Looking Back: The Original Final Fantasy
We live in exciting and yet unstable times when it comes to the Video Game industry nowadays. Publishers filing for bankruptcy. Others are being labeled as “Evil”. Meanwhile, we are still given our fair share of amazing and influential experiences. Not to mention that we’re (FINALLY) looking forward to the “new” Next-Gen after the longest dry spell in the industries history. But I thought it would be nice to step back for a minute, and turn back the clock to a much simpler time. When instead of hitting up Social Media or your blog, your best bet to vent or praise publicly was either in the lunchroom or writing to your favorite gaming magazine (RIP Nintendo Power).
Italian Plumbers and Elvish Heroes aside, there was one game in particular of my limited NES collection, that took up the bulk of my childhood: Final Fantasy. It wasn’t the first of its kind in general, but it was a first for me. Never, had I been so enveloped, so involved with a Video Game. Mythical baddies, Magic, Swords, and an actual, well developed story! What wasn’t there to love?! I would sit there on my floor, pouring over the detailed maps, weapons, armor, and spell lists as I fought my way through the vast, open world. Periodically, my mom would show up asking “Heather, why don’t you go outside and play or write another story?” Begrudgingly, I’d set up a tent or a house to save my game, only to go outside and pretend I was a White Mage making “potions” out of budding tree blossoms and pine needles, or write what I’d now consider my first ply at Fan Fiction.
Most people know Final Fantasy to be one of the most successful and long running Video Game Series out there. What some may not realize, is that it started out as SquareSoft’s “Last Hurrah”. Or literally, their “Final Fantasy”. Come to think of it: as a kid, when I received the game as a gift from my dad, I remember thinking “Final Fantasy? I wonder if this is the last one in a series?” Kids can pick up on the darndest things, can’t they? In the real world, threatened with bankruptcy, Square knew that without fiscal success, this would be their last game. The game was released in Japan in 1987 for the NES, and needless to say, Final Fantasy was met with the financial success and critical acclaim that it needed to keep SquareSoft running. Subsequently, the game was also released in the US in 1989. Since then, they’ve been rewarding fans with decades of entertainment that continues to this day.
We begin with the appearance of the 4 Light Warriors. Each warrior carries with them an Elemental Orb, turned dark by the Fiends of the Elements. Their quest, is to explore the world, defeating these fiends,and bring the light back to the mystical Orbs. These warriors can be made of up to 4 classes out of 6 available. Fighter, Black Belt, Thief, Red Mage, White Mage, and Black Mage. All of them have their strengths and weaknesses, which may differ depending on who or where you are fighting. On your journey, you run into a wide array of characters and monsters. From an Elvish King, to Blind Witches,Vampires, Dragons, evil Fish and Octopi, and even the “quintessential” Princess in Distress.
There was a lot of work that went into all of the environments of this game. The world here is quite expansive, and gives the player a multitude of backdrops to fight within. Each area and environment provide you with different enemies, all of which are more challenging than the last. Same goes for the dungeons and caves. Most of the dungeons are pretty straight forward as far as navigation is concerned, but expect to go looking up a map sooner or later. Just as the enemies get tougher when you progress, so do the challenges of navigating the dungeons.
Your primary mode of transportation is on foot, however you are also able to command a variety of different vessels as the story progresses. But to tell you the truth, one of the challenges in this game is leveling up enough to reach your next destination without your entire party perishing. Therefore, traveling on foot and looking for random encounters is a must. While this does make the game more challenging, it’s also one of it’s biggest downfalls. The monotony of walking around in the same areas farming for experience points and/or money for supplies, can take its toll. Another challenge is getting to know your characters. Using the battle system, you choose who you want that character to attack individually; just like you would in any turn based RPG. However, doubling up on enemies can result in missed turns if you don’t plan accordingly. So getting familiar with everyone’s average hit points is vital to evening out the playing field and assigning your characters efficiently.
The music in the original Final Fantasy was headed by the now infamous Noubu Uematsu: the mastermind behind all but a few Final Fantasy titles. Despite how old the game is, you would probably still recognize some of the music today, even if you don’t realize it. Much of the soundtrack has stood the test of time and has been revamped and reused in several Final Fantasy games. Particularly the Victory Fanfare. Heck, some songs I still get stuck in my head from time to time. Like the Overworld Theme or Matoya’s Cave and her dancing brooms. To me, this proves the brilliance in the music. That something you haven’t heard in years would still get stuck in your head. And the sound of that Fanfare still rings in your ears whenever you accomplish something; whether it’s in a game or not.
I can’t really pinpoint exactly what it is about this game that made me go back to it again and again. Even as a teenager, when most were playing on their PlayStations, I’d STILL go back and play Final Fantasy on my old Nintendo. Maybe it was a longing for those simpler times. Whatever it was, I’m grateful for it. It’s a fantastic ride, from start to finish. If you have patience, and you’re a fan of old school RPGs, I highly recommend it. You can find it emulated online, iOS, Android, or Windows phones, PSP, or you can find it on the Wii Virtual Console.
So, what were YOUR go-to games when you were a kid? Bubble-Bobble? Sonic the Hedgehog? Tomb Raider? Feel free to share in the comments below!