With the release of Lightning Returns and only a few days away from the official UK release, it was about time that I did an article on my favourite, and one of the world most well received series to date. Trekking back in time to the game that started it all, this week Retro Recap is none other than the very first Final Fantasy!
Unfortunately, I wasn’t lucky enough to get my hands on an original NES version of Final Fantasy I, but as time progressed and I started to appreciate retro games a lot more, I picked up a copy of this on the PSP. I must say, Final Fantasy I still holds up incredibly well as a viable handheld RPG. Unlike later numbered Final Fantasy titles, FFI provided a job class system whereby we could predetermine our play style. Mixing and matching your preferred jobs, FFI gave you immediate creative control over the style of your gameplay. Selecting from a number of well-known classes, such as Black Mage, White Mage, Red Mage, Warrior, Monk and Thief, would you choose a brute force approach in physical attackers? Or, a more magic based style, with a tank to soak the damage? Any way you chose gave you a unique experience over the style of play and guaranteed a challenge, no matter how many times you attempted the game.
“And so their journey began. The four Warriors of Light felt overwhelmed by the great task destiny had placed upon them. They did not know the true significance of the four crystals they held in their hands… The crystal that once, long ago, shone with a light so brilliant. The time for their journey had come. The time to cast off the veil of darkness and bring the world once more into the light…”
As dictated by the opening text from the game, your party of 4 venture into the open world in hopes of bring the light back to the 4 elemental crystals of Fire, Earth Wind and Water. Of course, what would a Final Fantasy game be with those who wish to keep them in eternal darkness? The games first challenge comes from the kidnapping of Princess Sarah by a knight by the name of Garland. From here, a series of related event happen that progress your characters through the course of the game. Each elemental crystal can only be restored by journeying to its shrine. However, an elemental archfiend awaits the challenge at each location and does battle with the party. This continues on from one shrine until the next until all 4 crystals have returned to the light.
Did you think the story ended there? Of course it didn’t! A mythical entity known as Chaos is still absorbing the powers of the crystals and out heroes travel back in time 2,000 years in order to stop this! At which point, the 4 elemental archfiends that were previously defeated are back alive and raring to fight once more! Even after vanquishing the old foes, Chaos still remains. Lo and behold, who is it, but none other than Garland! Masquerading as Chaos, Garland created a time loop to live forever, harnessing the power of the crystals for his own plans.
Here are some fun facts about Final Fantasy I:
- Just outside the city of Elfland are a number of tombstones. In the original NES game, one refers to a character called Eldrick who is from the Dragon Quest series
- In the original Japanese version, the tombstone read “Here lies Link” which refers to the protagonist from The Legend of Zelda. This inclusion is mimicked in later ports of the title
- In the NES and PS releases, the Intelligence stat had no effect on your characters spell strength, effectively making a Red Mage as powerful as both the Black and White Mages
The saddening part about this game for me was the ending. Even as an early title, Final Fantasy I was as gripping as a number of its successors, yet the ending always seemed a bit tame to me. Once your party has defeated Garland, they return to their own time and forget the adventure ever happened. It always reminded me of that very first story you write as a child and ended with “and then I woke up from the dream”. That infamous phrase that storytellers try so desperately to avoid. For me, it was a shame to end a fun and immersive game such as this the way it did, but overall, I can’t complain too much as it spawned many, many sequels and provided me countless hours of enjoyment. Kudos, Square Co / Square Enix.
Did you manage to play Final Fantasy I before the others in the series, or did you come back to it after playing a later one? What were your chosen classes on your very first playthrough? I went for the classic approach of Warrior, Monk, Black Mage, and White Mage. Let us know in the comments section below!