At a couple points throughout my gaming history I had tried to play Final Fantasy I. I thought I had made decent progress into the story, and I was excited to kick of 2019’s Final Fantasy Challenge with the original title.
This classic was originally released in 1987 on the Nintendo Entertainment System. As a well-known advocate of forsaking retro games to play modern classics, how would this old-school tale strike me?
It turns out, the game is still fun. It starts with you choosing a party with four characters from a an assortment of classes. You give them names, and plop down outside a small village.
In my infinite wisdom I wandered off looking for a fight before purchasing any weapons or armor, and my warrior (my namesake, no less!) paid the price. Hello, first resurrection fee.
I thought that I had taken a moderately deep dive into the game in the past, but it turns out I had barely scratched the surface. My previous exploits had failed to uncover a single light crystal. While I fell short of beating the game this time, I came away with a deeper appreciation for the title.
Having dabbled before, I knew that a warrior would be by far the most important element of my party. I thought about going two warriors and two magic users, but I decided to try the thief, a character I had never used before.
- Warrior – Primary damage dealer. Heavy melee offense, heavy defense. A lot of time is spent grinding to get the gil (money) needed to purchase the best gear available.
- White Mage – Healer/defense magic. Some melee contribution on offense. Surprisingly, had similar if not more hit points at levels than the thief. Spells were useful, but the need to conserve healing had me often whacking away ineffectively at foes while the warrior methodically mowed enemies down.
- Black Mage – Heavy offensive magic. Nearly worthless melee, and low defense. It was a slow burn with the black mage. As he leveled and got more spell slots, his value continued to increase.
- Thief – Secondary melee damage dealer. High accuracy, but couldn’t wield the powerful weapons the fighter could. He also had a high evasion, but it didn’t seem to help any more than the warrior’s shield. Much cheaper to keep geared up, but in retrospect I would have used a monk or red mage instead.
How Far We Came
My hearty band of adventurers failed to get all four light crystals and defeat the chaos, or whatever the main story points are. And that’s ok, but I am disappointed I didn’t find more time to dedicate to FF1 in January. I recorded one podcast, edited two and wrote my first monthly column, so it’s not like OiO was on the back burner.
I was making decent progress until I earned the first crystal. Then, a lack of direction led to me stalling out for a couple hours, and I very nearly hung it up before finding the canoe. I scoured the entire ocean looking for ports, trying to get to the northern ruins because that’s what the buttholes in Melmond said to do.
I stumbled into Crescent Lake, and thought it was the right area because the monsters were the appropriate level. I talked to everyone in town looking for a clue, but came away with nothing. I thought I needed an item to wake a sleepy dude up. I probably did, but not until later. After leaving and sailing the ocean blue for another eon, and battling roughly 10,000 sharks and 362,000 Sahagin, I returned and scoured the city.
I felt like an idiot for not seeing the path to the ritual site, but at the same time, it’s not like the game gave any feedback indicating this was the right area. That’s about where I ran out of time in the month. I found the next dungeon and got to the second level, and that was about it.
- Grinding for levels is still fun – I really enjoyed the progression loop. Struggle against some monsters, keep battling until your resources are depleted, stay at an inn, buy better gear, whoop their butts and level up. Grinding can be a major drag in games, but for some reason I didn’t mind it here, except…..
- Random battle encounters leave something to be desired -I liked battling monsters that were an appropriate challenge for my level and/or offered a decent reward. Too often though, I would be trying to get from point a to point b, or from point c to dungeon d, and every other step would be bogged down by never-ending encounters with inferior foes who didn’t offer enough of a reward to fight them. I frequently found myself fleeing these battles because it was slightly faster than slashing through them with my warrior, and I wasn’t going to waste any precious spells.
- Dungeons were a grueling affair – The dungeons I made it through were all fairly elaborate and packed full of baddies. In the Terra Cave, I learned the value of loading up with 99 potions before setting out. I relied on the potions, burning through them to save my precious healing and defensive spells.
- Bosses were surprisingly less challenging than I expected – After the long slogs through their lairs and hordes of minions, I thought the bosses were relatively easy to topple. I should have kept better notes, but I do not believe I had a single character fall to a boss. Part of this may have been my spell-hoarding, I always had top-shelf magic available. Or was it a design choice? Perhaps punishing Dark Souls-like bosses at the end of such a gauntlet would be untenable? Whatever the reason, it was more of a curiosity than a detractor.
The Adventure Continues
In February, Hobby Box and I will be playing Final Fantasy II, originally release in Japan in 1988, and not seen stateside until the Origins collection in 2003. Look for our thoughts on FFII next month!