Hello and welcome to ToriJ's Video Game Reviews. Today we take a look at a game that started both a popular long-running series, and shaped the RPG genre for generations: Final Fantasy! I reviewed some of the other number entries but never took a look at the original. So, I thought it was time to change that. I don't think anyone here is going to question the influence this game had over the years. Only one question remains: does it hold up?
I like how 'orb' is in all caps. As if the narrator just shouted it out to end his sentence.
The game kicks off with an overview of the story with white text on a blue background. Get used to seeing that combination a lot. Then we come to the title screen which just has a continue and new game select screen. An added feature is the response range which you can change with the left and right directional buttons. You're going to want to change that to eight. Trust me.
As soon as you begin a new game you have four fighters to name and your choice of class: Fighter, Thief, Black Belt, Red Mage, White Mage, and Black Mage. Each class has their own advantages and disadvantages. The fighter is great at dealing physical damage, but he can't use magic. Black and White mages can only learn spell in their class range, and while the Red Mage can fight and learn both spell types he isn't as strong as any of the individual classes.
Don't expect much story or characterization in this entry since it was only 1987. Instead, we have more focus on gameplay, battles, and grinding to increase your strength. Names are limited to four characters so you have to come up with some good ones that are only four letters long. I think I spent more time at this screen than any other part of the game.
The land is pretty green for an earth that's rotted.
While other games in the series would have you start at level seven or something, you're set all the way back to level one with no equipment and very little health. Luckily, the enemies are just as weak as you are, so it all balances out. In order to get weapons, armor, and magic, you need t o buy them all from the town that has been conveniently placed right next to you. Isn't that convenient? When you visit the castle you learn that the princess has been kidnapped, who would've thought? But to Final Fantasy's credit, that is only the BEGINNING of the game. Usually when you save the princess that's all there is, but not here. That's only the prelude, and back then that never happened.
You need to be careful with your money and decide what you need and don't need. Weapons and armor are reasonably priced, but you're not getting magic any cheaper than 100 gold coins and that price will soar by the next town. Supply and demand, what can I say? You can collect more gold by killing enemies so grinding isn't just important for increasing strength, but giving you enough money to actually buy the things you need if you want to get anywhere. By the way, how strange is it to have gold in a Final Fantasy game? If you started off somewhere in the middle of the series like I did, you're probably used to seeing gil as the currency. Here? Just gold. That is how old this game is!
Imping ain't easy!
Random battles can take place anywhere outside of town and at any time. You could walk for miles without any problem and then the next minute they happen every couple of steps. This was before the time of ATB (active time battle) so you just have to wait until everyone else is finish with their attack before you can do anything. The A.I. isn't programed to automatically go after the next enemy if they die beforehand which means you need to be careful who you have attack what. They'll just get an infective message on the screen otherwise because no one is there. Although, you could get those anyway by just attacking, and the misses, my god is there a lot of misses in this game. You miss, the enemy miss, everyone miss! Why is it so hard to hit something it's only a few feet in front of you!
Magic is separated by levels and are limited to a certain number of uses before they dry up. Your MP can't be replenished through tents, either, you need to find an inn in a town to revive it. Magic is a lot more reliable than physical attacks and I never had any issue hitting my man. They do a lot more damage, too. Drinking is pretty much what Item would become in later entries. If you want to use a healing item you need to select that. Item just highlights equipment you have on you. At the beginning you don't have any items or magic spells to revive a dead party member, so you need to visit the church in a town which charges you for it. Yeah, that's nice, a church that makes you pay to bring your dead friend back to life. Since when did Jesus start charging for miracles?
You have a little text box on your face, there.
The text box will come up anywhere in a town or dungeon regardless of where you're standing. Just push A and you'll read the words 'nothing there.' No shit, nothing's there! I have eyes, assholes! Do we really need something to tell us that? Some NPCs offer friendly advic as is the norm for games like these while others may as well not even be there to begin with. Some of them get in your way! I'm trying to leave town or go through a short-cut and there's a guy just standing there blocking my path. GET OUT OF THE WAY! I have a sword and I will use it!
If you want to save you either need to go to an inn, which cost money, or buy a tent, which cost even more money than going to an inn! How would you like to have to pay to save a game? You can't save on the world map, and you can't save right before a boss. Inn or tent, that's it. Back then we didn't have a memory card or storage space to save on the console, the cartridges saved through a battery. If the battery dies you can't save your game. On the plus side, batteries have been known to last a long time. Unless the battery is already dead when you get your hands on it...
Is it Pirate Day already?
The objective of the game is to defeat the four elemental fiends, go back in time, and defeat Chaos ending the time paradox caused when the fiends sent Garland back in time with the power of the Dark Crystal to become Chaos in the first place. Garland created the fiends through raw hatred. That's some hate. In order to get to Chaos you have to fight all four fiends a second time. You not only have to defy a god, but you have to defeat time itself to save the day. That's pretty incredible.
While Garland, like most of the characters, don't receive much in ways of development due to hardware restraint, his story is still an interesting one to follow. He was a good knight who was corrupted by his own power and wanted it all. The kingdom, the castle, everything. That lust for power ultimately led to his downfall and turned him into a monster. We had other enemies in games like Mario and Zelda who were already monsters and evil just for the sake of being evil, but Chaos used to be a man. A human man like us before his fall. That's enough to make him stand out among the other bosses we've seen up to that point in time.
Please press play before you continue.
In conclusion, this game may show its age now, but it's responsible for introducing a lot of young kids to a genre that was new and exciting. Yeah, we had Dragon Quest/Warrior in the U.S. first, but it can be argued that while Dragon Quest introduced us to the genre, Final Fantasy perfected it, and became the standard for RPGs to come. Several people missed Dragon Quest and came straight to Final Fantasy. If it wasn't for this game there wouldn't be a Final Fantasy VII, a Final Fantasy VI, a Final Fantasy X, or a Final Fantasy XV. People who came together may not have even met; entire communities non-existent. It's hard to think that one little game can mean so much to so many different people, but we owe a lot to this game, and RPGs will live on forever because of it.