What makes something a fantasy or science fiction? Take these authors’ definitions:
“…science fiction, given its grounding in science, is possible; fantasy, which has no grounding in reality, is not.” ~ Isaac Asimov
“It’s been said that science fiction and fantasy are two different things: science fiction: the improbable made possible; fantasy: the impossible made probable…” ~ Rod Serling, The Twilight Zone
“Succinctly: there’s a discontinuity between our reality and fantasy; there’s continuity between our reality and science fiction.” ~ Robert J. Sawyer
“A true SF writer is allowed only one unexplained scientific ‘miracle’ per story. Beyond that, SF becomes Fantasy.”
Each Final Fantasy takes place on
- fantastic worlds,
- with sword and sorcery (magic),
- common magical and fantastic monsters (such as dragons and goblins).
Exception: places like the overly technological areas of Midgar, Esthar, and Terra. They’re in stark contrast to simpler towns of Nibelheim, Balamb Town, and Alexandria… Fantasy doesn’t need to have a medieval setting (despite our associations with it). Each game contains technological advancements (like my medieval favorites VI and IX), but science still isn’t the focus. Then Final Fantasy VII, VIII, and XIII are actual fantasies with science fiction elements (albeit I admit that VII and XIII come really close).
Under both definitions, what’s purely science fiction? Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within. Let’s consider it:
- Takes place in a futuristic setting of our world (New York City, Old New York, USA, Earth).
- Focus is on the science.
- The Phantom “ghosts” are actually alien lifeforms.
- Cid…excuse me, “Sid” has a scientific explanation for the ill-termed “spirits”.
- Holograms, space (Zeus) cannon, Bio-Etheric weaponry, etc. and other “scientific” projects.
- No swords, magic, or fantastic magical monsters originating from our Earth.
- Aliens not common to Earth until fairly recently.
- And especially: No Magic.
This is why I think we received The Spirits Within so poorly. It was more than just a fantasy with science fiction, it WAS science fiction. Compare The Spirits Within to Final Fantasy VII, VIII and XIII and you’ll see the differences immediately.