Final Fantasy is a series that has constantly evolved and changed, even if at some point it changed enough to become practically unrecognizable from its predecessors. Over the years I’ve played several entries in the series, but never in chronological order. I will probably not play through the entire series. I may not even finish this first entry, but I’ve wanted to revisit the roots of the series for some time, so I thought I’d give it a shot.
While you can play the original Final Fantasy on virtually any device, the version I’m most familiar with is the remake for the Game Boy Advance that was packaged with Final Fantasy II as “Dawn of Souls.” That particular cartridge occupied my GBA on many a family road trip. While I did eventually finish Final Fantasy I, that’s more of a testament to my stubborn patience as a child (and a few peeks at gamefaqs) than any competence on my part. The GBA version of the game is also noticeably less difficult than the NES original. However, when it comes to the numbers game that video game difficulty often represents, I’m typically in favor of whatever will save me the most time.
The template of Final Fantasy as presented in the first entry is as follows: a group of four chosen heroes, who possess four magic crystals, must protect the land from the forces of… chaos? While the game suggests you select the classic party lineup of a Warrior, a Thief, a White Mage, and a Black Mage, you can freely choose to create a party containing four white mages and watch in horror as the game become a mind-numbing battle of attrition where your four healers slowly whittle away at enemy forces with their hammers and out-heal all incoming damage.
For my current play-through I decided to go with two Warriors, a White Mage and a Black Mage. Warriors are the sturdiest character class, but also very reliable damage dealers. They also gain some moderate white magic abilities later in the game when they are upgraded to the “Knight” class. A White Mage is basically essential to any party that doesn’t contain at least two Red Mages. Black Mages are the “glass cannon” class: capable of dealing astounding damage over a short period of time, but fragile and with a limited supply of ammunition (Magic Points). (For what it’s worth, my original party from when I completed the game as a kid was Warrior, Red Mage, White Mage, Black Mage.)
Admittedly, regardless of the combination of classes you choose, the majority of your combat encounters will be identical: select the “Attack” command four times. Black Mages provide elemental spells which can give you a larger burst of damage. Especially useful for boss encounters. White Mages can provide healing as necessary (and it will be necessary). But for most random encounters, especially in the early portion of the game, it’s just a matter of hitting confirm as rapidly as possible and watching your dudes swing away mercilessly.
The biggest hurdle in Final Fantasy is probably the first couple hours, which you will most likely spend grinding experience points by fighting countless Goblins. Even at Level 1, my Warriors can take these guys out in one hit, and they’re far too weak to justify using my Black Mage’s Fire spell. By the time you face the renegade knight Garland and rescue the Princess Sarah, your party will have slaughtered entire generations of these pitiful creatures.
This early stage of goblin genocide is punctuated by periodic trips to Cornelia to visit the local Inn. Cornelia also contains an item shop that sells Potions and Phoenix Down (more on these later), a Weapon Shop and an Armory that deal in only the weakest equipment, as well as two magic shops that only sell first level Mage spells. Nothing special, but given that the 5-8 Gil you receive from killing all those Goblins does eventually add up, you can easily outfit your entire party before heading out to take on Garland.
Next Time: Fighting the knight Garland, and a crash-course in medieval bridge repair…