Disclaimer: There will be spoilers abound in this post. You have been warned!
As we move along in my countdown, we arrive at the original, the game that started it all, Final Fantasy. Originally released in Japan in 1987, the U.S. got their first take of Final Fantasy magic on the NES three years later (thank God localization now only takes months!). Since it’s original release, the game was remade as a part of the PlayStation’s Final Fantasy Origins package along with Final Fantasy II in 2003 and has been re-released on the Game Boy Advanced, PSP, and now the PSN store (and soon, it will be available on the iPhone).
At the time the game was released, Square Co. (yes, they didn’t go by Squaresoft then, and the merge with Enix wasn’t even a thought at this time) was failing. After several lackluster releases, president Hironobu Sakaguchi, decided to make one more game. He declared that it would be his final attempt and that the theme would be a fantasy RPG, and that plan became the title of the game, Final Fantasy. However, what was meant to be a farewell to the gaming industry met with huge success and it only trailed behind the most popular RPG in Japan at the time, Enix’s Dragon Quest. The game also had moderate success in the States, saving Square Co. and giving birth to one of the most successful RPG series of all time.
At the start of the game, the player is presented with a bit of a history lesson and legend of the unnamed world they find themselves in. The elements of the world (earth, wind, fire, water) were governed by four elemental crystals and their power was used by four powerful civilizations that existed hundreds of years before the start of the game. However, the crystals began to grow dark and the civilizations could no longer use the crystals to control each element as they once could. After each crystal grew dark and each civilization fell, a prophecy was declared, saying that in the future, four Warriors of Light would restore the world in a time of darkness.
The player is then placed in control of these four generic characters, whom each carry a darkened crystal with them. After the player gives a name and a job to each party member, they make their first stop to the Kingdom of Cornelia and discover the kingdom’s princess has been kidnapped by Garland, a former knight of Cornelia whom apparently has plans to overthrow the Kingdom. The heroes go to Garland’s liar, the Chaos Shrine, defeat him and save the princess.
After the ordeal with Garland, the heroes then set out on a series of linear quests that allow them to travel across the rest of the world. Eventually, the party arrives at the town of Melmond, a town that whose earth and crops are literally rotting. It is believed the Vampire living in the Cavern of Earth is to blame and the heroes take it out; however, no improvement is shown. Upon further investigation in another cave, the party comes across Sadda (also known as Sarda) whom tells them an Elemental Fiend known as Lich is the culprit. Upon Lich’s defeat, the power of the Earth Crystal is restored and the land of Melmond returns to normal.
The party continues its travels, defeating the remaining elemental fiends and restoring the power of the remaining three crystals in their possession. Along the way, the party also encounters the Dragon King, Bahamut, whom sends them on a quest that allows the four Light Warriors to obtain upgraded versions of all their jobs.
However, despite everything seeming to be back to normal, our heroes find out their quest is not yet done. The Four Fiends were actually in league with Garland. Now brace yourself because things are about to get a little crazy if you are trying to follow the story.
Somehow, Garland is able to make a deal with these Four Fiends; however, they did not exist in the present, but rather the past as they were the ones to blame for initial darkening of the crystals and destruction of the world’s ancient civilizations. As a part of this pact, the Fiends send Garland 2,000 years in the past and Garland sends the Four Fiends to the present time. Somehow, this created a time paradox that would allow Garland to live forever and the Fiends could do as they pleased in the present.
With this knowledge, the Light Warriors return to the Chaos Temple and use the power of the crystals to travel 2,000 years in the past to destroy Garland once and for all. The Warriors reunite with Garland whom remembers them and is quite pissed as his initial plan was to have a present and past self to keep the time paradox and his eternal life in place. Garland then absorbs the power of all the deceased Four Fiends and becomes a demon known as Chaos.
Of course, the good guys win, Chaos is defeated and the time paradox is broken with both Garland and the four Elemental Fiends gone for good. Upon their victory the Light Warriors return to their own time and everything is back to normal except for one twist: no one, including the Light Warriors remembers anything. The world returned to a point in which Garland, the Fiends, and their scheme never existed and no one had a single memory of the event, making for quite a rather interesting end for such a journey.
As stated in the previous section, there isn’t exactly any real character development to speak of. The four Light Warriors are whatever you want them to be more or less. However, if you want someone else to give some character development to these sprites, may I suggest some 8-bit Theater or the musical stylings of Duane & Brando:
Again, not much to see here. Garland/Chaos really doesn’t have much development to speak of; however, it is definitely one of the more unique evil (and most confusing) plans in the entire series.
The battles and leveling are as simple as they can get. Pick your jobs, get in random battles, input commands, get experience points, level up, wash, rinse, repeat.
Every job has its own unique abilities and you are able to pick six from the start: Warrior (aka Fighter), Monk (aka Black Belt), Thief, White Mage, Black Mage, and Red Mage (random note: many years later, Final Fantasy XI, would later also allow these six jobs to be the first available selections for a player’s character). The Warrior job is your basic damage dealer that could equip heavy armor and weapons. A Monk is a bare-fisted damage dealer (giving a Monk weapons actually would hurt), but can’t equip heavy armor. A Thief can’t equip heavy weapons or armor, but with a high agility rating they can pull off more hits per round. A White Mage allows for healing magic to be used and a Black Mage could cast attack magic. The Red Mage is the jack of all trades and could equip many of the weapons and armor in the game as well as being able to cast many, but not all, white and black magic.
After conquering Bahamut’s trail, these jobs are then upgraded to Knight, Master, Ninja, White Wizard, Black Wizard, and Red Wizard respectively. Each of these were a powered up version of the previous job, and in the case of Knight and Ninja, those jobs could now use white and black magic respectively.
The real beauty of this system though is that it allowed for a multitude of different job combinations to be used as well as encouraging multiple playthroughs of the game in order to try different combos out. Sure it’s basic and overly simplistic, but it works and still stands the test of time and makes for a much more enjoyable playing experience than yesterday’s entry, Final Fantasy II.
Why This Game Ended Up Here
Even though I very much enjoy the simplistic nature of the game, compared to other entries in the Final Fantasy series, it simply doesn’t as much substance as other entries. Final Fantasy served as an excellent starting point for the series, but, as we progress through the countdown, we will begin to encounter games with must more robust stories, characters, and battle systems.
The real meat of this countdown is about to begin (and my decisions in rankings start to get much harder).