Just to be clear, this is the review for Final Fantasy 1 as it appears on the Final Fantasy Origins re-release. Not the original NES version.
Here we are, the beginning of a behemoth (or a Bahamut if you prefer).
Firstly, the differences
In case you didn’t know, this version of FF1 is a 16bit reboot, ported to the PlayStation, with added CGI sequences, and other than graphical changes, very little was changed:
- Added run button for in towns/caves
- New Boss and Church music
- There is a new “Easy mode” this makes everything easier, and cheaper.
- “Omake” mode, where you can view the beastiary of fought monsters.
Now, the Story
Without spoiling the story too much, you arrive at the start of the game clutching 4 mysterious crystals, you’re sent on your merry way, and you attempt to restore balance to the universe.You do this by collecting the power of the stones (Earth, Fire, Water, Wind), and defeating the Fiend guardians (Lich, Marilith, Kraken, Tiamet) that protect them.
Like all Final Fantasy games, there is a twist at the end, but as I said. NO SPOILERS!
In FF1, the heroes do not have default names, as a result, you name them, and they take on the personalities you imbue. The first thing you do when you start a game, is select 4 characters classes, and name them. Now, if you are ever going to take my advice, take this: READ WHAT EACH CLASS DOES BEFORE SELECTING. This decision will shape EVERYTHING from here on out.
On my first attempt, Dave (Warrior), Frank (Theif), Meg, (White Mage), and Vivi (Black Mage) set out off northwards, only to be killed in the second battle… It was an inglorious start to my Final Fantasy career.
On my second attempt, Gus (Warrior), Harold (Monk), Sven (Red Mage), and Vivi (Black Mage) again set out on their first mission to rescue the Princess. I almost died in my first battle, returned to town, then realised…
You start with nothing. No armour, no weapons, no magic. You have to go and buy it first.
So, with some armour, weapons and magic bought, I ventured northward once again to the Chaos Temple. (This time saving it).
I got about 4 battles in, and realised this wasn’t going well, and lost Vivi and Sven.
Here I discovered was… EVERYTHING IS STUPIDLY EXPENSIVE. On normal mode in FF1 you have no money, and enemies drop very little. I had to grind for an hour, before starting the first quest. Making money in those early levels impossible.
It costs 200g to resurrect one person, and potions are 100gil. So you really have to think what you spend your initial cash on.
There are no Phoenix Downs, and as I didn’t select a White Mage, I didn’t have the “Life” spell. This means, that to resurrect my fallen comrades, you have to trek back and forth to town, go to the church and pay to resurrect your guys.
This overall grinding resonateD through the rest of the game. Each time you get to a new area, or dungeon, STRAP ON YOUR GRINDING GEAR! Marsh Cave? Hour grind. Terra Cave? 2 hour grind. The Final Chaos Temple? 3 hour grind. And that is BEFORE entering the cave/dungeon. which take around 90 minutes-2 hours.
Some sections require puzzle solving to progress, and sadly, this is the unambiguous “use random item, in specific place“. For example, there is a side quest involving a key around the 4th town. It is presented to you as entirely optional, but on this quest, you go back to Cornelia (first village), and get a Lute. This Lute is never used. UNTIL… the end, you play it to remove a slab in the Chaos Temple. This is slightly counter intuitive, as earlier in the Terra Cave you use the “Earth Rod” to remove a slab.
However, if you do get truly stuck, and start going to villages, random villageRs will give you a decent enough clue, that all but points you in the correct direction.
As I mentioned earlier, there are no Phoenix Downs, and without a White Mage you have no Life spell, the whole Melmond section is one evil, EVIL section. The village of Melmond is located nearish to the Terra Cave, so is your port of call when you need help. However, there is no church here, the bloody Lich burnt it down! This means that if one of your guys dies, you have a 10-15 minute trip to the nearest village with a church. If you have played a Final Fantasy game, you’ll know that 10 minutes of travel will equate to 20ish battles. So when you’re a man down, and most likely low on energy, you’re in for a bad time.
To progress here, I spent hours grinding, and still had to rely on good ‘ol Gus to tank his way back to town.
It isn’t until you prove your worth to Bahamut that your party get a class promotion (cosmetic make over, and access to new abilities) which means the Red Mage (Now Red Witch) gets decent magic, and access to Life. At this point in the game, you start to steamroll. The Monk (now Master) starts to dish out 9 hit combos, which cause 1000ish damage. The Black Mage (now Black Wizard) gets Flare which does 400ish damage to ALL enemies, and the Warrior (Knight) can learn basic healing spells.
Once you have all that, it is one long easy ride to the end. You will have to grind the Chaos Temple, but this is mainly due to getting lost. You fight a lot of hard monsters here, and you’ll need to use all your magic getting to the final boss. You also fight all the Fiends again.
In the end, I had to learn the route, and minimise spell use, and hope for nice, easy Random Encounters to get to Chaos. Once there, Chaos hits you often, and hard. I managed to save up my healing spells, but around the 5th round, he crit’d me, and killed Harold, Sven and Vivi. At this point, I had to just attack, and hope for the best. And…
Somehow I won.
This game has Nobuo Uematso all over it. We are introduced to the Final Fntasy Prelude for the first time. The other stand out music is Montoya’s Cave, however, the rest of the music is OK. You will find yourself humming the battle theme, but this is more akin to Stockholm Syndrome, a full playlist can be heard here. As I said, the music is good, and holds up well, but there are much better Final Fantasy Soundtracks.
As this is a 16bit remake, the graphics are twice as bitty as the 8bit. This means the characters are more defined, and the backgrounds have more variance.
In FF1 original, a lot of the fights take place on black backgrounds to save memory, but in Origins all the battles get a nice little backdrop..
I would certainly recommend FF1 to you, it isn’t too long at 20ish hours to complete on a first play through, you get invested in your characters, and you make them what you want to. If you want to make your main guy a mopey douche bag you can protect Tidus on him.
FF1 is a solid first game in a series, BUT it isn’t the best Final Fantasy game, so keep that in mind, and don’t expect too much from it.
Pros: Montoya’s Cave, Bahamut makes an appearance
Cons: Fucking Terra Cave! Music loops, especially the Battle Music will grate. No Cid! Very hard to start off with