Back in 1986, a little video game developer named Square was in dire straits. They were on the verge of closing up shop. Another company, Enix, had recently released a little game that became the grandfather of an entire genre of consol RPGs named Dragon Quest, or later Dragon Warrior in the USA. Seeing Enix's success, Square decided to take a final gamble and make one of these "consol RPGs" of their own. Seeing how this was their last chance to make a profitable game, they named it Final Fantasy. In 1990, Nintendo published an English translation of this game in North America. Final Fantasy, far from being Square's final game, has spawned one of the most popular, most well known, and longest running video game series ever made.
The plot is fairly simple, compared to today's RPGs. Four mysterious warriors appear with four "orbs" and a lofty destiny. They are asked to prove themselves before they leave on their larger quest by the now cliché quest of rescuing the local princess from an evil man known as Garland. The four warriors enter the adeptly named Temple of Fiends and promptly defeat Garland and rescue Princess Sara. The warriors return to the castle and the king informs them that he has had a bridge built to the nearby continent. "And so their journey begins…."
When you begin a new game, you get to choose any combination of 4 characters from the 6 different classes of warriors. First, there is the fighter, your basic warrior fighting class. The thief is an agile warrior who wears lighter armor and weapons and has less strength in exchange for his speed. The black belt is a martial artist who wears light armor and has access to some unique weapons, or can fight effectively using his bare hands. The white mage is your basic healer who exclusively uses white magic, and who wears very light armor and wields various blunt weapons, such as hammers. Black mages are weak in strength, attack, and defense, but their attack magic is quite strong and effective and they can equip various staffs and knives. And finally, the red mage is a decent fighter and has access to both black and white magic, although somewhat less effective at their practice than the black or white mages. Later in the game, when "certain conditions are met," your characters will mature into a stronger or "adult" class, which will allow them to equip weapons and armor they couldn't before and potentially use magic spells they weren't able to use before.
Magic spells are bought in shops in the various towns you visit though out the game. Each spell level, 8 in all, has three open spaces per character. It is up to the player which three of the four available spells, if any, you want per level. Each spell level costs larger sums of money than the last. Each spell is executed via a magic point, one per spell. As your mage gains levels, it gains more possible magic points. This means that magic is something you have to conserve for major battles or enemies who can only be damaged by magic and not just waste the spells.
The controls in this game are fairly simple. A button is the OK/talk/confirm button and B is the cancel button. You can access a menu screen anywhere except in battle by hitting the start button. In it, you can see the basic status of each character, a view of your four orbs, how much gold you have, and a list of selectable sub menus.
The sub menus are item, where you use your items; magic, where you get access to your magic spells; weapon, where you equip your weapons; armor, where you equip your armor; and status, where you can see a more detailed version of your character's status. By hitting select in the overworld or in towns or dungeons, you can re-arrange your characters' order.
The battle system is also fairly straightforward. In battle, you can attack the enemy; if you possess any, use magic; drink a potion or curative; use one of your usable weapons or armor; or run away from the battle. Enemies come randomly throughout the game, for the most part. "Bosses" are an exception to that rule, as are towns and some castles and caves. Enemies usually come in groups of varying sizes. There is no front row or back row, although you might get the impression there is with the formation the enemies are in. That would come in later games.
The graphics are, by today's standards, archaic. Then again, they weren't the greatest things ever seen, even at the game's release. But, it isn't all that unexpected. This was the era of fun and difficulty over eye candy. Then again, the available hardware of the time made that a necessity in order to make a good game.
The sound is remarkably good. It does get boring after a while, but there are a few catchy tunes in it. The game's main theme, in my opinion, is one of those.
Final Fantasy was most definitely not the final game ever made by Square. Square has become one of the premier RPG-making companies in the world today. It has produced some of my favorite video games of all time. In fact, some of these games are the reason I love this genre as I do today. Final Fantasy is one of the games that set the stage for all of today's consol RPGs. I give this classic game an 80%.