Enjoyable But Drove Me Absolutely Crazy.
I hand-drew the world map for God’s sake!
Part 1 of my Final Fantasy Series Playthrough.
I threw out a beacon onto twitter: what should I play next? Out of all the suggestions, something about Final Fantasy Origins rang true to me. Per chance (or was it clairvoyance?), I started the entire convo with a gif from Final Fantasy I, so I felt it was a sign when someone suggested it.
I’m all about retrogames, but there comes a certain point where things just aren’t fun for me. Final Fantasy for the NES epitomizes that reality. Released in 1987, the game might have spawned a beloved franchise, but its grinding nature and glitches (particularly the one where if a monster dies, anyone who was targeting it still attacks it wasting a turn on an empty tile) made me weary.
I was willing to give FFI a try on an updated port, however. Final Fantasy Origins was released for the PS1 in 2002. It was part of a wave of rereleases to capitalize on the major success of FF7-9 released in the late 90s. The American audience was oblivious to the Final Fantasy franchise until FF7, so a wave of repackaged NES and SNES games made their way to the PS1. Final Fantasy Origins contains FFI, previously released for the NES, and FF2, never released in the USA at all.
I think Tony Horton of P90x fame can sum up my feelings rather succinctly:
There really isn’t a story or characters, so the game has to rely on the basics that brings everyone into the genre: exploration, battle system, and skills development.
The first town immediately sucks you in. The imagery and killer soundtrack make this Class A world building. The first town theme was such an ear worm that I immediately picked up my guitar and learned how to play it.
You get to build your own party consisting of specific classes. The usually tropes are here (Knight, White Mage, Black Mage, Red Mage, Monk, and Thief). This choice is where Final Fantasy I comes alive: who you pick dictates how you play the rest of the game.
Outside of that, it’s a pretty typical pre-90s RPG game meaning you are going to get angry. REALLY ANGRY.
Final Fantasy I boasts long dungeons without save options or many options for healing. There comes a point in every lair where you have to decide whether to bail and save your level progress or keep going in hopes of getting to the end. While this part of the game is really exhilarating (you can’t just meander around — there are consequences!), this game can wipe you out in a moment’s notice.
A flock of cockatrice my turn the entire party to stone. A gaggle of zombies may paralyze everyone for eternity until they are whittled down to sticks. A parliament of wizards might spam inferno-like spells until you die.
Staying true to the ethos of 80s gaming, no one ever really tells you where to go. When the world map opened up, I was immensely frustrated. I literally was stuck in the middle of the ocean.
After going round and round being lost at sea, I broke down and started to HAND DRAW my OWN MAP of the world.
This was all fine and dandy until someone told me that a freakin’ broomstick tells you how to look up the world map in game (2020 keeps getting worse). That didn’t slow me down, however, as I would mostly finish and flesh out the world.
As I oscillated between love and hate, I think I came down slightly on the positive side of the fence. Sure, there is plenty of things that are “throw your controller” worthy, but even in such a basic game, there is a lot of charm.
This is hard to recommend, but there is something edifying here for the die-hard Final Fantasy fan as you experience the roots of the franchise.
Other People’s Takes:
- Brink of Anything: “By the time you face the renegade knight Garland and rescue the Princess Sarah, your party will have slaughtered entire generations of these [goblins] pitiful creatures”
- Lethargic Ramblings: “I obviously have my fair share of complaints, namely the random encounters, the lack of direction at times and the optional dungeons, but those really don’t matter all that much when, for the most part, there’s so much good in here.”
- MoeGamer: “Unlike more modern narrative-centric role-playing games — particularly in the Final Fantasy series — the original Final Fantasy, in all its incarnations, is designed to feel like you and your party are exploring a vast world, seeking out adventures for yourself.”