By Tyler Lubben / April 1st, 2015
|Release Date||December 18, 1987|
|Platform||NES, PC Emulator|
In between my action and shooting games, I’ve been known to play some JRPGs from time to time. It’s mostly new stuff like Mass Effect and Dragon Age 2, but I figured I might enjoy some of the old school stuff that people talk about. I thought it might be interesting to try out one of the oldest JRPGs out there – Final Fantasy on the NES – and see what all the fuss was about. Not only that, but I’d played a little of the later games, like Final Fantasy XII and XIII, so I felt like I’d already have some idea of what’s going on. As such, I went ahead and illegally downloaded the game and gave it a try. As it turns out, it’s a good thing I didn’t spend any money on this because Final Fantasy is so archaic that it is practically unplayable.
Honestly, I can’t believe anyone would actually like this game. It’s so old and broken that I could barely play it for an hour before throwing the controller across the room. The story makes no sense, the menus are confusing, the art looks like it was drawn by a five-year-old and the music is annoying. I really tried to like it, though. Let’s take a look at my short time with the game.
Right when I started up the game, I knew it was going to be a tough one. Getting bombarded with some weird harp-ish music, I quickly skipped to the character screen. The game let me pick between a few different classes – Fighter, Thief, Monk, and some mages. This was pretty ridiculous, in my opinion. Why would you want anything that couldn’t easily kill anything in front of them? As such, I went with all Fighters, even though the programmers pretty lazily made them all look exactly the same. The first thing that really got under my skin about this game was the fact that I could only use four letters to name my characters (sadly, not enough for my usual Marina). Games these days use more than enough spaces to choose just about any name you’d want, so I found it hard to believe that Final Fantasy, even as old as it was, couldn’t even do something as simple as that. I was pretty limited in names, but I wanted to make sure they all sounded pretty tough. As I see it, you don’t get much cooler than nature’s greatest predators, so I named them BEAR, WOLF, CROC and HAWK. With names like that, nothing would be able to stop us. At least, that’s what I thought until I was thrown into the incredibly confusing game proper.
Final Fantasy contains absolutely no opening video or anything to help you figure out what you’re supposed to do. It just drops you on a world map with no direction whatsoever. Players are left to try to figure out what is going on on their own. I was able to put up with that, but I bet there are many gamers who would not be nearly as understanding. After going to the nearby town of Corneria (haha, Star Fox), I learned that there was a bad guy called Garland who I needed to kill. It seemed as good a reason as any to get into some fights. So, with no other instructions to speak of, I left the town and ventured out.
I noticed when I was wandering that there were absolutely no monsters or anything roaming around. I thought this was weird, because it’d be pretty boring if couldn’t kill anything. I started heading north to Garland’s castle, when, suddenly, the screen flashed at me. My heart dropped… Random encounters… This mechanic never made sense to me. How can enemies just magically appear out of thin air and attack you? Anyway, I figured I could deal with it for the review. At least I was finally seeing some action. I had four options open to me: Fight, Magic, Item and Run. I didn’t have any magic or items, and I certainly wasn’t going to let my team run away, so I had them do what Fighters to best; fight! I tried to get some excitement out of this, but, considering no one was moving, it was hard. My own characters would move a little when they attacked, but the enemies did nothing at all. I know the system was kind of limited, but even Super Mario Bros had enemies that moved a little bit. Would it have been that hard?
Things only got worse as I advanced. As it turns out, with every fight, I didn’t get any health back. There was no regenerating health like in Final Fantasy XIII, and I couldn’t figure out any way to rest, either. While the imps and [wolves] I fought weren’t that hard, they would get in hits every so often, and this damage began to add up. Sure, I guess I could have included a White Mage on my team, but the idea itself is ludicrous. I’m not going to do something that would negatively affect my killing power like that. With no other discernible way to heal myself, I had no choice but to keep going.
It also didn’t help that I was really only hearing two different tracks of music; the Overworld theme and the Battle theme. I guess these were OK, but I was really only hearing, at best, the same ten seconds of the two themes, as, when I transitioned from travelling to battle and vice-versa, they would start over. At least they were better than the victory theme that plays after winning a battle. See how long you can listen before going crazy:
Probably the most unforgivable problem with the game is the fact that you can’t seem to save. It’s my understanding that, in JRPGs especially, you should be able to save just about any time you’re on the world map. However, if you can, I couldn’t figure out how. The pause button did nothing but show me a status screen that wouldn’t let me make any changes, and I couldn’t access any kind of Options or Save screen.
I eventually reached Garland’s castle, but I was so hurt from my battles on the way there that, when I finally got to him, my punches did hardly any damage to him, when I was even able to hit him at all. I was easily dispatched by the villain. As an aside, why are there visible bat enemies in the castle, but none on the world map? Way to be consistent, Square. Since I couldn’t save, I was then kicked back to the beginning of the game, having to start over completely. I don’t know if Final Fantasy started out as a rogue-like series, but the lack of instructions makes the game incredibly frustrating, and it wasn’t long before I gave up completely.
After playing about as much as I could stand of Final Fantasy, I really can’t believe this is what the whole franchise was based on. I know that this was Squaresoft’s last chance to make a game before going out of business back in the day, but I can’t believe people actually bought it. I guess they had different tastes back then, because such a confusing and broken game would not sell these days. I have to laugh even more when you can find hard copies of the game going for hundreds of dollars on sites like Amazon and eBay. Don’t fall for it, though. Just pirate it like I did, for a game this bad, Square doesn’t deserve your money anyway. I guess it must be kind of a masochistic thing for people who want to play impossible games. Me, I’ll stick with games that actually help you win, rather than make you want to snap your controller in half.
Final FantasyNESretro reviewSquaresoft