Final Fantasy Football
Final Fantasy Football is a game in which participants play the role of a football club manager, assembling a fantasy team (or party to use the sporting parlance) made of their favourite players. After forming a party of 3 footballers (4 in older versions), the manager then earns points based on how well those players perform in real life. It is typically run in magazines, over the internet, or in your imagination. Punters tend recommend the latter, due to the fact that you always win..
Who Plays it?
The game is played by people who have no skills on the pitch themselves, but believe that they could manage a team better than Omega Weapon himself if someone would just give them the chance, despite the fact that the only real experience they have of the game is watching it on TV.
The league has become a very popular hobby as of late, it has been reported that some play it as regularly as 12 hours a day. This has obviously caused great concern, and many people have called for the game to be banned, accusing it of promoting childhood obesity, lack of social skills and copycat crimes. Others see it as no more than a harmless surrogate for a failed athletic career.
The idea of a fantasy league is very old, and has been played by humans for generations, often in all-male social environments such as pubs, coal mines and prisons. Recent evidence suggests that the fantasy league may even predate the real one, a mind-blowing 'chicken/egg' situation that people generally prefer not to think about.
It was patented by the Final Fantasy Football League Ltd. in 1987, and published in their two supplements, Official Nintendo Magazine and Match!. The very first Final Fantasy Football League, an oxymoron of sorts, was played on the pages of those two magazines, with a few curious readers sending their team list in via post.
It wasn't until 10 years later however, during the 7th official league, that the game really took off. During this time, people from all over Europe (who had previously dismissed it as something only teenage boys do) signed up for the first time in legions. Although many fans still prefer its less pretentious predecessor, it became a worldwide sensation, garnering excellent critical reviews from top punters such as Gary Lineker and Hironobu Sakaguchi. It also spawned a successful TV series, hosted by 'laddish' comedians Frank Skinner and Yoshitaka Amano, although they spent most of the show just watching replays of Tifa's boobs bouncing over and over.
In 1997, tragedy struck when world-famous City of the Ancients FC striker Aerith Gainsborough died of liver failure (caused by being stabbed through the abdomen). This resulted in international dismay, and her death still generates many headlines for newspapers even now. The horrific event is documented in Alan Hanson's Football Injuries 2: Greatest Game Overs, which is widely available on Betamax. Fans have tried endlessly to recruit her as a player since, although it always causes their game to crash, even when they're playing it in a magazine.
How to Take Part
To play, one must sign up to one of the various competitions, and then at the start menu, select new game. You will start with a small amount of cash, normally no more than 1,000 Gil. However more can be acquired on the pitch, either from chests or lifted from the dead bodies of slaughtered players.
This money is used to purchase the members of your party. All real life players are available to you, there are, however, certain limitations. For instance, many of the best players are unaffordable early on, and traditionally every team much include at least one Cid.
Participants are offered the choice of naming their team. If they choose to do so, the commentators will not be able to pronounce it, as their AI is not very advanced. They will subsequently refer to the player as "that guy" or "you there", or sometimes "star player of the Zanarkand Abes". Alternatively, there are a number of automatic names, which in Final Fantasy tradition are all weather-based. If you decide at a later date that you don't like your name, you can recruit the rare player Namingway who will change it for you. He plays for The Midgar Chocobos and is a mediocre defender.
As you move through the league, your players accumulate experience points. These can be used to increase your players' stats, to learn new abilities, or to kill large amounts of time while you wait for death. However, the ultimate aim of the game is to win all four leagues with your chosen team. The prizes are as follows:
- Barclays Premier League - Fire Cup
- Coca Cola League One - Ice Cup
- Tactics League - Earth Cup
- Crystal Chronicles League - Wind Cup
There is also a hidden sidequest that allows you to play another secret league, which based on the Chocobo Waterpolo League. From this it is possible gain the ultimate weapon, the imaginitively named; The Ultimate Weapon.
Once you have acquired all four cups, you will be transported to the final boss - Manchester United - the team who stole all the football trophies from good teams and used them in an evil plot to take over the world.
Gaining and Losing Points
Points, known as 'exp', are awarded depending on how well your players perform in their actual teams. So, for example, attackers get points for scoring, keepers for saving goals, and midfielders for... well, whatever it is they do.
You will receive exp for the following actions:
- Playing in a match
- Scoring (refers to both scoring goals and scoring with members of the opposite sex)
- Blocking a goal
- Making an assist (I don't know either)
- Keeping a clean sheet (very important as dirty sheets mean dirty minds)
- Being man of the match
- Maintaining hairstyle
- Killing one of the opposing team (fouls however, count against you)
- Performing the macarena while standing over the ball
And you will lose exp for these actions:
- Being offside
- Receiving a yellow or red card (yellow = poison, red = death)
- Scoring an own goal
- Getting ko'd
- Calling the referee a 'spoony bard', one of the greatest insults in sport.
- Manager touchline ban
- Watching the opening of Monday Night Football
As stated earlier, the better players cost more Gil, meaning those taking part will have to work hard to be able to afford them. Among the most sought-after players are:
- Tidus - plays for The Zanarkand Abes. He is one of two players able to perform the infamous Jecht Shot. He is known for his heated rivalry with his father Jecht, who currently plays for Sporting Linblum. The two finally faced off at Carves of Narshe Stadium in 2002, where Tidus famously brought the game back from a near 4-0 defeat with a shocking free kick that scored 13 goals at once and killed all the opposing team, thus saving the world.
- Sephiroth - plays for Deling City. He has the best stats of any player and can play anywhere on the pitch, however, he insists upon wearing the number 1 shirt regardless of his position. There was some controversy back in the 90s when it was discovered the club's manager, Hojo had illegally cloned the skilled player and used the resulting lifeforms to fill his squad. Luckily, the plot was thwarted by 1998 cup final, thus saving the world.
- Zinedine Zidane - A chirpy young street urchin and ladies' man. He was believed for some time to be French, however he later discovered he was from a planet called Terra. He drew widespread criticism for headbutting fellow player Kuja in the 2006 World Cup. Zidane defended his actions however, stating that Kuja "started it" by pulling his tail, and that he only did it "to stop him from taking over the world."
- Christiano Ronaldo - plays for Real Costa del Sol. When not playing football, he makes a living as the notorious sky pirate, Balthier.
- Gilgamesh - plays for The Moon Sponsored by Pepsi. He is the ultimate keeper due to his many arms and canine companion Enkido, who will attack any player who approaches the goal. His special ability is to cause exciting music to play whenever he comes on to the pitch.
Once you have signed who you want, there are a number of job classes available to your players, and you can place them in any of the following positions:
- Back Row (DF) - The back row are your defenders, and thus, you may want to give them your best armour. The most overlooked of football players, they spend much of the game hanging around at the back, relaxing. Their only real skill is steal, which allows them to steal the ball, though at later levels they can also use mug, a technique that is not supported by the Football Association.
- Midfielder (MF) - Nobody is really sure what midfielders do, but they are usually the team leaders, and thus stand in the front-centre of the party. As team leaders, they are also responsible for merging their teammates inside them so they can walk around as a singular entity. They are advised against doing this during matches however, as it leaves the goal wide open. A good midfielder will also score goals, although they may require the Long Range Materia to accomplish this from their position half-way up the pitch.
- Attacker (AT) - It is the attacker's job to fight and kill his (or her) way to the end of the pitch, in order to take on the boss - the goal and its keeper. If successful, the attacker scores, and the victory fanfare plays. Gamers should be weary that attackers are highly susceptible to the status effect beserk and may want to equip their front row players with a Ruby Ring to make them immune. Other useful items include The Hand of God - a legendary glove worn by Diego Maradona which allows hand-goals, and Mythril Socks - which are self-explanatory.
- Goal Keeper (GK) - Your last line of defence, the GK is literally the keeper of the Goal - a boss monster faced by players who reach the end of the pitch. It can only be defeated by kicking the football into it's huge rectangular mouth, although it will always fight back with its powerful spell Offside. The goal keeper has mastery of the beast, and must protect it with all his might, using spells like wall and barrier to block attackers.
- Black Mage (BM) - The Black Mage position should be filled by a player who possesses formidable magic powers. As they level up, they progress from using fairly pedestrian fireball-type spells to being able to pull down the sun to crush the opposition. Despite this, most managers employ the time-tested tactic of having their Black Mage use its pitiful melee attack with the only weapon it can equip: the lowly staff. This is probably due to the lengthy cutscenes required, which severely eat into the 90 minute time limit.
It should be noted however, that most players are naturally suited to one specific position, so choose wisely.
Newer versions of the league also boast a wide array of extra features, with each subsequent version offering more and more add-ons. Some of these have been positively received, but mostly not. This is largely because fans of the series don't like change.
Another special feature allows participants to recruit WAGs. WAGs stands for White-mages And Girlfriends, and these days are a popular part of sporting culture. In Final Fantasy Football they are used to gain extra points, as well as support your squad with their white magic.
There are many WAGs featured in the league, and again they are based on the real life counterparts of famous athletes. Also like the players, the points that your WAGs earn depends on the actions of those WAGs in reality. For example, whilst players earn points for sporting triumphs, WAGs will be rewarded for every photograph of themselves in the magazines, every awful single they release, and every affair they survive.
WAGs inclusion in sports has been a controversial one, and the same can be said of Fantasy sports. Many have criticised them for pulling attention away from the game, and blamed England's loss at the 2006 world cup on that very fact. Others were more sympathetic, claiming that "it's not their fault the opposing team keep kidnapping them".
Early versions of Final Fantasy Football had no substitution system, but later ones have allowed players to emulate the real life practice of using summon magic to supplement their squad. When one of your team is booked, sent off, or ko'd, you are given the option to summon a monster, such as Ifrit or Knights of the Round, to replace them.
Fans and critics agree that the inclusion of sumstitutes (Or subbons, depending on the translation) makes play far more exciting due to their immense size (almost half the size of Peter Crouch!).