equivalent: …And Justice for All

Final Fantasy VII

While the previous installment may have started to give the series some name recognition, this was the game that truly made it famous. No other RPG, and very few games in general at the time, ever had the massive tidal wave of hype and publicity that surrounded Final Fantasy VII’s release. It was also the first real “crossover RPG”, a role-playing game that appealed to people normally not interested in the genre. While good marketing certainly helped, one cannot overlook the quality of the game itself, as FF7 was considered by many to be one of the best games to be released not only that year, but of all-time. But not everyone was happy, as some fans felt that the series was “selling out” and straying from its RPG roots in order to sell more copies. This was a small number of dissidents at the time, but their numbers would grow as later installments continued this trend.

Metallica Album Equivalent: Metallica (aka “The Black Album”)

Yuna and Lars

Final Fantasy VIII

Although eagerly awaited by gamers and the gaming media, the follow-up to FF7 left many feeling disappointed. The biggest source of outcry from fans was the game’s graphics, which were more realistic and modern-looking than any of the previous games in the series. While that may seem like a superficial change, many felt that the “new look” was symbolic of a deeper stylistic change in the series. But that was just one of many reasons why this game failed to impress; others complained that the characters were becoming unlikable, and that the gameplay was repetitive and uninspired. Another problem was that the RPG market had become overcrowded (ironically, this was due largely to the success of Final Fantasy VII), and FF8 failed to stand out much from the rest of the crowd. Whatever the reasons may have been, the bottom line was the same: this was the first Final Fantasy game that wasn’t very good. It remains a low point for the series even to this day.

Metallica Album Equivalent: Load

Final Fantasy IX

Following the backlash that VIII (and to a lesser extent VII) caused among fans, Square promised to get the series back to its roots with Final Fantasy IX. And while some token effort was made to this effect, the game never truly lived up to this promise. Instead, it felt almost as if they had taken some older, never-released game and “improved” it by making it play like one of the more recent titles, with grainy pre-rendered graphics, annoying secondary characters, boring side-quests, and a story that went absolutely insane by the third act. As a result, the promises of going back to their old style went unfulfilled, and this entry ended up feeling a lot more like one of the newer Final Fantasy games than any of the older ones.

Metallica Album Equivalent: Garage, Inc.

Final Fantasy X

After failing to recapture the old magic with FF9, Square decided to give up on clinging to the past and simply embrace what the series had become. Final Fantasy X was a virtual celebration of everything that old-school fans had hated about the more recent entries: a futuristic setting, throwaway characters, and horrible minigames that were given more attention than they deserved. While all these changes did manage to bring in some new fans, this was the last straw for many longtime fans. This game was basically Square’s way of telling them “Screw you, this is what the games will be like from now on, and we both know you’re going to buy it since it says Final Fantasy on the box.” Nevertheless, it ended up being one of the best-selling games in the series.

Metallica Album Equivalent: Load (again)

Final Fantasy X-2

One fairly unique thing about Final Fantasy is that none of the games in the series are true “sequels”; each takes place in its own world, with new characters, and a storyline that is completely unrelated to any of the previous games. This all changed with Final Fantasy X-2, which chronicled the adventures of Yuna after the events of FFX. The game had a lukewarm reception, as to a lot of critics, it seemed like it was just a lot of leftover ideas from FFX that were haphazardly thrown together into a new game in order to make a quick buck. Sales were relatively low for a Final Fantasy game, and many fans felt that if the franchise was going to break tradition and finally make a true sequel to one of their games, they probably could have chosen a better candidate than Final Fantasy X.

Metallica Album Equivalent: Reload

Final Fantasy XI

With its popularity declining and many accusing the franchise of becoming stale, Square decided to shake things up by making FFXI an online-only MMORPG. The problem is, the appeal of the other Final Fantasy was that they weren’t anything like online RPGs, so this was kind of the opposite of what most fans wanted. And even if it had been, FFXI still wasn’t as good as a lot of the other MMORPGs that were already out there. In fact, the effort to make Final Fantasy an MMORPG was so half-assed that it ended up being pretty much the same old Final Fantasy, except now you could play it with other people. Which is a great idea, since Final Fantasy fans are so socially well-adjusted.

Metallica Album Equivalent: S&M

Final Fantasy XII

Amid declining popularity and after a few years out of the spotlight, the series returned with its twelfth installment. Some fairly significant changes were made to keep up with the times (no more battle screens), but the game managed to retain a familiar feel. It was well-received by fans and met with moderate praise by critics, although the gaming public collectively responded with a surprised “Oh hey, I didn’t know they were still making Final Fantasy games.”

Metallica Album Equivalent: St. Anger

That's all, candy-asses!

~ fin ~

(“Final Fantasy Band” featured image by batba)

Brad Hates Games Written by:

BHG grew up in the frozen post-apocalyptic wasteland of Buffalo, NY (itโ€™s like the old Soviet Union but more depressing), recently escaped to the (relatively) sunnier skies of Seattle, and does freelance work when writing for an unpopular blog about 20 year old video games fails to pay the bills.


  1. zfunk007
    February 9, 2008

    Dammit Brad… congratulations for coming up with a comparison that I never would have thought of in a million years… I do love Metallica, and some of the Final Fantasy’s (I’m one of those original fans that was pissed off from the change I guess, Metallica on the other hand, the change didn’t bother me so much).

    But you really do love knocking on the Final Fantasy fans. I seem to remember a rant you wrote one time bashing Final Fantasy 4. But your right, I really don’t know why it’s my favorite, it just is. But this IS the Jaded Gamer… So your right ๐Ÿ™‚

    • February 13, 2008

      Honestly, I’m still not sure how I ever came up with this one, but once it got going, I was surprised at how well some of the comparisons worked.

      As for loving Final Fantasy and Metallica… well, I couldn’t have done all this without a healthy knowledge (and appreciation) for both, as well as disappointment with how things have turned out lately. Why I enjoy Final Fantasy games is something I might never fully understand – if you were to explain any of the games to someone who has never played an RPG before, you’d probably spend a lot of time going “but it’s actually fun! No, really!”

      • Kalinsias
        February 29, 2008

        If you’re truly able to coherently explain any FF story since 7, I’d be impressed. ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. February 29, 2008

    I may lose my gamer card, but aside from a few disappointing hours in Final Fantasy XI, I haven’t played any of the games since VII.

    Despite being a HUGE fan of VII (I was quite crazy about it “back in the day”), I never moved onto VIII because Kalinsias told me that it thoroughly sucked. By the time IX came around, I just kinda stopped giving a shite about the series altogether. *shrugs*

    • March 3, 2008

      As someone who played FF 9 and 10 I can honestly say that you didn’t miss much. They were both kind of fun, but I still look back and think “Did I really not have anything else better to do?”

      • March 3, 2008

        But wasn’t the Blitzball portion of FFX one of the greatest things to have ever been in a video game? ๐Ÿ˜‰

        (I seem to remember somebody proclaiming such as that around these parts a few years ago.)

        • March 3, 2008

          Heh, wasn’t me… I played Blitzball the one mandatory time and never looked back. I didn’t like it, but I never understood why people got so upset of how bad it was – it was an optional mini-game after all.

  3. Kalinsias
    March 7, 2008

    The last FF game I was really excited about was XII, and that was because of Yasumi Matsuno’s involvement with the project. He was the man behind the original Final Fantasy Tactics, which had a far more grown-up storyline than typical FF fare. FF XII was even set in Ivalice, the same world as FFT (although I didn’t care for how the voice actors in XII pronounced it…I had always said it with a long first i). However, Matsuno had to leave the project due to health concerns – or so I hear…there’s a lot of speculation about the exact reason.

    The overall story is better than previous installments, but still goes a bit off the deep end. They started out with this very real feeling struggle – two empires about to duke it out, with the main characters – citizens of a relatively tiny kingdom located in between the powers – wondering how to regain their independence. They even started things out with deep-feeling characters – all had their flaws and such. I really enjoyed the first 20 hours or so of it. Towards the end, when the Secret Powers Manipulating the EventsTM (a FF staple) are introduced, it kind of lost my interest. If they could have left that crap out and finished it out how they started, it would have been much better. It’s combat system kicked total butt, though. I can hardly play an RPG with random encounters now. The downside of that was that they totally gimped the summon monsters, however.

    RE: FF VIII, It is easily my least favorite of the series, and the point at which I began to wonder if Sakaguchi and team had lost their story-telling mojo. It didn’t help that Squall Leonhart was a complete unlikeable jerk, either. He was Cloud Strife minus the overwhelming charm.

    FFIX was supposed to be a “return to the basics of FF.” Hmph. Apparently what that meant to the Square people was “the screwed up characters” look. As in “and nothing else.” They certainly didn’t put aside the hash pipe when writing the story. This is the one that really becomes an incomprehensible mess towards the end. To steal a phrase from Maddox, the end boss (Necron) was introduced so abruptly he might as well have parachuted into the scene and challenged the characters to a fight.

    After that train wreck, FFX was a step up. Until farther along in the game, that is. The story to this one made sense, believe it or not. Or it was well-told enough that I followed what they were talking about. But we can’t have a PS era FF without mind-numbing flaws, can we? No…. This one introduced the intentionally frustrating mini games that must, for some reason, be fun to the Japanese (on a COMPLETELY unrelated note – I’ve heard that BDSM-style torture is huge over there these days). Blitzball, you say? Ha…amateurs designed that. The REAL gamer-haters came up with the tasks necessary to unlock the powers of the characters’ ultimate weapons. Collectively, these tasks are so stupid, and so intentionally frustrating, that I really can’t chalk it up to bad decisions. It HAS to be that the people designing them were exorcising some deep-rooted hatred of gamers. A chocobo race where you have to collect enough bonus time balloons so that you end up with a negative race time overall. With bad controls! Dodging 255 consecutive bolts of lightning on the Thunder Plains. WITH the patterns changing about every 50 dodges! Catching butterflies in a certain amount of time! BUT only the blue ones! Idiotic…

    FFX-2: Square’s attempt at pulling in the Mary Kate and Ashley audience (and by that I mean both the people that actually bought MK&A games as well as the ones that had websites with “Countdown to Mary Kate and Ashley’s 18th birthday” timers on them). Either that, or a statement to gamers: “Quit bitching or we’ll make more of these.” The damn thing FEATURED dramatic costume changes and Britney-style pop music! I take it back – Square was testing us. They were trying to prove that they could basically take a dump into a DVD case, stamp “Final Fantasy” on the outside and it would sell. Of course, it got perfect scores from the gaming press. Rat bastards, the lot of them.

    Sorry. Didn’t mean for this to become a manifesto. Short response – yeah, I agree. VII was the high-water mark. I’d love for them to re-release it using the Crisis Core engine (but on PS3 instead of PSP).

    • Kalinsias
      March 8, 2008

      Cripes. I just realized how similar my Stephen King novel diarrhea of the keyboard response was to Brad’s comments about the games. The only thing worse than posting when you’re sick with a cold is posting while zapped on cold medicine. My bad, man.

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