Review by kiriyama2
"The humble beginnings of a series that would become a juggernaut of an entire genre"
Admittedly I never played the original Final Fantasy when it first came out in the early nineties. In fact, FFIV was actually the first one I played, and that was near the end of the sixteen bit era. If memory serves, the first time I actually played Final Fantasy was in 2004. Only then it was because I felt like seeing what the start of this venerable series was like. I must say, it is actually quite entertaining.
Final Fantasy begins with four youths arriving at the Kingdom of Corneria, where Princess Sara has been kidnapped by the knight Garland. The king of Corneria asks the four to save his daughter because of a prophecy told by an oracle type known as Lukhan. Of course saving the princess is just a prelude to a grander quest that spans the whole of the globe. After saving the princess the four are informed that they're the Warriors of Light from the legends of old. And that as the legendary Light Warriors they need to go scour the world and kill the four various elemental fiends and restore the Orbs of Light to their former glory and save the world. Seems a bit standard, but it serves as a nice basis for the multitude of battles that lie ahead.
Graphically Final Fantasy might have been flooring. Especially when you compare it to some other NES games that were out at that time. It really outclasses something like Dragon Warrior 2 that was out around the same time. The character sprites are detailed nicely and look pretty nifty. The environmental stuff looks moderately more real looking compared to the bright color of the ground in DW2. What's more is that the enemies in the battle screen look pretty good, theres a nice assortment of them, even if later on its simple just the same types with a different coloring job. The boss characters are pretty nifty looking particularly the four fiends (Tiamat, the fiend of Wind, and Kary the fiend of Fire in particular), and the final boss of the game.
However, before you can actually start your quest to save the world from an impending darkness and save the princess you need to choose your party. Unlike most RPGs of the day where you were just given a trio or quartet with specific skills and abilities, Final Fantasy actually lets you choose who you have in your team. The classes you can choose from are the Fighter (obviously skilled in physical combat), Black Mage (can cast offensive spells, but is physically weak), White Mage (who casts healing spells and buffs on your party, is also pretty weak), Red Mage (who can cast both white and black magic spells, and is a pretty decent fighter to boot), Thief (who is quite skilled at running away, and isn't particularly strong), and Black Belt (another strong physical attacker, but can't equip most armor). It pays off well to have a fairly balanced team. For instance a Fighter, Black Mage, White Mage, Black Belt combo. Or a Fighter, Black White and Red Mages (as a Red Mage can fight pretty well, plus there's the additional offensive magic). But the game doesn't really go to any lengths of shunning using any of the six available classes. It just makes the game a bit harder if you decide to try to roll through as an all Fighter, or Mage team. Although if I had to say one thing about the available character types it's that the Thief and Black Belt classes are somewhat useless. The Thief has no abilities that makes him truly worthwhile (although he does get a bit useful when he changes his class, more on that in a bit), and the Black Belt is redundant because the Fighter can already take a large amount of damage, plus gets better weapons and better armor. Of course I assume there are those who'd disagree with that statement.
The neat thing about the characters is about halfway through the game is that you get something called a class change. The class change simply makes your characters a bit tougher and gives them additional abilities. For instance, when the Fighter becomes a Knight he gains the ability to cast some white magic spells making him a touch more useful as he can act as an impromptu healer. The Black and White Mages simply become Wizards of their given professions and get to use higher level spells. The Red Mage turns into a Red Wizard and gets slightly better armor, and slightly better spells, but doesn't get nearly as much magic-wise as the Black and White Wizards. Near as I can tell the Black Belt doesn't get anything different when he class changes to a Master, I think he gets more hits when he attacks. Lastly the Thief gets something good, he turns into a Ninja, and gains the ability to cast low level black magic, and has decent attack strength.
The battle system in Final Fantasy is the typical turn-based, menu driven RPG that you might be used to on the NES. In that you select the action for your party and it does it and the enemies retaliate. Difference here is unlike most RPGs at the time that had you engage at most six enemies at a time you run the chance of fighting nine opponents at once. The battle system is well done, and it's simple enough to designate a target for your assault (physical or magical). However unlike some other RPGs on the system the game lacks a defend command, so you can't just have your casters or whoever just take a breather and sit that turn out. Which isn't all that bad, but it would've been a nice gesture, especially when at times having your Black or White Mages attack is entirely pointless, as they lack any decent physical attack strength. A problem I have with the combat in this game is the fact that if you have more than one of your party members targeting an enemy that gets eliminated they still attack that empty space, rather than attack a different monster. Which can be particularly annoying if you have a Black or Red Mage set to cast on a monster then your Fighter kills it before they cast, as they'll waste that spell charge.
The magic system is actually one of the things I quite like about this game. Instead of using an MP gauge that would take out a set number depending on the spell, it just has different spell levels and charges for that level. I'm sure a lot of people decry that as silly and complicated (it really isn't), I like it just because, you won't run out of MP for your uber death spell by casting a lot of lesser fire spells. However, one problem is the fact that you don't get too many spell charges for any given level. Especially since as you progress in the game the lower level spells start becoming less and less useful. Also there's the fact that you only gain more spell levels like once every other level up.
Still it must be said that the offensive magic system is loads better and more reliable than that in Dragon Warrior 2. Unlike in DW2 where nine times out of ten the spell would yield a this spell is ineffective against this enemy screen the spell almost always does damage. Unless of course you had it set to attack an enemy that has just died, then you get an ineffective.
The battles in this game tend to rely on luck quite a bit. Sure a lot of it is reliant upon how strong your people are versus the strength of the monsters on the other side. But a lot of it really does seem to rely on luck, more often than not the enemy units get to attack first. While it's not necessarily a complaint it's just a tad annoying if the enemy has the delightful ability to paralyze any given character with a hit. More so if they have a bunch of enemies with that same ability and paralyzes the whole of your team and pick off your team as you watch helplessly. Thankfully though, only a handful of enemies have that ever so delightful ability.
However, when inevitably when one of your party falls in combat (or as a result of poisoning) it's quite easy to resurrect them. Just drag their corpse to the nearest town and throw out some gold to have them brought back from the dead. Of course later in the game your White and Red Mages can learn a spell to resurrect them free of charge.
In Dragon Warrior (both one and two) you could only ever save your game in Castles or towns. In Final Fantasy however not only does it save when you go to the inn (saving time as it both heals your people and saves your game), but you can also do it on the world map with tents, cabins, and house items. It's just sort of nice that it doesn't hamstring you with saving it only at specific places like towns. However there's something that's just a bit off with using Houses to save your game. Like the inns they both recharge your health and your spell charges. However if you save your game and then turn off the console it doesn't recharge your spells. I have no idea why it does that, but it's mildly irritating and you wind up using more items to get those charges you'd have otherwise got if you just kept playing.
Something that propels this game to a level above Dragon Warrior (one or two, doesn't matter) is the fact that this game includes a map. So you never get hopelessly lost looking for some vague section of map. The only downside is that the towns and other important places don't have any distinguishing marks on the map and just appear as blinking dots on the map. But still it is just such a nice inclusion that it doesn't matter, and makes it so you're never really stuck just sailing around the world hoping to reach some town.
The music in this game is really quite good. Especially for an NES game, I don't know why but I just quite enjoy it. For the most part it is a bunch of good tunes, but unfortunately there's some of it that isn't really very good. But then again, the same could be said of all games, past and present.
This game is really very good. It is certainly more enjoyable than the Dragon Warrior games (though I still immensely enjoy DW1), yet for some reason I can't really say that it's perfect. It is most definitely worthwhile and a blast to play but it just lacks that certain spark. Granted it lacks the flair of other RPGs on the NES and is most certainly outclassed by Final Fantasy III, I would still highly recommend checking out this game if only to see where this series got it's start.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 09/12/08
Game Release: Final Fantasy (US, May 1990)
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