Final Fantasy. The original. The humble beginnings of a franchise that would still be going today.
Let me start by saying that the original FF will always hold a place in my heart. After playing through it, I came to realize some of the annoyances with the game, now that I am older and I would like to think, somewhat wiser. However, there is a charm to the game, perhaps just nostalgia, but it is one of those games that can stick with you.
There used to be a time where I was essentially a living walkthrough for the game. I knew exactly where to go, what to do, what to buy… Everything. Picking the game back up after a quite an extended absence from the game, some things eluded me, but most I remembered, almost like riding a bike.
I will be playing the Final Fantasy Origins version, since it is the one I am most familiar with. I have played every FF1 game, except for the PSP version. I want to warn you, this game holds a special place in my heart. While I will gladly admit it is far from perfect, I really enjoy it, so expect some bias here and there. Or everywhere, in fact. But on to the game…
The game starts with you choosing your lucky four light warriors, along with naming them. Each of them holds a crystal, marking them as the light warriors, destined heroes who must make them shine once more.
Once your classes are chosen, that was it, you were stuck with them until you started a new game. Maybe it is my old-fashioned mentality at times, but I love this. By naming these “blank” characters, you could really bond with them. But at the same time, someone might see them as just pawns to your button presses, which I guess almost every character in a video game can be seen as.
There are six classes available in FF1.
The Warrior, Monk, Thief, Red Mage, White Mage and Black Mage. Staples of the final fantasy series. If you have played any other FF game, you can guess how they each play. Later on we can class change into stronger classes, which is totally optional, by the way.
Here is another thing I love about the game. Because of the choice we have for our classes, we can choose to play the entire game with a different set of classes each time. I have completed the game numerous times, with various sets of parties, even a few solo playthroughs. Because of this, players are still playing through the game, challenging themselves to play different sets of parties. If you think you know the game, try four white mages, or a solo red mage. Or, if you want to cry, try solo thief, no class change. I will admit, I have never beat the game with a solo thief, but it is possible. Regardless, let us begin our quest.
No tutorial, no help. You are just dumped outside of a town and your adventure began. Quite bold, but it really gave you a sense of exploration.
You were responsible for these characters now.
You had to explore and figure out the world.
After buying equipment and supplies, our group heads out to level against the denizens of the wilds. After an audience with the king, who reveals his daughter has been kidnapped, our first quest is to rescue her. Upon leaving, we encounter our first rookie mistake; I forgot to equip said equipment for our first battle. Lovely.
After a quick level up and some more supplies, our group heads to what would later be revealed to be part of the final dungeon.
Garland is the first boss of the game. He is incredibly easy, only at level 1 would he prove to be a “challenge.” After slaying him and rescuing the princess, we are teleported back to town and the king builds a bridge so we can continue.
After traveling to the next town and leveling up, we have access to the ship. The ship will allow us to journey to places we couldn’t reach before. It also allows different monsters to attack us. In most cases, this is the first point of having to grind a bit for levels and gil. The next town offers amazing upgrades, but at a cost. As well, the next major dungeon, the Marsh Cave, is an absolute nightmare at this stage of the game.
Thankfully, there is a little minigame players can use to gain some gil. It is accessed by holding the A button and pressing the B button a bunch of times. This brings up a set of 15 tiles, with one open space, which the player must arrange in order 1-15 to win. By doing so, the player is awarded gil and basic items.
In the original NES version, I believe you only get 100 G for completing the game.
Regardless, this can help the player in amassing the beginning gil they need to get a move on instead of mindless grinding monsters for it, especially in Origins, which awards the player quite a large sum of money for completing the game, more so if they do it quickly.
After traveling to the elven town and purchasing what we need, we make our way to the dreaded Marsh Cave.
God, the Marsh Cave. It will definitely test new players. It is the first dungeon of the game and it can chew you up and spit you out. In addition, it features paralyzing and poisonous enemies, making the trip quite exhaustive on your limited resources. Also, at the end, you must face up to four very strong enemies for the item you need to advance. They don’t really have any tricks up their sleeves, but they hit HARD. They can easily one shot any of the mage classes. In fact, it was where my first game over was for the game.
But that’s not all. In the original final fantasy, there are no “save points.” You make your way through it AND back out in one go. In Origins, this is alleviated somewhat by using the “Memo” option, which is essentially a save state that can be used anywhere, as long as you don’t power off the console. In this run, I used save states only a few times, and the times I did use them, I ended up not needing them. If this game allowed you to save even halfway through the longer dungeons, it wouldn’t be a big deal.
Veterans of the game can say this gives challenge to game, which is true. But a lot of the times, with just a few exceptions, the dungeons, once properly leveled and equipped, are relatively easy, just long and monotonous. You make it all the way to the boss, and the boss is what gives you the challenge. If you die, you have to make the trek all the way back up. But, that is old school for you, I suppose.
After clearing the marsh cave of goodies, we do a few errands and end up in the area of Melmond, where the first major boss has taken up residence and destroyed the land. This is your first exposure to a higher threat that is actually hindering the world.
The Terra Cavern, as Origins calls it, is another major dungeon and that can stop players cold. It is quite long, maze-like, and features powerful monsters, like Cockatrices, which can, of course, petrify, and Hill Gigas’, which are sacks of HP and hit like a truck at this stage of the game. Oh, and remember that strong enemy in the marsh cave that KO’d my party? They are here too, and it sucks.
But here is a complaint I have with this dungeon. The fact they force you to go through it twice, perhaps more if you get a game over. The game requires you to get a key item by traveling through it once, but you find out you can’t progress. Then, you have to leave, talk to an old man in a cave, who then gives you the item to proceed. Which forces you to go through it all again, this time facing the boss of the dungeon. In Origins, this isn’t so bad with the Memo option, which I actually did not use, since I knew what I was getting myself into. However, I can totally see this deterring new players. But, as I said, this is old school for you.
The boss himself, Lich, isn’t that tough. Yeah, he has a few tricks, like casting some ice spells, sleep and can paralyze you with his attacks, but you shouldn’t really have trouble, unless you are doing a challenge run, like a solo run. Then I wish you luck. I know, because I have been there. Solo White Mage? A literal hell trying to beat him.
At this point, you can get the canoe, which lets you travel shallow water. Of course, there are new, extremely potent enemies lurking in the rivers, so caution is advised.
Here is where the game has some choice on what to do next. You can either do the next major dungeon, or you can get an airship, class change or just travel around the world. In this playthrough, I decided to get the airship first, since it is so helpful to have. But that means…
The Ice Cave.
This dungeon… Players who have played this game are shaking their head right now. In all honesty, this dungeon is one of the worst in the game. Not the absolute worst, but at the point you are supposed to take it on, it will cause some hair pulling. In fact, all of the my other game overs were in this dungeon. Just an FYI.
I really have no idea what the developers were thinking wiring this dungeon up with the baddest of the baddest baddies. Keep in mind, once you are significant level and properly geared, (mostly Protect Rings, but those come later) it isn’t so bad, like most dungeons. Paralyze, instant-death, hard-hitting enemies, this place has it all.
God help you if you are doing a challenge run. Especially a solo run. This place is even more unforgiving. Solo? One instant-kill that connects, done. One paralyze connects, most likely done. But, this place does have decent loot, and a key item that will make your life much easier on the world map. Thankfully, you don’t have to come back in here if you grab everything and make it out. Just don’t be an idiot like me and forget to grab the Fire Sword on your way in, forcing you to crawl your back through the icy caverns of hell again.
Now that that is over, airship time! The airship allows you to fly the skies, avoiding encounters and rocketing about the map at light speed. Only caveat; it can only land on grassy areas, so no water, forests, deserts, rivers, things like that. But a small price to pay for convenience.
It is at this point the game takes a turn. An easy turn. The hard part of the game is essentially over, even for some of the challenge runs. I feel like at this point in the game, the spells and equipment you can buy, along with loot you get in the dungeons, just continue to make the game easier and easier. That isn’t to say there are a few hard spots, notably the last two dungeons, but the game does get considerably easier at this point.
Regardless, after a quick trip into a volcano to beat Marilith, the fire fiend, then an adventure through an old castle, I was able to get the Rat’s Tail and class change. Why a rat’s tail? I have no idea. One of the dragon NPC’s you talk to says the item of courage can take strange shapes, so who knows. But in any case, talking to Bahamut, yep, Bahamut, he gives us the power to transform into our ultimate forms!
By class changing, you are essentially giving yourself more equipment and abilities to use. Some classes get access to basic magic, which they didn’t have before, while the mages can cast more powerful spells. As I mentioned before, this is entirely optional, although I would recommend doing it and clearing out the Castle of Ordeals where the Rat’s Tail is located. Great items in there, which include but not limited to; the Gauntlets and the Heal Staff.
These two items allow the user to cast Bolt2 and Heal1 respectively. What does this mean? It means your mages, (or whoever, really,) can cast those spells without using up their precious MP slots. Which, this game uses the Dungeons and Dragons style, “castings per day,” instead of the usual MP system found in later games. So that Fire1 spell you have? You can only cast that up to 9 times max, before needing a rest, if you are playing Normal mode, which I also recommend. Easy mode is baby mode.
With these items, your mages can now do something other than their wimpy attacks during battle, saving their spells for juicier targets. These aren’t the only items that allow you to do this, there are others, that help tremendously. In fact, I would go so far as to say this game would be almost impossible without using them. I know the game would be impossible for some parties or challenge runs. There are no dungeon MP recovery items in this version. You want your MP back, you have to go to an inn or use a cottage outside on the world map, and for normal mode only giving your mages a max of 9 spell slots for each spell level (there are 8 levels, and most classes don’t even get that many spell slots), at max level (level 50), you are bound to run out of resources sooner or later. I think that a balanced party might be able to do it, but not without some luck and diligence.
But on with the adventure, our heroes, now having lit both the earth and fire crystal trek on in hopes of lighting all four crystals to save the world for darkness and destruction. Like most heroes do. Read part 2 to continue the quest.