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Timeless Crystals: A Brief History of Final Fantasy logos

Final Fantasy, one of my favorite series of all time, recently celebrated its 30th Anniversary (1987-2017). It seems to me that now is a great time to cast back and take a quick look through a small but iconic part of each game: the logo. Each logo is one of my favorite pieces of art for its respective game. It’s sometimes simple, but it’s always brilliant and unique. But first, how about a brief introduction to the series for the uninitiated?

One of the most popular types of games before the advent of digital gaming is the Dungeons & Dragons tabletop role-playing game, introduced in the 70s. If you’ve never heard of it, it’s basically a board game where players create fantasy characters to use as avatars and use dice to choose their abilities, proficiencies, equipment. They then use these characters to explore a fantasy setting where they can defeat monsters and explore dungeons. It was (and still is) hugely popular and is commonly recognized as the beginning of modern role-playing games and the role-playing game industry.

The reason this is relevant is because Final Fantasy’s first iteration was more or less a digital version of Dungeons and Dragons and it’s pretty apparent once you look at it. FF has characters exploring dungeons, finding treasure and equipment, defeating evil monsters all while leveling up your party. D&D was already a popular and proven fantasy tabletop game, so it makes sense that it would be a great foundation for a digital role playing game. All the following games in the series build on the foundation that FF laid down in every conceivable way.

While all part of the same Final Fantasy series, each main title is its own unique story and experience. Each logo expresses that through beautiful artwork by the legendary Yoshitaka Amano. His artwork is inspired by japanese ukiyo-e (printmaking which are basically processes where one carves wood and/or scores copper plates, running ink, and and then transfers that ink to paper) styles which he blends with fantasy themes and descriptive colors to make each logo vibrant, descriptive, and unlike anything else. Which logo is your favorite?

*Warning: Possible Plot Spoilers*

Final Fantasy

The original has an image of the nameless Warrior of Light protagonist with his sword Braveheart at the ready. The plot of the first game is classic, timeless, and endearing. Rescue the princess, defeat the villain and save the world.

Final Fantasy II

FFII is set with a picture of its main antagonist, The Emperor, with a expression that says a lot without saying a thing. The game centers on a conflict by the Palamecian Empire, whose Emperor Mateus is using hellspawn to try to conquer the world. The protagonist, Firion, along with his allies Maria and Guy, join the Wild Rose Rebellion to fight them, and meet many allies along the way to try to stop the Emperor and save the world.

Final Fantasy III

FFIII has the Onion Knight in a dynamic pose- about to deliver a powerful double slash with his twin swords. The story revolves around four Warriors of Light who begin as Onion Knights in the original release (although they’re named Luneth, Arc, Refia and Ingus in the 3D remake). When they find the Wind Crystal, it grants them its power, and instructs them to restore balance to the world.

Final Fantasy IV

This logo displays the character Kain Highwind, longtime friend of protagonist Cecil and a major player in the plot. The game takes place in a medieval fantasy setting, and focuses on Cecil Harvey, the captain of the Red Wings of Baron. After performing a raid on Mysidia to steal the Water Crystal, Cecil and the knights question the orders of their king as they believed stealing from the Mysidians was wrong. As punishment for disloyalty, the king strips Cecil of his title, and orders him and Kain to win back his trust by sending him to the village of Mist. This sets Cecil off on an adventure in which he and many other allies he meets must uncover the truth and save the world from monsters.

Final Fantasy V

The dragon in the background is a wind drake, which you’re able to ride around the planet for quick and easy travel. They carry the main cast to and from a few main plot points in addition to playing key roles in rescue missions. The drakes have a huge impact on the cast, and are responsible for keeping the heroes' journey from ending too soon.

The game takes place in a medieval fantasy setting, and centers on a group of four strangers brought together by circumstance to save the Crystals that have mysteriously begun shattering. The one behind the phenomenon is the antagonist Exdeath, as part of a plan to release himself from imprisonment and gain the power of the Void, a realm of nothingness, which could bestow absolute power on one able to resist being absorbed by it. The four become the Warriors of Light and turn their attentions to defeating Exdeath and stopping the Void's energies from consuming their world.

Final Fantasy VI

The FFVI logo features Terra riding atop a Magitek Armor.

Final Fantasy VI focuses on a conflict between the Gestahlian Empire conquering the world and a rebel faction opposed to them known as the Returners, taking place in a fantasy steampunk-style world. The Empire has acquired a great army through experiments with espers, magical demi-gods of legend. The Returners seek magical power to fight the Empire on equal terms, and an amnesiac former imperial soldier, Terra Branford, our protagonist, proves key to both sides for understanding magic and espers.

Final Fantasy VII

FFVII’s logo shows the Meteor, hurtling through the cosmos after being summoned. The game follows the story of mercenary Cloud Strife, who is hired by the eco-terrorist group AVALANCHE—led by Barret Wallace—to help fight the mega-corporation Shinra Electric Power Company, who attempts to drain the planet's lifeblood as an energy source to further their profits. Apathetic to the cause, Cloud initially fights for personal gain, and for the promise he made to childhood friend Tifa Lockhart. Cloud eventually joins forces with many others to save the planet, which is threatened by Shinra and Cloud's nemesis Sephiroth, and discovers a reason to fight for a cause other than his own.

Final Fantasy VIII

Final Fantasy VIII is set on a fantasy world with science fiction elements, and focuses on Squall Leonhart, a young SeeD mercenary hired out to various missions by Balamb Garden. Squall and his friends are enlisted to help a group known as the Forest Owls led by Rinoa Heartilly, an endeavor that escalates into a conflict against the forces led by Sorceress Edea. The logo is Squall gently embracing Rinoa.

Final Fantasy IX

The logo for FFIX has the crystal ( a recurring theme in the series) that is found at the planet’s core and responsible for guiding souls. Taking place on planet Gaia, the story follows a thief named Zidane Tribal, a member of a thief troupe who is tasked to kidnap the princess of Alexandria, Garnet Til Alexandros XVII. He teams up with her and a team of allies to stop Queen Brahne and her ally Kuja from waging a war with an army of black mages.

Final Fantasy X

The game is set in the world of Spira, and follows the story of Tidus and Yuna. Tidus is a star athlete blitzball player, who is taken to Spira by Auron after a monster called Sin destroys his home city of Zanarkand. Tidus then joins the summoner, Yuna on her pilgrimage with her guardians to defeat Sin and bring about the Calm. The logo recreates an image from one of the game's most famous scenes, where Yuna performs a ceremony to guide a group of tragically deceased souls to the afterlife as part of her summoner duties.

Final Fantasy XI

Final Fantasy XI is set in the Age of Adventurers. The three main nations of Vana'diel, San d'Oria, Bastok and Windurst continue their struggle against the Beastmen who, although less organized, have regrouped and still terrorize the land. Rather than dispatching their own forces to deal with this threat, the nations of Vana'diel begin to employ adventurers (the player) to handle them as well as other minor tasks.

The logo is an army of warriors, representing the hundreds of real life people you could play with in FFXI's massive online world.

Final Fantasy XII

The game is set in the continent of Ivalice, in which the Archadian and Rozarrian Empires wage an endless war for power, and Dalmasca has been caught between the two and annexed by Archadia. Dalmasca's princess, Ashelia B'nargin Dalmasca, has created a resistance movement against Archadia to avenge her fallen kingdom, and along the way is united with a band of allies to seek a power capable of defeating the Archadian Empire.

This logo depicts the Judge Gabranth, an antagonist in the game in a powerful stance at the foreground of an aggressive stroke of color.

Final Fantasy XIII

Final Fantasy XIII is set on the world of Gran Pulse, above which floats Cocoon, an artificial biodome on which humanity lives, fearful of the surface world. Lightning, a member of the Guardian Corps military forces, goes rogue when her sister Serah is branded a l'Cie by a fal'Cie from Gran Pulse, designating her an enemy of Cocoon. The Sanctum government authorizes a Purge of citizens who may have come in contact with the fal'Cie, and Lightning meets up with the pilot Sazh Katzroy on her way to find Serah amid the Purge. Also caught up in the Purge are Snow Villiers, Serah's fiancee and leader of the anti-authority group NORA, and the civilians Hope Estheim and Oerba Dia Vanille. The five come into contact with the Pulse fal'Cie, Anima, and are branded l'Cie, seemingly with the Focus to destroy Cocoon.

This logo has Fang, Vanille and Ragnarok along with Cocoon stylized like Lightning’s pendant.

Final Fantasy XIV

Five years before the events of the game, metal-clad warriors invaded Eorzea with flame-spewing weapons and colossal airships. The army came from the Garlean Empire, and it didn't take long before the mightiest of the six city-states, Ala Mhigo, fell under their force. The other city-states united their power to defend themselves, but just as fast as it had arrived, the imperial army was gone. A new era began at Eorzea, known as the Age of Calm, which the city-states spent by building up their defenses and training their armies. Before, the cities had hired mercenaries for their inner wars, but now they trusted only professional soldiers, leaving the sellswords unemployed and restless. To keep them from causing harm and steer their energy into helping others instead, the city-states founded a network of adventuring guilds.

The logo depicts these adventurers bristling with weapons in a representation of the community that makes up its playerbase.

Final Fantasy XV

The story focuses on Noctis Lucis Caelum, a prince from the kingdom of Lucis who fights to reclaim his throne and must go on to fulfill a greater destiny. Final Fantasy XV aims to examine its characters' humanity and place them in a more realistic setting than most Final Fantasy games. Its prominent themes are friendship, destiny, and legacy.

The logo depicts Noctis’ betrothed, Lunafreya Nox Fleuret and the Astral god Leviathan.


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