Review by terrisus
"While it can be hard to get into at first, there’s a very enjoyable game inside"
Final Fantasy is kind of like a coconut.
If you just pick it off a tree and try to bite into it, you’re not going to have much luck. If you break it open and work your way past the shell, you’ll enjoy what you find inside.
Of course, there are a few things wrong with my analogy. First, you shouldn’t try to actually break open your Final Fantasy game. Second, I don’t really like coconuts, it just worked well for the example.
With Final Fantasy, while it might not draw you in right away, and has its moments where it might be a bit confusing or frustrating, once you work your way in, there’s much to do and experience inside.
When Final Fantasy first came out, I wasn’t much into RPGs. I only had played a few, wasn't too crazy about them, and of the games of that time, I was really more of a Dragon Warrior person. Sure, I’d tried out Final Fantasy, just, I really didn’t see what the big deal was, it seemed like a decent game, but not one that really caught my interest. Over time, I’d gotten more into RPGs, they’re my favorite genre of game now, but, I’d never bothered really going back to Final Fantasy.
Finally, I figured it was something I really should do, to actually go through the game, even if it didn’t seem enjoyable, just to be able to finally get it all out of the way.
Once I actually got everything together though, went into the game with a plan, and made sure not to get sidetracked or anything, that’s when things finally started to come together.
Regardless, you don’t want or need to know about my life story relating to the game, that’s not the point. Not to mention, you shouldn’t have to force yourself to play a game, it’s not like playing video games is supposed to be a chore or anything, you’re supposed to have fun doing it. My point with that analogy is, that, by not giving Final Fantasy the chance I should’ve, I had been missing out on a very fun game.
The first thing you’ll have to deal with when you start the game, creating a party, might not seem like too big of a deal as you’re doing it, but it really is one of the main points of the game.
Your party consists of four people, and there are six different characters you can choose from. The game gives you a default set of four characters, which is a fairly decent party combination, and if one doesn’t really know what one wants, it’s a good enough group to do one’s first time through the game. With there being four characters to your group, and six possibilities for each one, what this means is, there are 125 possible different makeups for your starting party. Not all of those parties are a good mix, some are going to be very weak, while others will work much better. After you’ve beat the game once and have a better feel for what types of characters you like and don’t like, or if you do a bit of research and such beforehand, you can put together a party that fits your strengths and styles of play. Alternatively, you could put together a party that really doesn’t work too well and make it a personal challenge to make it through the game with them. Or, just pick at random and see how it works out. While some combinations aren’t going to be good to work with, there are so many different combinations, that just playing through the game with a different set of characters can practically makes it feel like a new game.
Finding a good party to play with on your first time through the game might be a bit hard, and if you pick a bad party your experience might not be too enjoyable. If you find a good party to play with your first time, and again if you’re not sure just sticking with the default party works well enough, and once you’ve played through and want to go back for a different look, being able to use your experiences to try to find another party you like, or just trying any of the many other possible combinations, can give a very new look on the game.
Once you finally have a party put together, you’re ready to head off on your quest.
You start off walking from place to place, although later on you’ll come across other modes of transportation. As you walk outside, or inside of most places that aren’t a town, you’ll be subject to random encounters with enemies. The type of enemies you might face is determined by the type of land you’re standing on, or the area of the game you’re in.
Some spells can be cast against an entire group of enemies, but, other than those, you have to select which enemy each of your characters will attack before anyone starts action. Once you’ve made your selections, you’ll start your actions and the enemies start theirs. During that time, if an enemy is defeated or runs away that another one of your characters has chosen to attack, that character on their turn, as opposed to moving their attack to the next enemy, will instead attack at nothing. What this means is, instead of just setting everyone to attack an enemy and letting the game take care of the details, you’ll have to pay special attention to exactly how much health an enemy has, how much damage a character can do, and set up your attacks accordingly, lest you waste the turn of a character or have a character cast a spell at the air. It does require much more effort, and it can be frustrating when your first character to attack kills an enemy and all your other characters proceed to do nothing for their turn while another enemy sits there attacking you, but, once you become accustomed to it, it’s all fairly manageable.
Much of the game will depend on who you’ve decided to include in your party. It’s possible to make it through the game without ever using a spell, or without spending anything on weapons.
Spells are broken down into levels, with only certain classes being able to learn certain spells. You can have up to four spells per spell level, and how many times you can cast a spell is also broken down by level. That is, as opposed to having an overall “magic points” meter where each spell pulls different values from it, each spell level has a number, and spells from that level take away from that level’s number. So, it might be that you’re able to cast any level one spell nine times, while you can cast a level five spell three times. Casting a level one spell will have no affect on the level five spells, and casting a level five spell will have no affect on the level one spells. If a certain character has both offensive and healing spells at certain levels, you’ll have to weigh whether it’s more important to give someone a large heal and lose a more powerful offensive spell later on, or to just do a smaller heal, which while taking away from being able to cast a smaller offensive spell, will leave you that extra more powerful offensive spell for later on when it might come in handy. Casting a small healing spell four or five times might be preferable to casting a large healing spell once, which, while they might have the same healing effect at the end, have repercussions on other different spells. Once you get used to it, the magic system really is very good.
As well, only certain characters will be able to wield certain weapons or don certain armor. A spellcaster will have access to generally less powerful weapons and fewer armor choices than a fighter. Certain more powerful weapons or armor may also be usable by only one specific class, and powerful weapons or armor which can be used by multiple classes are can often be rarer or more expensive than even something that’s more powerful but available to fewer classes.
Graphics are a bit of a mixed bag. Much of the overworld map is rather drab, just a solid green, indicating grass, yellow, indicating desert, or other things like that, although the forests and a few other places look decent enough. As well, many of the caves often seem just like a collection of walls forming a maze you’re walking through, with a few color differences to indicate whether you’re in a lava or ice-filled area, but other than the color often things can look the same from place to place. The towns, castles, and some of the dungeons you’ll explore, though, can be pretty interesting to look at. While everything is clear enough, it doesn’t stand out too much in most of these areas.
The real area the graphics shine through is in the wide variety of enemies. There are quite a number of different enemies you’ll encounter, each themed differently depending on where you are, and all done very nicely.
Music is good for what’s there, the problem here is there isn’t too much variety in music. You have a pause song, an overworld song, a cave song, a town song, a castle song, and aside from those, which are for the large part the same no matter where you go, there are only a few special places that have their own specific music. Again though, what is there is pretty good. One annoying thing about the sound though, is that most any time one sound interrupts another, such as a quick fanfare when you open a treasure chest or a brief change when you go from walking on the overworld to your pause screen and back or something, the music starts over from the beginning. So, between battles and pausing, you’ll be hearing the first ten seconds or so of the overworld music a bit more often than you might like.
The storyline is interesting at times, but also has its times where it gets a bit strange, or where you’re practically just ignoring it and heading off on a task for the sole purpose of giving you something else to do. Some of the names at times aren’t all that creative either, as there are a few instances of heading to such a place as the “Ice Cave” (note: There are ice monsters in the ice cave) to retrieve an item, or heading off to the “Northwest Castle” (note: It’s in the Northwest) or some such thing. Not that all of this is really a problem so much, just, it is worth noting. Despite the minor complaints, the storyline is decent, will keep you curious to the end, and while tying it together might end up a bit awkward, it’s still pretty good.
One very nice thing here though is that there are very many people to talk to, in towns and castles and other places, with many interesting things to say, and who can change what they say depending on certain events or items or such. Although what each person says is confined to one text box that comes up all at once when you talk to them, which can seem a bit constricting at times, going around and talking to everyone you come across, and going back and talking to them again, while usually not necessary, can be very interesting. Your characters don’t actually say anything, all of the dialog is set messages going from the people you encounter to you, but what they say is usually relevant to whatever it is you’re trying to do in the game at that particular moment, useful, and interesting.
The game is fairly lengthy. While there isn’t any sort of ingame clock or anything, and while the time can vary widely depending on your party makeup, it’ll probably take anywhere in the area of 20-30 hours to beat. Once you do complete the game, there’s no specific storyline reason to go through again, there are no sidequests or anything like that which you might’ve missed the first time through but can do when you pass through again. Aside from trying to be a bit more thorough in finding items in caves, or making sure you talk to every person you can, there really isn’t too much else there.
What there is, though, is the huge variety of party possibilities. While you won’t come across any new people or places because of your choices, it can really give a completely different look and style on the game. Whether you’re trying to hack your way through with a bunch of fighters, or blast your way through with a group of spellcasters, whether you try for as powerful party as you can, or try to find the weakest party and work your way through with them, there are numerous looks and challenges you can try out.
Certainly Final Fantasy isn’t going to appeal to everyone. Party makeup, especially the first time through, can go a long way towards shaping your experience with the game. There are many parties which, while they might make an interesting personal challenge to beat the game with, really don’t work too well for playing. As well, with the random battles, often much time spent fighting to gain more experience or money which can be quite time-consuming, the lack at times of a strong storyline to pull you along, or the graphics and music might turn some people off. For those who don’t mind those things though, or for those who enjoy them, there’s a large world out there to explore, many possibilities, challenges, adventures, and a very fun game.
Reviewer's Rating: 5.0 - Flawless
Originally Posted: 06/25/03, Updated 06/25/03
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