Final Fantasy


Review by Joe Santulli



Graphics: 6

Sound: 8

Gameplay: 8

Overall: 8

Stop me if you've heard this one before.

Four friends head into town using silly, often filthy four-letter words as handles. By an incredible stroke of luck, they're mistaken for some higher branch of law abidement ("Light Warriors") and are immediately sent on a "save the princess" mission by the local authorities. Upon completion they discover that they're engaged in a thick plot too deep to escape and must resort to using physical force and the occult to unravel the mysteries and thwart the bad guys. About sixty hours and thousands dead later, there's a happy ending.

Released in the US in 1990, Final Fantasy represented the first stab at getting American gamers interested in console RPG's. Though the Enix-produced RPG Dragon Warrior had appeared about a year earlier, the Final Fantasy system attempted to simplify things a bit, making the overall gaming experience a bit less "hardcore", with more emphasis on character and plot.

There's a lot to love about this first installment in what would become Square's primary franchise: charming graphics, excellent music, and the aforementioned solid plotline among them. On the other hand, there's one big thing to dislike - namely, the endless random encounters which often include attacking already dead enemies. Keeping in mind that the game was released at a time when console RPG's were a new thing and MANY console games of the age required excessive repetition, the good certainly outweighed the bad. In this day and age, it's pretty rough dealing with the fifteenth pack of wolves while making a simple trip from Coneria to Pravoka.

The game consists of two views: the map view where you see your leading character navigating the overworld, a town, or a dungeon; and the battle view where you see all four party members on the right, bad guys on the left, and a window displaying battle details at the bottom. Chosen from the outset of the game (the first and only time you were able to do this in a Final Fantasy game), your party of four characters consisting of Fighter, Black Belt, Thief, Red, Black, or White Mage duke it out with a vast assortment of baddies. Battles are turn-based - you choose the actions for each of your party members, and the battle plays out. If any bad guys are left after the round of combat, you repeat the process. Kill them all (and you WILL kill thousands of enemies over the course of the game) and gold and experience are doled out. Gold buys you better equipment. Experience gets you better statistics. This formula is nothing new and has been used many times before and since.

Nice touches along the way include new modes of transportation, character upgrades to a new and powerful class, and even a trip back in time.

The graphics aren't going to "wow" you, but the artistic style in the game is truly charming. The large-headed party characters are the most memorable but even the design of the various enemies is well done. There is very little animation in the battles themselves, consisting of just the brief show of force from your side, including weapon wielding and spellcasting. Enemies never move. It's acceptable given the vast number and variety of characters squeezed into an 8-bit game, however. The music is very well done, something that would become a tradition with Final Fantasy titles - catchy and always relevant to the moment.

So naturally, you've heard this one before, but the original Final Fantasy was and is an original in every sense of the word.


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Last updated: Sunday, February 27, 2005 11:51 AM