I’ve always loved Final Fantasy games and I call myself an avid fan. However, recently I’ve been questioning myself. Out of the 13 mainline single-player Final Fantasy games, I’ve only actually completed 5. In fact, I’ve actually finished more spin-offs. Of the main series, I’ve finished 7,8,9,10 and 1. Recently, I’ve been touched by a degree of madness and decided to play them all from scratch. A couple of things to point out first, I won’t be replaying 7 as I’ve recently done so for the Switch review. I also won’t be replaying 10 as we’ve just reviewed that for the site as well.
I have, however, started at the beginning and replayed the original Final Fantasy, albeit the updated PSP version. So, without further ado, let the great Final Fantasy/zero social life project begin.
Final Fantasy was originally released on the NES in 1987 in Japan only. It is only with the popularity of the Final Fantasy series that the PSP got a remake of the original games with added bonus dungeons, bestiary, and design sketches. The game is presented well, small chibi characters march around the screen in SNES style graphics, bright and colorful. I kind of expected to see Link charging around the screen as the display really was seemingly based off of Zelda games.
So picking your characters allows you to name your Heroes of Light as well as pick their class. Basic fare including Warrior, Thief (though hilariously without a steal command), Monk, White Mage, Black Mage, and Red Mage. Red Mage is a weird hybrid of White Mage, Black Mage, and Warrior as he can use the armor of Warriors while wielding up to Level 5 Magic of White and Black Magic. Err…slightly broken in some ways. Speaking of broken, the Monk class is a beast. He starts off average with a Nunchaku in his hands, but hit level 20, and throw it away. As he is stronger without weapons…actually, he’s stronger without anything on.
Battles are a classic turn-based (how I miss thee) affair that is largely dependent on your characters hitting the enemies before they hit you. Magic is restrictive; each mage can only learn 3 spells of their respective discipline per level of magic, which goes as high as level 8, adding a level of strategy to the way you play and choose your characters to develop. However, it is kinda sidelined by the main issue with Final Fantasy 1.
Mostly, it’s too easy. Maybe this is a remake issue, I won’t say for sure as I’ve not had the chance to play the NES original. Enemies often seem to die in a hit or two. Magic is largely ineffective, apart from against certain enemies which can only be hurt by magic. When bosses spring up you’d buff your characters and prepare for a real challenge only for them to die in two hits. The only real exception to this I found was the final boss, which cost me my first party wipeout in the game. I myself may be a part of the problem. In these sort of games, I do love a good old fashioned grind. It’s more than possible I over-leveled myself too quickly and affected the game balance because of this.
I guess the problem is resolved with the Anniversary edition’s special dungeons, each topped with a themed boss encounter from the Final Fantasy future (FF 3-6). So enjoy facing off against the likes of Gilgamesh and Omega Weapon. These offer a challenge, especially if you go for the secret boss Chronodia. But in order to do this, you need to repeat the dungeons multiple times to get them all, hence the lifespan of the game is dependent on your tenacity. Mine is endless, especially since the hidden boss has multiple versions which are determined on how you do in the dungeon before it. Trust me, the dungeon is a pain, and not just due to the enemies.
The other big issue with the game is the lack of direction. It is almost purposefully vague in what you have to do. It starts with direction: rescue a princess then after doing that it kinda meanders off. The beginning of the game can be surmised as a big fetch quest, going from location to location trying to glean clues as to where you have to go to get the first item to help unwind this mess. Later on, it doesn’t get much better, turns out the plot of the game is hidden in one town, off to the side of it in a grassy plain where a series of mages tell you what’s actually going on. Sloppy Square…very sloppy. I said the visuals evoke a resemblance to Zelda and that goes double for the exploration. At times, it felt like I was just aimlessly wandering around looking for the next thing to find or do, much like the first Legend of Zelda.
As for the plot, well it is the first Final Fantasy so other than you are the Heroes of Light, take down the bad guys. There isn’t really a plot so to speak. There’s an attempt at a plot twist near the end, but you really don’t notice it as by then you’re facing the final boss. The story aspects seemed to come in the later games. After all, this game was one last throw of the dice to save a failing company.
So is Final Fantasy a good game? Well, it’s a product of its time, so aspects like plot and direction are pretty threadbare. As a modern port, it does a fine job in showing you where Final Fantasy came from and it really does look lovely, especially presented in full widescreen. The music is, of course, excellent. In some ways it reminds me that the series has come a long way in the 20 or so years they’ve been released. The thing is despite all the negative, it took me 40+ hours to hammer through the game and complete the extra dungeons. All in all, I enjoyed it for what it was. A classic.
Next up is Final Fantasy 2. The black sheep of the family, complete with its odd leveling system. I’m well underway on my progress of this, so expect to see a retrospective sooner rather than later. Then expect a long wait for Final Fantasy 3.
Let us know your thoughts on the Final Fantasy games down in the comments below.
Steve is the resident Englishman, just don’t hold that against him. He’s been playing games for the best part of 3 decades and will continue to do so for as long as his thumbs hold up. When they no longer work, he’ll still find a way to play Resident Evil 2. Lover of most things nerdy Steve also likes sports. Go sports!