I’m honestly a bit hesitant to be the one writing this. Final Fantasy is a series that millions of people love and is only eclipsed in popularity in Japan by the Dragon Quest series. It used to have similar fandom over in the west but with the recent string of commercial failures, those days seem to be behind us. I’m not saying that I don’t enjoy the recent games, quite the opposite in fact. XIII-2 is my favorite next gen Final Fantasy game and I know a lot of other people who also enjoyed it a great deal.
It’s also a bit strange to think about Final Fantasy and not get immediately excited anymore. There was a time when I would completely lose my shit when I even heard a small rumor of a new game. These days they’re often met with a slight sigh and a twinge of disdain and broken dreams. I’m getting ahead of myself though, we’re going to get to all that in a few weeks. Right now though, it’s time to take a look back. By doing so, we may gain a better understanding of our current situation and may even be able to understand the future of the beloved franchise.
So without further delay, ladies and gentlemen, May I introduce to you to a new series here at The Lifecast where I will be chronicling all of the core Final Fantasy titles up to the release of XV this November. These are likely to be my final words on each game and before anyone pulls a pitchfork or torch, you should all be aware that these opinions are mine and mine alone. Here we go.
Making A Fantasy For The Final Time
Well that’s obviously no longer the case but back in the late eighties this was almost the case. Now there are varying reports on whether or not this actually true but the general consensus is that Final Fantasy was supposes to be the final game from Square. Before Final Fantasy was released there were RPG games and they generally followed the same formula. Mystical warrior stumbles upon a town, village, or castle in need of a hero, warrior turns out to be sent by the gods, kill demon/overlord thing, save the day. On paper that doesn’t exactly sound too exciting and certainly not something to make a ten hour game out of. Square found a way to take that very basic formula and craft a world that many people today remember playing as children and being absolutely mystified by.
This was most people’s initial exposure to the Role-playing genre in video games and it was presented in such a way that it was easy enough to please new comers but also challenging and deep enough to satisfy the hardcore fantasy fans. Final Fantasy was one of the first games to allow players a selection of classes and the ability to change party names as they saw fit. Choosing between the Warrior, Monk, Thief, Black Mage, White Mage, and Red mage, players had a good deal of combinations for their parties.
Final Fantasy originally approached character skills in a very odd way which can still be seen now and then, most recently in Final Fantasy XIV, only with a slight variation which we’ll get to later. Skills in this game are gained by purchasing them at the White magic and Black magic shops you encounter throughout the world. They typically show up in every new town. The easiest way to make it through the game with minimal hang ups is to use two Warriors, a Monk and a White Mage. I know a lot of people typically use Warrior, Monk, and Black and White Mages but I’ve always found that a healthy supply of items negates the need for the white mage at all.
The Quest That Started A Lifelong Journey
The original Final Fantasy may not have presented a stellar story but what it did have had its own charm and was actually quite deep for its time. The story basically breaks down to this, the fiend of earth known as Lich poisons the earth crystal and because of this the land begins to decay. A prophecy is told by a man named Lukahn about the warriors of light and then they appear, silly right? Well that’s the typical fantasy trope and it’s still around for a reason. Well one thing leads into another and eventually the princess of a small kingdom is kidnapped, this kingdom happens to be the one where the warriors of light appear. Isn’t it nice how everything just works out that way?
I don’t want to talk too much about the story because it’s another game that you’re better off playing for yourself and I always feel like having to explain a story diminishes its importance and emotional impact. This always feels like an insult to the development team to me almost like you’re cheating them and yourself.
The game has not aged well by any means but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still give it a chance. With the original NES version as a starting point, it can sometime be difficult to understand how the series took off the way it did. Luckily for the younger players, the game has had massive graphical overhauls since being ported to the PlayStation, PSP, Android, and iOS. It’s adorable to look at now and it really leaves no excuse for someone not to play it. Although as we should all know by now, you should never judge a book by its cover or in this case a game by its paint job.
Just a quick side note about this particular entry in the series. There is actually a hidden mini game in almost every iteration of the original Final Fantasy. It can only be accessed once the player has obtained the ship. While floating on the water you need to hold A and then repeatedly press B. In the NES version you actually need to press A&B together 55 times. I’m not really sure how someone figured that out but hey, good for them. Who says tenacity is a bad thing? The entire point of the game was to place fifteen tiles in order from one to fifteen and depending on how long it took you to do this, you were rewarded accordingly.
The Original Grind
Most of the game is going to be spent grinding out your characters because this particular title is quite difficult near then end and was especially unforgiving back on the NES. My original introduction to this game was actually through the Final Fantasy Origins disc on the PlayStation. I had known about the series for years up to that point. My first one was actually Final Fantasy VII and that game got me hooked on the series so as I got older I would come across the older titles and immediately fall in love with them.
While the original game may have felt like one intense grind overall mixed with an incredibly slow pace because of the movement speed it still stands as one of the greatest games ever created. It was the starting point for a multi-million dollar series that is still going relatively strong and after years of waiting and even a name change, we’re going to see if Square-enix can reclaim their former glory this November.
Be sure to stop by tomorrow when we take a look at Final Fantasy II, despite the fact that the next one to come to western shores was technically Final Fantasy IV.
Cover Image via Sprites and Dice.