Basic Idea: Learn patience by fighting Imp after Imp, and run the fuck away from the Cockatrices.
Review: Square was about to go under when Nintendo decided they might take a chance and see if this whole RPG thing would catch on. Well, whaddya know?
While the game has become more user-friendly with recent ports, the original suffered a bit from the same thing all 1980 RPG’s suffered from: endless battles to level up and get gold. Picking the right party to go with you can make the game more palatable. My first time, I chose two fighters, a white mage, and a black mage. Why two fighters? Well, black belts were wimpy and couldn’t equip hardly anything. Little did I know that black belts become extremely powerful later in the game, and that fighters are insanely expensive. I have distinct, angry memories of spending hours outside Melmond fighting beasts to raise enough money for two long swords. I also have distinct, angry memories of wasting a turn attacking blank space after an enemy I had chosen to attack had just died.
I’m also not a huge fan of choosing my party. I’d much rather be given distinct, fleshed out characters then to put myself in the role of a cipher. And once you know the best party (Fighter, Black Belt, White Mage, Black Mage) it’s hard to choose any other if you want to just enjoy the game. Making it harder (e.g. picking all mages) holds no appeal for me.
All that said, this game still holds up today. I don’t think anyone raised on Final Fantasy VII would enjoy it much, but it is still more than nostalgia for the rest of us. I have so many fond memories of the game. Passing Corneria’s bridge for the first time. Battling the nine pirates. Dying multiple times in the swamp cave after having my whole party turned to stone. The hall of Giants. Talking to the twelve wise men and raising the airship. Maturing the party. Praying against encountering Warmech on Tiamat’s Plank of Death. I also loved that this was the first RPG that showed the act of fighting (somewhat) with bright colors used for weapons and spells. The music is classic and most of the soundtrack is still used in the series.
Chaos, the final boss, is not terribly difficult with the right party members in tow. Sadly, though, he remains one of the more difficult final bosses in the long history of the franchise. The first time I beat him I was excited, as I believe this was the first RPG I won.
I was originally sad that Square didn’t have another game in the series in the U.S. until Final Fantasy IV, but having played through half of Final Fantasy II and hating every minute of it (before getting permanently stuck), I’ve gotten over it. I have come back to the original game, however, on more than one occasion. Final Fantasy is a classic through and through.