13: Final Fantasy

Genre: RPG

Developer: Square
Publisher: Nintendo
Year: 1990

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.

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17 thoughts on “13: Final Fantasy

  1. Meh. An RPG with no set characters sort of turns me off. I have some of the same great memories, though – particularly the pirates, for some reason.

    Final Fantasy III isn’t too bad. It’s been released for the DS and I think it’s on the PlayStation Network now, too (it’s definitely on the Vita, so it’s probably available on the PS3, too; I just don’t remember). It has set characters and a clear storyline, and it uses the job system, which I always dug until Final Fantasy X-2 killed it dead.

    • I had never played an RPG that had set characters until I was 14. If I was born in 1986, I can’t imagine I would give this game much of a shot. I do wonder how powerful nostalgia is in some of these rankings.

  2. I’m about a third the way through this one. It’s kind of a labor of love that I’m constantly procrastinating on, since FFV is way more interesting, and it’s hard enough to decide to play that one.

  3. I had as much fun playing Final Fantasy years later with an emulator on the computer as I did playing it on the game system. And if i recall right, didn’t you have a Nintendo Power issue that had a strategy guide section for that game? I loved those NP sections devoted to a particular game, since that was before the days of internet access to walk throughs.

    • Yes, we did. We used it so much that Dad had to rebind it. Then when I sold some Nintendo Power issues on Ebay I accidentally added it to the shipment. D’oh.

  4. When I first played this, I only had the standard NES controller. Buying 60+ potions after each dungeon crawl was extremely tedius… I can still hear the whiny tiny NES music of the item shop while constantly pressing the A button. There’s a reason Nobuo Uematsu hasn’t incorporated that song into his orchestrated symphonies. Half of the older gamers would kill themselves.

    Otherwise, great game! The latest version I played was for the PSP. The PSP version like the GBA version were WAY too easy (unless one chose to chase the optional bosses).

    • I was going to mention that most annoying part of the game. A turbo controller was handy at a time like that.

      Part of the reason I loved the game was its challenge. There was actually a risk involved with going into caves, so you had to plan ahead. The GBA version, while eliminating the endless level-building, could be saved at any moment and became insultingly easy.

      • I remember setting a chair leg on the turbo A button on the NES Max controller at one point and walking away to make a sandwich only to come back to find my inventory still wasn’t quite full of potions. The buying menu screens went so slowly.

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