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In order: Final Fantasy XIII: Although I liked it well enough the first time around, it was during my second playthrough that I really fell for this game. I like the characters, and I found certain aspects of the main villain pretty cool. The way certain themes were handled went in some of the directions I've been wanting FF to go. XIII has one of, if not my favorite, settings and mythos in all FF. Yet what made me really fall in love with XIII is Masashi Hamazu's effin' awesome soundtrack, and IMO some of the best pacing in the entire series.
Not until I XIII, have I encountered an FF soundtrack where each and every damn track had something I liked. Tracks like Fang's Theme, No Way to Live, Blinded by Light, Nascent Requiem, and definitely Born Anew are what convinced me that Hamazu could easily take up Uematsu's mantel as FF's main lead composer anytime. As for the pacing, even on my second playthrough, the pacing of chapters1-9 had me chomping at the bit to get out of work/ class so I can play the damn game. Oh, yeah. I hadn't forgotten any plot details from the first time around either.
Final Fantasy XII: Although XIII is my favorite entry, prior to it coming out, XII was the first game in the series that I truly felt I could call my favorite FF, without a doubt. By far, FF XII has my absolute favorite implementation of weapons and weapon types in any RPG. EVER. Combine that with the choices presented for armor class, who gets what Espers, etc. and you have the FF that I find the most fun to play.
Speaking of Espers, XII has my favorite group of summons in the series. Which reminds me, don't even get me started on the level of detail in damn near every visual aspect of this game. I've always been a fan of ornate clothing and weaponry, and XII satisfies that need. By the by, I have XII to thank for my addiction to bestiaries. Sometimes I pop it back in the old PS2 Slim, just to reread it.
Final Fantasy XI: I'd ALWAYS wanted to play XI, since the day it was announced. However, especially as time wore on and MMO communites started to gain a sort of dubious reputation, I wasn't sure I wanted to have my experience tainted by elitests, griefers, and the like. However, a month before the pivotal Vana Fest 2010, I decided to take a good look at just what the FF XI community was like. Words can't express how pleasantly surprised I was. What's more, the very PvE focued nature of the game seems to have fostered quite the inclusive community. Once I found that out, I decided to make XI my first MMO experience, despite not knowing any others IRL who played. The aftermath of Vana Fest '10 just made my decision easier. XI has one of the most awesome, passionate, and talented community of fans I've ever associated with.
I joined for the experience, but the community made me stay.
I've been subbed to XI for over 2 years now, and I haven't regretted it once. Even for an MMO, from what I've seen of others, XI has one of the richest worlds I've ever seen. You can just tell XI was a game made with genuine care and respect for the series it represents. The music was another pleasant surprise. XI's many soundtracks are filled with some really good pieces. It was this game that put the very talented Naoshi Mizuta on my radar. IMO, Memoria de la Stono is one of Uematsu's best pieces. From what I've seen of it so far, XI has a very good story, and there is so much to learn about the world of Vana 'Diel, it could take you a good number of years to learn and see everything on offer. There is no doubt in my mind that Square's first MMO is more than worthy of it's number.
You know what the chain of command is? It's the chain I go get and beat you with 'til ya understand who's in ruttin' command here.