[personal profile] project2501
[Note: This review is part of my series on the Final Fantasy games. To read them all, click here.]

I have embarked on a project that I've been saying I will do for years: playing all the games in the Final Fantasy series, all the way through, in order. I at least want to play the first six (well, five, since I think one of those was never released in the US), since I got into the series with FFVII.

Granted, this is not the kind of life goal that ranks up there with, say, writing a novel, or getting out of debt. But that's okay. I'm allowed to set goals that aren't all grown-up and serious, too.

I finished Final Fantasy last night, playing the PS re-release (FF and FFII on a single disc). Time to defeat the final boss: about 36h. Time to 100% completion: ~45h. That extra time was almost entirely spent in hunting down a couple of rare monsters.

The story behind the name is interesting. I don't know whether this is apocryphal, but I have heard that Squaresoft had already made a bunch of games that flopped, and they were running out of money. They made this game thinking it was the last they would ever make. And, well, we all know what happened instead. So I think my expectations going into the game were a bit high. But even though it was somewhat disappointing, it was neat to see how many of the familiar elements of the FF games were already present.

Story and characters: Definitely a disappointment. I knew I couldn't really expect the level of storytelling and character development that makes the later games so brilliant, but this was really bad. The player heroes -- the four "Warriors of Light" -- don't even have names, much less any sort of backstory. (I named them Cloud (fighter), Yuffie (thief), Aeris (white mage), and Lulu (black mage). Which led to a somewhat amusing question.) The game begins with the four heroes showing up at the castle, carrying the four crystals, in accordance with prophecy. (No, really.) A couple of lines as to where we came from or where we got those shiny crystals from would have been nice! Plot throughout the game was disconnected and abrupt, sometimes hilariously so. It basically came down to finding the one person in the town to talk to who would give you the item you needed to progress. I walked up to one person, who said, "Thanks for killing [last boss], unfortunately when you did so you released [next boss] from its slumber. You must go destroy it for the good of the world. Here, take this canoe." This guy didn't even introduce himself first! The biggest chunk of plot in the game came at the very end, after I destroyed Garland/Chaos (the final boss). And it made no sense. (Something about a misunderstanding causing Garland to fall into a time loop, where we killed him in the present, but the four fiends of chaos sent him back into the past, where he sent the four fiends of chaos into the future so they could send him into the past... and then some Kingdom Hearts-esque stuff about how when we went back to the future, no one would remember what we'd done, except that the memory would live on in everyone's hearts.)

Gameplay: The game was mostly a typical RPG (kill monsters to gain experience; use experience to level up; explore multi-level dungeons; each town has better weapons and armor to sell you; etc.). One neat thing was that the four main bosses could be tackled in any order. Similar to later FF games, there was a sort of early bit where you had to do things in a given order, and then you got the airship and were free to go anywhere you wanted. There were one or two proto-sidequests, but they were pretty simple and you kind of wound up doing them in the course of normal gameplay. (Upgrading everyone's classes involved this thing called the Citadel of Trials, which was very hyped up, and sounded like it was going to take like eight hours, and then it turned out to be ONE ROOM. With a maze in it. But still, way too easy to rate the name.)

There were some odd balance issues, and some things that were just annoying. The only healing item available was the Potion, and it sucked. Giving back 11-20 HP is just not very useful when the characters have 500 and monsters are hitting them for 150. Especially since you can only carry 99 of them. There were no items to restore life or MP. Well, there were items for use outside that would restore HP and MP both: Sleeping Bag, Tent, Cottage. But since most of your time is spent in dungeons, not very useful. Status effects were irritating since they seemed to happen all too frequently, and the items required to cure them were kind of pricey. Eventually a couple of Ribbons show up, but they only provide partial protection. There were a few enemies with Death or Poison attacks that made my life miserable for awhile.

The difficulty level was too challenging for awhile (basically due to the status thing) and the randomness of the random encounters (which, apparently, had some small chance of being ridiculously high level monsters for the area). But after doing the Citadel of Trials and getting everyone their new classes, it suddenly became almost too easy.

Classes: It was cool (and possibly unprecedented for the time?) that you could choose the classes for your characters at the beginning of the game. The choices were Fighter (Knight), Thief (Ninja), White Mage (White Wizard), Red Mage (Red Wizard), Black Mage (Black Wizard), and Monk (?). The parentheticals are the classes they change to when you complete the Citadel of Trials. (Not sure what Monk becomes since I didn't play through the game with one.) The sad thing is that, as it turns out, the mages were very underpowered. At the end of the game, with Knight and Black Wizard both at max level (which is, by the way, 50), the knight was hitting for about 1000 damage. The Black Wizard's most powerful spell, Flare (which was located in a semi-hidden area) would only do 200-300 damage. White Wizard's healing magic was similarly underpowered, though she (yes, "she" -- the only female hero) does get Life2 and Cure4, both of which restore full HP, and are thus ridiculously more powerful than the prior cure/life spells. She also gets Holy, and a couple of decent attack spells against the undead.

The Thief/Ninja was fairly pointless. As a Ninja, he got the use of some spells that the Knight didn't, but basically he was just a weak Fighter/Knight. If I had it to do over, I would have used two Fighters instead of a Fighter and a Thief. (Actually if I had it to do over, I might have used all Fighters, or maybe three Fighters and one mage. But whatever.)

Spell system: There were some interesting complexities in the spell system. Spells were available to purchase in village shops, just like weapons and armor, and were divided into eight levels. For each level, there were four available spells, but each mage could only learn three spells per level, so you had to choose which three were most useful. You could go back and "discard" a spell later in order to replace it with a different one, so those choices weren't set in stone. Each spell cost only 1 MP to cast; however, instead of having one pool of MP, the mages' MP was divided up into multiple levels. So you'd have, e.g., 4 MP for level 1 spells, 3 for level 2, 2 for level 3, and 1 for level 1. As the mages leveled up, their MP for each level increased. It led to a cool dynamic of strategizing, except that, really, you got so few MP for each level of spell (and they were so ineffectual) that the mages were really underutilized.

Final Fantasy world: Airship. Opening and victory music. White mage and black mage's outfits. Most of the monsters were fairly generic (Tyrannosaurus? Really?) but one or two FF icons popped up, like Ochu. Gil (actually I just read that it was originally Gold, and was renamed to Gil for the PS re-release).

Things that were notably missing: Chocobos. Cid. Summons. Phoenix Down.

Suspicious. (It really wasn't though.)

Best NPC. (She was an ex-mermaid.)

So there you have it. I am a giant dork.

Also, who did I loan my copy of FF IX to? Its absence from my shelf is a mystery.

Date: 2008-12-13 07:48 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ilcylic.livejournal.com
Heh. When I played FFI back in the day, character names were limited to 4 (yes, four) characters each. There's not a lot you can do with 4 characters.

So, I had one of each kind of wizard and a fighter. And, being as I was, like, 12, they got really goofy names. "Hard", "Rock", "Hevy", and "Metl". Yes, I feel your dorkitude.

Date: 2008-12-15 04:07 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rob-t-firefly.livejournal.com
Haha!! I remember that.

My first round on that game was when I was a disaffected thirteen-year-old, so my choice of four-letter words to name my light warriors was obvious.
Edited Date: 2008-12-15 04:10 pm (UTC)

Date: 2008-12-13 07:48 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] gwillen.livejournal.com
You are a giant dork! ^_^

Date: 2008-12-13 07:54 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mellowcupcake.livejournal.com
FF6 (FF3 American) is going to be worth the wait. SO MUCH.

Also FF4 - though I never played enough of that one.

Date: 2008-12-13 09:47 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] aisa0.livejournal.com
I played this game on the NES for far too many hours. I brought my first set of characters up to level 50 (the max level you could get in the game, with your fighter having 999 (or was it 9999?) hit points.

That wasn't enough, so I played a red mage, white mage, black mage, black mage combination and brought that group to level 50 as well. This was a more enjoyable experience, though it was very costly to outfit such a party, and the middle game was a bit of a struggle.

My memory of the game was that it consisted entirely of grind, but that was somehow ok and actually fun. I'm not sure I ever fond any special items, as I didn't have internets at the time.

Date: 2008-12-13 11:50 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ilcylic.livejournal.com
I just wandered back and forth on that little bridge and killed the Warmech over and over to level my party.

Date: 2008-12-14 12:45 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] aisa0.livejournal.com
ohman, I'd totally forgotten about the Warmech. Thank you.

Date: 2008-12-14 12:49 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] http://users.livejournal.com/_wirehead_/
are you kidding? it took me like 1.5 hours of wandering around just to find Warmech *once* (to get 100% in my Bestiary).

Date: 2008-12-14 03:56 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ilcylic.livejournal.com
I guess they dialed down his incidence rate.

Date: 2008-12-15 06:23 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] djsparkydog.livejournal.com
He was really rare if I remember right. AND a real bitch to kill.

Date: 2008-12-14 12:55 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] http://users.livejournal.com/_wirehead_/
yeah, it was actually a lot of grind, until after Citadel of Trials. it was kind of annoying. i think i had a lot more patience for that kind of thing back in 1988. (the one i actually played at the time was Dragon Warrior. that was an AWESOME game.)

Date: 2008-12-13 09:48 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] aisa0.livejournal.com
Oh, and I still have the issue of Nintendo Power with the complete walkthrough for this game in it. Just in case I ever wanted to play it again, I guess...

Date: 2008-12-14 12:50 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] http://users.livejournal.com/_wirehead_/
that's hilarious. i still have my old Nintendo strategy guide, which has complete maps for Super Mario 1 and 2 and Zelda 1 and 2... and some other stuff i never played.

Date: 2008-12-13 10:09 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] xaiax.livejournal.com
I think they're all available in the US at this point, in some fashion or another.

Many on the DS.

Date: 2008-12-13 10:30 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] psifenix.livejournal.com
The original release of FF was tons harder. You could only store 9 of each restorative item (which is a huge challenge in the Marsh Cave, since everything is poison). Also you could only save at inns or by using tents/cabins.

Anyway, the FFs which were not released in the US are 2, 3, and 5 (4 was released here as 2, and 6 was released as 3). Chocobos appear in 2, and Cid appears in 4 at the latest (I haven't actually played through all of 2 or 3).

Also, best goal evar. :D

Date: 2008-12-13 10:33 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] psifenix.livejournal.com
PS The Gameboy Advance rereleases of 4-6 have special extra dungeons and more treasure. :0 The DS versions may as well. just don't play the original American version of 4 ("Final Fantasy 2" on the SNES) cause they nerfed a bunch of cool stuff.
Edited Date: 2008-12-13 10:35 pm (UTC)

Date: 2008-12-14 12:53 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] http://users.livejournal.com/_wirehead_/
i'm playing the FF2 that was re-released on the PS with FF (FF Origins). not sure which American version that is -- hopefully not the same as the original SNES version?

i much prefer gaming on the full console to GBA. bah.

Date: 2008-12-14 06:26 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] psifenix.livejournal.com
The PS rerelease has all the original stuff, yeah.

And if you don't mind PC-based emulators, they're generally a good option for playing FF games because there isn't too much in the way of fast reaction time (for which controllers are obviously superior).

Date: 2008-12-14 03:50 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] http://users.livejournal.com/_wirehead_/
yeah, i don't much like gaming on the PC anymore. (as much as i ever did, which actually wasn't much, aside from, you know, Starcraft and The Sims and Neverwinter Nights.) i don't even have a real desktop now, just a laptop. and it's running Linux, which doesn't help (though i'm sure there's an emulator for something like the NES). meh.

Date: 2008-12-14 09:31 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] xaiax.livejournal.com
No. FF2 was never released, 3 either. Our 2 was 4. Our 3 was 6.

I just realized that FF1 was the only one I actually bothered to finish. First with fighter, black/white Mage and black belt. Then once more with thief instead of black belt.

Yeah, story? There was one?

Did the PS version have the slidey puzzle you had to enter the secret code while in the ship to get?

I did lots of leveling up n the ogre cave actually. That and I killed off black belt and just played with 3 chars for most of the game. Gave everyone else more experience. I think. Or maybe I was just wasting my time. D'oh.

Date: 2008-12-14 03:51 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] http://users.livejournal.com/_wirehead_/
Did the PS version have the slidey puzzle you had to enter the secret code while in the ship to get?

i have no idea! what was the secret code?

Date: 2008-12-14 04:00 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] http://users.livejournal.com/_wirehead_/
no, FF2 on the FF:Origins disc is the Japanese FF2.

Date: 2008-12-14 10:15 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] xaiax.livejournal.com
I just meant "originally", as in, "for the same system it was released in Japan." As I said before, all of 'em are available now in some modified format or other.

Stolen from GameFAQs:

When you're on the ship, hold down the A button and press the B button 55 times to access the hidden puzzle game.

In the first castle, there is what appears to be an empty space right above Queen Jane's room and below the person going right and left. Check the lower right corner of this area to find out that there is an invisible person here. Talk to him and he will tell you something before and after you save Princess Sarah.

In Elfland, just beside the White Mage shop, there are three tombstones. Two of them are ordinary tombstones, but the one on the left is different. It is the tomb of Erdrick. Erdrick is a character from Dragon Warrior, another very popular game series produced by Enix. In the Japanese version of FF1 (and in PSX's Final Fantasy Origins), the tomb says ''Here lies Link'' instead. Link, of course, is the hero of the Legend of Zelda series.

While on the world map, press B and Select at the same time, and you will see the world map.

I don't know if they changed any of that for the remake. But, yeah, we had to do some sneaky crap just to get a f'n map.

Kids these days have it all easy with their massive inventories and fancy graphics and longer than 4 letter names.

Date: 2008-12-15 02:30 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] http://users.livejournal.com/_wirehead_/

the map one i got -- they tell it to you in the game, the brooms in Matoya's cave (talking backwards).

Date: 2008-12-15 09:32 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] djsparkydog.livejournal.com
I have translation roms of 2 and 3 btw. 2 was like a stupid hard 1, and 3 was sort of the harbinger of FF tactics, and the job system.

Date: 2008-12-14 12:53 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] http://users.livejournal.com/_wirehead_/
only 9 of each item? that is flippin' insane. especially considering it took like 47 potions just to heal one guy.

Date: 2008-12-14 06:27 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] psifenix.livejournal.com
Yeah, it was basically the worst thing ever. You basically *had* to have a white mage in your party.

Date: 2008-12-14 04:01 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] http://users.livejournal.com/_wirehead_/
i have already run into both Chocobos and Cid in FF2! also, it is already x1000 times better than FF1. :D

Date: 2008-12-13 11:41 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] wunderhund.livejournal.com
I applaud you. This is one of my life goals too, I've just been really lazy about pursuing it. I look forward to your reviews of each game!

Date: 2008-12-14 01:09 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] soopahgrover.livejournal.com
I would be happy to loan you my DS if it will aid in your noble persuit. Pursuit? Spell check takes both.

Date: 2008-12-14 03:52 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] http://users.livejournal.com/_wirehead_/
thanks! but both of the boys have a DS. i actually don't like it as much as the GBA though. :/ i am weird that way i guess. trying to use that stylus on the subway == not so good though.

Date: 2008-12-14 01:34 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] pvck.livejournal.com
I have a new screensaver that takes images from my contacts on flickr and displays them randomly. You've added an element of randomness to it that has been lovely.

Also, I miss you. I was just telling stories about you today. There's someone I'd like you to meet at some point.

Date: 2008-12-14 03:52 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] http://users.livejournal.com/_wirehead_/
ah, i'm glad someone appreciates the fact that i've linked my crappy cell phone camera to Flickr. lol.


Date: 2008-12-15 06:24 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] djsparkydog.livejournal.com
If I remember right, the old class for monk was black belt, then you changed into a master.

Date: 2008-12-15 09:21 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] xaiax.livejournal.com
You remember correctly. Dude was more useful with NO weapon than with one. Still the most useless member of my party, IIRC.

Also, if you follow 8 bit theatre, that party would totally suck pants.

And a 4 fighter party rocks hard in the early game, but gets pretty hosed later on with the lack of the healing.


I think my proudest moment was when I actually managed to kill Bahamut (or was it Tiamat?) with Bane.

On the first turn.


Date: 2008-12-15 09:31 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] djsparkydog.livejournal.com
Another downside of the multi fighter party is there really are only so many epic uber weapons. I mean, a fighter with excalibur is all well and good, and masamune ain't bad either, but what do you give the other 2? Catclaw?
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