The journey starts here!
So apparently a few weeks ago there was this New Year thing that happened, and normally around this time of year people are starting to break their resolutions.
Normally I’m one of those people but not this year, this year my New Year’s resolution was to finally play through every Final Fantasy game from beginning to end. I’ve owned all the games, from I – XIII-2 for years (well…ever since XIII-2 came out anyway….You know what I mean!) and I’m not proud to say I’ve only completed 2 of them!
So 2013 is my year, a year so full of RPG goodness it should be the best year ever. What better place to start this magical year off than with the original Final Fantasy right? .....Right?
Be warned, spoilers for a 26 year old game may lie below!
God I wanted to love this game, from the moment I turned it on and heard the Final Fantasy theme that’s stuck throughout most of the main series I thought I was going to be in for a beautiful nostalgic RPG trip. This wasn’t the first ever time I’d played FFI, I’d dipped in occasionally before but never stuck with it, playing through it fully I can now see why.
Okay, so it was never going to be the best of the bunch simply due to how young the genre was when it came out, Dragon Quest was really the only thing similar to it, and that had only come out the year before, but I really hoped I could look past the immaturity of the genre and see FFI as the building blocks for the future games…I couldn’t do that…I tried, for hours I tried to look past the little annoyances, but eventually they just got too much.
Before I slam the game into the ground I will just go over a few things I liked, as I mentioned earlier, the music is great, that’s pretty much always been a constant throughout Final Fantasy games and it’s no exception here. (I am playing the slightly updated PS1 Final Fantasy Origins release, which definitely has vastly improved music over the NES version, but whichever way you look at it the music is great) and the graphics are lovely too, I know there’s been a further update of the game on PSP and iOS but personally I prefer the PS1 graphics, I have a soft spot for blocky pixels, but only when they’re done right, and in this version they really are. The monsters all look nice, and the characters are so well known now that it’s hard to not smile every time you see a Black Mage jump forwards and cast Fire 3, or a Warrior swinging a massive sword.
This leads me on to the next part of the game I appreciate, and something that’s actually lost in more recent games, your party. There’s something personal about creating a party from scratch, picking certain character types and naming them. Now I know you can rename main characters in most Final Fantasy games, but it’s not quite the same. Cloud Strife will always be Cloud Strife, whether you name him “Davis McBiscuitbadger” or not, but in FFI Davis can really come into his own, he can become the brave Monk, a master of hand to hand combat and the party’s main damage dealer. Don’t get me wrong, I understand why the change was needed, later Final Fantasy games had much more complex stories, and because of that specific characters had to be introduced, and that’s fine. It’s just a shame that it has to be one of the other because…
FFI’s story is really bland. Even when the genre was so young the story was still a fantasy cliché. Four warriors brought together to collect some powerful stones and banish the evil lord Chaos! Throw in a prince in an eternal slumber, and a kidnapped princess and you’ve got a real melting pot full of Fantasy Storyline 101.
So with a not so great storyline the game really has to rely on its gameplay to keep people interested, in 1987 most of this could probably be forgiven, but in 2013 I just can’t let it go…
The battles are horrible, a lot of people are put off JRPG’s because of the random battle mechanic, and while I can understand that, I’m one of those people who’ve never been put off by it, until now. In FFI you’re treated to a random battle every 3 or 4 steps, if you’re really lucky you’ll get 7 or 8, but most of the time you’re not that lucky at all. There’s even a point where if you go the wrong way in a cave you have to battle a Hill Gigas (a very high level enemy at that stage that can destroy your party) every…single…step. Every step you take triggers a battle, it’s insane! You’d think it was a glitch, but no, it exists in every version of FFI, it’s meant to be there, and it’s infuriating! That and the battles themselves, enemy variety isn’t that great and the turn based battles consist of a huge amount of missing, thankfully both you and the enemy miss equally, but it makes the battles drag on unnecessarily. Another thing that makes the battles drag on is when you battle 9 things at once, especially when they go first, each enemy has an attack before the battle starts properly, so after waiting for 9 monsters to hit you (or more often than not miss you) you get a chance to fight, you miss a couple times, then the 7 or so remaining monsters take their turn. It’s far from fast paced, and with this happening every few steps it makes navigation in the game a real chore!
Moving (sort of) on from battling I want to mention the boss battles. Now as I’ve said, the bosses look great, there’s nothing wrong with them as such, more how they’re executed. A lot (not all) of the bosses are triggered by standing on a certain point in a room (like in front of a chest for example) the problem is that trigger point never goes away. So picture this, low on health you use all your cures and potions ready for the coming boss fight, you step forward toward the chest and the screen blurs into a mish-mash of bright colours…The fight begins! You barely scrape through with your life and are ready to loot the hell out of the chest, but, not thinking, you step to the side before pressing to open the chest…You step back and…Yup, that boss you just destroyed decides he wants just one more go before he’s done.
It also seems that they had started running out of ideas by the end of the game, so before fighting Chaos at the very end the game says “Not so fast friend! Before you fight the end boss how about fighting every boss in the game again except this time we’ll take their weaknesses away…That’ll be fun right?”
No…No it won’t.
Oh, and each of those bosses? Yeah they were trigger points at the bottom of stairs you had to climb to reach the final boss, you have to go back down a level for any reason? Prepare to fight that boss again!
I know a lot of this can be excused because of the age of the game, I’m not saying it’s a terrible game at all, it’s an iconic piece that started a journey that I’m very glad got started, all I’m saying is that it hasn’t aged well at all. That being said, if you’re into RPG’s and you see a copy of this you should buy it, no doubt in my mind at all. Buy it, display it…Just don’t expect a masterpiece when you play it!