And so almost seven years after playing the Legendary Final Fantasy VII, I found myself finishing the game that started
it all, Final Fantasy. Oh what irony, in 1987 the Final Fantasy series was born on the NES, and a decade later in 1997 Final
Fantasy VII in PS1 (considered by many as the finest game in the series) finally managed to bring the series and RPGs into
the mainstream. So how did it feel to go back to the genre's roots?
Final Fantasy is much simpler than the modern Fantasies. Obviously in its time the game was very innovative, however today
almost 17 years after its release the game feels like Final Fantasy "lite". Make no mistake the game is still worthy of a
play for those who haven't played it and I figure most FF fans haven't since as I stated before, the series became the multimillion
success that it is today only after FFVII opened people's eyes to the RPG world.
Graphically the version of the game that I played (Origins for PS1) looked like a good SNES RPG, even though FFVI looks
better, keep in mind this are primitive graphics and you won't have any trouble with it. I never have any problems with
old 2-D games, that is the reason why I still play old school games and enjoy them, after all RPGs are all about story, music
and exploration. I must say that of course Final Fantasy looks better than your average SNES RPG simply because designer Yoshitaka
Amano is a genius, but good looks are taken for granted with the FF series any ways. Therefore the monster and character
artwork is top notch as expected.
The Story? Well, there is a simple basic plot, "simple" is not a word used too often with the FF series plot lines, well
with the FF games after FFVI any ways. The world in Final Fantasy is in big trouble because the four crystals light has extinguished.
The people are scared, yet they remain hopeful that the prophecy of the four warriors of light coming to restore the light
to the crystals will come to pass. You naturally control these four warriors of light when you start the story in the Kingdom
of Cornelia. After that, the game just takes you from town to dungeon to another town to another dungeon etc.
There is no character development, the characters have no back ground, no nothing, so it is unclear how they met with each
other and how they got their necklaces with the crystals. Unfortunately none of this is ever resolved for the developers considering
that in that era the story in an RPG wasnt really important, just slapped the story in, and decided to focus on gameplay.
There is only one plot twist and it happens in the final dungeon, so story is not the drive force behind FF1, exploration
is. However the plot twist was somewhat creative if you consider that this is coming from 1987.
The gameplay in FF1 is perhaps the key to the success it had. It definitely gives you a sense of much more freedom than
let's say FFX. In this game we begin to see the humble beginnings of the over world map which you will traverse. I shouldn't
use the word 'humble' to describe it, after all it is pretty big, at first you will have to travel through it on foot, which
becomes tiresome after a while since it takes many minutes to get from one place to the next. However you will eventually
get a ship, a canoe, and the always cool and useful Air ship.
While there is plenty to explore the core gameplay of the game is RPG gaming at its most basic. A lot of places to go to,
but little to interact with, and little reward for exploring. There are no sidequests, and no hidden bonuses except some weapons
and accessories that you can find inside treasure chests in the many dungeons of the game.
However unlike most modern RPGs, in Final Fantasy to be able to move ahead on the game you need to literally talk to every
NPC that you come across to in the towns and dungeons. NPCs that some times only give you vague clues as to where to go next,
so do not be surprised if you find your self wandering the world for hours with out a clue of what to do next. This was partially
frustrating but bearable; at least in this game I had to work hard to keep the story moving, so while frustrating it was also
satisfying to a degree.
The exploration would have been more enjoyable had there been less random battles. Battles are fought in the by now
traditional turn-based system, in which your party and your enemies take turns to attack. Surprisingly the system is very
similar to the one seen through the entire series all the way through FFIX. So if you have played any FF up to FFIX you will
be right at home. Of course like everything else in Final Fantasy 1 the battle system while nearly identical to its successors
in execution, is turn based at its most basic. While in battle you can only choose one of five commands, the commands are
Attack (you simply hack at the enemy with what ever weapon you have equipped), Magic (You choose a magic spell to either attack
or help your party), Items (the most useless command in battle and you will see why soon), Equip (you can equip weapons and
armor) and Flee (escape from battle).
If you have a Monk or a Knight however you cannot use magic, but more on that later. First things first, there is only
one recovery item in this game and that is the potions. They only restore about 20 HP so in the later stages of the game or
even halfway through they become pretty much useless. Second there are no Phoenix Downs meaning that if you only have one
white Mage on your party (And I recommend that) and it gets killed, you better leave the dungeon and get to a sanctuary. Because
you wont be able to revive your other characters if they get KO'd, and in the last dungeon of the game this means that you
have to reset and use the memo file option and this gets quite annoying. Your characters statistical progression solely depends
of course on leveling up.
So I didn't like the lack of items, the save system (you can only save on INNs and overworld with Cottage and Tent) and
the fact that some character classes where useless. Character classes? Yes when you start a new game you are given an option,
to pick a class and name for each member of your party. The classes are: Warrior, Monk, Thief, Red Mage, and Black Mage. The
Monk class is the most worthless. The Warriors are the best offensive and defensive characters, so a safe combination will
be to choose 3 Warriors and one White Mage (For recovery purposes) or 2 Warriors and 2 White Mages. This characters system
while to a degree poorly executed, it was latter polished and extended on FFV to create that game's magnificent Job Class
As I mentioned before I did not like the frustrating save system. In a long dungeon, like that hellish last dungeon for
example you will not be able to save before a boss battle onto a memory card, you can save to a memo file though, but that
becomes useless if you have to go somewhere and have turn your PS off. Since Final Fantasy Origins Package (FF1 and 2) are
slightly enhanced ports of their original versions it wouldnt have been to much to ask for Square to add a real Save feature
into the game.
Musically the game sounds much better than its original NES incarnation did, the compositions shine while there is not
too much variety I immediately recognized the classic tunes that have amazed my ears through out the years in the other more
modern Final Fantasies. Uematsu was always a genius I guess.
Being that this is a collectors remake, Square added a bonus menu in the game in which you can see the bestiary and
artwork for the game and even a secret bonus mode that can be opened by finishing the game twice (Which I doubt anyone will
want to do after spending close to thirty hours of random battles). There is also the inclusion of an easy mode (If you know
what is good for you play it in the easy mode).
So Final Fantasy 1 is Final Fantasy at its most basic. This isn't bad considering that Final Fantasy was indeed the base
and the foundation on which its Mega-popular legacy was built in. Yet while ground braking in its time, it had many flaws
and problems that thankfully were fixed and solved during the next nine installments that followed.