Japanese Retro Gaming Sites and Final Fantasy Opinions

A reader named “hadley” recently asked me a quick question that I’ve been meaning to answer for a while:

Just wondering if you ever read japanese sites on retro-gaming. Do japanese fans keep websites like hardcoregaming101 ? Do they think differently about final fantasy than we do ? I think It’d be an interesting topic to write.

First, if you’re reading this and haven’t visited Hardcore Gaming 101, bookmark it now! In my opinion it is one of THE best video game sites out there in terms of actual, meaningful content. I’ve recently been reading some of the articles on there about the history of gaming in Korea and it’s incredibly fascinating stuff.

Okay, that out of the way… I sadly don’t do a lot of Japanese Internet browsing. I occasionally check out Japanese retro gaming stuff from time to time, but when I do I usually find myself at either tiny, personal blogs, very small sites, or trying to wade through an ocean of 2ch message board threads. I feel like it’s a whole different world and culture and that there are surely some really good resources out there that I’m missing, so if anyone reading this knows of any good Japanese retro gaming sites or whatever that have some level of curation, share your knowledge in the comments!

As for whether or not Japanese fans feel differently about Final Fantasy, I feel like that’s probably a gigantic topic that would probably span multiple articles of its own. Even among English-speaking fans there seems to be a wide difference of opinion about which games are better than others, which characters are the best, etc. So trying to compare Japan to the West might be a bit tough. I’m not even 100% sure what English-speaking fans think overall about the series. Is VII still the all-time favorite? Or has it hit the “overrated” backlash phase yet?

Still, based on only my limited personal experience, I’d say most of the praise I’ve seen over the years on Japanese forums and blogs has been for VII and X. Consulting lists like this seems to confirm that too. I’d like to find out more conclusive info sometime, but that’ll take a bit of work and digging up of old Japanese magazines probably.

Anyway, even though I wasn’t able to give much of an answer this time around, maybe some readers can give more helpful info. So if you have any info about good Japanese retro gaming sites or any info about Japan’s (or the West’s) opinion of Final Fantasy stuff, let me know in the comments!

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  1. Arguably, the West is split between Final Fantasy 6 and 7 in terms of overall favorite (the former largely being the “I was into RPGs before they were cool” camp, though it was a legitimately great game). Also, I can scarcely blame you for not spending much time on the Japanese internet. The rest of this world has this idea that Japan is, like, super high-tech capital of the world, and that it has great taste in visual design (hey there video game cover art), and yet this is the one place where Geocities is still around.

    1. It’s crazy, and I get the feeling the same thing happened with phones too – Japan used to have crazy awesome phones compared to the rest of the world, but then it felt like they just stopped evolving/innovating. I wonder what the deal is. It’s caveman times there now I tell ya

      1. A huge shame, since “plot and character-driven linear turn-based RPG” is one of my favorite types of games, as specific as that may sound. I also appreciate how the Japanese can make something cute and not assume it’s for kids under twelve.

        Japan has a recent crisis of not enough babies being born, resulting in too many elders compared to children. So, it makes perfect sense that it would be filled with crotchety seniors who distrust new things. Just a joke, but then again…

    2. I don’t think I’ve met a single person who loves FF6 as some sort of hipster “before it was cool” statement, which, if you think about it, is probably because it came out way too late for that — frustratingly, I can’t find sales data that separates SNES from GBA sales, but it sold hundreds of thousands of copies. This was not some sort of underground cult hit.

      If anything, I’d say FF7’s weird popularity has a *lot* to do with it being the first JRPG a bunch of people ever played.

      1. I’ve met plenty of FFVI fans who talk about what an overrated piece of trash FFVII is. These complaints often center around the main villain, for some bizarre reason. Part of their “I liked RPGs before it was cool” shtick includes insinuating that FFVII fans only like it because it was their first. In fact, you’re doing it right now.

      2. It was an RPG on the SNES. As far as western sales goes, that is all you need to know. It was AT BEST an underground cult hit, just like Chrono Trigger, Lufia, 7th Saga, Phantasy Star, Lunar, and … every other JRPG that made it out of Japan.
        MOST of those hundreds of thousands of sales are the GBA version, which is after FF7 made Final Fantasy a relevant brand to the english market, and the JRPG a relevant genre.
        Claiming an SNES RPG release was anything OTHER than an obscure niche title is little more than wishful thinking.

        1. You’re a bit lacking in historical context here. The Playstation massively expanded the audience for video games in general — comparing the reach of an SNES game to that of a PSX game is just silly. Taken in context — which is to say, in the context of SNES games in 1994 — FF3 was huge.

          1. Captain Jistuce

            I’m not lacking historical context. I was THERE.
            I BOUGHT FF3 when it was NEW.
            I bought it at the only store I’d EVER seen it for sale. A KMart or Target, I couldn’t swear which one. This was back when most video games were not bought at Electronics Boutique(predominantly a computer game store at the time, and not yet going by their initials) or Funcoland(exclusively used games), but at toy stores and department stores. For proper historical context. One did not preorder at Gamestop and go pick the game up on launch day, though Toys R Us had a standing guarantee that new releases would always be in stock if you came to buy them on launch day.
            It was NOT huge, except possibly by early 90s JRPG standards. It was an obscure niche title. Few carried it, few bought it, few played it.
            The significant price premium it carried over other, more familiar titles did not help matters.

            The PlayStation not only expanded the video game market in general(with an aggressive push to bring in “non-gamers” that bears strong similarities to most of the Genesis marketing campaigns both in tone and effect), it also expanded the share of that market that cared about RPGs by aggressively marketing “new” kinds of game that “weren’t possible” before.
            FF7 was basically the posterchild for that, due to the large collection of CG FMVs that allowed for VERY misleading ads implying the PS could actually generate those images.

            Most JRPGs before were flat-out denied US release licenses before FF7, because they WERE obscure niche titles and neither Nintendo nor Sega wanted them cluttering the shelves. The best-known example of this is Final Fantasy 5, though the original Saturn version of Grandia is probably the most dramatic example, since it blew up in Sega’s face a few months later when FF7 hit the US, people suddenly WANTED these walls of text, and Sega had told the only company that had brought them something similar for a US release to stick it where the sun don’t shine.

            It was not huge by SNES standards. Yoshi’s Island? Super Metroid? Street Fighter 2 Turbo? THOSE were huge. FF3 wasn’t even a blip on the radar.

            1. I was THERE, too. And while RPGs themselves weren’t all that popular, the one that got close was Final Fantasy III. That’s why Sony decided to push Final Fantasy VII over here, as III/VI was doing better.

              And I definitely saw it on store shelves as a kid, and, more importantly, it was available for rent, which was the primary way most people consumed games back then. You’d have a handful of your own games but rent out a bunch of others.

            2. I may be a year late on this, but I had to reply just to say that your experience is in no way representative. Final Fantasy was well known when I was in elementary school in the ’90s, and more than just “on the radar.”

              FF6 was the 10th best selling SNES game of all time at the time of it’s release. If someone knew 10 SNES games, they probably knew Final Fantasy. And five of the games above it were also either from the Mario franchise, Street Fighter franchise, or Donkey Kong franchise.

              Such prominence wasn’t limited to sales. FF6 also received incredible reviews — good enough to catch the attention of anyone searching for a new game (including some “best of 1994” titles). As a result, even people who had never played, or even seen, the game knew of Final Fantasy.

              And while FF7 was heavily marketed, it takes more than a fancy advertisement to convince people to buy into a “niche.” Grand Theft Auto is one of the biggest franchises of all time, but it wasn’t until the third game that it even passed the one million mark in sales. No matter the game, if it’s a “niche” it doesn’t sell well. FF6 was the game that brought RPGs out of being a niche into being something people recognized. And once that happened, it was possible for something like FF7 to explode.

  2. The big divide on Final Fantasy between Japan and North America, so far as I’ve been told, seems to be that Japan doesn’t view FFVI the same way we do. I’ve heard FFIII and FFV are much more highly regarded there, but given that they didn’t see contemporary releases internationally that might be an apples-and-oranges comparison.

    But you’d be the authority here, not me!

    1. I do remember the awe I got as soon as I started playing SNES III when it came out. It was such a big jump from the previous game we got. I guess maybe the jump wasn’t as big for Japanese gamers? Or maybe the story/presentation is just more in tune with Westerners? Man, the thoughts and research you could do about this could probably fill a small book 😯

      1. As I believe you mentioned previously, there was a large amount of work done on Kefka’s character for the translation, and that he was sort of a bland non-character in the Japanese. I expect that has a significant amount to do with it.

      2. I didn’t play any of the FF games until the GBA ports, and i did play them mostly in order. Even with going from IV to V to VI just like Japan, i still feel VI is the best.

        Also, i really do not care for Playstation era games. Of VII VIII and IX, i would say IX is probably my favorite, mainly cuz it tries to have a more old-school feel akin to the N-era games. But i think VII sucks. I had a hard time following the story, the graphics look like ass, and i friggin’ HATE the fixed camera/pre-rendered background style (a problem i have with all the S-era FF games). I much more prefer the way the DS remakes of the early games handled the 3D graphics and camera.

        Also, for the record, though i have X and XII, i never got around to playing them yet. I have no desire to ever get XIII, based on all the shit i’ve heard about it. I really like that 3DS music game, Final Fantasty Thetrmndmhm, though.

        1. I’m with you — 9 is the best of the PSX Final Fantasies. I think I liked 7 more than you did, but it was a stunningly mediocre game with way way WAY too many pointless movies. Final Fantasy 8 I think we’re all still trying to forget about.

          1. Why would people try to forget about a game that has high user scores on most websites? It even has 4.5/5 on the PSN.

          2. 8 I felt the story was alright, if a little flawed at times. The graphics and audio quality was WAAAAAYYYY better then 7. But the gameplay is where it flat-out fails for me. It took me probably around five or six attempts before i was finally able to get through the game all the way to the end just cuz that stupid Draw/Junction crap was so tedious and idiotic.

            If anything, i’d say the best thing to come out of FFVIII was this: http://youtu.be/H3UqsxddhbU?t=25m2s

        2. Opinionated Vector Chimera

          I prefer Final Fantasy V over Final Fantasy VI. FFVI to me is like FFV but far more story driven and specific. Final Fantasy V can be insane at times (ex. Atomos, Soul Cannon) but I like it that way. And the GBA port’s script is so funny, too.

          I’m also one of those few people in the world who likes Final Fantasy II. Yes, the original Famicom version.

      3. I’ve only seen speculation from Westerners, but a couple of the possible reasons I’ve seen for the Japanese preferring FFV to FFVI do seem pretty plausible.

        FFV is more light-hearted and “cuter” than FFVI, which works well in Japan, but less well in the west. It’s sort of like how Super Sentai generally seems to be more well received when it’s more light-hearted, while Power Rangers is better received when it’s darker and more serious.

        A huge chunk of FFVI is nonlinear, and some almost consider that part more akin to a western RPG than a JRPG, and that may have contributed to Japanese audiences liking it a bit less.

        And yes, Kefka’s personality was almost totally reworked by Woolsey, and the clown, as he was in their version, didn’t play well with Japanese audiences.

        Again, speculation from non-Japanese internet folks, so take that all with some salt.

      4. “Where are all the customizable character classes? Why is the villain not as cool as the previous ones? How does such a lame villain win so easily? Why does the plot vanish at the halfway point? In fact, where am I supposed to go? And why is this second half so bleak?”

        Well, I’ve heard it that way. It still got excellent scores from professional critics. But, as Other M shows, fans often have very different opinions.

  3. Over time, thanks to websites like yours I’ve noticed that the Japanese are immune to cheesy storylines and dialog, and in fact prefer it. Old JRPG’s are usually loved more by the west because of the limitations of the hardware you had to keep the story moving forwards and add in small dramatic or character building moments where they could.

    With games like VII they added even more moments and character involvement (the gold saucer etc) but the game needed to fit on three discs so they kept the story moving.

    Now with the space they have character involvement is pretty much all you get and XIII is a prime example. Characters never shut up and westerners hated this, hated the over the top story and most importantly hated the unrelatedable characters.

    But for the Japanese these characters are great, they love them being obnoxious idiots with no heart whatsoever.

    What I’m getting at is that for the Japanese, Fantasy story means fantasy characters. They don’t want to relate to anything, they want it to be as alien as humanly possible, which is fine if you like that but here’s an example of what it’s like for me.

    Imagine watching ET without the run of the mill American family? If it just about an Alien who landed on Earth and fucked around for a few hours, it would suck because the point of ET is that you relate to Elliot and his amazement of befriending an alien.


    Nowadays when I play a JRPG I’m BEGGING for a character I can relate to. At the moment I’m playing The 3rd Birthday, the gameplay is great but the story? DEAR GOD. I’ve never heard so many female moaning noises and muddled fuck of a story.

    Theres a part when a character points a gun at you and Aya is shocked to see him and I’m sat there thinking “I HAVE NO IDEA WHO THE FUCK YOU ARE”

    Anyway, rant over.

    1. You just have to remember that 3rd Birthday is a travesty of the PE series and most people have long since preferred not to associate it with the first two games any longer.

  4. From my very untested, American-who-knows-little-to-nothing-of-the-Japanese-or-their-culture, I’ve always understood that America was always a bigger fan of the FF series than Japan, and that the Japanese were always WAY more obsessed with the Dragon Quest series. Since none of the FFs really compare to DQ (unless you count the MMOs…sorta…and FF12…sorta…), they’re just not as popular for whatever reason.

    But…again…I’m a Joe-Blow-Schmoe who knows nothing.

  5. I don’t know a dang thing about Final Fantasy, but as far as RPGs go, I’m pretty sure the Tales series is waaaay more popular in Japan than outside.

  6. I’m pretty sure 4 s one of the most popular games over there, which is part if the reason why it has so many remakes.

  7. I know I’m late to the party on this, and as Doctor Fedora stated above, the West seems largely split into VI vs. VII as being the favorite and the two camps will start arguing with each other at the mere mention of one or the other. It can get quite heated.

    On the one hand, I agree that VII marked the beginning of the “mainstreaming” of Final Fantasy games and RPGs in general in the West. And because of this, I think fans of VII or later titles tend to get generalized as newcomers to the Final Fantasy series. (I find it amusing that one can be considered a noob for being fond of a game that came out in 1997, but here we are.)

    As for which ones are popular in Japan, to me it seems the very popular titles in the series tend to get official sequels and spin-offs. Specifically FFX-2, the Final Fantasy IV After Years titles, VII has Dirge of Cerberus and Crisis Core, etc. Dissidia Duodecim also is kind of a good barometer, as it seems the titles in the series that got more characters added tended to be from popular titles in the series (Kain, Yuna and Tifa all were added after the first Dissidia game.)

  8. I sometimes feel like I’m one of maybe 5 people on the planet (or at least Internet, anyway!) that likes BOTH FF6 and FF7.
    7 was my first FF game. FF1 could have been, but my uncle owned the copy, not me, so I never actually got to play it – and then I forgot the name for a good decade, until FF7 was suddenly introduced to me. But since emulation was possible for me not long after, I also got to enjoy FF6 and Chrono Trigger soon thereafter, so perhaps I got the experiences close enough together that I never ended up jaded against one or the other.
    Truth be told, FFX is my favorite FF game. 7 is second. After that, it gets hard for me to decide. (FF6 and FF9 are definitely high up there, though.) But I’ll really drop something here: What was my first RPG? (Well, if Legend of Zelda games don’t count anyway, since that can be argued to hell and back.) Secret of Mana. I rented it, not having a clue what I was in for, or what an “RPG” really was. Fell in love with it straight away. (Main reason, I think? MUSIC. I never heard music that beautiful from a video game before. Spirit of the Night…gets my nostalgic tears going every. Single. Time.) One of my biggest regrets of childhood was that I never got to finish it. I got to the Mana Palace, a point not long before it rose up and started flying around. I was so close to finishing the game. But unfortunately, Blockbuster sold it or at least got rid of it in some way before I could rent it again (or buy it, as I wanted it desperately for my birthday that year!), so I never got to finish it on console. It wasn’t until the days of emulation that I completed a run – totally worth it, but I still wish I hadn’t had to wait so long.
    Now, beyond that. The first RPG I ever actually finished? If memory serves…Pokémon: Blue Version. Say what you will, folks, about how “serious” or “deep” an RPG it is/isn’t, but I still think it qualifies for the genre. Anyway. It wasn’t until a year or two after that that I was (re-)introduced to Final Fantasy, through a friend I met since we were both into Pokémon, specifically FF7. He also showed me FF8, which didn’t impact me as much because Squall just kinda bugs me (and years later, I began to realize I wasn’t that fond of Rinoa either), and eventually FF9, which I didn’t get into as much as FF7, but it was still a great experience.
    So that’s my take.
    FF7? Good game, admittedly overrated (I love the game, and I’ll still say that yes, granted, it is overhyped, as it’s far from Godly or anything).
    FF6? Good game as well, and I wish I could have played it on the SNES, same as Chrono Trigger.
    And speaking of Chrono Trigger, I find it funny that the first PS1 game I ever got to own was Chrono Cross, a litte quirk of fate that I personally don’t mind since I’m very fond of CC.
    Is it particularly uncommon to find someone who embraces both 6 and 7?
    Though I will note. FF12, I seem to also be at odds with what I have perceived as the general consensus. Plot? Thumbs up. Gambits? Thumbs up. Battle system? No way, no thank you. It starts out fine, but by mid-late game, I have moments where I wanna hit something. Argh. As for FF13…the less said about that, the better. I have been in enough e-drama over my dislike for it, so I try to just leave it alone now. FFX2 though, I’m still fond of. Go figure.

    So that’s my two cents’ worth. I like both FF6 and FF7. Am I an isolated case?

    1. Actually, I’m fond of IV, VI, VII, VIII, and IX. None of them are the same, really. That’s the beauty of it all. Depends on your mood which is really good to play at what time. I like IV’s old school character with startling plot twists. VI was one of the first games I played that turns the “save the world from ending” plot on its head.

      VII was just different, experimental, stuffed full to the brim and confusing enough to warrant 3 good playthroughs to truly understand it all. VIII pulled back on the grand themes to some degree and tried to be very human and fallible. IX is a farewell Hallmark card to the FF games that came before, full of in-jokes and easter eggs from other FF titles and a battle system that was simple without being dumb(ed down).

      So, no, none of them is perfect, but I think every game tried to do something in it well and suceeded. Hope you feel less isolated, Bohepans!


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