Final Fantasy (NES)

Final Fantasy Box Art

Final Fantasy

System: NES

Release Date: May 1990

Developer: Square

Publisher: Nintendo

Genre: RPG

We’ve reached another milestone in gaming history with Final Fantasy! The brain child of Hironobu Sakaguchi makes its way to the NES, scored by Nobuo Uematsu and programmed by Nasir. The Light Warriors have returned and are sent on a quest to tame the four elemental Fiends who are wreaking havoc and destroying the world. The King of Corneria promises to help, but first you must save his kidnapped daughter, Princess Sara.

You begin a new game by creating your light warriors. You can choose from six different classes, each with their strengths and weaknesses. The Fighter is your walking tank. They can equip all weapons and armor, taking very little damage when they’re outfitted properly. Once upgraded to the Knight, their attack strength increases and they even learn early White Magic. The Thief is a speedy trickster who isn’t as strong as the Fighter initially, but becomes a force to be reckoned with when upgraded to the Ninja. The Black Belt is an unarmed and unarmored fighter, who hits hard and hits often. He becomes even more deadly when upgraded into the Master. The Red Mage is your jack of all trades, master of none class. He has a decent fighting capability, and is bolstered by the ability to use both white and black magics. The upgraded Red Wizard learns more magic, but is capped at level 7 spells. The White Mage is your healing class that has weak attacks. Healing spells, plus damage of the undead keep the White Mage and Wizard counterpart an extremely important ally. The Black Mage and upgraded Wizard are your damage spell maestros. It’s always nice to have a strong attack all spell at your finger tips.

I went with a Fighter, Red Mage, White Mage, and Black Mage as my party. If I were to ever play again, I would never put a Red Mage in my party. Though he was nice to have at the beginning, he quickly became a liability. The early game is extremely slow because low Hit% leads to a ton of missed hits. Battles quickly become a slog because if a character targets an enemy who is killed before they act, the attack is ineffective and the turn is lost. This makes it so you can’t hurry through battles while grinding, which yes, you have to grind, despite there being people out there who swear up and down it’s unnecessary. The game throws gold at you in treasure chests through the dungeons, but not enough until the end when you don’t need gold anymore. I cut down my grinding time by utilizing the Peninsula of Power once I gained fire 2 and harm 2 spells.

You’re funneled from objective to objective in the early part of the game. Defeat Garland to save the princess; waste the pirates to gain their ship; get the crown to trade for the herb to wake the Prince to get the key to unlock the TNT to blow a canal to the ocean. Here, things open up for a bit of nonlinearity, but you have to reawaken the elemental orbs by defeating the four Fiends. Difficulty increases from Earth to Fire to Water to Air. There are plenty of other intermediate quests, but they are all necessary to reach the next area. Shining up all the orbs leads you to the finale where you have to kill them all again and the final big bad.

There are a lot of restrictions that make gameplay more of a chore than I would like. The first is buying items one at a time. When you want to stock up on heal potions, it takes forever. Using them in the menu is a pain, too, taking way too many presses that you can easily mess up if you’re going too fast. The spell system is Vancian in nature, allowing only a certain number of charges between rests at the INN. Outside of the Peninsula of Power, other than the Fast and occasional Life spell, I didn’t get much use out of the spell system. The limited points made me nervous to use them in case I needed them. The lack of need was also intensified by the inclusion of equipment that would cast unlimited spells for free, making the use of spells obsolete. Once I got Thor’s Hammer, the Mage Staff, Light Axe, and the Black Shirt, my mages were all useful attackers. The Heal Helmets and Heal Staff allowed me to heal in battle, albeit slowly. The downside is that each Light Warrior can only hold four weapons and four pieces of armor. My mages couldn’t equip a lot anyway, so they were fine, but the Knight had to make choices.

Anyone who has done much research into the original NES release of Final Fantasy knows that it’s riddled with bugs. Intelligence doesn’t do anything, making spells less useful as the game goes on. Critical hits aren’t tabulated properly and go by index number of the weapon as opposed to the proper value. Weapons, such as the Dragon Sword, do not have an increased effect on the enemy types they are supposed to. A number of spells do not work at all, or work incorrectly. Running isn’t based on luck and level as it’s supposed to be. And there are many more that don’t really affect gameplay. I don’t blame Nasir, he probably did the best he could under the circumstances, but all of these had the chance to be fixed in later releases, same with the shortcomings in gameplay.

Graphics: 3.0

Graphics are pretty good. I like the enemy portraits in battle, even if many of them are light on colors.

Sound: 3.5

Uematsu’s score is an excellent example of his greatness, though not his best work. I think there were some poor sound choices, like the sound of the rotor on the airship.

Gameplay: 2.5

There’s too much grinding. Battles take far too long as the game drags on and there are too many glitches.

Difficulty: 3.0

There are few tactics available for you to choose from. Choose how hard you want things to be based on your party.

Fun Factor: 2.5

It’s enjoyable, but for the extreme number of battles. If I could just hit attack and not have to target each enemy every turn, I would have been happier.

Overall Grade: 2.9

Final Fantasy earns a B. Don’t take this review as a knock on the game. It’s a good and important title in the NES catalog, but it’s certainly not perfect.

Final Fantasy Video Review on YouTube