With the upcoming release of the successful "Final Fantasy 15" for Steam on March 6, the game series is looking stronger than ever. Final Fantasy games have been around over 30 years and have revolutionized the RPG genre several times, but the series has had many ups and downs over this time. Not just in game quality either: the behind the scenes aspect that follows the series is just as interesting.

So, I will go through all of the games in the "Final Fantasy" series and detail the most important points. Games will be rated on their most important aspects; the story, the soundtrack, game mechanics, and the characters.

I’ll also detail workings inside Square at the release of the games, and let you know how to get access to the games today

'Final Fantasy 1'

The very first game in the series and the start of a massively successful franchise could have so easily been the last. At the time of release in 1987, Square was on the verge of bankruptcy. Many believed they had one more game left before the company was to be shut down.

Previously resistant to creating an RPG due to their belief it would sell poorly, Square changed their mind after "Dragon Quest" was released and proved to be a success. They made "Final Fantasy 1" in the mold of more western RPGs like "Ultima" and "Wizardry." "Dungeons and Dragons" was another big influence on the game.

As you would expect from an NES game in 1987, the game itself was quite minimalistic. You create your team at the start and are tasked with stopping four Fiends from destroying the world. The story really does not go much beyond this simple concept. Because you create your own characters, they have very little characterization.

The game has a simple turn-based battle system. At the start of each turn, you decide what each character will do. Then your party and the enemies take turns using their moves depending on their speed. You can buy new equipment and magic as you progress through the game.

The soundtrack is also very simple, with a few notable exceptions.

Some tracks from this game are carried over to each game in the series, gaining them almost icon status. The main Final Fantasy theme, for instance, originated from this game.

“Final Fantasy 1“ ended up selling well. Around one million copies were sold of the original NES game, essentially saving Square from bankruptcy. Though the original is very much a product of its time, it has also been re-released for more present times.

The most notable re-release is for the Game Boy Advance in 2004. This re-release added new dungeons, updated graphics, and music, as well as changing a few other aspects. While the original game is known for its higher difficulty, the re-release lowered the difficulty somewhat.

'Final Fantasy 2'

After the success of the original game, Square decided to make a sequel. They decided against connecting the first game and the second game, to give the game a universal appeal. “Final Fantasy 2“ was released in 1988 to great success, heralded as even better than the first game. But, in retrospect, it was not the upgrade many said the game was.

The first big change to the game was getting a more substantial story. You play as Firion, a youth whose parents were killed by an invading empire. Together with your childhood friends, Maria and Guy, you joined the rebellion to try and stop the evil emperor.

If it sounds a lot like the plot of "Star Wars," that is because it is. The game does have a few extra twists and turns to it.

The characters do not get much characterization outside of the very start of the game. It also introduced a conversation system, where you used keywords while talking to other characters to gain details of the story or where you need to go. This was an interesting aspect, though could lead to frustrations too.

The biggest change to the game comes to the game mechanics. One of the biggest criticisms of the first game was the difficulty and the number of times you had to grind for experience from random encounters to get by. So, Square looked at different ways to change how strengthening your party worked.

They eventually landed on an activity-based skill system. What this means is the more you do something, the better you become at it.

If you use a sword during battle you will become better at using swords. If you use magic then you will be able to use more magic and be stronger with it. If you lose a lot of health during a battle, you will gain more health.

While this sounds like a unique and flexible way to build your characters, it instead led to even more grinding of enemies to boost your stats. Since your skills leveled up quite slowly and the monsters would get stronger as you go through the game, you often felt underpowered.

Enemies were either too easy and would not give you much skill, or too strong and you would have great difficulty to defeat them. This led to even more grinding on enemy encounters before you felt capable of moving on with the story.

The soundtrack is also quite basic. While not terrible, its hardware limitations meant that it could not have the same scope and detail as later iterations of the series. The game did introduce other recurring aspects of the series, notably introducing the first character to be called Cid. It was also the first game to have chocobos, one of the game series' most recognizable mascots.

The game was a success, selling around 800,000 copies. The game was never released outside of Japan for the NES, as the game translation was taking too long and the imminent release of the SNES meant sales would not be as substantial as it could have been.

The game was later re-released for the Game Boy Advance in 2004, bundled alongside “Final Fantasy 1“ in a package known as Dawn of Souls.

This updated the graphics, soundtrack, story and many other aspects. It still had the wonky leveling progression, but there are guides out there to help you out if you feel like dipping your toe into the game nowadays.

'Final Fantasy 3'

“Final Fantasy 3“ was released in 1990 for the NES, the last Final Fantasy game to be released for this console. This game introduced yet another staple to the series known as the job system. Each of your characters could switch between jobs outside of battle at any time.

So, if you wanted to be a warrior, you would switch to the warrior job. However, if you then decided to make your warrior a healer, you could switch to the white mage job. This led to even more flexibility to grow the characters any way you want them to be.

They reverted back to the leveling system of the first game, with experience leveling up your characters and your current jobs too.The story was also quite similar to the first game, where your party of characters is told they must restore balance to the world. Though the story is more in-depth than the first game, it hits a lot of the same beats throughout.

The soundtrack is more popular too, though the NES technology holds it back somewhat.This game was also not originally released outside of Japan. Square claimed they were too busy trying to get a grasp on the SNES technology that was just released and could not spare the manpower to translate the game into English. It wasn’t until 2006 when an English version was released for the Nintendo DS.

In 2014, the game was released for the Nintendo 3DS virtual console and on Steam, giving more people access to this game. Despite the lack of an English release, the game was very successful. It sold over one million copies in Japan alone, building a lot of expectation for the next generation of Final Fantasy.

In part two, we will look at the SNES era of "Final Fantasy," an era that many consider being the golden age of the series.