Final Fantasy

Only in Final Fantasy does the title screen show up after defeating the first boss.

Review Date: March 19, 2021

Release Date: December 18, 1987 (Japanese date used to keep the games in release order)

Platform: NES

Developer: Squaresoft

Genre: Role Playing

Anecdotes: My brother was a huge fan of Dungeons and Dragons. He found a game he felt was similar, so we had the Final Fantasy cartridge. However, I never played it and paid little attention to it. I wasn’t even sure we had it. It came out in 1990 here, so my gaming was focused on Super Mario 3 and the upcoming SNES. Moving forward 12 years, I had lost interest in gaming altogether. As a young man in his 20s, gaming was secondary. Then one day, I was looking through old things and found the SNES. I looked at the games we had, and saw Super Metroid. I put it in and thought, “Wow, how did I miss this classic?” At the same time, I had heard Metroid Fusion was coming out, and for the first time in a decade, I was excited for a game release. I still had minimal interest beyond that, though. Another few months pass and a commercial comes on TV for Final Fantasy X-2. I thought, “Hey, they have ten games of this?” I also was thinking how familiar the name sounded. “Was that a NES game?” I was thinking it was and that we had it, so I took a look at the NES cartridge collection. There it was! I hooked up the NES and put the game in, and this game just blew me away. It got me into Final Fantasy, then renewed my interest in gaming entirely. The game is far from perfect, but without it, I may have never been a gamer again.

Description: A party of 4, known as the Light Warriors, have to go 2,000 years into the past to fight the main villain that was causing a time loop. Unlike later games, there are no commonly used names or defined characters as the party members. There are six options as to what jobs characters can have. The jobs can be any combination, including four of a kind, but they can’t be changed after starting the game. The party has to search all over the world for four orbs. Here are the party member options, in alphabetical order by NES translation:

Black Belts: Now called Monks, they fight with their bare fists. They won’t start doing serious damage until after Terra Cavern, but once they start hitting hard, they will not regress. The high HP/low defense combo is a wash. They don’t need much equipment, so they’ll save the party lots of gil. Put one of these guys in the second position, but no more than one because a lot of time and gil will be wasted buying potions.

Black Mages: Black Mages have excellent magic. They can play the elemental game with fire, ice, and lightning spells. Once they acquire the second tier elemental spells, they can target whole mobs and do screen clearing damage. They can also Haste the attackers so they can get more hits in per turn. They’re excellent for offense, but there are drawbacks. The spell counts are extremely limited, so the spells have to be saved for the truly deserving enemies. And good luck keeping them alive. They have the lowest HP of any class and that number will get to 0 quite often. They will be regulars at the clinic. This also ties up the healer from getting anything else done. Avoid the black mage at all costs. The red mage is a better option.

Fighters: Changed to Warriors in future translations, Warriors should be in the top spot of the party at all times outside of challenge runs. They were tanks before they were called tanks. They can sponge up tons of damage and dish out a lot with their swords at the same time. The catch is that they are quite expensive to equip and need to upgrade their equipment to keep up. I don’t care. I’m putting a Warrior at the top.

Red Mages: They’re the Marios of Final Fantasy. They can do everything, but they don’t really excel in any of it. I like them because of their versatility. If the White Mage runs out of magic, the Red Mage can step in. The Red Mage can use some decent weapons to help the offense, but RM can really boost the offense with Fire 2 and other screen clearers, and they are able to use Haste. I recommend them for the fourth slot.

Thieves: Thieves don’t actually steal anything in this game. However, they are fast. They can also run away from battle much easier. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen much need for that ability as fighting the battles early on is much more valuable and later on, the others can run or win quickly. Their equipment isn’t the best, either, so I would just leave them on the sidelines.

White Mages: White Mages are an excellent choice. They can heal and revive, both of which are important, plus later on, they can instantly take parties out of dungeons. They’re mostly for defense, but in this game, they have a series of “Harm” (or Dia) spells that can take out screenfuls of undead. They’re great. Put one in the third spot for safety. Don’t put them in spot four, simply because a mistake can not be be fixed after input.

Here’s my party of seasoned veterans.


  1. The game starts with a huge, irreversible decision. Players have to decide what party members they would like. There are 126 possible combinations and the game can be beaten with any of them. This adds replay value and gives players that want to add more challenge to the game a way to do so.
  2. Later in the game, starting with an absolute blessing in the Healing Staff, which casts infinite Heal 1 spells for free, players will find items that have special effects when used. Thor’s Hammer casts Lit2 (Lightning 2) and it will be very valuable in the Sunken Shrine.
  3. The game gets a lot more fun after the Ice Cavern is done. The airship (which is essentially a blimp) allows players to access any part of the world. The Citadel of Trials isn’t horrible after arriving there. The class change helps with new abilities, but is not required. I’ll get to the Sunken Shrine in a moment. There is a proper sequence, but it does not have to be followed at all times. The final dungeon is well done and feels like the final exam of a class. Everything learned up to that point will come into play. Even the four orb guardians come back for some more action.
  4. I am really partial to the Sunken Shrine dungeon. I just enjoy the whole thing. From bring the fairy to the spring to the release of the Kraken, it’s a great dungeon. With it’s alliterative name and it’s open rooms with watery colors used perfectly, it looks and sound magnificent. There are mostly water based enemies who are weak to lightning and players likely just picked up the Zeus Gauntlets, which cast Lightning 2 for free. Then there’s the option of which way to go first. They can go up to Babelfish Arena to get the Rosetta Stone (excuse me, it’s “Slab”), which teaches them Lufenian (Lefein), but I really think it teaches the Lufenians English. Or they can go down, where the Kraken awaits. It’s difficult, but nowhere near as bad as Lich or Marilith.


  1. I really, really hate the lack of auto-targeting. It’s not only silly to see a character attack an enemy that’s already dead, but it is also frustrating. It wastes turns and extends battles. In rare cases, it can also end games. Players shouldn’t have to guess before inputting what enemies will be left when their turn comes along.
  2. The Earth Cave (also known as Terra Cavern) is just an aggravating dungeon. First, players have to enter and fight through three floors of enemies, with the second being a bit of a maze. Then, a Vampire blocks the way. Players shouldn’t have too much trouble with it and they’ll grab the (Star) Ruby. They’ll realize they can’t go much further, so they will then have to walk all the way back out of the dungeon. The ruby will then be used to cross a tunnel to reach a man with the item needed to finish the dungeon. Then they reenter and do ALL THREE of those floors a third time. The item (a rod) removes the plate, but then there are still two more floors to go, making a total of 11 floors to cross. The last two floors are both mazes, and as if that isn’t bad enough, it ends with Lich, a tough Earth elemental boss.
  3. The translation is terrible and Final Fantasy is a text heavy game. Players may not notice it right away, but once they get to Garland, they will see, “I, Garland, will knock you all down,” and begin to laugh. It’s partially Nintendo censorship and partly just bad translation. Names are shortened due to space limitations.
  4. The game is full of bugs. Elemental weapons don’t do the elemental damage they’re supposed to. A healing spell over-heals the party. A bunch of spells don’t work at all. The opposite side of the Waterfall Cave is on screen. The game is unpolished in many places.

More Screenshots:

Level up for Autumn! Autumn was one hit away from a fall.
Thanks, Sara. By the way, where is her mom?
Dream city? Why aren’t there any houses here?
Now that’s some serious hair right there.
I went to buy Summer some spells, but the entire Level 2 spell list is garbage.
Welcome Scums! Future translations changed them to Green Slimes, so it went from a WKRP reference to a You Can’t Do That on Television reference.
Here’s the main menu screen. The orbs in the upper left turn blue once they’re collected.
Emosewa era smoorb gniklat.
Hey, we’re saving a Prince!
To paraphrase: “Oh, nice work! Yes, yes, this dynamite is just what I wanted. Now excuse me while I just casually blow some land up!”
The Terra Cavern is a miserable dungeon. This section has to be crossed three times, and for the two visits heading away from the stairs, which way to go is guesswork.
Trolls everywhere. Welcome to the Internet.
Orb ahead = major boss battle. This one is Lich.
Don’t these guys have anything better to do than stand around in a circle 24 hours a day? Besides, only the guy in the 4:30 position matters. Talk to him and ignore the rest.
Nice mistranslation. This thing is an Ochu, not a Crazy Eight.
I have a red character on a red background. My eyes hurt. By the way, the bright red tiles lose one HP per step.
Please. Like Summer is going to be able to hurt her.
Ice Cavern is right over there, next to the volcano. Gotta love video game geography.
And somehow, this leads to an airship.
This may look confusing, but it really isn’t. Just always take the bottom option when given a choice.
This is the best item in the game. It cast free, infinite healing spells.
Sure, whatever. Just promote my party, OK?
Yeah, go ahead and do that. How does this fairy breathe underwater?
These Ghosts wiped me out several times. They hit hard.
What are these friendly mermaids doing in a dungeon like this?
The Kraken has been released! Never fear, though; Spring took it out.
This reminds me of a Great America ride, but there’s actually something behind the waterfall.
Dr. Unne is full of it. We don’t learn Lefeinish at all. They just start speaking English.
It’s a nice touch here. It makes me feel like I’m far away. Meanwhile, I have to start praying Warmech doesn’t show up before I reach Tiamat.

Final Opinion: I’m a huge fan of the entire Final Fantasy series. However, this game suffers from targeting issues and two horrible midgame dungeons. The first half I’d give a D, due to the excessive grinding needed before the Marsh Cave, the required double dip of Terra Cavern, and the infuriating difficulty of the Ice Cavern. The second half gets MUCH better, with the Sunken Shrine, Flying Fortress, and free exploration.

Grade: C

1 comment

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *