Final Fantasy – The Princess Has Been Kidnapped By Garland! Are You Bad Enough Dudes To Rescue The Princess?

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Blah blah blah, running out of money, one last game, suddenly successful, glut of sequels.  I don’t know why everyone who reviews the first game in this series (or in some cases, any game in this series) feels the need to deliver information that most of the target audience already knows.  By now, it’s all readily available on Wikipedia anyway, so go knock yourselves out.  I’ll busy myself with the important stuff.

As the title to this review suggests, the first thing you have to do is save the princess from the clutches of Garland.  But unlike in the Mario series, the princess is in the first castle you approach, since the bridge is out and there’s only one other place you can visit on the small island.

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Is that a canoe in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?

This game departed from tradition by letting you rescue the princess early, but it also seemed to make a small dig at Dragon Warrior by having the king get a bridge built to help you on your journey.  I don’t see the king of Alefgard giving you a bridge across the channel to the Dragonlord’s castle.  In fact, in Dragon Warrior, it required three relics to create a magical bridge to get to the Dragonlord’s island.  In Final Fantasy, all they required to make a bridge was some dedicated and skilled workers and wages paid out from the royal treasury.  It is possible that the kingdom of Alefgard was very poor, either in money or in resources, but I think the king was just a bastard.  After all, the first thing he did in the game was lock you in his throne room and threaten to keep you there until you agreed to help him.

The king in Final Fantasy was a lot more reasonable.  But you’d think these kings would watch over their daughters better.  At any rate, after rescuing the princess from the weakest boss ever (honestly, has anyone ever been knocked down by Garland?), the Light Warriors travel the world and in the process, meet an interesting cast of characters who help them in their quest to find the crystals and defeat the elemental fiends.

As it is an 8-bit game, the music had to be 8-bit as well.  But in this first game, many of the tunes became instant classics, and have since received upgrades in the various ports and remakes Square created afterward.  The graphics were also overhauled on more than one occasion, but in each case, still retained the same general look of the original game.  The sprites remain the same size as they were in the first game, and not the larger size of, say, Final Fantasy VI.  Why break what worked?  After all, in the original game, things weren’t hard to see, and weren’t really very ugly.  The graphics were darker than in Dragon Warrior, but Dragon Warrior chose to be a light-hearted epic, something which has persisted to this day, and Final Fantasy chose to go the darker epic route, something which they’ve deviated from a few times, but has generally been their intention.

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But not to worry, because for most of you, this job could be done by a monkey with a bottle of Motrin. Speaking of which, if you’re particularly annoying, you may see me reach for this: this is Vicodin. It’s mine. You can’t have any. And no, I do not have a pain management problem, I have a pain problem. But who knows? Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I’m too stoned to tell. So, who wants me? And who would rather wait for one of the other two guys?

The story itself was alright, but in the original translation, things were a little harder to understand.  Things have been explained better, both in remakes and on Wikipedia, but still, a gamer couldn’t help but be confused by the way things were explained in the original game.  Also, given this was an early NES RPG, most of the story had to do with exploration and discovery.  Plot points stayed hidden until you came across them yourself.

The original version of Final Fantasy was pretty difficult, with limited casting of spells due to an MP system set up in a similar fashion to Dungeons and Dragons, where you could only have a certain amount of spell castings per level (ie, 8 times for level 1 spells, 7 for level 2, 5 for level 3, etc.).  When the series moved to the SNES, the D&D style spell system was largely abandoned in favour of a single MP stat you could draw your magic from.  Some remakes of this game also reflect such a change, and give you the single MP stat, thus simplifying the game immensely.

One thing I’m glad they changed in later games was the way the shops were set up.  You were only allowed to buy one item at a time, so if you could afford to buy 99 healing potions, you would have to buy them, one at a time, until your inventory was full.  Also, you were only allowed to carry a certain amount of equipment, so you had to make sure you had the strongest stuff equipped, and didn’t have the luxury of carrying more than one piece of elementally-specific equipment, just in case you found yourself attacking a very different kind of monster that only responded to certain elements.

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I’m the Doctor.  Run for your life!

All in all, good and bad, Final Fantasy was a good first game in a series that has just gotten better with time.  The first few games seemed to be competing with the Dragon Warrior series, but later games demonstrated that the series could stand well on its own and didn’t require competition to drive its desire for innovation forward.

It’s possible that if games like Dragon Warrior and Final Fantasy had debuted five years earlier or five years later than they did, they wouldn’t have been such runaway successes.  But it’s possible they still would’ve been just as successful.  Really, there’s no way to second guess history.  It just seems that the RPG genre came along at just the right time, and changed gaming as we knew it, and we’re all the better for it.

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There’s innuendo in here somewhere…

Also available on:
Game Boy Advance – Final Fantasy I & II: Dawn of Souls (with Final Fantasy II), 2004

Use Four White Mages, We Dare You

In Dawn of Souls, the game includes four bonus dungeons, a completely different MP stat more in line with the rest of the series, and a shallower experience ladder, all of which contribute to a far easier experience for gamers who are just cutting their teeth on their first Final Fantasy, or even their first RPG in general.  Of course, if you insist on going through all four bonus dungeons and fighting the bosses at the end, you’ll end up at a higher level than you need to be in order to defeat the final boss of the game, and he’ll be rendered a complete joke.  He would’ve been a complete jo
ke anyway, but it should take you only fifteen hours to max out your characters’ levels in this version, which means if you start at the beginning of the day, play non-stop while consuming snacks and ramen, you’ll finish before you need to sleep and by the time you reach the final boss, it won’t matter that you’re exhausted.  You could just attack the final boss with everything you got, not even worry about healing, and easily win, then once the end credits roll, collapse in bed and sleep.

Other releases:
MSX2 – Final Fantasy, 1989
Wonderswan Color – Final Fantasy, 2000
PS1 – Final Fantasy Origins (with Final Fantasy II), 2002
Mobile phones – Final Fantasy Mobile (with Final Fantasy II), 2004, 2006
PSP – Final Fantasy Anniversary Edition, 2007

To be continued…

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