NES – #20 – Final Fantasy

History:
I have plenty of history with the franchise but this actually isn’t the game with which to talk about it! Back then, Final Fantasy for the NES was always a bit of this mythical treasure. The thing that your friend found in the NES in the back of a shed he was cleaning out one day resulting in you secretly hating said friend forever. Then… you played it. Of course by the time you got around to playing you’d already playing Final Fantasy II & III on the SNES, and probably Chrono Trigger and Secret of Mana. You realized, to your horror, that you did not like this game… At least I sure didn’t. I don’t think I’ve ever played FF1 for more than 20 minutes at a time.

Expectations:
Actually I’m really looking forward to forcing myself through it. I feel like I owe it a real chance, and frankly I’m just happy to FINALLY (no pun intended) be playing a proper RPG for this project!


Day 1:

When I hit the power button on the NES I heard the game before I saw it, and that 8-bit rendition of the crystal theme had me smiling.

I went with the Fighter/Thief/Black Mage/White Mage party for no other reason than that’s what I wanted to do. Names were based on MMO characters because that’s how I roll.

I remember finding the game on the difficult side last time I played, so the first thing I did was make sure I ran straight into town and stocked up on gear and magic.

wpid-20150315_212352.jpgI didn’t really know what to buy here, so I got the Small Sword for my Fighter, Rapier for Thief, Wooden Staff for Black Mage and Iron Hammer for White Mage. Picked up what looked like ideal armor, and finally bought Fire and Cure and headed out into the world.

I decided I’d play this game less like the ADHD twelve year old I was and more like the ADHD adult I am, and try to take in some of the story.

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Mmm, yes, I see. Princess, tower, northwest. I got this, I can do this! Okay so the story I decided I’d take in isn’t exactly the stuff of later entries, but I’ll take it. From what I’m gathering there’s these orbs I need to collect because we’re the Heroes of Light, but in the meantime, there’s a princess that needs saving.

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Hadouken!

Again, remembering how difficult the game was before I decided to try to grind out one level before leaving the starting area. Sure enough, combat is slow and hard, and those imps are little bastards. I do finally reach Lv2 but find aside from my max HP, my stats don’t really make any kind of difference.

Regardless, I set forth to the temple in the Northwest to save the princess. Things go horribly wrong and I get my ass handed to me by monsters in the temple and have to retreat back to town to lick my wounds. I’m a bit put off now, I mean I’m all for difficult RPG’s but this is feeling really unfair.

…Then this happens…

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Right, so, you see… When you buy a weapon or piece of armor you’re asked which character you want to give that weapon or armor to. In my mind, that implied I was choosing who would be wearing it. Not so! Characters have their own personal inventory for weapons and armor, and when you give it to that character, it just sits in their inventory!

Yep, grinded out my first level and explored the game’s first dungeon… naked.

Once my character were wearing clothes and wielding weapons, the difficulty went from sadistic to COMPLETELY acceptable. It was a little embarrassing, but hey. Now that I could cut through imps with ease and laugh as their attacks bounced off my armor, I decided to grind out one more level and buy some new spells.

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One such spell was Harm for my White Mage, which as far as I could tell had a Hit% in the negatives… Yes, I would later learn that this was FF1’s version of Turn Undead, and when used as such was very effective. Times like these I wish I had the game manual.

I also realized that I could be equipping better weapons and armor, and eventually gave both my Fighter and Thief a rapier. What I also started noticing was that, even after reaching Level 3, over half my attacks against the imps would register as “Ineffective”. What’s strange is that after leaving the Shire and fighting “real” enemies, this never happened.

Anyway, now that I was properly over-leveled I made my way back to the temple where the monster had now become a joke and Garland was next on my list!

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Oh snap! He’s gonna knock us all down!

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Yes, I know I came in to this fight way overpowered, but still… Garland went down after about 2 rounds of attacks, and the princess was saved!

As a reward I received 250g from the boss, and an old Lute from the princess, and decided to end my adventure for now.

I had a LOT of fun, at least a lot more than I thought I would. Now I’m just hoping I held RESET and POWERED off correctly…


Day 2:

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Despite an incredibly difficult journey from the first city, I managed to make it to Pirate Town where I almost fell asleep during the fight above. Seeing so many of my attacks listed as “Ineffective” is the number one most frustrating thing about this game for me. Anyway, I beat the pirates…

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Didn’t realize we were playing for pink slips, but hey, I got a boat! I explored the new town, upgrading my equipment and trying to gain a level or two. The monsters here are MUCH more difficult than previous ones, but the gold and XP payout is also much higher.


Day 3:

Grinding… Grinding…

Grinding.

There’s a lot of grinding in this game, more than I’m happy about. I spend just about the whole night circling Pravaka (?) fighting wolves, imps, creeps, nightmare iguanas and giants, just to gain more levels, buy more gear and learn more spells. I did finally catch on that my characters aren’t as smart as I initially gave them credit for, and do in fact try to attack dead monsters. Learning this made combat go buy much faster, but not fast enough to ease the mindless grinding…

I finally had enough and braved the seas to make my way to Elf Land.

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Elvish goods are EXPENSIVE, so it’s right back to grinding… I’m about ready to just try to get on with the story, though I fear I may be a bit under level.

I know playing the NES version is the right thing to do, but I sure do find myself staring over at my copy of Final Fantasy Origins a lot lately…


Day 4:

I’d be lying if I didn’t say that this game has felt a bit off-putting lately, which is why it took me a couple days to come back to it… The grinding is really rough, and I realize I may be overdoing it a bit but that’s just how I tend to play.

Tonight I set my sights on picking up the Silver Sword from Elf Land. 4000g and I only just barely broke a thousand. I started by farming mobs on the seas which eventually got me up to about 2800g. Instead of pressing forward, I decided to backtrack a bit on my balance and buy Lit2 (1500g) for my Black Mage. This set me back on gold, but also made battles go by MUCH faster.

There’s an area that’s only barely farm-able at my level, which was now 6, where the monsters are insanely tough but yielf hundreds of XP and thousands of gold. I was only able to last a couple fights before I risked having my whole party die but the result was well worth it!

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I took my shiny new blade for a test run and noticed a marked improvement, well worth the effort. With that, I checked into an inn, held reset and pressed power.


Day 5:

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Grind, grind, grind and grind some more. Even playing through the story just feels like more grinding! The difficulty curve in this game feels really steep, which makes over-leveling and getting the best available gear feel almost mandatory. In addition, combat is needlessly slow, and number ranges feel way too broad. For example, the damage on Ice1 is 10-80… As a result of all this, progressing through the game feels INCREDIBLY slow.

wpid-20150328_155926.jpgHeh…

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I made it through the March Cave From Hell as part of the quest to awaken the Elf Prince. This was by far the worst of the game thus far.

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Astos… name sounds familiar. Also, why is my armor chafing?

I rescued the prince, got a magic key and am now getting ready to visit the dwarves. I brought explosives!

Later…

Picked up the game again later in the evening intent on at least reaching the airship. My new magic key had me revisiting a lot of old locations for weapon and armor that looked nifty, but really only amounted to vendor food. Going to the Dwarf Cave opened up the entire world map to my boat, and the next town sold Lv5 magic spells!

…Now to go grind to lv12 so I can use them…

Once I hit my desired level it was off to the Terra Cave to find a Ruby!

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Not quite the boss I was expecting at the end of an earth dungeon, but hey. He went down with a single Fire 3… Next stop is the volcano dungeon, but I’m not quite up to level, and the clocks running just a bit too late. So much for the airship…

Tomorrow, surely!


Day 6:

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Before visiting that volcano I had to venture back into the Terra Cavern and face off against the Lich. Another all too easy boss, and with that I was off to Crescent Lake!

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I’m in a boat!

I was able to afford all the equipment and spells I needed here, as well as a full 99 stack of potions. I stayed in the area until my party was up to lv 17, then headed for the fire dungeon.

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Monsters here hurt bad, but the treasures were pretty amazing!

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Not what I’d call graceful, but a win’s a win anyway… With that it was off to the Peninsula of Power to get my party up to around lv 20, which is exactly what I did.

The Ice Cavern was a pretty cool dungeon with some really crappy monster encounters. I was actually able to get to item I needed and take out the mini-boss really easily… Then it happened.

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Yeah, monsters got the preemptive strike and all three got off successful Rub’s on my party… instant wipe. Jaw and controller dropped, I’d just lost about 45 minutes of progress.

I picked up and powered through the cavern again, playing it a bit safer this time, ensuring I could keep all four party members alive the whole time. The result of my efforts?

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Yay! Now to go talk to dragons…

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Fine, but only if I get to use you as a Summon in future Final Fantasy games…

That took me to the Castle of Ordeals, which was a surprisingly easy dungeon. Even the boss went out with a whimper!

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Fire 3, Harm 3, stab and stab again. Bosses down in one rotation.

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Right… okay…

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Well hey, at least I’m a badass now.

With that I whooshed off to the mage town of Gaia, stocked up on new gear for my new wizards, and new spells for them to cast. I’m now saved in front of the Ice Cavern, intending to farm the boss for a few levels before moving on.


Day 7:

I said I was going to play tonight and I did… sort of… As previously mentioned, I was stationed in front of the Ice Cavern intent on farming the boss for a few levels, and that’s precisely what I did…

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All…

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I…

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Did.

For about an hour, or however long it took me to watch the last two Nintendo Directs on Youtube… I leveled up to 25 then flew around the world picking up some high level magic. Next time I play I’ll actually get “game” in, maybe even finishing it…


Day 8:

I feel like I’ve been playing this game forever now, and it’s finally nearing its end.

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Release the… screw it I’m too tired at this point. Flew all over the worl to eventually gain access to the Underwater Topless Mermaid Dungeon where I killed a giant squid. After picking up Flare NUKE at a super secret magic store it was off to the desert tower turned holodeck!

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Seriously, even from the very beginning Square just couldn’t keep sci-fi out of my fantasy!

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I was expecting a lot more out of Tiamat, but it turned out to be a pretty easy fight.

With that it was off to prepare for the final dungeon, the Chaos Temple Redux. I picked up my Xcalibur, loaded up on items and set off to finally finish this game! The temple was appropriately difficult, and did that thing where they have you fight suped up versions of bosses you’ve already fought, which is cool.

The problem is that the very first boss, Lich, ended the fight with a Nuke that only managed to kill one of my characters.

My White Wizard.

With no way to resurrect her and with four more bosses to go, I had no choice but to reset. Unfortunately Real Life happened and I had to take a break from giving it another go.

Later…

I sat down after the kids were put to bed and prepared to give it another shot. I farmed the Ice Cavern for a bit and got my party up to lv28 before setting off for the temple.

This time around I managed to make it to the third boss in the tower before my White Wizard ate it… Seeing as far along I was already, I decided to keep pressing on and give it a try regardless. By the time I made it to the last boss I was completely out of potions and things more or less looked like this:

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Even with the Masmune in hand, I could take him out before he restored himself to full health and rolled me…

Next attempt saw me run into back to back 4x Gas Dragon packs before the first boss… Reset.

Finally, on the fourth go, I managed to easily clear all the way up to the top of the tower.

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Full party, with full health… I remember adding up all the damage as I launched an all out assault on Chaos. 3x Nuke, 3x Holy, Knight and Ninja attacking for over 400… Actually, it was pretty easy!

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Apparently the whole game’s story revolves around some crazy 2000 year time paradox. I tried making sense of it, but… time… paradox… Anyway after a short essay, this happened!

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Freedom…


Conclusion:

Final Fantasy, the game that will forever be remembered as the one that forced me to re-re-re-evaluate how I conclude my write-ups.

Where to even start… Well the beginning’s a good place I guess. I went into this game not fully knowing what to expect, but still expecting to be able to handle it without too much trouble. What I got was this strange amalgamation of P&P RPG’s and something that vaguely resembled games I’d be playing in the future. This game is hard, likely, brutally borderline unfair hard. Like, I don’t think any other other RPG has made me scream “BULLSHIT!” at my screen more than this one.

Sit down Dark Souls…

The game demanded grinding, as in, setting aside entire play sessions just to do so, lest you be severely under-leveled for the next portion of the game. The magic system was ripped straight off the tabletop, and made me long for MP. You almost felt punished for using any magic during dungeons. Starting the Kraken fight but used all your LIT3 and LIT2 charges on the monsters leading up? Oh well! Alternatively, if you save your magic, like the game wants you to do, you end up with a party member who effectively does nothing until the boss at the end of the dungeon. This makes it so that grinding levels outside of the dungeon so that you can safely just run from every encounter within the dungeon the most efficient way to play the game.

All that said, I was sill unable to stop. Even if I spent a whole night grinding, even if I lost an hour of progress to a cheap wipe while working my way out of a dungeon, I had to keep playing.

Every time I want to say I didn’t like this game, which all things considered I didn’t really, I immediately put myself back in 1987. When Final Fantasy came out, there was nothing like it. Not even Dragon Warrior operated on the same level as what Final Fantasy managed to be on. When I think about what this RPG really did for the genre at the time it’s impossible to hate it. In fact, all I could think about while playing this game was how badly I couldn’t wait to play future entries in the series. It was also fun seeing the origins of a lot of series staples that are still running today. FF1 had the Masamune. FF1 went to space. FF1 had the Airship.

It’s easy to say you had to have played it when it was new to truly appreciate it. I think this is true, but with conditions. If I had played Final Fantasy at the height of my NES craze in the very late 80’s early 90’s, I would have HATED this game. I would have been lost within minutes, and I would not have cared to try to continue. I’m actually glad that played this game in a time where I had the resources to help me get through it, otherwise I never would have.

Masochistic as it may sound, part of me actually wants to play again on either the PSP or GBA versions, just to see what kind of effect slightly more modern technology can have on this title.

Final Fantasy. What a concept.


Liked:

  • Going back to where my favorite franchise all began was a really great experience
  • Even without any real narrative, the game managed to have memorable moments, like getting the Xcalibur and Masmune, or finding the airship, or opening the canal.
  • Response Rate: 8
  • Topless mermaids

Disliked;

  • Unforgiving difficulty, and not always for the right reason. Game demanded constant grinding that tended to detract from the…
  • …completely nonsensical story.
  • Too much randomness in stats. There was no speed or initiative stat, so turn orders were always completely random. Worse still, damage ranges were all over the map! The same spell that could somtimes hit for 300, could also hit for 30.
  • Lack of direct. Not as bad as other games, but without Google I’m not sure I could have helped but get stuck constantly. Wouldn’t be so much of a problem if the combat wasn’t as hard as it was and random encounters seemed to trigger every three steps!
  • Primitive game systems made the game more difficult and/or tedious than it needed to be. Potions only heal for 30 HP, there are no better versions, and you can only buy one at a time. Buying a full stack of 99 could take 20 minutes… The P&P style magic system makes sense with a pencil and notebook, but suddenly MP looks revolutionary!
  • The game tended to be very nondescript with its systems. Again, without Google, I would have never known that my characters were wasting their attacks on dead monsters, or that some of my equipment could be used to cast spells.

NES-Final Fantasy

3 comments on “NES – #20 – Final Fantasy

  1. Pingback: NES Retrospective 20 – 11 | 600 Games

  2. Pingback: NES Retrospective – Final | 600 Games

  3. Pingback: Breath of Fire II – Day 5 | 600 Games

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