Final Fantasy’s sequential numbering conventions cause a lot of confusion among casual players. Each Final Fantasy game would suggest being a sequel of the other. Yet they don’t seem to follow the same storyline.
Each of the games is stand-alone stories, containing “different settings and main characters, they feature identical elements that define the franchise”. Fans of the series speculate these identical elements confirms a connection between each of the main games.
Some fans believe each of the main games from the Final Fantasy games connects. But how?
One theory: the same timeline. Many of the games don’t directly reference themselves. Maybe each one takes place thousands of years apart? This could account for the changes in geography over time. Examples include Final Fantasy V and VI, who’s worlds undergo a series of changes.
Another theory: the same universe. Each of the Final Fantasy games could be “the actual world to be one of the many possible worlds”; that each world of the games is a variation on the world. In this sense, each of the Final Fantasy games takes place on the same world, but in a parallel universe.
The strongest elements are the common elements.
Cid (シド, Shido?) is a character that has appeared, or been mentioned, in almost all Final Fantasy-related media; the main series, spinoffs, film and anime. Cid has become a Final Fantasy trademark, as with chocobos and moogles. He leads the list of recurring characters, which include Biggs and Wedge and Gilgamesh. However, each installment features a different Cid character, and his roles in the series range widely from a party member to an NPC to an antagonist.
Each game (except for the first) has a Cid, and each Cid just happens to be a mechanic/engineer.
Chocobos (チョコボ, Chokobo?) [ˈtʃoʊ.kɵˌboʊ], also called Chocob, are a recurring animal appearing throughout the Final Fantasyseries. Large avian creatures, chocobos roughly act as the Final Fantasy equivalent of horses, being domesticated for use as mounts and for pulling carts and carriages. Since their first appearance in Final Fantasy II, they have appeared in every game in the series in some capacity and are a mainstay of the games, and could be considered the series’ mascot. The character Chocoboalso serves as the protagonist of the Chocobo series of spin-offs.
Each game has a yellow colored Chocobo.
Summoned monsters (幻獣, Genjū?, lit. Phantom Beast) are a recurring element in the Final Fantasy series. They are powerful monsters that can be called into battle to fight by their Summoner. The exact nature of summoned monsters varies from game to game, but in some they are depicted as gods or demigods, and their role in the storylines has grown as the series has progressed.
Each game (except for the first two) have summoned monsters, many of them being variations of the same monster.
Gilgamesh is a recurring boss and antagonist in Final Fantasy V. The right hand man of Exdeath and declaring Bartz Klauser his rival, Gilgamesh fights the Warriors of Light on many occasions. Though antagonistic toward the party, Gilgamesh serves as comic relief.
Gilgamesh first appears in Final Fantasy V, and becomes the first recurring character in the Final Fantasy series. He appears in each game by jumping through the Void.
Biggs (ビッグス, Biggusu?) and Wedge (ウェッジ, Wejji?) are a recurring running gag in the Final Fantasy series. They almost always appear as a duo, and are named after Star Wars characters, Biggs Darklighter and Wedge Antilles, Luke Skywalker‘s Red Squadron wingmen in Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope.
Biggs And Wedge first appeared in Final Fantasy VI as playable characters. They, along with a mind-controlled Terra, search for an Esper (Valigarmanda) in the Narshe mines. Once they find it, “it reacts to Terra’s presence. Biggs and Wedge vanish in flashes of light and are probably killed” but could have very well been transported to the Void, jumping from world to world (or throughout the timeline).
The common elements are simply staples to the series. Like Gilgamesh, they’ve just become recurring elements linking the brand of Final Fantasy together, rather than the stories.
If the stories were to be connected through either a timeline or parallel universe, they could technically be considered sequels. And Sakaguchi himself has expressed his disdain for sequels, which were never his intention to make:
“I don’t like sequels, I hate them. That’s why every single Final Fantasy had a new cast of characters, a brand new story, [and] a different system. Our promise to ourselves is that for every single game that we make, we are going to give it our all, and then we finish it, we’ll end it in such a way that there is no to be continued checklist.“