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Stories in the series frequently emphasize the internal struggles, passions, and tragedies of the characters, and the main plot often recedes into the background as the focus shifts to their personal lives.[23][75] Games also explore relationships between characters, ranging from love to rivalry.[3] Other recurring situations that drive the plot include amnesia, a hero corrupted by an evil force, mistaken identity, and self-sacrifice.[3][76][77] Magical orbs and crystals are recurring in-game items that are frequently connected to the themes of the games' plots.[74] Crystals often play a central role in the creation of the world, and a majority of the Final Fantasy games link crystals and orbs to the planet's life force. As such, control over these crystals drives the main conflict.[74][78] The classical elements are also a recurring theme in the series related to the heroes, villains, and items.[74] Other common plot and setting themes include the Gaia hypothesis, an apocalypse, and conflicts between advanced technology and nature.[74][76][79]

The series has received critical acclaim for the quality of its visuals and soundtracks.[46] In 1996, Next Generation ranked the series collectively as the 17th best game of all time, speaking very highly of its graphics, music and stories.[155] It was awarded a star on the Walk of Game in 2006, making it the first franchise to win a star on the event (other winners were individual games, not franchises). WalkOfGame.com commented that the series has sought perfection as well as having been a risk taker in innovation.[156] In 2006, GameFAQs held a contest for the best video game series ever, with Final Fantasy finishing as the runner-up to The Legend of Zelda.[157] In a 2008 public poll held by The Game Group plc, Final Fantasy was voted the best game series, with five games appearing in their "Greatest Games of All Time" list.[158]

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Magic is another common RPG element in the series. The method by which characters gain magic varies between installments, but is generally divided into classes organized by color: "White magic", which focuses on spells that assist teammates; "Black magic", which focuses on harming enemies; "Red magic", which is a combination of white and black magic, "Blue magic", which mimics enemy attacks; and "Green magic" which focuses on applying status effects to either allies or enemies.[3][73][83] Other types of magic frequently appear such as "Time magic", focusing on the themes of time, space, and gravity; and "Summoning magic", which evokes legendary creatures to aid in battle and is a feature that has persisted since Final Fantasy III. Summoned creatures are often referred to by names like "Espers" or "Eidolons" and have been inspired by mythologies from Arabic, Hindu, Norse, and Greek cultures.[73][74] 

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