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Final Fantasy (NES) artwork

Final Fantasy (NES) review

"A Fantastic, difficult tale to play"

One hot summer night I borrowed a Dungeons and Dragons introduction VHS tape from my friends and watched it in all its glory on what exactly was like and how one could be a Dungeon Master on it. We were very eager on one day being able to actually trying out something like it. Unfortunately we lived in a place where no one even would have heard of what this tabletop game was or if it even existed. I played Final Fantasy for the first time in '93 when I rented it out a videostore in the hood. Since there would be no one around that could help me and my friends ever to set up a Dungeons and Dragons campaign much less having the means to get those fancy dice and books to even attempt trying it out this was the closest which I could ever have in experiencing such a thing.

Nowadays I had played some of that D&D stuff and going back to my experiences with this game I could say that they were far apart from one another, yet it shared some elements which like I said, would have me believe this could be how it would be like in playing such tabletop games. Things like Hit Points and Experience Points which would expand your stats as you kept on fighting, and quests to achieve in order to advance the story were some of the shared traits that would connect the two. However I felt how fantastic this game was, it’s fantasy setting and its atmosphere. It got me hooked until I had to return it to the video store, leaving me longing for more.

The game starts with a prologue telling of a prophecy that was to be completed when the world fell into chaos, accompanied with a fantastic tune that would have you get lost in its enchanting sound until you pressed the start button. You are then shown to a new screen displaying four different characters with no names. You are in charge of choosing what classes and names would be adorning these heroes so you could finally begin the game. After this you appear in front of a castle on which you would visit immediately to gain info on how to proceed further. The King asks that you save his daughter from a nefarious knight who holds her in a ruined temple further north and he promises to build a bridge connecting to the next section of the game for you to continue your quest of restoring the orbs of the elements you carry. After this you could either brave the journey or stop by the town to get a few supplies and save your game at the inn, just so you would not have to start all over to get to where you left off. After this first quest it goes all around like a fetching quest of sorts. You sail the seas to other continents, ask for guidance on what to do next in exchange for acquiring an item to help out, and then more info as you access more of the world before you. The game pretty much feels much short than it would itself lend to believe thanks to these fetch quests, but the journey you take makes it memorable.

Before you ever set on your initial journey you must learn to see what kind of characters would be best to take along. The Fighter for example, is a power-house and can defeat most enemies with ease, but the fact that it costs so much to equip him makes him a wary choice. You may get just one per party to aid in physical battles, but not with magic. The White, Red, and Black mages have the most power in magic usage for offense and defensive methods, although they are very weak in physical attacks and endurance. The White Mage uses healing magic to cure your party and holy spells against dark monsters while the Black Mage uses offensive spells only and can acquire the most powerful spells available in the game. The Red Mages can use both types of magic and has a fairly good power for physical combat, but it cannot surpass the Fighter in strength and can only use partial magic spells from both sides of the spectrum. Other classes include The Monk, who can beat up enemies and even boss characters with ease as he levels up, but has poor defense and does not have strong armor to keep him alive. The Thief does not steal anything but is quite agile. Sadly, this is about the only trait this class has since he also cannot be well equipped as the Fighter and has poor defense and power as well. Seemingly, The Thief makes it easier to run from battle if things get sticky, but that may well be speculation. All character classes can be updated in midway transforming them into powerful warriors who can also hold more powerful spells. Those who are void of using magic can now share a few spells to use in battle, just not as powerful as the magic user classes.

The mechanics of the game are not too difficult to comprehend. Each character can only hold four items consisting of armor, weapons, and other items. Items, Spells, Weapons, and Armor are fairly costly, so you are wise into trying to get as much Gil as you can from the very beginning. The only other way to save besides resting at an Inn is to buy one of the three housing items you can get from stores, some of which can restore a limited amount of health and magic points depending on what you use. The HOUSE item is the most costly, but can aid you a lot more than a TENT or COTTAGE would. There are NO saving points anywhere in the game thereof, and you cannot save on the world map as you would do in later installments of the game without using said housing items. Indeed, the first installment of the series is by far the most brutal in terms of keeping your progress around without having to start from a far away place and do everything again in a cave or castle. Speaking of difficulty, the enemies in this game hold no quarter. Most will have no qualms in hitting you without mercy to the point of losing some of your companions in battle, something that is very costly, as the only ways to bring anyone back is by going to a town or with a character that can cast LIFE into them. In here there are no Phoenix Downs to speak of and said items would only be added after later remakes of the game were present in the likes of the PlayStation and the latter. Final Fantasy surely lives to its name in these terms.

The upsides to the game are its outstanding soundtrack and battle system. While you tap to the tunes onscreen fighting foes, your characters would at times give 2 to 10 hits in a single move, decimating any other unfortunate enemy that would dare be in your way. These multipliers can also be exploited by having a Black Mage/Wizard cast certain spells that would enhance your fighting character's stats. Unfortunately, some glitches in the game render some spells unusable. You can still cast such but they would not do anything as intended.

But like I said earlier, is all in the journey and Final Fantasy makes it memorable despite its flaws. A lot of exotic sites and places await you as you trek your way to the last battle. Nowadays it is just a simple matter of doing everything without even pondering what to do next, the fetch quest part of it flies by as you level up to confront the last dungeon and its final boss who is no cakewalk by any means. The game is quite enjoyable to the point of having its own lore swimming around as you explore every bit of its fantastic setting. The fact that the last part of the game requires time travel just leaves you in a state of awe on how the world before all happened looked like, but alas you can only wander on its final section without ever being able to take a peek on the outside setting.

A great fantasy themed RPG no less and one you would be wise to pick up an play if you do not mind the outrageous difficulty in contrast to its watered down remakes that were presented later on.


CptRetroBlue's avatar
Community review by CptRetroBlue (July 22, 2019)

Cpt. Retro likes old school gaming the most and grew up playing Arcade games in Mexico. He also loves talking about retrogaming.

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