Final Fantasy is a challenging and spartan tale of a group of warriors who must save the world.
As the warriors of light, your group of four party members must travel and fight a multitude of monsters to restore light to the world. Your goal is simple: you must recharge the four orbs of light and destroy the evil threatening the world. Sounds easy, right? After a tussle with the combat system and following the sparse storyline, Final Fantasy is anything but easy. Those who enjoy hard games and don't mind the 8-bit graphics, or for those of you seeking to discover the true roots of Final Fantasy, this is your game. Just don't mind the challenges along the way.
At the start of the game, you are allowed to create a party of four people from a list of 6 different character classes, which are: knight, monk, black mage, white mage, red mage, and thief. If you are familiar with the Final Fantasy series at all, the classes are self explanatory. The knight is your bread and butter tank; the monk your bare fisted punch machine; your white mage the healer and status remover; the black mage the offensive spell caster; and the thief, a jack of all trades evading master. Once you've selected your party, even if it consists of 4 knights, the story begins without much ado.
As the warriors of light, you are tasked with restoring the light in the orbs of light, which will help you save the world. As you journey around the globe, visiting different castles, caves, people and monsters, you will search around to collect key items which help continue the storyline. Some items might be collected after you've defeated a key boss, or after you've talked to a specific inhabitant. Regardless, the game lacks verbose story-telling, and much of your time in game will be spent fighting and leveling up.
As you wander around the overworld map or a dungeon, battles occur at random. Once in the battle screen, combat takes place through a turn based system. You enter in your commands for your party, such as fighting or casting spells, and then end the turn. Enemies and party members will then execute their commands based on who has the fastest speeds. One of the drawbacks for this specific game is there is no defend command. Many times I didn't want to waste mage spells, and resorted to characters sitting around until combat has finished. As well, unlike other Final Fantasy games in the series, your party members do not attack remaining monsters if their targeted enemy is killed before their turn. This makes the combat system inefficient, and at times you are spent guessing how much damage you will do to monsters in order to maximize your character actions.
Your party can rest and buy items at castles and villages along the way, with spells and combat items becoming exponentially more expensive at each new place you visit. Oftentimes I had to level grind outside of town just to get enough money to buy new equipment for my party, and it becomes a hassle. To save your game, you must go to an Inn in one of the towns you come across, and the NES only allows one save slot.
The magic system is interesting and also has its quirks. Spells are assigned to certain spell levels, and as a character levels up they gain more spells to cast at a certain level. At the beginning of the game, your black mage might only have two or three lvl 1 spells to cast before resting, so extended dungeon delving becomes a question of sanity. New spells can be bought at towns, but as mentioned before, prices get prohibitive fast, especially when you need to buy three new spells for two or three of your characters.
Party dynamics and configurations make the game interesting for another play through, or as my friends like to do, start over half way through the game to try a new party that popped into their heads. This game is tough though, as spell-casting is limited and boss fights can be a challenge. It is frustrating to spend an hour or so in a dungeon only to have a boss destroy your party, causing you to repeat all the work you put in previously.
The story is hard to follow at times, and you'll occasionally get stuck looking for the next key item to continue the storyline. There are some pleasant surprises though, and beating the game is an accomplishment in and of itself.
For the time, Final Fantasy was a revolutionary new way to look at video gaming, and it helped the evolution of the RPG genre. For being a solid game with some flaws, this game deserves a 7.5.