I’m an old-school Final Fantasy fan. I was at the official 25th birthday celebration of Final Fantasy at the Final Fantasy: Distant Worlds concert. Nobuo Uematsu was there to lead us all singing happy birthday. I own Final Fantasy and two remakes for it, as well as the reimagining for the DS. I’ve played and beaten every single Final Fantasy from Final Fantasy I through Final Fantasy X. Didn’t care for any of FFs that followed.
The first Final Fantasy I played was, well, the first Final Fantasy. I saw it for the first time at my best friend’s place. His brother borrowed it from a college friend of his. At that time, I only played games like Super Mario Brothers and Legend of Zelda. Turn based RPG games like Final Fantasy was entirely new to me.
The overarching story is fairly straight forward. Four Light Heroes appear, holding four elemental orbs. The orbs were drained of their power by the Four Elemental Fiends. The heroes have to adventure, kill the fiends, and then the unknown bad guy who organized them. Throughout it, there were fascinating side quests, like saving Princess Sara, waking up the elven prince, killing a vampire, re-discovering a lost language, unearthing an ancient airship, and a bunch of other fun stuff.
Final Fantasy’s story was good for its time, but the storytelling style does not hold up well. Well, let me make a correction to that. The storytelling style doesn’t hold up well compared to the way video game RPGs have been made since the early 1990s. With few exceptions, most RPGs follow a rigid storyline that allows for no deviation. These games railroad the players, dragging them from point A to point B to point C, and so on. Final Fantasy X and XIII are good examples of this. Both those games are straight lines; the player has no choice but to head to the next plot point.
Final Fantasy wasn’t exactly like that. There were set plot points and places the player had to go. But to find them, the player had to talk to everyone, put the clues together, and explore. Some of the clues aren’t straight forward, to be honest, so that works against the game. For example, the heroes meets a guy named Dr. Unne close to the early middle of the game. Dr. Unne was working on translating a lost dead language and needed something called a SLAB. You won’t be getting this item for a few hours after meeting him, after going through a couple of difficult boss fights and exploration…. so chances are, you won’t remember him at all. It quickly turns into an exercise in frustration because you really need to get the translation so you can talk to the people who still speak the dead language.
And yes, there are a few other side-quests that relies on you remembering that you spoke with this one random guy at some point in the past.
I enjoyed the experience. I like being able to explore the world and discover everything it has to offer without being led to it all through story. But that’s not for everyone. You really need to remember where everything is in order to make sure you won’t spend an hour trying to return to every town and finding the one guy you forgot about.
Battles are fairly straight forward in this game. There are five options to choose from. Pick ‘Fight’, and the character attacks with a weapon. Pick ‘Magic’, and the character will cast a spell (if he/she is a magic user). Pick ‘Drink’, and the character will be able to take a potion/antidote. Pick ‘Item’, and the character can use an item in battle if it has a magical ability. Pick ‘Run’, and the character will attempt to run away from the battle.
Out of battle, all interactions are handled by the ‘A’ button. The character opens chests, talks to NPCs,
Fighters can equip the most weapons and armors. Black Mages and White Mages can cast black and white magic, respectively. Black Belts are martial artists who, after he passes level 10, will no longer require weapons or armor (and will be able to take out everything in the game in one hit with the proper combination of spells cast on him). Thieves can run away easily. Red Mages can do everything the other characters can do, just not as well (he’s well rounded).
The gameplay is fairly simplistic when compared to modern games. Everything’s pretty straight forward, which could work to the game’s detriment. It could get boring rather quickly if this isn’t your type of game. Just be forewarned about this.
Is this game fun?
I know a lot of people who don’t care for this game. But if you couldn’t guess, I’m not one of these guys. I love this game, from the opening all the way to the closing sequence. This game feels like a heroic quest. Four heroes struggling against impossible odds, trying to defeat the Four Fiends and regaining control over the elements, The enemies are plentiful. And the adventure took me from under the sea, into an active volcano, out in outer space, and into the past to break a vicious time-loop created by Chaos (the guy up there… don’t stare… he’s evil).
I’m a fairly simplistic guy when it comes to games. Give me a world to explore, heroes to control, evil to fight, and an interesting story to experience and I’ll be happy.
I think I’m going to find my NES and play through this game again.