Final Fantasy

Final Fantasy is a role-playing game by Square Soft for the Nintendo Entertainment System. The basic plot is that the world’s elements have been thrown into chaos. In order to restore peace to the land as the prophecy foretold, four Light Warriors carrying darkened orbs of the elements must come together and fight to restore the light in each orb. This is where you come in. Right away you’ll be tasked with creating your party of four characters using any combination of the six available classes. You can even use as many of each as you’d like. There’s a fighter, a black belt, a thief, a white mage, a black mage, and a red mage. Fighters have high offensive and defensive capabilities but cannot cast spells. Thieves are physical fighters with lower base stats in most areas and also cannot use magic but do have an increased luck stat. Black belts are another fighting class without magic but their bonus is that they get boosted stats while totally unequipped. White mages are poor physical fighters that make up for it by casting white magic spells. Black mages are much the same but with black magic spells. And red mages have a bit more rounded stats AND can cast both white and black magic BUT cannot cast the highest tiers of either. After assembling and naming your party you’ll be thrust into the overworld map. You can walk around freely in a grid-like manner and will find random encounters on most of the overworld tiles. Depending on where you are in the world will determine what monsters may show up and how strong they’ll be. The different terrain plays some role in this as well but mostly will just change the background of the battles. You can enter towns, castles, and other points of interest from the overworld map. Towns usually have inns for you to rest at in order to replenish your health and magic. You can buy armor, weapons, consumables, white magic, and black magic in their respective shops too. There are sometimes churches where you can revive slain party members. You can also talk to a variety of NPCs, some of which will have good information. Others will have flavor text. You may even find some side quests here. Castles will usually have more major quests for you to undergo at the request of royalty. Most of the questing in the game is either retrieving key items, rescuing people, hunting monsters, or using key items to accomplish one of the above. Each of the four elements is guarded by an aptly named elemental fiend. You must defeat all of the fiends in their lairs in order to win.

Then there’s the combat. The combat is turn-based with attack order being determined by the agility stat. Your options are fight, magic, drink, item, and run. Fight will have you using your equipped weapon. Some weapons may only be wielded by select classes. Depending on your agility you may even get multiple hits in per attack. Magic works a little differently than you might expect. So there are two different kinds of magic. White magic is generally for buffing your party and fighting undead enemies. Black magic is mostly for dealing large amounts of damage to single targets, decent damage to groups of enemies, or inflicting harmful effects. Regardless, each spell falls under a category of level. Spells can be anywhere from level 1 to level 8. You’ll notice this breakdown in the spell menu. You can fit up to three spells per level. You’ll also notice a number next to the section as an amount out out of another amount. This indicates your number of remaining casts compared to your total. Each level has its own number of total casts. As you level up you’ll not only increase other stats but also increase your number of casts for each level, starting with some levels of magic inaccessible until you are a high enough level and increasing the number of casts on lower level spells in the process. Spells are not learned. They are only purchased. You can order your party members from the overworld screen by pressing select. The closer to the top a character is, the more likely they are to be targeted.

The drink command refers to your consumables. You can use them on any party member, not just the one selecting the drink. Heal will replenish some HP. Cure will cure poison. Soft will alleviate stone status. The item command lets you select any item currently in that warrior’s possession and use its special ability, if applicable. The run option gives you a chance to flee the battle. You can also be stunned by some enemies and even instantly killed by certain attacks. Elemental weaknesses come into play for most enemies as well as elemental resistances. You can find gear to do more elemental damage and also resist certain elements and status ailments. Defeating enemies will net you gold and experience points. Gold is used to buy pretty much everything in towns and getting experience points is how you level up. Leveling up increases your stats. It’s all very standard RPG stuff. You can also get items like tents, cabins, and houses which can be used to heal a bit and save out on the overworld. However, there’s an awful lot of water out there. You might just need to find some way to traverse it and explore just what else lies in wait in Final Fantasy. Restore the power of the orbs!

I honestly ended up liking this game quite a bit more than I initially expected I would. The simplistic and primitive nature of older RPGS is something I tend to enjoy more as I’m kind of a moron when it comes to strategy. So the simple fighting and leveling system was very welcome to me. I also enjoyed the way the game offered information if you looked but didn’t just hand it all to you on a platter. Most spells and equipment you have to just experiment with to understand. It makes you feel out the game and learn it rather than just looking at menus and deciding what it best without so much as a field test. It also makes every new discovery all the more exciting. I’m even impressed at how many different kinds of enemies there are. Sure, there are lots of slightly altered palette swaps too but just the main number of unique monster sprites and types is shocking. At the same time I was also surprised how forward-thinking some of the mechanics were. Being able to hold A to essentially auto battle those easier fights was a nice touch. Plus the battle plays out automatically so you don’t have to hit a button between every action that is playing out. You can even hold down A to go through the level up text boxes rather than waiting to hit A on each one.Using items as free spell casts is interesting. I really liked the unique magic system. Rather than a general HP pool or limited uses of each specific spell they managed to find this middle-ground that works its way into progression, strategy, and the customization of how you build your characters. The world is pretty big and there’s a lot to see and do. By far I think the thing I was most impressed with was the pace. There were times when my lack of skill or good party build forced me to grind, but it never felt like a chore. It was part of the fun and it was rewarding me for my time while still in that sense punishing my lack of skill. It’s always an interesting balance with grinding like that in games, I suppose. The thing is, the game will often confront you with tough obstacles. Whether it’s a ton of hit stun or poisoning or petrification, you’ll find yourself frustratingly stuck in parts. You’ll struggle with them and get annoyed. But then you’ll find the means to overcome those obstacles and feel good that you’re able to handle things now. It keeps the pace of the game steady enough that you want to grind enough and tinker enough to overcome the obstacles and once you’re over that hump you just want to keep going now that you finally can. It’s great! Instead of a continuous flow it feels more like an adventure full of trials to conquer. And because everything feels like such a substantial threat when you first encounter it, you end up really feeling the weight of the experiences as you go. Coming back to old enemies shows how much you’ve grown while a new one is never something you can write off out of the gate. Even the leveling and numbers you see happening in gold and stats and whatnot is so reserved you can actually understand what’s going on at a glance. It doesn’t have crazily inflated numbers or anything like that. It’s just done so well. It’s great.

Then again, this IS still a primitive game and it does have a fair number of issues because of it. Right when you start the game you’ll see the options to continue or start a new game. There’s also something on the bottom that says Respond Rate. You can’t select it with up and down but left and right change the number. The higher the number, the faster the text will disappear during combat. Why not call it text speed? This will set the tone for the rest of the game in that it’s one of those games that will tell you very little about specifics. You might want to look up the manual or Google some of the item stats on this game. Even the character classes aren’t explained in-game. You can experiment with spells but that’s a bit risky when you have limited slots. You can also check the stat changes with different equipment on by looking at the numbers before and after but there’s no way to know what special attributes any of the items have. Also some key items oddly will work upon talking to the right person or examining the correct thing, but others require you to be next to the person or thing and then select them from the item menu. I find the instant kill moves to be bullshit because there’s very little you can do to combat them until late in the game. Some of them just can’t be stopped at all which means that if you encounter monsters that get the chance to strike first then you’re just screwed. Better hope you don’t get stun-locked, stoned, or completely wiped by instant kills in that scenario. These things are manageable but not in the context of the enemy starting with a free turn. While it’s nice to be able to select which enemy you’re attacking, the problem is that your attacks only go towards that selected target unless it’s a group spell. So if two of your characters attack at one enemy and one of them kills it on their turn then the other will attack the blank space and do nothing rather than attack the next living enemy. I just think too much of the information was hidden in the guide that came with the game in order to save space. Oh, and would it have killed them to include a few more battle themes? It’s like the same one through the entire game for every fight! That’s just my luck… and speaking of luck, that stat is bugged so it just doesn’t work. In other words, don’t pick the thief because their only redeeming quality is broken.

Final Fantasy is great. I adore the blend of old-school RPG tropes with innovative and interesting ideas for the time. It scratches a lot of itches and is paced so well that it’s hard not to see it through to the end. It’s also not too terribly hard if you’re willing to plan or grind enough. And the party creation part leaves plenty of room for replaying with different builds. It’s a classic for a reason. If you can get your hands on it in some form or another, check it out. It’s an important of not only RPG history but gaming history in general. Final Fantasy is definitely worth your time. Maybe I should’ve started with First Fantasy… but… well… that’s a tired kind of joke anyways so let’s cut our losses and stop it there.

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