Review by nastynate3118
"It's hard to overstate the amount of imagination and ambition packed into this game."
Final Fantasy is the first game in a series that would become a video game juggernaut in the 1990's and 2000's. While the series has come under hard times lately, it still is considered one of the best franchises in gaming. The original 1987 game has modest beginnings and is a game that is very much right-to-the-point with its gameplay. The game itself is nothing spectacular but it did create a foundation in which some of the great RPG classics would be built on in later years.
There's a lot of good things and a lot of bad things with the gameplay. It is a traditional turn-based RPG in which you control four heroes (The Light Warriors) on their quest to restore the elemental Orbs of the land. The characters have jobs which are: Fighter, White Mage, Black Mage, Thief, Red Mage and Black Belt. For the time, this is a nice variety and really enhances the gameplay. You could experiment with different jobs and abilities and try out different combinations, since every job has a strength and weakness. Battles are very slow-paced and can take a little while to finish until your characters build up levels. One unique thing about this game is that if two or more of your characters target an enemy to attack and the first character kills it, the remaining attacks on that enemy will be rendered ineffective instead of automatically choosing another target like modern RPGs. Personally I like this as it adds an element of strategy and planning.
The battles in this game can be very frustrating. Different intervals of the game introduce powerful tiers of monsters that will easily crush you if you have not gained levels. This results in a lot of level-grinding and because of how slow-paced the battles are, it becomes an extremely tedious task. Some things happen in battle that makes little sense. For some reason, enemies seem to attack only the top character a majority of the time. The damage amounts that appear on screen vary wildly and as a result you have to rely heavily on luck trying to win some of the battles.
Exploring the world of Final Fantasy is an adventure because of how huge it is. The world map screen is absolutely massive and the dungeons that need to be visited are varied and complex. Sometimes the level design is a bit too complex and borders on being too long or too jumbled and sloppy. One innovative feature with exploration is the use of vehicles in the game. You get a canoe, a boat and an airship to aid you in accessing new areas around the world. This would become a major staple of the Final Fantasy franchise. There is an aspect of non-linear gameplay in which several areas can be completed in no particular order to advance the story. This is a nice touch in lieu of actual side quests in the game.
Despite the innovative gameplay Final Fantasy offered, it is rife with bugs. These include spells not working, some items not working as they should, weapons not having their desired effect and other oddities. These bugs seem to be corrected in the later remakes of this game.
The interface in Final Fantasy is not clear at all. The first problem comes with shopping for items at stores located throughout the game. There is no way to tell what the stats of each weapon are until after you buy them or what special abilities they possess. You can't buy items in bulk, so I hope you enjoy mashing the A button trying to buy 99 Heal Potions (which, by the way, are barely effective). This also is an issue when you attempt to buy a magic spell. Because of the character limit imposed in the game, a lot of spells have shorthand names such as AMUT and AFIR. What kind of names are those for magic spells? The game offers absolutely no indication for what they are supposed to do.
The menus in the game, while being organized and easy to navigate, have limited inventory space for weapons and armor and you won't be able to collect a new piece of equipment without dropping an old one. I also hate how the game will automatically rearrange your characters if one dies or has a negative status effect put on them. I liked having my characters in a certain order at all times because it made battle inputs much easier to do, but having to rearrange them every time one died or was poisoned was very inconvenient.
The game can be pretty vague on where to go (this was the norm for games at the time so you would use the Nintendo hotline) and once you do discover a dungeon, you must finish it in one sitting because there are no save points within the dungeons. Luckily, all of the dungeons in this game are relatively short so this is not a major issue.
Final Fantasy tells the story of the Light Warriors, four local celebrities who are tasked by the townsfolk of Cornelia to revive the Orbs after several natural disasters have occurred around the world. The man behind these disasters is named Garland and he decides to unleash the four elemental fiends (Lich, Kary, Kraken and Tiamat) to cause these disasters. Basically, your objective is to defeat the four fiends (who have a reoccurring role in the series) and then deal with Garland.
At its core, the story is basic enough to be accessible and complex enough to be engaging. I like that it develops over time and is not restricted to go here and defeat the evil dragon lord! or something like that. It starts off on a rescue the princess mission but develops and gets better as the story progresses. I love the ambition and imagination this game encompasses and the different areas there are to explore and characters to interact with. The ending is actually decent for the time and concludes the story very nicely, although a lot of the stuff at the end of the game is based on a very confusing time travel scenario that is not explained very well.
The only big weakness with the plot of this game is the dialogue. Most of the time it is understandable and concise but there are instances of NPCs spouting out nonsense (similar to Zelda II and I AM ERROR) and offering no help at all. When it counts, the dialogue is passable and advances the story.
Graphics - 8/10
The graphics in this game are above average. The most impressive feature is definitely the enemy sprites that appear in battle. They are very detailed and some of them look quite intimidating, although there is no way to tell which one is attacking you in battle. This is balanced well against the plain black background in battles. The spell animations are also impressive for an NES game and add some intrigue to the tedious battle system. Your character sprites are decent and they look cool after you get your class upgrade toward the end of the game. I like that the weapons that you equip them with are varied and each has its own look.
Some of the areas that you visit are detailed and unique but others look absolutely wretched. There is a castle in the game that has the ugliest texture I have ever seen and is surrounded by puke green colors. Luckily, areas like this are few and far between and do not distract from the overall experience.
The soundtrack by Nobuo Uematsu is the first of many classics from him (it was not his first soundtrack, but certainly the first to be acclaimed). Some of the most memorable songs in the series such as Prelude and the Victory Fanfare make their debut in this game. Despite how acclaimed the soundtrack it is, there is not a lot of variety to the music that later games would have. Most dungeons use the same theme and there is only one town theme, battle theme, etc and as a result the music becomes pretty repetitive. One minor thing about this game that annoyed me is the lack of boss music or final boss music. Dragon Warrior, released two years before Final Fantasy even had a final boss theme. It is very anticlimactic to challenge the final boss of the game while listening to the same battle theme you've heard hundreds of times before, but I digress.
The sound effects are another story. They play a small role in the game and are very limited. The sound effect used for being poisoned is one of the most scathing and worst sound effects I have ever heard in a game and motivated me to always have plenty of Pure Potions on hand so I wouldn't have to listen to it.
Play Time/Replayability - 8/10
I completed my playthrough of Final Fantasy in 19 hours, 15 minutes and 33 seconds. I would estimate that five to nine hours of that time was dedicated to level grinding, plus it took me several tries to defeat the final boss (resulting in me having to traverse the entire final dungeon multiple times). This is a very grueling and tedious game to play through, but the replay value lies in the fact that you can play it with a very large amount of combinations of job classes. Some people have added different challenges to play the game with, such as using low levels or a White Mage-only party.
+Job classes offer variety and depth
+Huge world to explore
+Plot is well-written and full of imagination
+Enemy graphics look outstanding
+Areas are varied and detailed
+In-battle graphics are done well
+Uematsu provides a collection of excellent songs
+Replay value added with combinations of job classes
-Infested with bugs and glitches
-Battles can be grueling and tedious
-Level design can be sloppy
-Shopping is poorly executed
-Inventory space for armor is very limited
-Some dialogue is useless
-Some areas have wretched textures
-Soundtrack and sound effects are very limited
Final Fantasy on its own is nothing extraordinary. It has many aspects that were unique for the time such as a huge world to explore or job classes, but the NES version does not stand the test of time well. You should only play this version if you have a tremendous amount of patience and are an enthusiast of the series. If you look beneath the age and some of the tedious aspects of the game, there are a lot of great things to appreciate about it. I think the casual gamer would like one of the many remakes of this game a lot more, but there is still plenty to love about the original NES game that single-handedly saved Squaresoft and led to one of the most important video game franchises.
Final Score: 7.25/10 rounded to 7/10
Reviewer's Rating: 3.5 - Good
Originally Posted: 01/04/13
Game Release: Final Fantasy (US, 10/05/09)
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