This is it. My very first review, for the very first Final Fantasy, the very beginning of my favorite franchise in all of gaming, and the game that inspired me to start writing.
Released back in December 18th 1987 ( July 12th 1990 outside of Japan) by SquareSoft (Now Square Enix) this was the very first in the now world renowned Final Fantasy series. This game has seen many re-releases, ports, updates and remasters over the last 34 years, but i wanted to take a look at the original.
So lets go, let’s see how this Jrpg juggernaut begun.
Oh and uh………spoiler warning
Reviewing a game older than yourself it tricky, you have to decide what you will give lenience to based on it being an early pioneer and what you just consider to be flawed game design.
I tried this game before on a few occasions and couldn’t get into it, It is naturally pretty outdated in a lot of regards, especially compared to rpg’s that i would have played nowadays, or even that i had grown up with.
I used to have a pretty short answer to my feelings on this game
“Final Fantasy 1 is one of my favorite Final Fantasy games……..so long as it’s the gameboy advance or psp remaster”
I no longer feel this way.
I’m not sure what changed, or if it was just the right time for me, but playing this game again recently, I am now a very big fan of even this non-updated version too, in fact i kind of love it.
I will try to break the rest of this review down into specific categories to prevent my scatterbrain from taking it all over the place.
The story of this game in very simple and basic, more so when compared to future entries.
The world is in peril, a prophecy says 4 warrior of light will appear and they do.
The warriors being out 4 main, silent protagonist heroes that are selected roles ( Fighter, Black Belt, Thief, Black Mage, White Mage and Red Mage)
They save the princess from someone named Garland, the King helps you get access to the next town, you do some random quests for characters in towns (usually in 1 line of dialogue) defeat the 4 fiends causing nature to go out of balance, go back 2000 years in time to stop them forever, then fight Garland again in his Chaos form because (at least from my understanding of the translation) Garland created the 4 fiends, sent them forward 2000 years so they could send him back in time when defeated at the beginning of the game.
Basically the story isn’t all that interesting or fascinating but it’s enough to keep you having a goal throughout the story.
Battle System and Item Management
I put battle system and items together because they are so interconnected in a turn based Rpg. The battle mechanics lack many of the conveniences and comforts of more modern Rpg’s and is pretty simplistic.
FIGHT is what you expect, a regular attack, your accuracy starts off pretty low for most party members so you will be missing a lot of the time, particularly with your mages
but the more the game progresses and the more you level up/upgrade your equipment, the more your accuracy will improve but you will also be able to hit multiple times.
Once all party members choose an action, they will all take their turns.
MAGIC is, well….magic. You purchase it in towns. There are 8 levels of magic, 4 spells per level and every character has 3 slots per level, meaning you will have to leave 1 behind for each level. Each level has a limited number of uses that increases as you level up, so if your white mage used 2 cures, you’re out of healing magic until you heal at an inn.
DRINK is your items like Heal (potion) Pure (antidote) etc
ITEM let’s you use equipment as spells or attacks basically
and RUN….run’s at varying rates of success.
You might be wondering about what lacking conveniences I alluded to, well, i will list some of the worst offenders.
-No Phoenix Down’s in this game. The only way to heal until late game is to return to an inn, which can be very frustrating if you got a decent ways into a dungeon.
-If you select the same enemy to attack with all 4 party members and the first attack defeats them, the other 3 members will attack nothing and waste a turn, while in future entries they would simply move to the next enemy.
-It is very,very slow. Casting a spell like Fire2 on 9 enemies will not attack them all at once, it will cycle through each enemy 1 by 1, which also means if you are fighting 4 enemies they will often all use an attack to hit all 4 party members, which means 4 enemies, 4 hits each, 16 very slow attacks
-No info on spells. This is a big issue, especially considering limited slots and the fact that due to programming mistakes some spells do literally nothing.
-buying items is pretty tedious. You can only purchase 1 at a time, then it goes back to the “buy” menu, it’s not too horrible if you are only buying the top item, but if you want to but a bunch of the 2nd or 3rd, it’s pretty hard to deal with.
-The one that caused me the biggest issue however was that there is no way to see if weapons or armor is better or not in shops because the only way to check the stats is to buy it. So you could waste money buying a useless item that is very expensive.
Even while loving this game and playing for over 8 hour at a time, sometimes I jut wanted to shut it off every time i entered a new town because I didn’t want to deal with buying new weapons and armor like this in fact it’s pretty much the ole reason i could never enjoy this game before.
I know it almost looks like I hate the game, but a lot of these things really gave it one of the best sense of progression I’ve ever seen, getting to a point where your Fighter is hitting enemies 6 times with one move, or when you can cast powerful spells like NUKE or LIFE 6 or 7 times, it feels unbelievably satisfying.
Just a few wrapping up thoughts that I don’t feel I can flesh out into full segments
This game does have a number of beautiful and amazing tracks. The town theme, the battle theme, the over-world theme and of course the famous Prelude debuts here.
Because of Nes limitations i did find myself getting a bit of a headache sometimes at first but I think I may have adapted or something.
This world doesn’t exactly have a ton going on but I did enjoy exploring it a lot. The little quests you do slowly open up more towns and means of transportation like the boat and air ship and you go to a wide variety of locations. From volcanoes to underwater in a submarine to flying towers, you really get around quite a lot.
While obviously the graphics are very dated by today’s standards I did find it growing on me very quickly. I was watching a let’s play of the ps1 version and around 8 hours in maybe, I started enjoying the look of the Nes version more that the PS1, even it’s unusual looking white mountains had a certain charm to them.
It’s a good thing too, because the map was very little help in navigating so it was lucky that the world was enjoyable to explore when I had no idea what to do next.
While I do have other minor thoughts about the game (like finding 5 gil in chests near the end of the game, or finding useless weapons in late game dungeons that you can buy in town 1 or 2) I really do think this game is a very enjoyable experience. I have never played a game like this where I was sucked in for multiple hours multiple days in a row.
I am so glad that I finally got to really experience the very first entry in a series of games that means so much to me, I was all but ready to buy myself an Nes to play Final fantasy 2 until I remembered it never got an English release.
While I can’t exactly tell people they should run out and track down an Nes and a copy of this game, even if they are fans, I would definitely recommend any big Final Fantasy fan to give it a try if they never have, especially if like me you have an Nes classic or other access to this game. It’s always nice to see where such a massive franchise started out.
If you can’t get passed some of it’s barriers, I highly recommend trying out a later version, I loved the Gameboy Advanced and PSP remasters a lot. Now I am very happy to add the original to that list too.
Thank you for reading my very first review. I hope like this game and this series, it will have some worth and continue to improve, despite having some shakiness in the beginning.