The Final Fantasy series is one of my favourites. I’ve been playing them since the first installment way back in 1990. It’s probably what began my fascination with role-playing games that has lasted all the way to current day.
This is what started the franchise. It’s the classic 4 character party out to save the world. The Light Warriors!
In the original you get to choose your starting party. You can select from: Fighter (all around ok guy), Thief (speedster with limited weapons, but awesome at running away), Blackbelt (Barehanded fighters), White Mage (curative/restorative magic), Black Mage (Damage and status ailments) and Red Mage (Mix of White and Black and Fighter). I’ve played through the game with various combinations, but I find the most versatile party to be 2 Fighters, White Mage and Black Mage. If you’re new to the game that’s what I’d recommend. But most combinations are viable. It’s actually more challenging to play the game with 4 of the same class than mixing and matching.
At a point during the game you reach a point where you get advanced classes. Each base class morphs to a new class that is more powerful in pretty much every way. Some weapons and armor (and spells) are usable only by these advanced classes. They also have higher base stats, so it’s to your advantage to advance as early as possible and grind levels afterward, since the final product will be more powerful. In addition to getting more physically powerful, the physical classes also get access to base level magic to help supplement your hardcore mages.
One thing that’s great about Final Fantasy games, is that you can start exploring and working through the plot without having to spend a bunch of time levelling up and mindlessly killing things. That is true from the first. The thing that might cause problems is that the first several games don’t hold your hand with directions. You’re basically on your own, explore, find things and hope you’re going in the right direction. Make sure you talk to EVERYONE, one person will give you a vague hint about the right direction to go.
As the game expands, talking to everyone takes time, you have to travel around to all the villages until you run in to the right guy somewhere that has something important to say. But hey, that’s why the internet invented walkthroughs right?
As with the rest of the series, Final Fantasy has several modes of transportation to let you explore the map more and more freely. The first is, of course, your feet. You are stuck trudging over forest, plains and desert. Then you get a canoe which allows you to traverse rivers. Then a ship which sails on the ocean, but can only dock at special docking areas, and finally the air ship. Which can travel anywhere, including over mountains, but can only land on full green tiles (no desert, no trees etc). The restrictions on the airship are convoluted and the map is designed to force you to walk through long stretches of wilderness before arriving at your final destinations. Why bother with the airship at all? Because it’s awesome! Well, ok then.
Combat –Combat is straight forward, and complex at the same time. You have to think about your targeting because a character attacking an enemy that died on a previous round won’t automatically attack a different target. To get the most out of your characters you want to spread out your damage appropriate to kill them quickly, while not wasting damage on overkill.
Instead of Magic Points (MP) that you might be familiar with from later games, the original final fantasy system involved spell levels. As your character progresses, they get more spells per level, the higher level spells increasing slower than the lower level spells. This really prevents a lot of substitution of spells for certain situations and requires you to be careful how you are casting your magic. Out of level 1 magic and level 3 magic and no level 2 cure spell? Better not need to heal until you can rest up. There also weren’t tons of items to restore spell uses so what you had, had to last until you could get back to civilization.
Plot Summary – (spoilers)
Four warriors need to save the world. The orbs have been corrupted by “fiends” that are using the powers to wreck the world. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to slay these fiends, and make the orbs shine again.
First things first though – you have to save the princess (cliche). Then the king builds a bridge giving access to the next area. After playing Fedex for a little while the warriors face the first dungeon (Earth) where they eventually defeat the lich at the lowest level and restore the orb. From there the heroes delve in to a volcano to defeat the fire fiend, and go spelunking in the ice cave to gain the levitation stone that powers the airship.
The warriors then must prove their courage to Bahamut, King of the Dragons, who promotes them to their advanced classes. This requires climbing a nearby tower and returning with an unlikely trophy.From there the heroes free a fairy from captivity and with her help are able to travel to the Sunken Shrine to do battle with the Kraken. With a treasure from the shrine they find a translator to teach them a long forgotten language. New language in mind, they locate a long lost city that has the secret of accessing the floating castle where the Light warriors defeat Tiamat (the wind fiend) and restore the last of the four orbs.
Then, a twist involving time travel. The warriors discover the ultimate bad guy (Garland) is a time traveler. The fiends sent him back in time, where he released them and sent them forward in time, creating some weird time paradox where he lives forever and rules the world. Since no self respecting hero can let that happen, the Light warriors travel in to the past and put a stop to that singular event (they kill the bad guy) which breaks the time loop and saves the world.
Final Thoughts –
The game is difficult and the dungeons are long and hard. Having maps (thank you google!) to lead you through the dungeons and find the important treasures is very helpful. Save states (using an emulator) also make the game much easier. You can get further in a dungeon by saving more often and not have to worry as much about running out of healing magic because you got in a to a fight you weren’t ready for.
The game favours physical combat early on and skews slightly toward magical combat very late in the game. You still rely on your physical combatants to clear the way, since you never have enough magic to do what you want. When in doubt, take an extra Fighter.
The final boss isn’t actually that challenging. With a moderately leveled party it only takes a few minutes to smash through his health and take him out. I was level 25 when I faced him and took him out.
OMG the item system. If there is nothing else in the game that will drive you insane, there is this. You can only hold 4 pieces of equipment, you can only equip four pieces of equipment. To get a new pieces of equipment you either have to get rid of one of your equipped pieces, or have another character trade with you. This is somewhat ok for most of the game if you have some mages in the party who can only equip 3 items. But end game, with items that you can “use” in combat to cast spells and such, it becomes a problem. Even having a single open space between four characters seemed like a waste, but how else are you going to find what’s in that treasure chest? Can’t pick it up if your hands are full.
All said – if you haven’t played it, get an emulator and ROM and do it!