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.
In earlier titles summoned monsters merely appeared to perform a single attack before vanishing. Summoning them costs MP, often more than normal spells, but their attacks tend to be stronger or have effects normal spells cannot duplicate. Starting with Final Fantasy X summoned monsters have acted as temporary party members, able to be called into battle to fight alongside their summoner in place of the rest of the party for a period of time.
A recurring theme with summoned monsters is that, to earn their allegiance and the right to summon them, the summoner must best the summoned monster in battle. While this is not universal, and some summons are acquired in other ways, most often the player must adhere to this tradition.
Summoned monsters often live in another dimension separate from the human world, and travel between the realms is restricted or frowned upon. In other games, summons seem to possess the ability to transport their enemies into a pocket dimension to do battle in. This is difficult to perceive when the player summons a monster against enemies, but in Crisis Core -Final Fantasy VII-, the summons Genesis calls to attack Zack teleport Zack into another realm for the fight, Zack returning to the normal world when the summon is defeated.
There is no universal rule that governs how long summons can manifest in the normal world, varying from game to game to accommodate different gameplay mechanics. Typically, however, a summoning is only temporary and the summoner eventually dismisses the summoned monster back to its home realm.
The first specific name given to summoned monsters in an English game was Final Fantasy VI, where they are called "espers." Since then, various games have used different terms for summoned monsters—Esper and Eidolon are the most common with the latter being more popular, but there are others. Some games that lack specific English terms refer to them simply as summons or summoned monsters/beasts.
Summons don't appear in the world of the first Final Fantasy; Dissidia 012 Final Fantasy explains this by stating that Chaos had sealed summons away in the interdimensional rift. Additionally, Bahamut, who would become a recurring summon, debuts in this game, but in a different role as a quest-giving NPC.
In the original NES release there are no summons, but in the 20th Anniversary addition the optional Arcane Labyrinth dungeon introduces Deumion, who has the power to summon monsters. Phrekyos is one such monster.
In their first appearances as proper summons, summoned monsters can be called into battle by Sages, Evokers and Summoners. Summoned monsters have one of three effects when called, either a weaker offensive attack, a healing or beneficial status spell on the party, or their ultimate attack, a powerful offensive spell.
Lower-level summons can be purchased in shops, but higher level summons require the player to find and defeat the summon to earn their spell. There are eight summoned monsters in all, which would become the iconic recurring summons of the series: Chocobo, Shiva, Ramuh, Ifrit, Titan, Odin, Leviathan, and Bahamut.
Summoned monsters play a major role in the story. They were known as summoned monsters in the original version, and Summons in the PlayStation and Advance versions. The Nintendo DS release coined the term "Eidolons," a naming convention carried into the The Complete Collection release and its sequel Final Fantasy IV: The After Years.
Eidolons can be summoned by the Summoners of the village Mist. The King of Baron tricks Cecil and Kain into delivering a ring to the village that unleashes monsters to burn it to the ground and Rydia is the village's only survivor.
Summoned monsters live in an alternate world called the Feymarch, accessed by a cave deep underground. They are ruled over by Queen Asura and King Leviathan. The king of all monsters, Bahamut, lives on the Red Moon.
Some Eidolons from Final Fantasy IV return: Shiva, Ramuh, Ifrit, and Titan. The Goblin, Cockatrice, and Bomb summons can be found as enemy drops. Once the appropriate boss of the first four floors of the Tower of Babil has been defeated, Rydia? will be able to summon them again in battle.
Once Edge confirms she's an imposter, she battles the party and summons her four previously acquired Eidolons against the party. Once the party defeats them, she tries to finish off the party with Bahamut, but the real Rydia appears and summons the Mist Dragon to knock some sense into Bahamut who after dismisses himself from battle.
Once the real Rydia participates in the final battle, she has all her Eidolons at her disposal minus Goblin, Cockatrice, Bomb, and Mindflayer. Once the imposter is defeated, she will inform the Creator that "the Eidolon project is complete".
The Eidolons from Final Fantasy IV return and are given even more importance in the story. Rydia and her summoner abilities return, which she shares with the Mysterious Girl, an antagonist who uses Eidolons against the heroes.
Summoned monsters are called into battle by the Summon command learned by Summoners, the Summoners' Call command or via the Magic Lamp. Summons are purchased in shops and won by finding and defeating a summoned monster in battle. Final Fantasy V introduces additional series staples, such as Carbuncle, Phoenix and Golem. The summons in the RPGe fan-translation refers to them as a whole as espers, while in the Japanese version they are simply referred to as summoned monsters while the PlayStation translation refers to them as summoned beasts.
For the first time, summoned monsters are given an official name and a full backstory. Known as espers, they were humans and animals caught in the magical crossfire of three feuding gods known as the Warring Triad. The espers fled to another realm to avoid being hunted and having their powers exploited. The Gestahlian Empire located the gate to the esper realm and captured several espers to imbue humans and machines with magical energy, creating Magitek.
Besides being able to be summoned into battle, espers are the basis of the game's magic system. When an esper dies its remains crystallize into magicite. Party members can equip magicite to learn magic spells and receive stat bonuses when they level up.
Summons play a minor role, reverting to mere monsters called into battle, this time via Summon Materia. Final Fantasy VII is the only game in the Final Fantasy main series where none of the summons are fought as bosses.
How summons came to be is never explained within the Compilation of Final Fantasy VII releases or media, except for some dummied lines from the original Final Fantasy VII, explained by Sephiroth in the Temple of the Ancients after obtaining the Bahamut Materia. The majority of the lines were not translated for the English version and can only be found in the original Japanese version. Sephiroth explains that during the times of the Ancients there were beings created by the Planet that sealed their life energy in Materia. It is suggested the creatures that protect the temple were created by the Planet, and it could indicate the Red Dragon turns itself into the Bahamut Materia upon defeat.
Zack can find Summon Materia during his travels, adding more options to the Digital Mind Wave. Genesis Rhapsodos is a rogue SOLDIER First Class who specializes in magic use, and has numerous summons in his arsenal that he can summon against Zack, momentarily sending him to another realm to do battle to buy time to get away.
At any time during Modulating Phase of the DMW, while the center reel spins, a blue star symbol can fill the screen activating Summon Mode, where the portraits in the DMW change to summon portraits and all three reels spin again. If three portraits match a summon will be called. Summons are non-elemental. There is a 12.5% base chance of activating the Summon Mode when a Modulating Phase is triggered as long as Zack has obtained at least one summon. Equipping Summon DMW Materia can boost the chance further.
There is also a different set of summoned creatures in Chocobo Mode. At any time during Modulating Phase while the center reel spins, Chocobo Mode will have a chance of activating as long as Zack has obtained at least one creature in the reel. If three portraits match a summon will be called. In certain special battles (like against Sephiroth or the final boss) the Chocobo Mode will never activate, but otherwise its base activation rate is 9.4%, which can be boosted via DMW Materia.
Summoned monsters again play an important role in gameplay and story. Known as Guardian Forces, or GFs, they are entities of energy that can bond with a human host's consciousness, a process known as junctioning. Junctioning a GF allows the user to channel magical energy using the Guardian Force as a medium. Only Balamb Garden is known to use them, although the process was invented in Esthar by Dr. Odine.
In gameplay terms, the party member to whom a GF is junctioned can draw magic from enemies and the environment, then cast it in battle or junction it to a stat attribute, such as Strength, Speed, or elemental or status properties, enhancing their stats, improving their elemental and status defenses, and adding elemental and status properties to their attacks. GFs can also learn support and command abilities that the equipped party member can equip.
Because the GF's presence in the human mind takes up space, prolonged use results in amnesia.
Eidolons, manifestations of the planet's collective memories gathered by its crystal, can be called by the summoners of Madain Sari. They can be "extracted" from a summoner and bound to gemstones, allowing anyone to call them. Some eidolons were deemed too dangerous and were locked away.
In battle, only Dagger and Eiko Carol can summon them, and there are ways to manipulate which attack they use via certain Add-ons and support abilities. Final Fantasy IX marks the first time the ability to summon monsters has to be learned through Ability Points.
Aeons are physical manifestations of the dreams of the fayth conjured by a link between a summoner and the fayth. As part of a summoner's pilgrimage, they travel across Spira and pray at various temples, earning the power to summon the temple's guardian aeon. The ultimate goal of the pilgrimage is to reach Zanarkand and gain the power to summon the Final Aeon, the only force said to be able to defeat the monster Sin.
Final Fantasy X is the first game where summons act as temporary party members when summoned. Only Yuna can summon them either via her Summon command or as a Grand Summon Overdrive. Aeons have their own Overdrives and level up alongside Yuna, and can learn new abilities via items as they don't have a Sphere Grid.
Avatars are beings of great power in Vana'diel, divided into two different classes, celestial avatars and terrestrial avatars. Creatures from either class may be summoned by the player. Celestial avatars are powerful entities sleeping in Protocrystals hidden around various parts of Vana'diel. These include beings such as Shiva, Ifrit, Garuda, Titan, Ramuh, Odin, and Alexander.
Terrestrial avatars (霊獣, Reijū?, lit. Spirit Beasts) serve the goddess Altana, and work to protect the Mothercrystals. Carbuncle, Diabolos, Fenrir, Bahamut and Phoenix serve as terrestrial avatars, but of those, only Carbuncle, Diabolos and Fenrir may be summoned by the player. All avatars except for Carbuncle must be defeated in combat for the player to win the right to call on their power.
Espers are ancient and powerful beings created by the gods long ago. For various reasons the Espers were cast down and bound to the realm of the Mist, or otherwise being corrupted and turned evil. Each is associated with a sign of the zodiac and an elemental force, and many take cues in their design from the Lucavi of Final Fantasy Tactics or past Final Fantasy antagonists. Each Esper has a glyph represented within a crystal viewed upon the Esper's defeat in battle.
Defeating an Esper allows a party member to bond itself to the Esper, allowing them to summon it in battle.
The Espers, called Yarhi by the aegyl, are summoned monsters implied to be embodiment of living beings' souls, as they are linked to anima. Those who possess crystals known as auracites can call them forth via Summoning Gates. There are 51 in total and they incorporate the six elements: Fire, Ice, Earth, Thunder, Holy, and Neutral. They can be classified as either a Flying unit, Ranged unit, or Melee unit. The Espers also come in three ranks with the weakest being rank 1 and strongest being rank 3. Higher ranked Espers also cost more to summon with rank 3 Espers limited to one at a time.
There are six playable Eidolons and several non-playable ones. It is said that Eidolons appear when a l'Cie's will to finish their Focus wavers, and the l'Cie must face their Eidolon in battle to gain their power via a crystal shard called eidolith. Eidolons can transform into a vehicle for the l'Cie to ride on, a system called Gestalt Mode.
Final Fantasy XIII is the only game where all summons are mechanical beings, similar to the mechanical fal'Cie that govern the worlds of Cocoon and Gran Pulse. The only organic-looking Eidolons appear during Pompa Sancta parade in Nautilus, but they are implied to be holograms created for the show.
Alternate versions of the Final Fantasy XIII Eidolons appear, bearing different colorations. Caius can transform into Chaos Bahamut, and Noel and Serah fight a boss called Twilight Odin, a memory of Odin on the Vile Peaks corrupted by chaos. A corrupted Shiva also appears, but assisting Lightning in fighting Caius, suggesting these "corrupted" Eidolons are not an entirely evil force.
Regular monsters that appear from rifts of time to battle the party as the timeline has become unstable, can be recruited to the Paradigm Pack upon defeat if they crystallize.
Only a few Eidolons remain in Nova Chrysalia. Odin has been transformed and Caius retains the power to summon Bahamut, although he can no longer incarnate summon into Chaos Bahamut himself. During Lightning's final battle she calls forth the Eidolons' help who appear alongside their original summoners from Final Fantasy XIII.
Primals are godlike manifestations created from the world's "aether", focused into being by the belief of living, sentient creatures. Each tends to associate itself with a particular beast race. Primals are generally seen as a malevolent presence as they require, and desire, ever-greater amounts of aether and followers to maintain and grow their forms, and are willing to "temper" (effectively brainwash) mortals into being their followers.
Summoners will summon "fragments" of a primal's power to do battle with; these fragments, called "egi", are incomplete enough for a Summoner to bend them to their will.
Astrals are often colossal creatures the people of Eos view as gods. Noctis can summon them once obtaining them after passing their trial via a battle or other means. The Oracle can commune with the Astrals to impart mankind's message to them, and the Astrals in turn communicate with humans via the Messengers, a mystical servant race.
In contrast to its status as a summon in other games, Carbuncle is one of the Messengers, serving Noctis and helping him on his journey. In the Adventurer from Another World collaboration quest, the player gains a new summon that is not an Astral, but rather, a powerful ancient Messenger: Garuda.
Summons were called summon monsters in the PlayStation translation, but were renamed to espers with the newer translation. They are powerful spells used by Summoners, learned by expending JP. Summons require large amounts of MP and have long charge times, especially for the higher tier summons, such as Bahamut.
There are two kinds of summonable monsters. One is the five different Totemas, crystal guardians, which each represent one of the five different playable races and can be summoned by spending ten Judge Points in battle. The viera Summoner job class can summon eight different summons by spending MP.
Called Espers, summoned monsters are accessible through the viera job class Summoner. They do not differentiate between friend or foe and instead affect every unit within their target area.
Summons work as a special type of ability outside of units that causes a special effect on the battlefield, depending on the summon used. Each summon costs crystals, the objects the player is trying to defend, so summons must be used sparingly or else the player will soon run out of crystals to protect.
"Eidolon" is used as the official translation for the original term "War God" (軍神, Gunshin?) in Japanese. Eidolons are created by the Dominion of Rubrum with the power of the Vermilion Bird Crystal as a part of their primary arsenal, and there are multiple variations of the same creature, belonging to a certain Eidolon Class. Eidolons are normally summoned at the cost of the summoner's life, and only Special Eidolons can be summoned without endangering the summoner.
The player can choose an Eidolon as their "special ability" before a mission starts. When pressing the two assigned buttons together for 0.4 seconds a portal will be opened summoning the Eidolon below the active leader, whose life must be sacrificed to complete the summoning. Eidolons can be controlled like the active party leader, but they only appear for a limited time, recover MP, cannot dodge, cannot obtain phantoma or items, and cannot switch abilities. Once the summon expires the Eidolon vanishes and will be replaced by the KO'd active party leader.
Some Eidolons will choose their own commands. Different Eidolons require different spaces to summon; opening a portal in a space too narrow will prevent the portal being opened. There are times when the Eidolons will automatically summon themselves and fight on behalf of KO'd characters. After the summon time has ended, the Eidolon will revive all KO'd characters, but will be unavailable for the rest of the mission in return.
Immensely powerful Eidolons, known as Verboten Eidolons (秘匿大軍神, Hitoku Dai Kunshin?, lit. Confidential War Gods), cannot be controlled by the player. Verboten Eidolons can only be summoned by a l'Cie. The process of summoning takes hours and requires the l'Cie, along with a couple of thousand outstanding sorcerers, to sacrifice themselves. Once summoned, Verboten Eidolons can destroy entire armies.
There are six summoned beasts, each requiring a certain level of the Summoning ability learned by Summoners: Girtablulu, Hresvelgr, Ziusudra's Sin, Promethean Fire, Deus Ex, and Susano-o. The conjurer job can also use them through the Invocation job command to boost stats.
The prior six summons return in the sequel, with the addition of two more: Charybdis and Amaterasu.
The Summoner job can summon Eidolons to aid in battle.
Eidolons are both admired and feared by Explorers in Amostra, and each Eidolon is appended a particular nickname befitting their appearance. Defeating an eidolon will open up area barriers leading to new locations on the island. Eidolons can be captured by the player with the command "Encase" and turned into magicite. The player may then equip the magicite at the Central Crystal to use the eidolons' ability.
Summons are not given a specific name. Bound to summonstones, they can be received as map bonuses or found in certain storylines. A character can equip one summon at a time, and summon it between one or three times. After they are summoned the max number of times the summon is depleted, and the player must fight a number of battles to recharge it.
The player can set up to five reserve summonstones, where the next will replace the previous when depleted. Some summonstones come in two varieties—manual, where the player calls them at any time they wish, and automatic, where the summon is immediately used under specific circumstances.
The game implies the recurring summons seen across the series are the same beings.
Summonstones function the same as in the original Dissidia. Though the game does not assign summons a specific term, the terms "Esper" and "Eidolon" are used interchangeably, although "Eidolon" is more frequent.
The Museum applies the term "Eidolon" in the context of Final Fantasy V and Final Fantasy VII, while Vaan makes mention of Yuna summoning Eidolons when neither of their original games used the term. On other occasions the Museum uses the terms of the original games, for example, referring to Ifrit as an Eidolon, Guardian Force and aeon respectively for Final Fantasy IV, Final Fantasy VIII and Final Fantasy X.
Summons are the reward for completing the Feature Drive sequence in any BMS. They boost the damage of successful hits. They are guaranteed to deliver their special attack, even if one does poorly after they appear. This attack typically finishes off whatever monster is present, though some monsters in Expert or Ultimate difficulty prove more resilient than others.
There are five possible summons chosen at random: Ifrit, Shiva, Ramuh, Odin, and Bahamut. Equipping the Magic Lamp will guarantee one of them will appear even if one completely fails the Feature Drive sequence. Equipping the magicite of a specific summon, such as Shiva Magicite, will force that particular summon to appear if the Feature Drive sequence is performed successfully.
A trophy is awarded for witnessing all five summons. As Bahamut is extremely rare, it is usually faster to wait for a Bahamut Magicite to drop at the end of a Music Stage.
Summons are no longer chosen at random, as each character now has a specific summon they can use, though stronger summons may require that the player performs exceptionally well in the Feature Drive, as getting several BAD or MISS triggers, or even a single wrong trigger can result in an extremely weak summon attack.
Characters can still utilise other summons by equipping their respective Magicite, excluding the Chocobo summon.
|Chocobo||Chocobo Kick||Anyone - must perform poorly during the Feature Drive.|
|Ramuh||Judgment Bolt||Warrior of Light, Firion, Barret, Prishe, Agrias, Orlandeau, Noel|
|Shiva||Diamond Dust||Princess Sarah, Cid Haze, Edgar, Tifa, Squall, Seifer, Laguna, Shantotto, Lilisette, Snow, Benjamin, Paine, Ciaran|
|Ifrit||Hellfire||Onion Knight, Edge, Bartz, Faris, Locke, Yuffie, Rinoa, Zidane, Auron, Jecht, Vaan, Balthier, Fran, Rikku, Zack, Machina|
|Odin||Zantetsuken||Minwu, Cecil, Kain, Rosa, Lenna, Vincent, Aphmau, Lightning, Y'shtola, Cosmos, Rem|
|Bahamut||Megaflare||Rydia, Krile, Terra, Celes, Vivi, Garnet, Tidus, Yuna, Ashe, Hope, Vanille, Chaos, Ace, Serah|
|Knights of the Round||Ultimate End||Galuf, Cloud, Aerith, Eiko, Ramza|
In the arcade edition, a summon gauge has been added that gradually fills up for each successive trigger, and the summon that appears is dependent on which character is the party leader, randomly choosing between the number of party leaders in the stage, with a maximum of 4 possible summons chosen at present.
Once they appear in battle, the summon will immediately perform their signature attack on the enemies present in the field. If no enemies are present, then the summon will delay its attack and follow the party until the next batch of enemies are encountered.
A new feature exclusive to each summon is that their signature attack will either target a single enemy, or multiple enemies, depending on which summon the character has. Higher tier summons tend to perform extra powerful attacks.
|Ramuh||Judgment Bolt||Several||Deals high damage to several monsters.||Krile, Terra, Mog, Barret, Shantotto, Gabranth, Cid Raines, Noel, Yda, Gladiolus, Orlandeau|
|Shiva||Diamond Dust||Multiple||Deals high damage to a group of monsters with high endurance remaining.||Princess Sarah, Maria, Cloud of Darkness, Tifa, Squall, Laguna, Paine, Lilisette, Fran, Snow, Prompto, Aranea, Benjamin, Ciaran|
|Ifrit||Hellfire||Several||Deals high damage to several monsters.||Onion Knight, Edge, Bartz, Red XIII, Tifa #2, Zack, Zidane, Jecht, Rikku, Vaan, Thancred, Machina, Wol, Spiritus|
|Alexander||Divine Judgement||Multiple||Deals high damage to a group of monsters.||Warrior of Light, Firion, Cid Haze, Golbez, Edgar, Edea, Ultimecia, Garnet, Aphmau, Balthier, Hope, Y'shtola #2, Materia|
|Bahamut||Megaflare||Multiple||Deals high damage to a group of monsters with high endurance remaining.||Celes, Sephiroth, Cloud #2, Vivi, Kuja, Tidus, Yuna, Prishe, Vanille, Serah, Ace, Chaos|
|Phoenix||Flames of Rebirth||All||Deals medium damage to all monsters, and restores 12% of the parties' maximum HP gauge.||Minwu, Rosa, Lenna, Locke, Eiko, Auron, Ashe, Alphinaud, Chocobo, Cosmos|
|Odin||Zantetsuken||Several||Deals extreme damage to several monsters.||Garland, Leon, Cecil, Kain, Gilgamesh, Exdeath, Vincent, Seifer, Lightning, Rem|
|Leviathan||Tsunami||All||Deals extreme damage to all monsters.||Guy, Rydia, Faris, Yuffie, Rinoa, Seymour, Y'shtola, Noctis, Ignis, Agrias|
|Knights of the Round||Ultimate End||All||Deals extreme damage to all monsters.||Emperor, Galuf, Kefka, Cloud, Aerith, Ramza, Kurasame, Tyro|
Esper is a word used to name summons. It is said that only Espers have the ability to restore light to a crystal that has lost its glow. Espers are usually contained within circular red gems, of which may be occasionally discovered by feeding a green chocobo or by defeating the Espers themselves in battle.
Rydia, Eiko, and Yuna attack with summoned monsters from their respective games: Rydia summons Mist Dragon, Eiko summons Madeen, and Yuna summons Valefor. Krile has the Summoner's Dualcast which makes her summon both Titan and Odin for her attack.
Espers make an appearance.
Summons include the following: Goblin, Chocobo, Dragon, Bomb, Shiva, Ramuh, Ifrit, Syldra, Leviathan, Kirin, Maduin, Odin, Phoenix, Valefor, Carbuncle, Ixion, Alexander, Quetzalcoatl, Bahamut (V), Cactaur, Orthros, Neo Bahamut, Fat Chocobo, Titan, Valigarmanda, Ultima Weapon, Tiamat, Ogopogo, Madeen, Lunar Leviathan, Dark Valefor, Bahamut (VI), and Lunar Ifrit.
Espers appear as summons as well as the main ability system for Units. Espers must be fought in their respective locations to acquire them. Each Esper represents their main element, and their summoned magic attacks and their ability list can be enhanced by spending SP. Espers have levels and stats and can be improved by giving them magicite. A character who equips an Esper will gain 1% of its stats and gain the ability to summon it in battle when the evocation gauge is filled, and some summoners gain additional stats from Espers and/or can summon any Esper held in the party.
Non-Final Fantasy appearancesEdit
Carbuncle appears one of many summoned beasts in this Square-Enix game.
Etymology and symbolism Edit
Evocation is the act of calling upon or summoning a spirit, demon, god or other supernatural agent, in the Western mystery tradition. Comparable practices exist in many religions and magical traditions and may employ the use of mind-altering substances with and without uttered word formulas.
monster is any creature, usually found in legends or horror fiction, that is often hideous and may produce fear or physical harm by its appearance or its actions. The word "monster" derives from Latin monstrum, meaning an aberrant occurrence, usually biological, that was taken as a sign that something was wrong within the natural order.A
esper (stylized as ESPer) is an individual capable of telepathy and other similar paranormal abilities. The term was apparently coined in this sense by Alfred Bester in his 1950 short story "Oddy and Id" and is derived from the abbreviation ESP for extrasensory perception.In fiction, an
Eidolon means "unsubstantial image," "reflection," or "phantom" in Greek. It can also mean "idol" and is the source of the Latin word "Idolum."
aeon, also spelled eon, indicates a period of existence or long space of time. It may be translated as "age." In Gnostic lore, the Aeons were emanations of God.The Greek word
avatar is a deliberate descent of a deity to Earth, or a descent of the Supreme Being, and is mostly translated into English as "incarnation", but more accurately as "appearance" or "manifestation".In Hinduism, an
The concept of summons in the Final Fantasy series takes influence from kami, the spirits worshiped in the animism of Shinto. Though the word is translated in multiple ways into English (god, deity, divinity, or spirit) no one English word expresses its full meaning. Kami are elements in nature, animals, creationist forces in the universe, as well as various anthropomorphic spirits. In Shinto, kami are not separate from nature, but are of nature, possessing positive and negative, good and evil characteristics. They are manifestations of musubi (結び) the interconnecting energy of the universe. This link is most obviously seen in Final Fantasy IX where memories are the essence of souls and part of the universe-wide cycle of life with eidolons being manifestations of said memories, and in Final Fantasy X where the aeons are made of pyreflies.
Kami are believed to be hidden from this world, and inhabit a complementary existence in the world of the kami. Although kami are not visible to the human realm, they are said to inhabit sacred places, natural phenomena or people during rituals that ask for their blessing. They are mobile, visiting their places of worship but never staying permanently. In Final Fantasy games summons manifest only when summoned, and appear to reside in alternate dimensions: in Final Fantasy VI the espers live in the Land of Espers; in Final Fantasy XII the Espers are banished to a nether realm; and in the Final Fantasy XIII series the Eidolons hail from Valhalla, the middle realm between the visible world and the unseen realm, momentarily entering the physical world via a glyph when called forth by their summoner. Kami have a different guardianship or duty to the people around them; just as the people have an obligation to keep the kami happy, the kami have to perform the specific function of the object, place, or idea they inhabit; in the Final Fantasy games, the summons must answer the call of their summoner once the "link" has been established.
Kami are of two minds: they can nurture and love when respected, or cause destruction and disharmony when disregarded. Kami must be appeased to gain their favor and avoid their wrath. In Final Fantasy games the summoner often must go through a "trial" to gain the summon, often in a way of a boss battle, but in Final Fantasy X summoners must pray for the aeons' fayth to form a bond. There are many different varieties of kami in the pantheon with varying functions, such as the kami of wind, kami of entryways, and kami of roads. In the Final Fantasy series this usually manifests as summons of different elemental affinities.