Each Final Fantasy game falls under various science fantasy sub-genres. The first is steam punk, being the loosest of these (and why I didn’t do a post explaining it) with the simple description of “technology in a past setting, yet outside of historical context,” or what I like to call, “historically doesn’t make sense.” Think Wild Wild West, Steam Boy or Back to the Future III. The second is cyber punk, described generally as “high tech, low life,” or what I like to call, “our present world.” Third is space opera, described as “mankind has reached the stars,” or what I like to call, “an optimist’s idea of the future.” The last is post-apocalypse, which really speaks for itself, but what I still like to call, “our likely future.” The thing to remember is not what I like to call these sub-genres, but rather the associated plot tools that are borrowed and dominantly used for each of the Final Fantasy games.
Let’s start with the plot tools for Final Fantasy VI. This is the story given at the start of the game: “Long ago, the War of the Magi reduced the world to a scorched wasteland, and
Magic simply ceased to exist.” Reads a lot like post-apocalypse, doesn’t it? Funny that, let’s keep reading: “1000 years have passed… Iron, gunpowder and steam engines have been rediscovered, and high technology reigns.” And that sounds a lot like steam punk. I think that this beginning text speaks for itself as far as FFVI’s plot tools go, borrowing from the first and last sub-genres on the list. Moving on.
Now for the ever popular Final Fantasy VII. Where does the setting start off? Midgar is described as: “a post industrial sprawl where those on the plate live in luxury with access to technology that harnesses Shinra’s mako power, but those below live in squalor and poverty.” So high tech, low life you say? Sounds like cyberpunk to me. Well… classic cyber punk anyway, unlike the more recent cyber punk stories which focuses more on the Internet, VR and AI. There are also vague elements of steam punk, space opera and post-apocalypse here and there, but nothing as prevalent.
Considering I spent most of my last post praising Final Fantasy VIII for not having a bridging plot tool to be science fantasy but just being pure sci-fan, I don’t think I need to say much more than make a few excuses for the space opera elements in it, because they do go to a space base *wooh*, but it has nothing to do with how the world gained its sci-fi elements. If there was one plot tool for how Esthar became so technologically advanced you could mention the Lunar Tear event as being post apocalyptic…ish, but even that’s a little vague. FFVIII is by far the closest game to being pure science fantasy in the series.
(Spoiler) Next is Final Fantasy IX, which has the setting aesthetics most closely resembling the steam punk sub-genre, the airships being the most obvious element but also the frilly cloth and vested Victorian clothing worn by the main character and all over the world. However, the main plot tool that brought the main character and villain to this setting was in fact space opera. That’s right, the protagonists are vessels for souls from an alien planet who are sent to terraform the place, the mists from the terraforming device powering the airships and other technologies in this steam punk fantasy world.
I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, Final Fantasy X is the best post-apocalypse fantasy game. It’s a fantasy world created from a sci-fi world by an apocalypse, making it pretty clear that post-apocalypse is the key plot tool that made this game science fantasy. That being said, there are elements of steam punk that are shown through the forbidden machina that seem very out of place in such an archaic looking world. In a way, these plot tools are about the same as the ones used to bridge the FFVI world into the science fantasy genre, but the world of FFX is a lot prettier.
Final Fantasy XI, like most online games, is pretty inconsistent as far as its plot elements go (the same can be said for FFXIV). They wanted it to appeal to the widest audience after all, yet it somehow ended up appealing to less people because the online gaming community wasn’t their entire audience. That being said, this is one of the few Final Fantasy games passed FFVI that I can’t say falls under the science fantasy genre. This is because, like the earlier Final Fantasy titles, the dominant aesthetics of the setting resemble fantasy a little too much, despite the technology and the odd object in it. Adding an airship didn’t make the earlier Final Fantasy games steam punk, and nor does it for this one, but if that’s the case…
What about Final Fantasy XII? Airships are a the highest sci-fi element in that game as well, so should that be counted? Technically yes. The aesthetics are modernized enough to have rail roads, skyscrapers and wait for it… freaking hover buses! That’s right, Archadia’s technology is advanced enough to have what they call ‘skyferries’. If that’s not sci-fi tech, I’m not sure what is. If not for the airships and steam punk pirate styles being a keystones for the look of the world, this would be a close silver to FFVIII for being pure science fantasy. But alas, the aesthetics are advanced enough for the setting not to have that steam punk feel, nor does it effect the development of the plot… well, not entirely.
So there we have it, for the Final Fantasy fans at least, you can’t say I didn’t try to define my terms when calling certain books (as well as my own) science fantasy. My publisher may try to call Stuck in the Game cyberpunk, which has the connotation of being sci-fi, but I think I’ve made a good enough argument for why it fits under a genre with the word ‘fantasy’ in it. *Nervous Laughter* See everyone, my blog is called fantasy and anime, but that doesn’t mean I can’t pull off some mental flipflops to shill my book on it, right?
*Eyes shift quickly from side to side* RIGHT?!