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Final Fantasy is a science fiction and fantasy media franchise created by Hironobu Sakaguchi, and developed and owned by Square Enix (formerly Square). The franchise centers on a series of fantasy and science fantasy role-playing video games (RPGs). The eponymous first game in the series, published in 1987, was conceived by Sakaguchi as his last-ditch effort in the game industry; the title was a success and spawned sequels. The video game series has since branched into other genres such as tactical role-playing, action role-playing, massively multiplayer online role-playing, racing, third-person shooter, fighting, and rhythm. The franchise has also branched out into other media, including CGI films, anime, manga, and novels.

Although most Final Fantasy installments are stand-alone stories with different settings and main characters, they feature identical elements that define the franchise. Recurring elements include plot themes, character names, and game mechanics. Plots center on a group of heroes battling a great evil while exploring the characters’ internal struggles and relationships. Character names are frequently derived from the history, languages, pop culture, and mythologies of cultures worldwide.

The series has been commercially and critically successful; it is Square Enix’s best selling video game franchise, with more than 130 million units sold, and is one of the best-selling video game franchises of all time. The series is well known for its innovation, visuals, and music, such as the inclusion of full motion videos, photo-realistic character models, and orchestrated music by Nobuo Uematsu. Final Fantasy has been a driving force in the video game industry, and the series has affected Square Enix’s business practices and its relationships with other video game developers. It has also introduced many features now common in role-playing video games and has been credited with helping to popularize console-based RPGs in markets outside Japan.

The titles in the series feature a variety of music, but frequently reuse themes. Most of the games open with a piece called “Prelude”, which has evolved from a simple, 2-voice arpeggio in the early games to a complex, melodic arrangement in recent installments. Victories in combat are often accompanied by a victory fanfare, a theme that has become one of the most recognized pieces of music in the series. The basic theme that accompanies Chocobo appearances has been rearranged in a different musical style for each installment. A piece called “Prologue” (and sometimes “Final Fantasy”), originally featured in the first game, is often played during the ending credits. Although leitmotifs are common in the more character-driven installments, theme music is typically reserved for main characters and recurring plot elements.

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Nobuo Uematsu was the chief music composer of the Final Fantasy series until his resignation from Square Enix in November 2004. Other composers include Masashi Hamauzu, Hitoshi Sakimoto and Junya Nakano. Uematsu was allowed to create much of the music with little direction from the production staff. Sakaguchi, however, would request pieces to fit specific game scenes including battles and exploring different areas of the game world. Once a game’s major scenarios were completed, Uematsu would begin writing the music based on the story, characters, and accompanying artwork. He started with a game’s main theme, and developed other pieces to match its style. In creating character themes, Uematsu read the game’s scenario to determine the characters’ personality. He would also ask the scenario writer for more details to scenes he was unsure about. Technical limitations were prevalent in earlier titles; Sakaguchi would sometimes instruct Uematsu to only use specific notes. It was not until Final Fantasy IV on the SNES that Uematsu was able to add more subtlety to the music.

 

 

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