Final Fantasy - Retroview

Light Warrior Extravaganza!


Review Breakdown
   Battle System 9
   Interface 9
   Music/Sound 10
   Originality 9
   Plot 5
   Localization 5
   Replay Value 5
   Visuals 7
   Difficulty Medium
   Time to Complete

10-30 hours


Title Screen

   Although the original Final Fantasy is far from being the first RPG, it set the industry standard for the entirety of the 8-bit generation. When compared to its' meager opposition for the RPG market of the time (Dragon Warrior and Phantasy Star), FF showed true quality, craftsmanship, and originality. This is so true that the majority of things we take for granted in the role playing game systems of today were all pioneered by it. And, just to shamelessly plug a really cool spoof web-comic of Final Fantasy, check out 8-Bit Theatre.

   The FF battle system may not seem too innovative at first glance... But think back to 1987 (if you were even born then) and try to remember what was sweeping the gaming world at the time; Super Mario Bros. 2 (aka Doki Doki Densetsu). That being said... The battle system is a basic turn-based combat setup. No ATB (that was still yet to come). Each character gets to choose what they want to do during their combat turn. There are a few minor problems with Final Fantasy that I really should touch on. In more modern games you can simply click the buttons and even if a given target is destroyed, anyone else who was set to fight that creature will just randomly attack another monster. This is not the case in the original FF. You have to select each creature you want to fight with each character. In Layman's Terms, if your Fighter manages to go first (because of high agility) and kills the Ogre that your Black Mage has also targeted with a Lit spell, your Mage uses the MP used to cast the spell but doesn't hit anything because the target of the spell is already dead. Got that so far? The scenario is exactly the same in likewise fashion for your White Mage. If they cast a Heal spell on a weakened party member who just happens to be dealt the Coup de Grace by some sort of enemy, the MP are consumed but the spell has no effect. You might already be seeing some major flaws in this system and are probably scratching your head in ponderance as to why I gave the battle system a 9...

   The answer is fairly easy, really. Everything else about the battle system is groundbreaking, supernaturally gnarly stuff. The various classes of characters all have separate sets of abilities that are learned as they progress upward in levels. This is not to say that they are arbitrarily given new skills as they level up. No, no, no! They merely gain the power to use better skills. You have to purchase the skills from magic shops. "Ah man! That system sucks!" It might seem kinda crappy by today's standards but, again, look at the competition. Dragon Warrior has little or no skill system at all. I've never played the original Phantasy Star but if it's anything like 2 or PSO, then the parallel system of skill building in it is nothing to rival Final Fantasy. Truly, FF broke new ground... Now if only we could get Squaresoft to translate and port FFII and FFIII, we'd be set!

Ogre's Might Be Strong...
Ogre's Might Be Strong... 

   There is one thing that I really, really, really, and for-truly hate about early RPGs. The menu system. Strangely... Although Final Fantasy had the same problem that Dragon Warrior did (only letting you do one specific thing and then cancelling you back out of the menu... Can you imagine what that would be like with the Chrono Trigger PSX..? ::shudder::) I wasn't as spiteful of it. That might have something to do with the fact that I very rarely used the menu for anything except equipping... But, the sub-menus are set up in a way that you can probably figure out with relative ease. A couple of the options are named strangely... Especially the ones involving equipment. But, you'll persevere... Just remember that this was Squaresoft's first RPG attempt. Give them a little credit for learning from their mistakes.

   Admittedly the NES synth isn't the most spectacular sound sampling system the universe has ever known. Totally in monaural and with blips and bloops the likes of which would be laughable today, the Final Fantasy soundtrack is nonetheless astounding. Anyone who has played a Final Fantasy game has heard the Prelude Theme. What some of you younger gamers may not know is that it is actually two songs. What happened to the second half? Good question. About the only place I hear it any more is in the ending sequences of the Final Fantasy games. Aside from the prelude, there is plenty other reason to listen in teary-eyed awe of Nobuo Uematsu. Matoya's Cave for one. The music aside, Final Fantasy's sound effects selection is kinda crappy. But it's stupendous when compared to Dragon Warrior's (I can just see the amount of Enix fan hate mail I'm getting for this review...) *dink* *doink* repertoire.

   "An originality of 9?! Is he mad?!" Yes. I'm quite mad. But that's hardly the point I'm trying to make. Between Final Fantasy and its' counterparts (PS and DW) these early RPGs cover all the bases. Everything that has been done in an RPG since, can be linked back to one of the three in some sense or another. I'm sure you've heard the wise man's saying that, "There is only one story to be told, the only difference is in the path the story takes." I'm a firm believer in that philosophy. Everything is just a derivative of something earlier and smaller with a new coat of paint. That's probably why I'm not sucked in by fancy graphics and innovation. It's whether a game is long and fun and whether or not I'm attached to the characters that matters.

   Story wise, Final Fantasy isn't that great. It's basically just another version of the Final Fantasy V storyline that pits four chosen warriors against the powers of darkness in an attempt to protect the elemental crystals and return the planet to a state of natural harmony. This is all thrown out the window when the heroes discover some greater evil being behind it in some manner or another with the intent to rule the universe by creating a time paradox...

And Bahamut Might Be Scary...
And Bahamut Might Be Scary... 

   There is little text in the game beyond the normal townsfolk speech. And what of it that there was didn't impress me overly much. It's a fair translation considering they did it all in house with a group of college students. Nintendo might've had something to do with it being as well done as it was but quality standards could afford to be a bit less on the NES than the SNES I suppose.

   Final Fantasy is extremely short. The merest jaunt around the world to the Temple of Fiends, debacle with some elemental fiends, and a fight with the God of Destruction, Chaos, are all you really need to accomplish in the game... Oh... And you need to refill the magical destiny orbs with... Well... Destiny I suppose, before you can confront him. Aside from this short plot point there's really not a lot to do besides level up (which is a fairly good idea in this game).

   The graphics of the NES leave a lot to be desired typically. Yet... FF engineered some new advances in RPGs. It uses two separates sprite sheets for each character both in and out of battle. One when you're old and one when you're young for both battling enemies and wandering the map. This is sorta the same thing that everyone began to pay attention to in Final Fantasy VII when Squaresoft decided to develop two separate character models; one for the maps and one for the battles (which were just adjusted and added to the FMV clips). The game has can use a total of 256 colors at once and is, thus, not any kind of sight to behold, really. It's the innovation with what they had to work with that earns Squaresoft points here.

   Although not as insanely difficult as the original Dragon Warrior, (fighting blasted Drakees for hours and hours just to buy a bloody sword...) Final Fantasy has its' moments. First, foremost, and almost singularly among them is the final boss, Chaos. If you can stoumach the game long enough to level everyone up to Lvl99 and kill him in one hit, more power to you. If, however, you're a mere level 25 when you get there (such as I was) there is little or nothing you can do to defeat him except have Fate and chance on your side. He has innumerable attacks that can decimate your party or even just a single person. Having your White Mage die can really suck, though. Take lots of potions and other items and just try to deal as much damage to him as you possibly can as fast as you can. Bothering to resurrect anyone who can't deal a significant amount of damage is a waste of time.

But Chaos Takes The Cake
But Chaos Takes The Cake 

   Just like any other RPG, Final Fantasy isn't something you can just pick up and play and then put down. It's a time consuming ordeal of near-death experiences. The greatest reason to play the game more than once is to try the fabled 'suicide party' composed of four White Mages. I've never even beaten Garland with that group so if you're up for a challenge, that's surely it.

   Final Fantasy rocks. That's really all there is to it. It is the epic masterpiece original RPG. Squaresoft has earned their place in the gaming world if only because of this game. If you still own a functioning NES and are willing to pay the unGodly price some of those eBay sellers want for the game, I'd avidly advise you to step up to the challenge and face the wrath of Chaos...

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