Final Fantasy Breakdown Part 1. The Original.



One day, a long time ago I went into a video game store in the mall. Final Fantasy 9 was out and I was talking to the guy working behind about the franchise. It turned out he had played and beaten every game in the franchise and I had only beaten the sixth one. I thought it was a cool thing he had accomplished and a few years later I set out to do something similar.

About five years ago I set myself the goal of beating every single one of the numbered Final Fantasy games. At the time they were up to 11 so it didn’t seem too hard.  I started at number 1 and have made it to 10 although it took several years of off and on play. I have since stalled out. I know I can’t ever truly “beat” Final Fantasy 11 but I think I played it enouph for the purposes of this series. I’m hoping that by doing this series I may reignite my fire for the series and begin to progress on the newer titles in the series that I have been avoiding.  So here is my analysis of the first entry in one of my favorite video game franchises.

The box art for the U.S. Nintendo Entertainment System version.


Final Fantasy, is a game that almost didn’t get made. Squaresoft had made a few NES games by this point and they put the last of their money into this game. The name “Final Fantasy” actually is defined by this. It was to be their last game ever.  I heard about this game when it came out but I didn’t play it until years later. I borrowed it from a friend during the later years of the SNES and Genesis era in the mid 1990s. I played it a bit and found myself obsessed with picking a proper party. I kept starting over to pick a diffrent group and thus didn’t make any progress until the point where I had to give it back. It was only after setting the goal of beating this game for myself that I settled down with a used copy on my original NES and defeated it. I have since aquired the Playstation remake Final Fantasy : Origins and a backup copy of the NES original and two copies of the Gameboy Advance version Final Fantasy : Dawn of Souls, and the anniversary edition for the Playstation Portable. The only versions I don’t have are on the Wonderswan and iPhone, I don’t plan to get them as they are functionally identical to the Gameboy Advance and Playstation Portable versions respectivly. I understand there are also other versions available for other cellphones that I don’t have.  So what is this game all about?

The box art for the U.S. Playstation release.

This game is a Dungeons and Dragons clone.  The story is thin but it gives the group something to do. The graphics and sound are memorable and get the job done. And the gameplay is hard requiring extensive grinding depending on your class choices. This game was a great success both in Japan and America. So what is Final Fantasy about? And why did it succeed?

So what is Final Fantasy? Back when the first game came out it was somewhat easy to define. Its a turn based role playing game set in a fantastical version of the ancient western world. In this world you control a party of four heroes who set out to defeat an ultimate evil and save the world. That sounds simple to someone who is familiar with these kind of games but there are a few terms to unpack here. Turn Based: Its not live action, its more like battleship with lots of players. The gameplay proceeds in rounds, every round you decide before it starts what each of your guys do. Then in the order of speediest guy to slowest guy (including the monsters) you watch with no control as the round unfolds. It allows for very precise strategic control of your party. Role Playing Game: A game where you take on the role of someone who is not you and make them do what you want. It used to be thought that this is a gameplay type that only fits in a swords and sorcery type world. Popular modern game series like Fallout and Persona show that nearly any setting can work with this genre. As far as gameplay role playing games are best known for their detailed combat mechanics and character improvement systems usually using levels to show how powerful a character is. The higher the level the stronger the character.

The setting is a fantastical world, its like a version of our history with a few alterations to make it more exciting.  Monsters roam the lands and people all live in houses where the doors all face south. It has many fantasy elements that are common to the genre and a few that make even the original title stand out from among other games of its era set in similar worlds. The characters weild mideval weapons like swords and axes and wear leather and metal armor. There is magic and magical healing and protective items. These things have been common in the genre since The Lord of the Rings. Its the technology that gives Final Fantasy its flavor. You come accross evidence of a lost empire called Luminaria that had robots and flying machines and such. These science fiction elements really give this world an interesting angle.

So I began my first complete passage through the game with some research. I asked the internets “what is the best class to beat the game quickly?” After all I had nine more to go I wanted to progress quickly. So I found that four Fighters or three Fighters and a Red Mage are among the groups that can make their way through the game the fastest. I chose the later setup.

Even with this carefully chosen group the going was slow. Every few steps some jerk monsters jumped out and stopped my progress while my guys chopped them to bits. About halfway through I grew impatient. I started running from battles and only fighting when the areas got harder and I needed to grow more powerful to progress safely.

Finally beating that game after flirting with the idea for about ten years felt really good.  I worked on it steadily without any breaks of more than a few days. My progress on this title was entertaining. I think that ultimatly I get tired of any one kind of party about halfway through the game. This game is one of my favorite in the series, its simple but its also fun. I few years later I beat the Gameboy Advance version more times that I would like to openly admit. Ok I beat it twice with a full party and three times with just one guy(Fighter, Whitemage and Redmage). I was eventually going to beat it with one guy from every class but my level 99 Monk couldn’t beat Chaos for the life of me. After 30 tries I decided to move on to better things.

Final Fantasy 2?

Not this one! I'll explain in part 2.

So after besting the original I set my eyes on the sequel, a very odd game that does many things nobody would see again for several decades, Final Fantasy 2.


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January 2011
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