I know a little bit more about the original Final Fantasy for the NES than I did when I was a kid. I know that it was created by Hironobu Sakaguchi as a ‘final’ project before he exited the video game industry and left a small failing game developer known as Squaresoft. I know it was released in Japan in 1987 and North America in 1990. I know that there are numerous programming errors in the original game that led to things like:
- Magic not becoming more powerful as your character’s intelligence goes up.
- The need to go into the armor and status screen for the black belt/master after each level up to activate the character’s armor.
- The fact that most weapons and armor that were supposed to be more powerful against certain enemies or certain attacks weren’t.
- A lot of the spells didn’t even work (I’m looking at you Sabr and Tmpr. And you Lock!).
- The hidden girl in Cornelia Castle.
- The peninsula of power.
That knowledge however, doesn’t make me love the game any less than I did as a kid because of what it meant to me as a gamer, and how it’s altered who I’ve become as an adult (think: adventurous rugged nerd that enjoys hiking, combing my beard and D&D).
My first exposure to Final Fantasy was through Nintendo Power issue 17 which was released in October of 1990 (I absolutely destroyed this issue by the way through reading it over and over, the nearly mint issue I own now is my third copy). However, the first time I ever saw Final Fantasy being played in person I remember going over to my friend Ian’s house and getting invited by his next door neighbor to come over and play games. The game they were playing was Final Fantasy. They’d done everything, had the airship, but didn’t know how to enter the Chaos Shrine (damn you cryptic NES clues!) as they’d clearly missed the window that gives you the correct information in Tiamat’s Palace.
From the first time I saw the game I wanted it really badly. This must have been sometime in 1991 as Final Fantasy 2 had already been released for the Super Nintendo (my brothers friend Ben had it, and when he reveled in it we were shocked that HP went over 1,000!!), but I’m getting ahead of myself. My mom would take my brother and I shopping for a game once a year where we each got to choose one, and during the trip that year I saw Final Fantasy on the shelf and immediately picked it out.
Funny thing. I didn’t know how to play the game. Neither did Sean. We had no Idea. It brought a new reality to Garland’s statement in the beginning that he was going to knock us all down, as he did it to us, over and over and over again. The thing is, RPG’s were a totally new concept to my brother and I, we hadn’t played Dragon Warrior yet, and the nuances of the menus were lost on my nine-year-old mind. Ben came over one day and saw me trying desperately to beat Garland by using my weapons as items during the battle, or by having a party of all black mages so at least I could attack with fire with all of them. It was at this moment that he explained something to me that seems so elementary now. He asked me a simple question, “Are you equipping your weapons and armor?” I wasn’t. I didn’t know there was an extra step beyond buying the equipment that made it work properly. This simple revelation had an impact on me. The swords and nunchucks started displaying themselves during battle and low and behold, I could actually advance in the game. Which brought me to perhaps the screen that brings the most memories back for me, the Final Fantasy title screen, with the music, and the bridge, and the birds. The game kept going! It didn’t end with Garland, but was just the beginning, and I loved it, and I never let go.
No other game, no other series, offers me even half as much nostalgia as Final Fantasy, Chrono Trigger not withstanding (who am I really kidding, all Square games from the NES/SNES era trigger memories and get my blood flowing), and because of this I’d like to take this opportunity to give a special thanks to Hironobu Sakaguchi for being the first to turn a dice roll into the press of a button for me and I’d like to thank the Final Fantasy series itself for, as I’m sure many of you can attest to as well, making me into the RPG loving gamer I am today.
This has been Justin from RPGBros imploring that until next time, you keep those buttons moving.
And on Youtube
P.S. If you haven’t watched Roo from Clan of the Grey Wolf’s history laden video, Rise of the RPG, I highly recommend you do so here.
P.P.S. I wrote this literally at the same time as Game Overkill wrote his excellent post on Final Fantasy, which can be seen here. I apologize for piling on, but I didn’t want to let the work go to waste.