This was a game series in which I didn’t know where to start since they’re not exactly in order. The Final Fantasy series, it’s a hugely popular RPG franchise with hundreds of games in the series. Final Fantasy is about…anything, different stories, different characters, though most have some differences and similar traits so whatever game you choose, you may have a great time without worrying of anything plot related…unless you’re Final Fantasy X-2 and whatnot. So I’ve been wanting to get into RPGs, so far, I’ve played The Mother series, Super Mario RPG, a bit of Dragon Quest I, Pokemon FireRed and Leafgreen and now I can add this one on my list.
Final Fantasy (ファイナルファンタジー Fainaru Fantajī), developed and published by Square (Now known as Square Enix) and was released in 1987 for the Famicom, but eventually got a US release in 1990 for the NES. Europe would not get this until the PlayStation in 2003, 16 years after its release, though this is an enhanced version. I’m going to play a PSP port of this, though I’m only going to play the main story and none of the bonus stuff, it’s long enough for me as it is.
Now for some history. The creator of Final Fantasy was Hironobu Sakaguchi, who wanted to make an RPG for a while, but Square refused him the permission to do so because they thought that RPGs wouldn’t sell well. Dragon Quest happened and took Japan by storm so Square eventually gave him permission to make an RPG. The title was originally going to be called Fighting Fantasy, now here’s a fact that was debunked. According to the composer Nobuo Uematsu, the title was changed to Final Fantasy because Square was going to face bankruptcy to if they were going to go, at least give it a name that would represent the supposed final game of Square. BUT Sakaguchi debunked that fact, the real reason for the name change was that there was a role-playing gamebook series of the same name and they wanted to avoid any legal issues. I liked the original fact better. Now for the game.
Even at the very first game, the plot is utterly confusing so here’s a very short summary. 4 heroes, each bearing a dark crystal. Each crystal has an element to their name: Earth, Fire, Water, and Wind. But…err, darkness went and screwed up everything and it’s up to our heroes to save the world.
There are six classes: Fighter, Thief, Black Belt, Red Mage, White Mage, and Black Mage. The Fighter is the swordsman and gets more powerful with much better weapons and armoury. The Thief is a swift fighter who uses daggers and small swords and can even steal items from enemies. The Black Belt (or the Monk) is a martial arts master who may have the worst defence, but hits hard the more the Black Belt levels up. The White Mage is, for the most part, the healer, uses spells to the rest of the heroes to increase their defence. The Black Mage specialises in attack spells, especially fire, ice and thunder, along with other spells that could affect an enemy in battle. And finally, The Red Mage the jack-of-all-trades and master of…well OK at everything. This mage can perform some of the White and Black Mage spells and can use swords, but is less powerful at everything.
You can only pick up to four characters, so with that in mind, I picked The Fighter and called him Ness, The Black Belt (or the Monk) and called him Ninten, The Black Mage and called him Lloyd and The White Mage and called her Paula. And you probably realised where I got these names from.
And so the game begins with you in Corneria…I mean Cornelia where the King gives you the task of saving a Princess from Garland, who used to be a knight of Cornelia but is now evil. But before I went to kick Garland off the deep end, I brought some armour and weapons and even some magic. To get more, I walked out into the field and battled some Goblins and this is where I can talk about how battling works.
The combat system is menu based; you can select different options like Attack, Magic, and Item, along with Equip and Flee. You attack with whatever weapon you’re equipped with. Magic can be used if the character can use it. And Items are the items you can use in battle like Potions to gain back some HP. You will battle more either one enemy or more than one enemy and some will have their own abilities too. If the party wins the battle, you get experience points and Gil, your currency.
With enough Gil, I can buy all the weapons, armour and magic in the Cornelia town and eventually go to the Chaos Shrine where I battle Garland. He was intimidating but easy to kill. I finally got the Princess and returned her to the King and in return, he gets his guards to fix a bridge to progress through the game. And so, you’ll spend the entire game going to towns, doing a mission objective, before lighting up the crystals to save the world, collect better gear overtime and grind to buy more gear and magic.
Ladies and Gentlemen, this is a by-the-numbers RPG and the reason why I played through it was that its Final Fantasy, but it’s ironic to call it a by-the-numbers RPG because it was the RPG that invented the tropes that others will follow and made Square the household name for future RPGs. Four warriors fight evil with some MacGuffins that are important to the world and we have friendship to finish off the final boss. So if you’ve played other RPGs, this will be nothing new to you, but with the mind-set of 1987, it was unique, taking the best of Dragon Quest and adding the western RPG flare to it. But playing it now, especially when other games in the genre have done more and have had new ideas for the genre.
Now for the presentation. Again, I’m playing the PSP version so I’ll look at that version. The graphics are mostly 2D with a mode 7 like world map, but the level design is crisp, clean and so beautiful, it’s the best looking PSP game out there. The music is also beautiful, so melodic and peaceful and can be a bit intense when in combat, though they do outstay their welcome and even some are repeated, I had to listen to some game commentaries to keep me engaged in the game because the music just got a bit samey.
Overall, Final Fantasy is an RPG, it doesn’t do anything wrong but I would recommend it if you’re being introduced to JRPGs. As for the experienced, it may not keep you engaged for long since you know how it’s going to go down…or you really like Final Fantasy and you may have already played a majority of them and wanted to play this because Final Fantasy. As for me, I found it OK, but I won’t go back to it, I would go back to Earthbound than go back to Final Fantasy.
You can get it on the NES/Famicom, MSX2, WonderSwan Color, PlayStation, Game Boy Advance, PlayStation Portable, iOS, Windows Phone, Android and the Nintendo 3DS.
*Some of the screenshots were provided by the owner of Retromaggedon.*