Review by EPoetker
"Some people actually REQUEST me to write these kinds of things...as if MORE praise for this game is needed..."
Square. The mere mention of that simple polygon excites warm-hearted admiration from all right-thinking videogame playing types, even those who think that all 32-bit incarnations of their games are EVIL PORTENTS OF A GAMING APOCALYPSE. Fear not, 3d-hating mortals, for without Square, what would we be playing? Tactics Ogre instead of Final Fantasy Tactics. Summoner instead of Vagrant Story. And...Dragon Warrior instead of Final Fantasy. (And in the spirit of W.H. Auden writing about J.R.R. Tolkein's detractors, if anybody prefers any of the former games to the latter, I will never trust their reviewing opinion on any game ever again. I will also use every influence I have in the gaming community to keep them from developing or reviewing games professionally. Ya gotta have standards.) In all seriousness, without Square out there developing RPGs, it's highly likely that I would have had absolutely no interest in them today, or at the very least come to the RPG party much later. And Final Fantasy was the one that invited me in, for good or ill. Chances are that FF or one of its sequels brought YOU to the RPG field as well, so don't start complaining to ME about Square's newfangled interfaces...
GRAPHICS: Yoshitaka Amano, master of drawing little floaty things surrounding some windblown (boy/girl/doesn't matter), really managed to bring personality out of his monster sketches. Certainly a lot more than, say, Akira Toriyama, who had to include mini-comics with many of the Japanese versions of his games in order to properly convey the range of possible emotional expression. American gamers, sadly, were bereft of the anime cuteness factor, and thus had to wonder why the sword fodder in a game with an American-drawn Amano-like dragon on the box looked so darned cute n' cuddly. Once DragonBall Z came along they would realize that the cuteness was just a front to make them let down their guard, but that didn't happen until 10 years after DW was released. (Majin Buu possesses the evil smile and durability of the metal slime...) The point of all this rambling is that DW enemies, though pretty nice for the time, generally failed to elicit the same ''wow'' response that FF's would. When you saw, say, the Eye, one of the Four Fiends, Chaos, a nasty giant or dragon, or even some of the smaller enemies, you know you're in for some sort of hard fight. Especially since there are a maximum of nine, rather than one, enemies to fight. Though nine pirates are major battle wusses, they just seem to sweep into motion when you fill up the battle area with them. That's one reason Amano's so popular as an artist-everything looks like it's moving. And while the standard dungeon/castle tileset was palette swapped a dozen times, it sure looked a whole lot more realistically detailed than the redbrick and cinderblock ''dungeons'' of DW. Oh, and they occasionally would play some different
MUSIC for different dungeons. Once you hear the opening octave-crawler(to say nothing of the ever-famous ''bridge theme'' that turned into the main FF theme for a few more games after that,) you'll know it's gonna be good. This RPG music didn't bore large, festering, recurring holes in the psyche for old tunes to bounce around in like DW's did. (Kill the dungeon music!!!) No, these slipped in quietly, owing their staying power to the fact that they earned their place in the cerebral cortex by surfacing and complementing tinges of melancholy or happiness. At the least, whenever a nice, big, joyful event like the last day of school came up, I know the airship theme was definitely in the back of MY head. The other stuff was great for the time, too, though it may not have aged as gracefully as, say, Capcom's Megaman themes. Of course, the same definitely can't be said of the ever-so-classic
GAMEPLAY, which, unless somebody comes up with some crazy killer innovative way to give psychic commands with electrodes implanted in your head, isn't likely to change in any FF sequel. Fight, Item, Drink, Magic, and Run can sometimes be consolidated into single command windows, but the essence is the same. After all, that's the general field of choices that your brain goes through whenever a threat approaches-Do you wish to FIGHT for your life, RUN like a sissy, use one of your ITEMS to distract or destroy him/her/it, cast a powerful MAGIC spell, or pour yourself an alcoholic DRINK to lessen the pain of the inevitable beating? Or maybe you'll offer a truce to the enemy over the DRINK, I don't know. The point is that the battle system was thought through very, very, carefully right up to the point when the programmers forgot to include the inabilty to flog dead monsters. Yeah, if you kill a monster and somebody else was ordered to hit or cast a spell at the dead monster, they'll swing their swords in the air and the message ''Ineffective'' will appear. Took them till FF3 Jap to fix it. Other than that horrible flaw(repeated in the Dragon Warrior series!), which adds a little bit too much micromanagement to the large number of battles, the part of the gameplay where you spent 90% of your time was challenging in the right way. And compared to the DW series, you spend a LOT less time and aggravation gaining experience. Other than certain nasty areas like the Marsh cave,most of the dungeons you entered required fairly minimal preparation for a well-rounded team.
Assuming, of course, that your team WAS well-rounded. I know that some people like to get through the game with silly groups (4 white mages>_<)for the challenge factor, but unless you LIKE the pain, stick with the Nintendo-recommended group of Fighter, Black Belt, White Mage, and Black Mage for the easiest experience. Thieves are kinda cruddy as a damage-dealing class until the class change(why no ability to steal?), and Red mages need to be doubled up on to take full advantage of the bunch of spells the game offers. (And since EXIT is the only way to get out of the last dungeon, you have to have either a White or Red Wizard if you want to do any leveling up there. You have been forewarned.)
Ahem...despite any hedging you may have detected in the last two paragraphs, rest assured that this game still provides oodley oodles of entertainment for any RPG lover, or even RPG newbies. RPG newbies should still be introduced to the genre with something like Mystic Quest, but if they have the ability to see past the old-school packaging, they'll find all the enjoyment they need in this beyond legendary game.
Of course, the biggest non sequiter of this game is its name, more tailored to bring truth-in-advertising lawyers running than ''The Neverending Story.'' Goes to show that you should never really name a game this way just because your company happens to be nearly bankrupt at the time.
Most other Great Lapses of Logic in RPGs have entire webcomics devoted to them. Brian Clevinger( www.nuklearpower.com/comic ) makes piles of money off of them. (Small piles, but piles nonetheless.) No other single NES game has made so much money for so many people so long after its release.
Back then, nobody cared about the STORY in a game, but this was the one to start the whole ''swords against mechs'' motif that became so common later in the FF series. You definitely wouldn't see something like WARMECH in a Dragon Warrior game...well, not for a couple of sequels, anyway. Why couldn't you equip the LIGHT WARRIORS with guns, anyway, considering all the robots you had to fight? The name's Final Fantasy, not Final Period-specific Hero-type Quest.
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 10/12/02, Updated 10/12/02
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