Yes, I must admit that, objectively speaking, I consider VI to be the high point of the series as well. That's not to say the other games are all that much inferior though.
Okay, because no one asked for it, here is Scutigera's review of every Final Fantasy game he has played:
Final Fantasy I:
Anyone playing this today would likely point out that this game is minimalistic to the extreme by RPG standards, and has numerous technical problems. Of course, this is being unfair, since console RPGs were still a new thing at that time (in the west anyway). For what it is, the game is pretty good, with a lot of replay value with the various different classes (without being so long as to make replays daunting). Since the story isn't too deep or long, it's actually a good game to play with friends, who can shout 'helpful' advice to the person controlling the party.
Final Fantasy II:
Actually looks pretty interesting, but I haven't played it. I own it, so I really don't have an excuse.
Final Fantasy III:
Haven't played this one either. Sorry.
Final Fantasy IV:
This entry into the series was fantastic, and really revolutionized not only the series but the idea of what a console RPG would be. The game was long, the story was involved, the characters were deep, and the music was fantastic. Some of the mechanics got on my nerves though. Why do you need to drop gold every time you run from combat? I also didn't like how the game killed off characters and stuck you with one end game party (I would have preferred to choose my own, although the end game party isn't bad). The random encounter grind in various dungeons can also be a bit much at times, but this is still a must-play for any fan of the series.
Final Fantasy V:
Maybe it's because I played this game as the Playstation port years after playing through IV, but I consider Final Fantasy V to be a step backward in terms of story complexity. This may have been planned, however, since there are fewer characters and the main theme of the game is customization (just like I and III). The story, for what it is, isn't bad, and even has a shocking plot twist or two. You can have a lot of fun customizing characters and playing around with various different abilities. The boss fights are also pretty interesting, requiring a good deal of strategy to deal with. A fair bit of warning though; the final boss is incredibly cheap, and will require either excessive leveling or a cheap strategy of your own (I like a chemist/mime combo). This game also introduced GILGAMESH! Interestingly, it also features the character Gogo from Final Fantasy VI (no joke, here is the battle:)http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m2JE9_qzPUw
I guess that technically makes him a Final Fantasy V character. He is one of the hardest bosses in the game, unless you do the above trick.
Final Fantasy VI:
Arguably the best entry in the series, since all of the elements come together beautifully. The story is epic, the characters are varied and likable, the soundtrack is one of the best in any video game, and the game play manages to mix challenge with customization, without going overboard either way. The art style is also amazing, and I still wonder how the designer managed to create such gorgeous 2d sprites.
This was the first entry to introduce a kind of character growth customization 'over top' of the regular characters. Unlike in certain future entries of the series, the characters weren't blank slates and each had their own strengths, weaknesses, and individual abilities (Blitz!). This allowed the characters to maintain their uniqueness, while still giving the player options for customization (if you wanted to make the melee fighters powerful magic users, you could). You might think that this level of customization would make the game easy, but the challenge stays consistent and fair throughout the entire game.
I also like how the first part of the game is fairly linear, whereas the second part is almost entirely open-ended. It's the best of both worlds! If you haven't played VI, do yourself a favour and give it a try. There is a reason why gamers who weren't even born when the game came out proclaim it to be one of the best entries in the series.
I know some people who are thoroughly sick of Final Fantasy VII by this point, since the game has had so many spin offs and products attached to its name. If you can look past all of that however, Final Fantasy VII is actually a pretty good game in its own right. The game was advertised like a movie, which was fitting because its story is very cinematic. There really aren't any long boring stretches in VII; the game starts out fast paced, and around every corner there is something interesting to do. Style-wise I love this game. True, the lego characters looked ridiculous even when the game first came out, but the junk filled
dystopia of Midgar and the rich, almost melancholy dungeon settings really appeal to me. The characters aren't as deep as the ones in VI (not all of them anyway), but they do carry the interesting story along well.
Game play wise VII works fairly well. I really liked the fact that this game had no huge level grind, and that you could walk to each boss fighting only the enemies in your way and have a good chance of winning. On the other hand, the game is definitely one of the easiest entries in the series. The game does become more difficult if you don't use summon magic; whenever I arrived at a difficult boss, I just spammed summon spells at it until it went down. Enemies can't attack while a summon animation is going on, so while waiting for one to finish I prepared another character to perform another summon. The characters are also lacking in uniqueness as far as individual abilities go; the 'materia' you attach to them pretty much determines everything about them, aside from the 'limit breaks.' Still, none of these things are game breakers, and the game's combat system is actually a lot of fun to play around with.
You might have been warned away from Final Fantasy VII for various different reasons, but it really is a fun, entertaining and at times even thought provoking game. It's worth a look.
Final Fantasy VIII:
If you have seen Spoony's review of this game, then you know what most of my thoughts are already. I can appreciate that Square was trying something new with this entry, but I honestly can't stand any of the changes they made. Instead of fighting monsters and leveling up as in previous entries, Final Fantasy VIII revolves around 'sucking' magic out of monsters and 'junctioning' it to your stats in order to make your characters more powerful. This makes fighting really tedious very quickly. It is actually a bad idea to fight monsters and earn experience, since higher level characters translates into higher level monsters that take longer to kill (yes, the game recycles the same monsters over and over again). The summon spells in this game, called Guardian Forces, have various useful abilities, including one which turns off all random encounters. It is advisable to do this, since random encounters with monsters are almost completely a waste of time.
So, if you don't fight monsters how can you get stronger characters? Why, by playing an annoying card game of course! By playing the card game 'Triple Triad' and winning cards, you can refine your winnings into magic and useful items. Some people like Triple Triad, but I consider it to be the most obnoxious mini game in video game history. Not only is it an annoying, randomized 'flip' game, but different parts of the world have regional rules that make the game even more obnoxious. You don't absolutely need to play the game, but it is necessary if you want to get all of the rare items and whatnot.
On top of everything else, the game play is so ill conceived that there are plenty of ways to entirely 'cheat' the system. For example you can keep the main character Squall at low health, and let his limit break annihilate almost every boss in no time at all. I really feel like another year in development would have corrected a number of these problems.
The characters are...okay. I don't really have a problem with them personality-wise, although I don't think they are developed very well at all over the course of the game. The storyline is rather ludicrous and full of plot holes, and although it does have its moments it is in my opinion ruined by the lack of consistency (SPOILERS: one of the main characters mentions out of the blue that the characters all grew up together, a fact which he never mentions or hints at before that point, despite having no reason at all to conceal it.)
Okay, I think I have ranted about my experiences regarding this game enough. So what do I like about Final Fantasy VIII? Well, some of the music is nice, and the monster and summon designs are awesome, and some of my favourites in the entire series. The final dungeon is also pretty cool and interesting, and the game marks the triumphant return of GILGAMESH. Not everyone has had my reaction to this game, and I know that some people consider it to be the best entry in the series. To each his own I guess.
And yes, I do like 'Eyes on Me'.
Final Fantasy IX:
I haven't played this one all the way through yet, although I suppose I should. The combat system is a return to form after VIII, much to my relief. Graphics-wise, it is one of the prettiest games on the original Playstation. Once again I really enjoyed the monster designs, although this time the various 'serious' monsters are mixed with amusing 'caricatures' of previous Final Fantasy monsters. The music is also top notch, and the boss theme is one of my favourite pieces in the series.
The story borrows elements from earlier Final Fantasy games, mostly from Final Fantasy I, but somehow I haven't found it that interesting (maybe it picks up later, I don't know). I'm not a huge fan of the character designs either, although their personalities are entertaining.
Final Fantasy X:
I didn't play this one until years after it had come out. It is one of the most linear entries in the series, but I liked the storyline so I didn't mind. This is the first Final Fantasy game to have voice acting, and the voice cast does a pretty good job in my opinion. Even the main character Tidus, often a reviled character, goes through an interesting and compelling journey into maturity over the course of the game. Sadly, there isn't too much replay value to X, since it is so linear and you can really do everything on a single play through. Even the airship flight is scrapped in favour of a 'point-go-here' system.
The music is great, and once again I am a big fan of the monsters (the flan seems to get center stage a lot this time). Game-play wise it seems almost like a spiritual successor to VIII, with a heavy emphasis on the summon monsters and character stat boosting. Unlike VIII however, the system comes together well, and there are only a few times where the system gets a bit unbalanced (the Magus Sisters for example). This isn't a bad entry in the series, and in my opinion is worth playing through once.
Final Fantasy X-2:
More of an intentional joke than a real sequel to X, X-2 is a game I recommend picking up for a used price. There isn't that much new content (most of the enemies and locations are recycled from X), and the actual story of the game is very short, but I found the non linear qualities of the game refreshing. You can do as much or as little of the various side quests as you feel like, and the game never takes itself too seriously. The job or 'sphere grid' system also works surprisingly well, and allows for a lot of interesting options when fighting the bosses.
There are only three characters, but they play off each other well. Considering how short the game is, adding more playable characters would probably only have served to diminish the story. The new character, Paine, is an amusing foil to the cheery Yuna and Rikku. I only really recommend this game if you are a fan of Final Fantasy X, and if you enjoy seeing a light hearted semi-mockery of a fairly bleak story.
Final Fantasy XI:
I haven't played this one, and I don't ever plan to. I don't enjoy most MMOs, and this one seems pretty bland to me. I have also read that it is pretty rigid in its various 'barriers', requiring players to work to a certain level before they can meet up with friends on different servers. So yeah, not a game for me.
Final Fantasy XII:
I was very glad to hear that the next installment of the Final Fantasy series would be a standard console game. It turned out though that Final Fantasy XII plays very much like a single player MMO, with large open areas to traverse and many side quests to do (most notably the monster hunting). This sort of thing wouldn't usually appeal to me, but the open areas of XII are actually fun to explore, and hunting the various monsters is also rewarding (in addition to items, you also receive various bestiary entries from them, explaining how they fit into the ecology of the world).
I was very impressed with the storyline of Final Fantasy XII, at least initially. The intro sets up what is essentially Star Wars meets Lord of the Rings, and for the first few hours of game play it moves along as you would expect it to. However, you soon find yourself chasing various mystical objects and getting away from the main story. While exploring the various dungeons is fun (and at times challenging), it leaves you wanting to learn more about the characters and get more involved in the world spanning events that are happening elsewhere (you are informed of what is going on by various well done cut scenes). Just when it seems like you finally have what you need to challenge the evil forces that are gathering and really dive into the meat of the story the game abruptly and unceremoniously ends. It seems as though the writer was just forced to stop because the game was getting too long. It's a shame, because the story did have a lot of potential.
The new combat system is based on 'gambits', which are little bits of code you can assign to your characters. In theory you can assign one character to be a melee combatant, one to be the healer, and one to be the spell caster so that during actual combat the player doesn't need to control every single command, which would get very tedious in the MMO style setting (since in most MMOs you only control a single character). In practice however, the gambit system inevitably shifts to everyone learning the healing magic (and not bothering with attack magic or summons, which are almost useless), and everyone using melee attacks. Most of the game was spent by me watching my characters walk up and beat a monster to death, heal, and move on to the next monster. By the time I reached the final boss I didn't have to press a single key, and was literally watching the game play itself. The gambit system was a good idea, but a flawed execution. Overall, Final Fantasy XII isn't a bad entry in the series, but certainly not the best. It does however have GILGAMESH!
Final Fantasy XIII has already come out in Japan, and it appears to be an attempt to recapture the popularity of Final Fantasy VII. I don't know whether it will succeed or not, but the story's basic premise seems interesting enough (even if the characters seem pretty derivative). I don't care for the mechanical summon monsters, and the combat system doesn't seem to be a huge improvement over XII, but I can't really comment on these things until I play the game for myself.
...Wow, that was longer than expected.