Written by  :  Christian Delano (5)
Written on  :  Oct 07, 2006
Platform  :  NES
Rating  :  2.5 Stars2.5 Stars2.5 Stars2.5 Stars2.5 Stars

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A game that helped popularize console Eastern RPGs, however, it is over-rated.

The Good

Final Fantasy had good graphics when it was released in December 1987. The sprites and the environment were more detailed than Dragon Quest II, which was released earlier that year in Japan. As with most NES RPGs, the graphics were not exactly impressive but Final Fantasy’s graphics were definitely better than other contemporary NES RPGs.

The music for Final Fantasy was well-composed given that this game was completed in the mid-generation of the Famicom era and the developers had to contend with the limited hardware of the NES at the time.

I liked that you could customize your party of adventurers in this game whereas in Dragon Quest I & II and Phantasy Star, you never had this option. You can go out adventuring with many combinations of six classes: The fighter, black belt, thief, white mage, black mage or the red mage. For example, you can have a balanced party of fighters and mages, a team full of fighters, a team full of black mages, or if you are feeling suicidal, a team of four white mages. There are over 100+ different combinations of classes that you could potentially choose for your party. While such customization can allow for great replay value, the game play suffers from a lot of factors which would make one not want to play this game again after completing it once.

The Bad

While the music was excellent, the sound effects on the other hand were somewhat annoying; especially the “bleeping” sound that is made whenever a dialogue window is popped up. It would have been better for Square to have left the dialogue window bleeps out of the game. Considering that bleeps were quite common in NES games during this time, the sound effects don’t take away that much from the overall sound though.

There was nothing about the plot that drew me into the game. You have four light warriors who must recover four crystals of elements fire, water, air and earth to save the world and you can save a princess early on. Gee I wonder where we have seen that before. Phantasy Star, a Japanese RPG for the Sega Master System, at least had a main character with a story to tell. The protagonist lost a family member to the “bad guy” and they were out to avenge death. However in Final Fantasy, there is neither character development nor is there the role-playing experience you can get from contemporary western RPGs like Ultima IV, which was released in 1985. Therefore there is nothing redeeming about the story of this game. Normally having a paper-thin plot would not matter if the game had great game play. However this is not the case with Final Fantasy.

The game play is a step up from contemporaries such as Dragon Quest and Phantasy Star with great character customization as mentioned before and this game is not as much of a level-up fest as these two games. However the game is still very much a level-up fest and fighting random battles constantly where you just mindlessly bash the A button repeatedly gets old really quick. This game is more of a test of tedium and patience rather than actual skill. It may not be as tedious as Dragon Quest or Phantasy Star but this game surely isn’t fun. Final Fantasy requires that you fight a lot of random battles so that you can level up and buy better equipment. If you don’t, you will get killed quite quickly. Levelling up is an entirely mindless process in this game. You go outside in the world map, fight the same enemies over and over again by simply bashing the A button repeatedly and then you gain experience to level up and get gold to buy better equipment.

The only change-up in strategy is that you’ll have to make sure you don’t aim at an enemy that gets killed by another party member of yours before you touch them. I do not see how this all of a sudden makes battle strategic as fans of FF1 claim. This is not strategy. You also have to heal up once in awhile between bashing the A button over and over again and if you are in a dungeon, you have to make sure to save your magic. It is pretty much the same old, same old that you see in Dragon Quest. You go to an area, level up mindlessly, buy new stuff and start over again. That is very much a large chunk of this game. You will spend most of your time fighting just to level up rather than to actually explore a dungeon or adventure.

On a positive note, Final Fantasy has more emphasis on elemental weaknesses and strengths than Dragon Quest or Phantasy Star, which gives it a more strategic edge than these games. However the majority of battles are lifeless and mindless for the most part. Considering that conserving magic in dungeons is a big part of the game, there really is not much variety in how you go about fighting the vast majority of random battles besides tapping A mindlessly to make a normal attack. To be fair to Final Fantasy, it is not so much of a grind in the end-game and gaining experience and gold becomes more reasonable. However in order for things to get to this point, you have to fight hours of tedious random battles solely for levelling up beforehand anyway.

The Bottom Line

As much as Final Fantasy is responsible for helping popularize console RPGs in Japan and introducing westerners to the Eastern RPG genre in the early 1990s on the NES, the game is derivative and primitive now and it was derivative and primitive back then. Final Fantasy deserves a lot of respect for what it did for the Eastern RPG genre but as a game, it is simply not fun and video games are supposed to be fun. Final Fantasy for the most part played like a watered down Dungeons & Dragons Lite with a modified Dragon Quest battle system in side-view rather than first-person. There was absolutely nothing revolutionary about the game itself. Final Fantasy’s legacy lies only in how it attracted interest in Eastern RPGs and how it was the start of better things to come for the Final Fantasy franchise.