The original Final Fantasy was a huge success, and this is the first instance of its storyline being partly recycled. Here is another world that is held in balance by elemental crystals that are losing their light and need to be restored by a team of four characters. In this case, they are four orphans living in the village of Ur. One day, an earthquake strikes their region, and they decide to go exploring the cave that has formed in the aftermath, only to fall down a hole. There, they find the Crystal of Wind, which casually informs them that someone (the evil wizard Zande/Xande, as you discover later) is trying to summon a great force of darkness into the world, and that they’ve been chosen to restore the failing light of the crystals and banish said darkness. As you do. They set off to find the rest of the crystals, only to realise that they are actually living on a floating continent in the sky, and that the rest of the world is already plunged in darkness. But that doesn’t stop them from bringing things back to the way they should be, with the help of some devoted sidekicks who join them on their journey.
If you don’t dig too deep, the story does a decent job, with several twists and even some deaths along the way. There’s also an interesting take on the traditional light-dark dichotomy, as the latter isn’t automatically perceived as evil: the game refers to an earlier struggle between the two forces, where it was light that was getting out of control and Warriors of Darkness had to intervene to bring order back. However, if you start digging deeper than that, quite a few problematic inconsistencies crop up, as well as at least one glaring contradiction in the DS version. So, to be quite honest, this just isn’t a very well-crafted storyline: there’s either been too much thought put into it or not enough, resulting in somewhat of a mess. Do you care? Well, it all depends on how entertaining you find the game as a whole: either you’re having enough fun that you can disregard the plot-holes, or you can’t look past them, and they just rub you the wrong way. Chances are your overall impression will depend on that particular verdict.
The DS version of the game introduces several differences to the storyline. The most notable ones occur at the beginning, since not only does each character now have a specific identity and backstory, but the team also assembles gradually, rather than all being thrown in at once. Only two of the four protagonists are from Ur, and the other two join up along the way. The rest of the story, however, progresses more or less in the same way as the original, albeit with a substantial amount of additional dialogue and scenes.