By: Tiger Chainsaw
Originally released in 1990 in North America for the Nintendo Entertainment System, Final Fantasy was anything but “final”. Square developed the game while Nintendo published the fantasy epic-adventure RPG that began the hit series. Since the release on the NES, Final Fantasy has been rereleased or remastered 19 times. The version I played for this review was for the PSP that was released in 2007 that featured high-resolution 2D graphics and some small FMV scenes. How does the first Final Fantasy holds up today, and do I find it among the best RPGs ever made?
Final Fantasy is renowned for its immersive story and characters, but unlike the rest of the series, the first Final Fantasy doesn’t develop character arcs or relationships.
“The world lies shrouded in darkness,
The winds die…
The seas rage…
The earth decays…
But the people believe in prophecy, patiently waiting for its fulfillment.
‘When darkness veils the world, four Warriors of Light shall come.’
After a long journey, four young warriors did at least appear…
… and in the hand, each was holding a crystal.”
One of the things that bother me about Final Fantasy is these mystery warriors. They just show up as the prophecy says, and there’s no explanation as to who they are, why they showed up, why they have the crystals and why they are willing to fight and possibly give up their lives to save this land. WHO ARE THESE GOOD SAMARITANS?
Aside from not revealing a single shred of a biography of these heroes, Final Fantasy does have a solid plot. Like the prophecy says, the land begins to decay along with other elements raging on and destroying the Earth. These four mystery warriors walk into a city named Coneria where the princess has been abducted. They learn that Garland, a once-renowned noble knight has become evil and captured Princess Sara taking her away to an abandoned fortress. The warriors rescue Sara and the King of Coneria agrees to build a bridge so they have access to the rest of the world.
Thus begins the quest of restoring the elemental orbs across the land. Each orb is guarded by an elemental fiend that the warriors must defeat to restore the power of the orb and calm that element. With the orbs restored, a portal opens up in a temple that transports the warriors 2000 years into the past. It turns out that the four fiends that had guarded the orbs opened the portal and sent Garland back in time to create a time loop. The Warriors then take on Garland once more who has transformed into a huge demon god. With Garland defeated, the Warriors return to the present day but with the future changed back to normal, no one will ever know of their good deeds or epic quest to restore the land. Alas, they remain a bunch of no-names.
I played Final Fantasy on my PSP and absolutely loved it. When the menu loads and you hear that beautiful tune it will give you goosebumps. The graphics looked so sharp and making it a portable experience meant I could play it wherever I wanted instead of logging tons of hours in front of my TV. Final Fantasy is your typical JRPG where you will fight monsters in turn-based combat where each enemy has strengths and weaknesses. It’s up to you to find out what works best on the enemies and continue to level up before moving on to more dangerous dungeons and areas. You’re able to use both weapons and magic to defeat enemies, and there are tons of stats and elemental effects on battles.
I’ll give any gamer credit who beat Final Fantasy without a guide. These RPGs from the 80s and early 90s are so tough to figure out where to go next or where to search that I used a guide right from the beginning. I have too many games to play to waste 40 hours exploring the land and figuring out what to do next. Sorry if that’s making it too easy, but it needed to happen. I didn’t look up how to defeat enemies or bosses, but I used the guide as a map to see where I needed to go. That’s part of the charm or annoyance to these early RPGs depending on your viewpoint.
About halfway through the game, your warriors will evolve into more advanced beings of themselves. It was cool to see actual progress in the level grinding but be prepared to spend a few hours killing the same enemy over and over. Dungeons can be confusing, so get a map if you want to figure out where to go next.
At the beginning of the game, you can choose which types of warriors you want in your journey. I selected the Knight, Red Mage, Black Mage, and Master who is like a Black Belt fighter. I heard that the ninja was pretty useless, and the white mage is only good for healing. With the Red Mage being able to heal, I had my bases covered.
Final Fantasy was challenging during a few phases of the game, but nothing a little grinding didn’t fix. The toughest boss by far was the final form of Garland, as it should be. There’s a strategy that goes into beating him, so even if you are highly leveled you’ll have to cast the right magic to beat him. As I mentioned earlier, navigating the land can be tricky, and the objective for you is not always clear, so follow a guide or face hours of figuring out what to do next. Final Fantasy, besides being credited to turning the RPG genre into a popular money-maker in the West was also credited as the first RPG to feature both your team and the enemies on the screen in an overhead battle sequence.
I tried to play Final Fantasy a few times on an emulator which was the NES version when I was younger but never had the patience to complete the game. I got the PSP Final Fantasy version in a hot eBay bidding war that came bundled with the rest of the Final Fantasies on the PSP. I was winning the bid until a minute left, but I kept upping the bid anyway because I knew shit was about to get wild. I think I had the winning bid at $88, but I only won by a few pennies. It was exciting and a rush! I had the foresight to bid ridiculously high at the end to outbid any jumps by $10 which happened.
My bedtime routine began with watching the anime Zillion and playing Final Fantasy in my bed for an hour or two. I loved it. Grinding is way easier when you can watch a show while you’re doing it, and I think winning the game in a bid made me really want to push through and complete the first game for the first time. Garland was the only boss that gave me a true challenge but after finding his weakness I was able to beat him and pop my Final Fantasy I cherry.
Final Fantasy sets the stage for the epic series, but it is a little rough around the edges. There’s no hint of who the warriors are which really bothered me. Overall, it’s a solid experience, but no one that required to enjoy the rest of the games. Playing it on the PSP is highly recommended to ease the burden of grinding, and the HD graphics looked amazing. It’s a solid game, but likely the worst entry in the series.
Final Fantasy scores a 7.1 out of 10.
Do you remember when Final Fantasy first came out? Were you a kid and played it on your NES or did you pick it up later in life like me? What classes did you pick, and were you able to beat the game and Garland? Which is your favorite game in the series? Let me know your memories and thoughts, I’d love to read the comments.
If you’d like to own a copy of Final Fantasy you can purchase a used copy of it for the PSP for $25 on eBay.