Real Talk By: The Wizard
Ah, good ol’ Final Fantasy. The original game that started the legacy on the original Nintendo Entertainment System way back in 1990. Odds are you have heard of Final Fantasy, or probably even played a Final Fantasy game in the past. You may be wondering how this game stacks up among the rest, and if it is worth adding to your collection. So let’s get on with the review and find out if this game stands the test of time.
First let’s start with the story. Final Fantasy is a RPG about the 4 warriors of light that must defeat the 4 fiends of earth. Basically the fiends are destroying the earth and it is up to you to find, and destroy them to restore earth back to its natural state. I could go much more in-depth here, but that is a brief overview of what is going on. The story is actually quite deeper and revolves around a character named Garland who makes a pact 2000 years earlier, and then sends the fiends to present day. Ultimately the game is about finding and defeating Garland. In the beginning of the game you simply pick your party, and the game begins with a sort of prequel before the real story unfolds. You have a few choices here in regard to your party. You can pick from 6 different classes that for the most part, need no description. You can choose from the fighter, thief, black mage, white mage, black belt, and red mage. The red mage is a sort of jack of all trades. He can use both white and black magic, and can use swords, but is not very proficient in any. He is a good all-around character, but probably the weakest asset of the bunch. He can use some special weapons that come in handy quite a bit, mainly weapons that are strong against a specific creature type. The black belt is very powerful, but cannot wear good armor. You will be tricked through the game when various shops try to sell you weapons for the black belt, but never buy them. The black belt is meant to be a bare-handed character and will wreck shop starting very early in the game. Ultimately your character choices have zero impact on how the story unfolds, and there are no special areas designed for a specific class. So your pick is basically up to your taste. My normal party consists of fighter, black belt, white mage, and black mage. This is a great all around party that will get you through the game. There is not much story here. You will never be stopped in the middle of the game for a long period while the story unfolds (like in other Final Fantasy games). In a way you have to it together and reach your own conclusions. If you talk to villagers, you will be rewarded with pieces of story to take note of, and match up later in-game. If you really want to get in-depth I highly suggest just picking up the official Nintendo Power Strategy Guide. It is full of story, and will make the game much more enjoyable.
As for the gameplay, Final Fantasy is your pretty standard old school RPG. It consists of random encounters, with turned based combat. The basic formula of the game is gather information in town, grind a few levels to buy equipment, search for the next fiend, find his lair, get butt handed to you, come back, grind more, buy 100 potions, buy 50 antidotes, blinds etc., camp out in front of fiend lair to restore HP and MP, attempt dungeon again, repeat till you win. This may sound pretty tedious, and it is. This my friends is the beginning of the aspect of Japanese RPG’s called the grind fest. You will learn to love or hate it in Final Fantasy. If you do not grind, you will not make it very far. The dungeons the 4 fiends reside in are long, and full of powerful enemies that will stun, and murder your entire party without remorse. Then you will be expected to “escape” back outside after having won a tough boss fight, with your warriors running on E. The grinding is not awful, but it will probably require going into a dungeon, and looting as much as possible before returning home, and coming back to the fully looted dungeon to take on the boss. There really isn’t much else to talk about except the very annoying part of combat where you miss if you have targeted an enemy who has died. For example it might sound cool to put all 4 characters on one ogre to get him out-of-the-way. If your black belt gets a critical hit and destroys him, all the rest of your party will miss. This is very annoying and makes you really have to gauge how fast you can kill a monster, and divide your attacks accordingly. For example, you might want your mages to attack a weak monster the whole round and eventually chip his life away, while your fighter and black belt handle the real threats. That way every single point is doing damage and you are winning faster. Or you may get a hit with the black belt one round, and the enemy does not die as expected. Then it might be a good idea to have your white mage go in next round to finish him off while the black belt moves on to a tougher foe. You will eventually devise a system to your liking, and it will make the game more enjoyable, because whiffing is not acceptable in this game. Literally every hit counts, and can be the difference between a fast win, or your entire party being paralyzed and man handled.
For a pretty early NES game Final Fantasy has very acceptable graphics. I personally think the game looks pretty good, but is far from the best looking NES game out there. You won’t find the NES being pushed to the limits. The game runs very smooth, and there are no issues with slow-down or blinking sprites. As for the music, this is where the game really shines. The music is fantastic. Matoya’s Cave is still one of my all-time favorites, and the token village music is great too. There are some classic tracks on here that are the staple of every Final Fantasy game after. The music really adds to the enjoyment of the game, and it should help keep you playing.
In conclusion I would have to recommend Final Fantasy to anyone who has never played it if you are a Final Fantasy, or RPG fan. It won’t stand out among most of the later SNES or PS1 Final Fantasy games, but as far as rankings go, I would put it somewhere in the middle of all the true games in the main series. If you get the official Nintendo Power guide you will enjoy the game that much more, and once you get your battle tactics down you will realize the grinding isn’t that bad. It really just comes down to scouting out the fiend lair, and preparing correctly. If you are fighting undead mainly, stock up on potions to use on undead enemies, and to save precious magic spell slots. Read up on the various spells online and pick ones that are the best, because your spell slots are limited, and you must choose wisely. For example the back mage has a spell called “rub” which is probably the best spell in the game against non-boss characters. If you are playing a re-make the name of this spell was changed for whatever reason. If you complete the game and are up for a challenge, I highly recommend the “white mage challenge”. Basically you pick all 4 white mage’s in the beginning and try to beat the game. Not a task for the faint of heart, or weenies.
Final Fantasy is a standard RPG with good graphics, excellent music, and not much story. But it has charm, and charm goes a long way. It is easily one of the best NES RPG’s, and a solid RPG candidate among all systems. Especially for those looking for a little challenge, and another Final Fantasy game to complete. It’s kind of hard to dock it for some of its shortcomings since it is an old NES game, and the majority of NES games are nowhere near as polished. Final Fantasy 1 was the first RPG I ever played. It was given to me by my cousin who though it was awful, and I instantly fell in love with the genre. I am trying to grade this from a perspective of someone who has no nostalgic feelings toward the game, and that is why it will not get a perfect score.
Final Fantasy Gets
4 Out of 5
Character’s don’t recalculate and attack another enemy, if the previous was defeated.
Lacking story without the official guide.