How to (not) go out with a bang
Back in Ye Olde Days when games happened in 8-bit on a black backdrop, Squaresoft was a little struggling company that decided to go all out for one last parting bang. They cooked up something called Final Fantasy; “final” being self-explanatory in the context. And…that was the beginning of a cult series. Who woulda thunk it?
The game, for those familiar with more recent FFs, is a condensed version of pretty much everything that makes FF what it is today. To the trained and spoiled eye of the modern-day RPG player, it will most likely seem unimpressive at best, but do bear in mind that you’re looking at what started it all. The traditional four-person party with its even more traditional jobs (or classes) has to save the world. FF veterans will instantly recognise the traditional outfits of the White, Black and Red Mages. The setting is medieval, as in all FFs up until VI, and includes all the good old details of the genre: damsels in distress, cursed princes, witches, knights, sages, dragons, and even an ancient lost civilisation. The four elemental crystals and their corresponding fiends start out here; back in the day, the idea was probably a stroke of genius, and has since become a trademark of the series. The crystals have reappeared in III, IV, V, IX, XI, XI, XII and XIII since, under many different guises, keeping more or less in line with the original. The good ol’ airship also starts out here, even though there’s no Cid to construct or pilot it as of yet.
The first version of the game was released for the NES. If you expect breathtaking graphics, wonderful music, an amazing storyline and incredibly smooth gameplay there, well…you’ve got another one coming. The game is old, and you can feel it: the battles are slow and choppy, the music is tinny and the smudgy, glaring colours will probably hurt your eyes more than once. However, the game has also been remade a good number of times. There is a PS version bundled with FFII called Final Fantasy Origins, a GBA version bundled with FFII called Dawn of Souls, and a PSP version created for the 20th anniversary of FFI’s release. So there are plenty of ways to re-experience this one without forcing yourself through the NES version. By all means though, if you’re hardcore enough and want a challenge, give the NES version a shot, if only to appreciate just how far the FF series has come since its beginnings. Gotta give credit where credit is due, however: this is a decent piece of light entertainment and a worthy ancestor to its more illustrious descendants.